Caring for missionaries during COVID-19
April 2020

As COVID-19 sweeps across the globe, missionaries grapple with how to respond in light of their desire to respect the culture and to reach the lost. In addition to the grief and fear that accompany a situation like the one our world now faces, they must answer other complicated questions: Stay or fly back home? Which culture’s medical advice should they trust? Who will care for their elderly parents or college-age children?  

We understand that pastors are facing their own challenges as they rethink how to serve their local congregations, but this is a time when your missionaries could use an encouraging word or a listening ear as they also struggle to process all the changes the coronavirus has brought. 

SEND mission coach Amanda Pankov suggests that churches start by emailing their missionaries with the following questions: 

  1. How are you and your family doing?
  2. What is the current state in your area and ministry?
  3. What are your needs or concerns?
  4. Do you have children in the States, and how can we serve them? 
  5. What is the best way to keep in contact with you during this time? Options could include email, WhatsApp, Skype, or Facebook.  

When you contact your missionaries, let them know about your church’s virtual meetings—whether it’s the Sunday service, midweek meetings, or prayer sessions—and encourage them to join in as a participant (with no pressure to share anything). Watching their sending churches’ Sunday services has been a great encouragement to SEND missionaries who are sheltering in place and who generally do not get to worship in their heart languages.  

Involve your church members in meeting the needs that your missionary shares. This may mean writing encouraging cards or emails, assigning someone to listen to the missionary’s stories and then share them with the church, linking them to medical advice, or providing financial assistance. 

Because a country's COVID-19 response can change quickly, someone in the church might commit to a weekly virtual check-in with your missionaries. Some good questions to ask during those conversations:

  1. What are you praying for right now and for the future?
  2. How are your partners and those with whom you do ministry?
  3. How have you seen God move or lead in this time?
  4. What’s an interesting element of the culture that has been revealed in the moment of crises? What’s a positive element you’ve observed? What is a troubling element?

Caring for your missionaries also might mean helping to facilitate an evacuation. For a variety of COVID-19-related reasons, some missionaries will need to leave their place of ministry. Your church could help find them a place to live and a car to borrow. Also, people arriving from other countries likely will face a long quarantine, so the church could bless their missionaries by stocking their emergency home with food, supplies (even toilet paper, if you can find it!), bedding, towels, pots and pans, and so forth.  

If your church needs more direct guidance, please reach out to a SEND missions coach, who can help provide resources about staying safe overseas. 

SEND’s mission coaches listen to what God’s doing in the life of your church and look for ways that we can come alongside in partnership. Click below to get in touch with a mission coach!

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