By Nancy Holley
Note: Sharing news online presents risks to our missionary families. For this reason, we are omitting all names and most locations. If you have questions or are interested in learning more about one or more of our missions partnerships, please contact us so a member of the missions team can share more in a confidential context.
Have you thought about whether the missionaries that Friedens supports have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? One of our missionary families found itself at the epicenter of the pandemic when the outbreak began a year ago. The Friedens’ Missions Team can report that all of the missionaries we support are physically well, but that their lives and work for the Kingdom have been changed in many ways.
Like all of us, the travel plans of our missionaries have been drastically affected by pandemic restrictions. Many serving in foreign countries found themselves under tight home and curfew restrictions. Several were forced to leave the mission field and return to the USA because their visas could not be renewed and borders were closing. One such missionary family has recently returned to their country of service. The other family cannot return until they are vaccinated against the virus and obtain new visas, so probably not until the second quarter on 2021. These displaced families had to find temporary housing, employment, and a way to stay involved with their disciples abroad. While our missionaries have enjoyed their time with extended family members, they are anxious to resume their Kingdom work.
Missionaries that were not required to leave their mission setting have been restricted in their ability to pastor, preach and teach. Short-term mission trips whether local or abroad have been impossible to schedule. Fluctuating exchange rates on the world market have increased costs and reduced expense reimbursements sometimes leaving our missionaries short of funds.
Universities, schools, and training centers have been closed abroad as in the USA affecting students and also limiting the instructional work of our “teaching” missionaries. Missionaries taking language training themselves have been restricted to on-line resources, which we understand is not a particularly good way to acquire local dialect and culture training.
Pandemic restrictions have also caused our missionaries to rely more on technology to reach out to others. Internet communications and video conferencing have been used to keep in touch with distant followers and students. Online services and studies have proven to be very successful in reaching new audiences, especially in countries where physical attendance is difficult and often dangerous. ZOOM meetings have shown to be an effective method not only for Bible studies but also for updating supporters.
Of course, disasters continue to occur and basic needs persist even in a pandemic. Lives have been lost in areas where missionaries are at work, and comfort must be offered. Political conflicts continue to cause destruction and despair, and assistance must be provided. Unemployment rates which have always been high are even higher due to business closures. Refugees continue to emigrate and their basic needs continue to be hard to meet. The laundry ministry in Turkey that we support continues to serve an important purpose. Tutoring continues in the inner city of Milwaukee with appropriate precautions and social distancing. Missionary helpers continue to prepare for the time they will be sent to serve.
Your thoughts and prayers are needed more than ever to support our missionaries at home and abroad.
Please be assured that Friedens’ Missions Team is still working and the missionaries we support are still hard at work for the Kingdom.