“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 This verse is giving much comfort to many as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads around the world. This pandemic has affected us all with daily changes as we adjust to the “new normal”.
Our Africa missionaries are continuing to do their best with their regular communications in newsletters, thank you notes, and through their other media channels to remind supporters that they remain engaged in the work we are sent to do even as it changes in the circumstances — “Spread the Gospel; Plant Lutheran Churches; Show Mercy”
The Lord through His church has sent us to serve His people in Eastern and Southern Africa. We live among His people here, far from our relatives, the comforts of our home cultures, and our own “ancestral lands.” What we have undertaken for the sake of the Gospel does not make sense to the world. The challenges of travel, work, and gathering together due to the restrictions related to COVID-19 are certainly preventing us from carrying out the work we had planned. Seminaries are closed and students have been sent home. Congregations are not allowed to gather for worship.
Conferences and seminars are suspended by government order. Short term teams and volunteers cannot make it to their assignments. The Gospel itself, the very core of our work as a mission, is conveyed in relationships and those are hard to foster and maintain in this restricted environment. Nevertheless, we see that in this – as in all those things we would call tragedies – God is at work.
Many doors have been shut but God will open new ones. Our own plans have been canceled or suspended or are simply no longer tenable but God’s plans are beautiful and generous and will come to fruition, glorifying His name. As a team, we are taking this time of pause, this forced Sabbath, to catch up, to gather strength, to re-gather our community through the myriad of digital platforms available to us today, to seek the new opportunities the Lord is opening for Word and Sacrament ministry, for teaching, and for showing mercy to His people.
We are here, poised, ready to respond, ready to serve, and eager give an answer to anyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have. If, after this time of forced rest and respite, God re-opens our familiar paths of ministry, our teachers will return with joy to the classroom as soon as students are there, our pastors will return to the congregations eager to hear the Word and receive the Sacrament, our volunteer coordinator will start rescheduling those who support the ministries on this field, our project managers and communication specialists and administrators consultants will take up their work with renewed strength and the Word of God on their lips.
If instead of those traditional familiar paths of ministry, the world is moving into a new normal where some of those are no longer possible, we strive ahead to see how the Lord will enable us to walk with Him in mission, spreading the Gospel, planting Lutheran churches, and showing mercy. — Rev. Trump
By God’s Grace, so far the missionaries in West and Central African region are well. However, with increasing cases in the area, some of the missionaries will be returning to the States.
With this region’s recent dealings with Ebola, the governments are nervous and understandably very cautious. On March 20th, the Republic of Congo, with the announcement of only its third case, shut down all the schools and banned church services. Sierra Leone, the epicenter of the recent Ebola outbreak, with no recorded cases as yet, announced the total closure of its International Airport on March 21st. We are thankful that CLET Professor Jacob Gaugert, who has been filling in at the Sierra Leone Seminary, has returned to his home in Dapaong.
We are concerned about Burkina Faso, with a million displaced from Muslim terrorism and an already very weak medical infrastructure way over burdened by that, is reporting now 100 cases. If the virus takes hold there, that poor country could become the epicenter of a plague and resulting humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions. That now is added to militant Islam as a clear and present danger to the CLET in Northern Togo. We pray the Lord’s mercy! — Rev. Schulte