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COVID days offer natural preparation for the mission field
May 2020
By Josie Oldenburg, SEND Communications — Remember ordinary days? Hanging out with friends, going to church, giving hugs? Popping off to the grocery store for whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted? Those were good days. But unless you were making very intentional choices, those ordinary days probably weren’t preparing you for the challenges of missionary life. 
 
These COVID days, on the other hand, feel like natural preparation. As Paul wrote in Romans, “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” 
 
This is a season of suffering. Even if we’ve not gotten sick or lost our jobs, we are at the very least laying down our plans so that others don’t have to lay down their lives. When we emerge from this season (and from our homes), we just might find ourselves more prepared to serve overseas. 

 

Endurance 

Though we wake up day after day to scary headlines and continued restrictions, we also get the chance every single day to rest on the foundations of our faith. As Anna in Japan says, “How can I choose joy in my present circumstances? Jesus is STILL the Author, Protector, and Perfector of my faith. I choose joy by fixing my eyes on him and his love, grace, and presence in my life despite my circumstances, despite unknowns, despite this life—this transient, mortal, breath of life. God is constant, consistent, faithful, and eternal.” 
 
Missionary life will include challenging, complicated, and sad seasons. If you use these COVID days to strengthen your faith endurance muscles, they will serve you well on the mission field. 

 

Character

People over plans: Our missionaries had English-language outreaches and preaching opportunities packing their calendars. They had visions of summer camps where thousands would hear the gospel. Even if none of that happens, “we are growing in our understanding that loving people with caring, listening, and encouragement is more important than keeping the ministry program going,” says Dave in Asia. 
 
Heightened self-awareness: Your personal response to COVID can teach you so much about yourself. Are you more fearful than you realized? More of a rule-follower, or more of a rebel? Do you love the solitary life, or are you miserable without people? “As a single living overseas, this crisis has really highlighted for me the challenge of living alone,” says Hannah in Japan. “I have ways of engaging and viewing this time as a time to really focus on spiritual formation. It is really making me grateful for the daily rhythms I had in place prior to the COVID crisis.” 

Zoom call 
Satisfaction in virtual connection: Missionaries grow accustomed to missing family gatherings around holidays, birthdays, graduations, and funerals. But they also excel at finding other ways to connect: Games or storytime with grandkids over Skype/Zoom/Facetime. Listening to church online. Virtual coffee dates with friends. All the stuff that everyone else is trying out now. Are these as wonderful as being in the same room? No! But if you can maintain authentic relationships even while socially distanced, you will be in good shape for missionary life. 

 

Hope

Having so much control stripped away from our lives leaves one thing clear: Our hope is only and always in the Lord. “I've been learning a lot about how much I try to control the outcomes of my life,” says missionary coach Stacey. “The pandemic is reminding me how little control we have, how reliant we are on God, and how fortunate we are that he walks with us.” 
 
We also can draw hope from the ways we see God at work even in these circumstances. Throughout the world, people who would never set foot in a church will gladly listen to sermons online. In Japan, a man came to faith because his wife couldn’t attend her sister’s funeral. In Southeast Asia, God provided thousands of meals for the hungry long before our team there knew a crisis was coming. Walls and restrictions cannot contain God’s Spirit! 

With God’s help, the restrictions that COVID-19 has put on our lives can help us grow in endurance, develop character traits, and rest in the hope that helps missionaries thrive (not just survive) on the mission field! 




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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josie Oldenburg
Josie and her family served for 12 years in Ukraine before she joined the SEND Communications team.