Reasons to stay: Checkpoint Winter 2021
Posted on: 21st May 2021
CMS workers Derk and Susan made the deliberate decision to stay serving in South Asia where, alongside their fellow believers, they have continued to see God working in the midst of Coronavirus. Derk writes:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”
This promise has been an important reminder to us as we serve here in South Asia.
Many South Asians live with continual waves of sickness and severe physical challenges in their daily lives. By comparison, COVID has not seemed of great consequence. The death rate is low, and there are many more pressing matters to worry about.
Yet for those who are directly affected, Coronavirus hits gut-wrenchingly hard. Haniya* helps in our house on a Friday morning. At the time of writing, her father has just died of suspected COVID-19. Her family is grieving.
COVID ministry impacts
Derk had been privileged to preach regularly at our local church until COVID. But since March 2020, we have not been able to attend our local fellowship, located in a congested part of the city where no restrictions are observed.
Before COVID, Susan was teaching Biblical Studies at a local school each Friday. It was a joy to teach such enthusiastic students and teachers, who were growing in the knowledge and love of God. However, schools were closed for months in 2020 and this teaching opportunity was also removed.
Opportunities to show God’s grace
In this time of struggle, there are continuing opportunities to show God’s grace. Many families connected with the school where Susan teaches are in great need. Some family members had worked at the local brick kilns under deplorable conditions. But when those kilns shut down due to COVID, everyone who worked there lost their very small incomes. And yet, we have seen God provide support for these people in their time of need.
The decision to stay
In 2020, and after much prayerful deliberation, we decided to stay on the campus where we work until the end of the semester, though we had been advised to leave. We considered it was good to stay and be a part of this community even if we could not be together in person. Relationships are of great importance in displaying the love of Christ.
This crisis also gave us the opportunity to assess the reasons we first came to this country. We decided to take whatever precautions were possible, and remain. We hoped—and still hope—to show our commitment and love for friends and the families in our community. Several local people thanked us for remaining during this time. We thank God for this opportunity.
Gospel opportunities have continued
Student ministry in person has been closed since March last year, when Susan had only just begun some training courses with students. This has led to experimentation with Zoom Bible studies (rather unpopular!), short videos of Bible talks, written Bible reflections, prayer times, testimony talks, and anything else to help students connect with each other and develop a love of God and his word.
During the year, as the Zoom culture grew, Susan and our daughter (back in Australia) began leading Bible studies (via Zoom) on Philippians and Hosea. These group studies led on to opportunities to talk about the nature and work of Jesus with Gulnar*, a good friend of Susan’s. Gulnar in turn became very eager to also begin one-to-one Bible studies via Zoom—which have now switched to in-person, including over family dinners. Rich conversations have ensued. These have brought tremendous joy and led to new relationships with other members of Gulnar’s family.
God is always at work
Coronavirus has granted us the opportunity to seek God more, to pray and reflect more upon his word together as husband and wife, to remember that nothing thwarts his redemptive purposes and actions in Christ. God’s work continues even while we are forced to be quiet and still; he does indeed work all things for the good of those who love him. We have become more aware of the great fears and ongoing sufferings of our local brothers and sisters. May God continue to give us opportunities to help and serve in this crisis.
One excellent way of caring for CMS missionaries is to find out more about the conditions in which they work and the people amongst whom they serve. Why not do some background research on how the countries of South Asia have dealt with the Coronavirus crisis?
* Names have been changed for privacy reasons.