Unseasonal blessings: Checkpoint Winter 2021
Posted on: 2nd June 2021
CMS missionaries Ian and Narelle Hadfield serve at St George’s, a large international church in Singapore. Ian describes how, despite COVID restrictions prohibiting many in-person ministries, God’s word continued to go out.
Paul’s instruction to Timothy to “preach the word in season and out of season” was the foundation of our approach to the Coronavirus pandemic. It encouraged us to respond to changes, but not stop preaching the word.
Serving Singapore from Australia
After visiting family in Australia in early 2020, Narelle was unable to return to Singapore as the country went into lockdown (locally called a ‘circuit breaker’). Her four-month absence was well spent—she continued her involvement in ministry in Singapore almost as if she had been there.
Despite the distance, Narelle was able to help with the online toddler-time program. She also taught a preliminary theological certificate via Zoom and was able to contribute to our (pre-recorded) church service via YouTube.
Not only Narelle, but St George’s members living around the world could also participate. Online discussions, held before and after every service, enabled conversations between people who would not normally talk. These weren’t superficial chats, but reflections and thoughts about issues raised in the sermon. The discussion time would end in prayer for one another. We give thanks to God that in a time of isolation, relationships were growing, built around Jesus and living for him.
Growth despite limitations
During the COVID restrictions, St George’s was able to expand the way we reach people with the gospel and build up the church. We ran online courses during the circuit breaker and more people participated than would have attended an in–person event, including some from overseas.
The church also started a midweek service for those in a vulnerable age and health group.
Our pre-COVID Sunday services drew about 500 people each week. When we went online, we usually had 1000 people watching our service from around the world. Previous members joined us, and our service was shared with non-believing friends and family. One week, the YouTube algorithm ‘kicked in’—the service was ‘recommended viewing’ and we had over 4000 views that week. Praise the Lord!
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
2 TIMOTHY 4:2
In December 2020, we asked CMS supporters to pray about how many people would be allowed into church over Christmas. On 20 December, the Singapore government raised the number from 100 people to 150. St George’s increased the number of Christmas services, with seven services over a 26-hour period, and a total of 1080 people attending. Without the restrictions being lifted, only 700 people would have been permitted. This answer to prayer meant that Christians could celebrate in person and non-Christians could hear the gospel and be challenged to respond.
Our experience of COVID-19 has differed from much of the world. Singapore has been spared the high casualties and economic disaster that has been felt in many nations. There have been limitations and restrictions, but God has made a way for us to continue preaching, speaking and living out the gospel. We praise God for this and pray that our world will seek the mercy offered through Christ’s death and resurrection. We continue to work for a world that knows Jesus.
Ask God to raise up CMS missionaries who will be able to share the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ on location for many years.