Anna and I started to monitor the Covid19 situation more closely around late February. We were reading the devastating news of how this pandemic was impacting other countries and how the best solution was social distancing, followed by a quarantine. For us, it wasn’t a question of if but when would it arrive in Colombia.
So what does ministry and missions look like for team Kim when the world turns upside down?
The first case of Covid19 in Colombia was reported on February 26 from a Colombian who had visited Italy. Even though she was quarantined (now recovered), soon other unrelated cases started popping up across the country. The Colombian government had been observing the situation unravel in China, Italy, and Spain. Data from affected countries indicated the best way to improve survival rates within Colombia was to reduce the risk of overwhelming the health care system. So the solution was to flatten the curve (Link). As a result, the federal and regional governments started to make advisories and recommendations for social distancing around the first week of March.
It was around this time, I started to engage in conversations with my friend/pastor of our local church on how we as a church were going to keep people from getting sick. Our short term goal was to implement best practices for social distancing: don’t shake hands, use hand sanitizer, etc… In retrospect, I wish we would have prepared more thoroughly on a long term plan. A forced quarantine still seemed distant. However, like in other countries, cases were doubling as the days progressed. Before we knew it, Colombia stopped.
- March 1 was a normal Sunday. In the first week, the country was cautious of Covid19 but still seemed distant.
- March 8th was nearly a normal Sunday. Hand sanitizer was readily available and close proximity greetings were discouraged. On the second week, educational institutions were suspending on site classes at a national level. Classes went virtual the following week. Schools without digital resources would simply be suspended until the end of the pandemic.
- March 15 was a on site service but with half the crowd. We went to church that Sunday because we felt it might be the last on site fellowship for a while. We trialed a live feed broadcast. It didn’t work well because of poor bandwidth. On the third week, the city of Medellin held a quarantine drill on the weekend (20, 21 & 22). No one was allowed out on the streets for 3 days.
- March 22 was a broadcast service. By God’s grace, we had the foresight to record at the church earlier in the week. On the fourth week, a minority of people weren’t respecting social distancing, resulting in the national and regional governments implementing forced quarantine across various cities. Now people are allowed to go out only for essentials based on their ID numbers (Link).
- March 29 was another broadcast service. Because the recent quarantine requirements, I wasn’t able record the worship/message on site. I had the opportunity to train our pastor how to record the worship/sermon using his laptop.
Life and ministry looks very different right now. In a span of three weeks, we went from having complete freedom of mobility to being confined to our apartment with only 2 chances per week to go out to restock. So, what does ministry and missions look like for our family right now?
On a personal level, we needed to make sure our family, especially our kids would transition well from on-site school to virtual school at home. By God’s grace they have adapted well and so have we. However, there are still many opportunities for growth as we continue to adapt week by week. From a ministry level, we needed to make sure we were walking along with our pastoral family and helping them as they tried to figure out how to do church in the ever changing circumstances. Part of the work is media production and social media communication while the other part is more strategic and abstract, but that part is an ongoing conversation. From a missions level, we are working with our local church to see how the body of believers through the power of the gospel can be a beacon of hope and peace in our city.
I can’t speak for other people in ministry or missionaries. Each country has its own rules and requirements as it tackles this pandemic. In our story, our church has made it a point to respect the rules and mandates from our local authorities. For us, following these mandates sets a good testimony within our community. This hasn’t been stress free for our pastor or many other Colombian pastors. The realities of isolation and not being able to meet as a church is stripping away layers of what people valued and defined what a church should be or look like.
This sabbatical has been a great opportunity to reflect and think through why we do certain things in our church and how we do them. Are they Biblically grounded or are they traditions that were grandfathered in over the years? Can we be a church if we don’t meet weekly? How do Christians, who are called to be relational, stay relational with our fellow brothers and sisters when we can’t socialize together? Furthermore, how do we GO to proclaim the good news if we aren’t allowed to go anywhere?
It may seem odd, but questions like these have been a great jumping board for our pastor and the church leadership team to start rethinking how we can be a church when the rules of what it means to be a society has been rewritten by a novel virus.
So, what will ministry and missions look like for our family and church in the coming weeks?
- Listen to other’s concerns
- Empathize with their worries
- Counsel if asked
- Help those in need
Our prayer is that the Church shine through this time of crisis. We don’t want to be bystanders but rather a people who give hope for eternal peace while meeting the immediate physical needs of nations. In order to do that, first we must humble ourselves to the Word of God. Then, we can take courage, for our hope and power doesn’t dwell in human institutions but in God.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips;meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9