One aspect of the currently global crisis is the effect it has on relationships between people of different nations. Some have labeled COVID-19 “the Chinese Virus.” Debates rage over whether this name simply recognizes its origins in the nation of China and/or if the name tries to connect “foreignness” with a horrible pandemic. Some believe this label to be racist or xenophobic, others see it as patriotic or strategic, and some people are simply indifferent about the label.
Other frightening diseases in the past have been connected to geography – like the Spanish Flu and Ebola. Regardless of the origin of these names or their accuracy, we must recognize that each of our hearts can be quick to place blame when crisis hits. Perhaps we want to blame Spring Breakers who didn’t “socially distance” themselves, families who overbuy supplies, or government leaders we don’t agree with.
Sometimes our hearts want to blame those who look different than us, those who have different customs than us, or those who live far away. We all face temptations to blame others.
As the church, we have a role in making things better. Our role is to love. We can reflect God’s heart by giving special attention to the marginalized, the sojourner, and the world beyond our borders. We have the opportunity to step up through the way we lead this conversation. Our social media posts, discussions, and chats with coworkers can model a love for others – including others foreign to our own individual contexts.
God has revealed His character and creativity through different skin colors, geographies, languages, and characteristics. We were all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Prejudice, racism, and even a basic disdain for those unlike us all stem from forgetting this. Just as we are all susceptible to COVID-19, we are all prone to sin.
However, we are all susceptible to the “vaccine” of the gospel, too! Reminding ourselves of the gospel helps us fight against the viruses of “blame-throwing,” racism, and prejudice. Christ healed us, though we were not simply sick but dead in our sins. We were far more unlike Him than citizens of other countries are unlike us. And we were far more foolish, unhealthy, and broken in our sin than anyone who contracts this virus. Yet He welcomes us, heals us, and calls us friends.
Could the COVID-19 crisis actually give the church an opportunity to break down barriers? May we take this time to move closer to God’s view of the world and to move closer to people in love.
“For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Hebrews 2:10-11
For more on being a great (international) neighbor, read this article.
Please help us pray for our ministry partners.
Church Planters in India:
Because India’s borders are closed and most of the nation is under Shelter-In-Place orders, our partner plans to use this time to educate people about COVID-19 and the precautions that need to be taken. There is a lot of misinformation in the population about health and the virus, so teams are bicycling from villages and communities to teach the best practices in risk reduction and symptom identification/management.
Mission of Hope:
In the Caribbean and Central America, Mission of Hope focuses on advancing the local church through sharing the gospel, making disciples, training pastors, and growing churches. Their incoming trips from churches like ours have been cancelled through mid-April. 60% of Haiti has already compromised immune systems, and the country does not have the ability to respond to a pandemic. Please pray for the medical teams, missionaries, and local staff.
Compassion in El Salvador:
Compassion International has suspended programming and cancelled all trips through April. The Salvadoran president has acknowledged that their country is not prepared to handle an epidemic. Our trips liaison, Rachel, asked for prayers for God to give them wisdom on next steps, as well as prayers for their field staff’s jobs, safety, and hope.
Leader Training Ministry in the Middle East:
This partner had to send some students home from their 3-month church leader training, after the country of Turkey began reporting outbreaks. Please pray for the 13 participants and the training team for the Lord to give them wisdom and creativity in this time. They are seeing the shutdown as an incredible opportunity to increase one-to-one discipleship, training, and evangelism webinars.
We work with e3 Partners in Ethiopia, a nation which so far has not reported outbreaks of the virus. Upcoming Watermark trips, planned for the summer, are currently on pause.
One Watermark team leading a Training Conference with ALARM thankfully made it safely home a couple of weeks ago. COVID-19 has been identified in many African countries where ALARM serves. Although their staff is working from home, please pray for the countries who do not have the medical care, proper sanitation, infrastructure or ability to follow the WHO guidelines. Please also pray for provision for their African staff.