Churches, international believers and World Challenge partners are reaching out to one another for information and encouragement during this epidemic.
Our news has been filled with alarming reports concerning COVID-19, the most recent coronavirus strain, in recent weeks.
People are being ushered into quarantines; entire countries have been trying to close their borders; the rapid transmission of this newest influenza has caused public fears to run rampant.
These anxieties can be particularly acute in countries where the accounts about COVID’s spread are nebulous and people are unsure how dangerous this sickness is, what spreads it, and what actions their government is taking to secure their safety. World Challenge missions directors have been reaching out to our partners with details about the disease and basic guidelines for prevention.
More than anything, though, they want to encourage local church leaders.
Seeking the Maker Amid Our Troubles
While education about virus transmission is relatively common in the Western world, that is not the case everywhere in the world. Misinformation about the coronavirus and how it is circulated can cause a lot of preventable anxiety.
As our team and partners work together to create trainings for preventing COVID-19, we are drawing information from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This strain of coronavirus is transferred mostly through coughing and sneezing, usually passing between people who are in close proximity. Tiny droplets of mucous or saliva carry the virus through the air, and when they land on the mouth or nose of somebody nearby, the illness is spread.
Most people have a fever and cough, symptoms similar to an ordinary flu or common cold. In a few cases, the coronavirus can lead to pneumonia and cause severe difficulty breathing, but for the majority of those infected, their illness is fairly mild.
While all of the scientific facts are useful, especially in helping to calm fears, they can’t comfort the same way as biblical promises that assure us of God’s presence and power in any circumstance we face.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, ESV).
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV).
For many local church leaders, this outbreak and public anxiety provides an opportunity to witness about the security believers have in God. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has even offered an article about finding our comfort in God during uncertain times in both English and Chinese. BGEA also posted about how more than 27,000 people have visited the website since major outbreaks began, and more than 600 were Chinese individuals “indicating that they want Jesus Christ to be part of their lives.”
Support in an Upside Down World
Rev. Bekako Duguma, Director of Development for the Ethiopian Full Gospel Believers Church, replied to World Challenge’s Senior Director of World Missions Keith Holloway, “The materials you sent are timely and are relevant. Thank you so much!”
One of our partners in the Philippines and Director of Community Health Education Ministry Faith Yap responded, “We would like to have prayer for the confirmed COVID-19 cases here that have risen and that God would provide everything we need for this. Thank you, Brother Keith, for the coronavirus lessons. We will immediately use them.”
A pastor from Southeast Asia wrote, “Thank you for your quick response. Thank you for all the notes, handouts and information about COVID-19. We will see how to immediately use these things for the needs of the community if available.”
More than anything, knowing that our Lord has everything under control and is not blind to our worries and pain is a great solace when our entire world seems to be turning upside down.