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COVID 19: A Short-Term Missions Game-Changer

David Nakhla

No doubt there are many wondering today what the coming summer holds, even though it’s just a few short months away. Will I graduate? Can I take my family vacation? Will I still be in school given all the time lost? Will I still have a job? Can I even leave my home?

And some readers of the STORM Report might be wondering, will I still be able to participate in short-term missions?

With the virus looming darkly over us, the one thing that is clear is that no one but God knows the answer to all of these questions. From our limited, human perspective, everything is up in the air and anything is possible. While some mission fields have already chosen to cancel their summer teams, for most it’s simply too early to decide. Can I encourage you in the thought that the Lord, in His divine providence, has opened up a short-term mission field to you right where you are—right in your own neighborhood?

One of my roles is to serve as the OPC’s Disaster Response Coordinator. In that capacity, I am privileged to enter into a disaster that one of our churches might be facing, to advise them on how to prepare for the weeks, months, and possibly years ahead, and to coordinate assistance to bring them through it. With a local disaster, it’s important for a local church to consider that most likely their ministry has instantly changed from what it was before the disaster. The normal lives their congregants once enjoyed have been stripped away. They all now suffer as affected persons, suffering the trauma of one of the most difficult things to have lived through, and possibly suffering additional trauma as the effects of the disaster are uncovered bit by bit.

In a similar fashion, we are now living through a disaster of sorts. COVID-19 is a special kind of disaster, and the aftermath it’s leaving in its wake looks quite different from a hurricane, and yet, it’s dramatic nonetheless. What’s so unique about this COVID-19 disaster is that it is not bound by a local or regional area. Nearly the entire world is suffering from it directly. Further, it’s a disaster that is still unfolding. We can sense that the tide is rising and that it’s rising fast, but it is so hard to see or measure. This is certainly evidenced by the drastic, and even draconian, measures being taken by governments around the world. These measures are incurring unknown harm to our economies and financial systems as well as our emotional well-being, but are intended to lessen the deadly impact of this virus. It is unclear what a “post-COVID-19” world will look like, but it’s likely to be different from life as we knew and enjoyed just a few months ago.

As such, most of whom we know are living with a growing level of fear: fear of the unknown, the invisible, the future—the things they love most. Some may even fear death. This fear might be felt by our friends and neighbors. Do they know the love and hope that we hold in Christ?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to imply that it’s all bad. Beautiful things are happening as well. The saints are surrounding each other with love and kindness. There is contact between believers occurring in new and creative ways. The saints are finding ways to continue to worship together, using technology and other means. And no doubt there are some who are willingly endangering their own well-being in service to others. There are deacons who are actively considering which members may lose employment or income because of COVID-19; whose businesses will be scaled back or shut down. They are considering ways to minister to families who are suffering a prolonged quarantine due to exposure to, or testing positive for, COVID-19. These are awesome things for which we can praise God.

Will short-term missions occur this summer? Possibly not in the way we typically think of, but that might just be because we have our hands full with short-term missions right in our own backyard-–ministering to the saints and providing hope for those who are looking for the answer to all their fears. May God be glorified in this unique form of short-term missions that is afforded us all in these peculiar days.

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