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30 & 31 July 2022 (Pastoral Page) OVERSEAS CHURCHES BEYOND THE PANDEMIC!

By Asst Ps Gift Daniel

…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matt 16:18.

The truth of His word has withstood history and time for centuries beginning from the early church. The pandemic stands testimonial yet again to the church’s flourishing amidst great adversity.

While the world grappled with Covid-19, the Lord worked amidst it in expanding his kingdom on earth. Over the last two years, several members connected to our churches overseas came down with Covid-19; while most recovered, some passed-on. Some of them lost their jobs and livelihoods, and factory workers were retrenched. Medical facilities were stretched too thin, and the poorer lot had no options but to be treated from home. When the schools shut down, some could access education online, while the rest who did not have access to the computer or smartphones had no means to be educated. A hike in crime rates among children was estimated.

While the truth of the tragedies wrought by Covid-19 stands true, there were surprisingly unintended results in our churches and ministries overseas, particularly in Nepal, Cebu, Prey Veng (Cambodia), and Batam. I would go as far as to say, if not for the pandemic, we may not have witnessed what the Lord could do! I have briefly described below my observations and interactions with overseas partners so that we may be grateful to the Lord.

1. Expansion Of Our Local Churches And Ministries

While the pandemic economically wrecked many of our overseas partners and their church members, leaving them poorer than they were three years ago, their faith stood out remarkably stronger than ever. Compared to the number of people who quit church or passed away, the number of people who began to seek the local church increased. Jonathan, our Church Planting Overseer in Nepal, said that more than three hundred people had been baptized in Nepal over the last two years. The proclamation of the gospel continued amidst the lockdowns. It is said an estimate of 9,000 people heard the gospel through our church planters last year in Nepal.

Towards the end of 2019, in Cebu, a new service was initiated among the slums in a local cemetery, with 25-30 believers gathering weekly. While in Cambodia, we have established a relationship with a new group of about 35 local pastors in Prey Veng. Several believers received miraculous physical healing over the last two years in our overseas mission fields.

One of the miraculous stories we heard is from one of our Church Planters (CP), Amar Basnet in Nepal. A family of four after spending much money in seeking healing from hospitals and witch doctors for the mother in the family but without success. She was brought to our CP for prayer. After two days of prayers and no healing, her husband decided to bring her to a clinic which diagnosed her as having cancer. In the subsequent test in the hospital, it was determined that she was suffering from tuberculosis and not cancer. Her condition slowly became better. Seeing the loving care that was shown by our CP, her husband accepted the Lord Jesus and now both husband and wife attend our church.

In the last two years, many have come to hear about the Gospel through such incidents.

2. Emergence Of New Leaders

In our mission field in Cambodia, owing to Covid-19, missionaries could not return to the field for more than a year. The local leaders, mostly young adults, took up the reins in their absence. They emerged as the new leaders in a time of dire crisis. This gives us hope for the succession of our ministry in Cambodia.

Furthermore, several students we sponsored for the last 5-10 years for schooling in Cebu have grown up into fine young men and women taking up different leadership roles in the newly emerging services and existing ministries. Most of them are in the university now. In addition to their education, I sense an immense growth in their emotional and spiritual maturity. Pandemic has indeed caused them to grow and explore new things.

Due to financial difficulties, Nicco, a disabled young adult, had to discontinue his degree program. His mother had passed on when Bro. Shien Siong and I visited Cebu early this month to conduct interviews for the upcoming Potential Ministry Leaders’ Training. While his mother’s body lay in the coffin at home, he came for an interview and showed tremendous commitment and eagerness to learn about ministry leadership.

Meanwhile, we started the Go-To-School (GTS) program for kids last year in Batam, Indonesia. Our church members sponsor 18 children for their schooling in Batam and 35 children in Cebu. The Batam-GTS initiative was started amidst the pandemic, which opened an opportunity to identify new leaders in Batam whom we intend to groom for our future ministry in Batam. Several students were forced to learn new skills and take up new projects during the pandemic, resulting in surprising discoveries about themselves and their leadership potential.

We have started a hybrid Potential Ministry Leader’s Training this month for these emerging leaders in Cambodia and Cebu. Please pray for this training. (Check out this month’s church prayer meeting bulletin for the prayer points).

3. Growth In Generosity

The most impressive of all that the pandemic brought about was witnessing the generosity of people—sharing the little they have. Our church was able to help more than 500 families overseas. I am so grateful for your generosity in giving towards the needy families overseas. Thank you all! Likewise, in the mission fields, we witnessed growth in their generosity too.

Slum dwellers in Cebu who generally are generous have shown exceeding generosity in thinking about their neighbours before they could enjoy whatever they receive. While buying vegetables has become unaffordable, a community project to grow their own vegetables in the church or ministry space evolved in Cebu and in Prey Veng, Cambodia. They grow and share the vegetables.

Pandemic has caused them to share spaces, phones, laptops (for online classes), food, medicine, including their challenges and pain. A person from an underdeveloped country shared that the pandemic has prompted a new level of sharing, unlike any other time. He says they no longer share leftovers from after a meal but have come to share their hunger, meaning they share even before they have begun to eat, knowing they may not have enough for themselves— thereby sharing their hunger.

During the pandemic, our ministry partners and their church members have reached a different level of maturity, evidently intended by God alone beyond human understanding or efforts. The truth remains across history, time, and tragedies, that when God is building the Church, the gates of hades shall never overcome it! Soli Deo gloria!

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