Two years ago, no one imagined that we would still be dealing with COVID-19 in 2022. We will wade through this virus and by the summer the world will be back to normal, so we thought. Well, that didn’t go exactly as we had hoped. Two years later, we are still dealing with the virus, as we are learning ways to navigate in a world with it. While we may not yet have a new normal, we certainly are not shutdown like we were in early 2020. As we think about churches continuing to support the work of missionaries through short-term missions, there are some lessons we can glean from the last two years.
- The mission of God is not thwarted by a virus nor by anything or anyone else. Nothing will stop the advancement of the gospel, even when the world apparently shuts down. Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell will not overpower it” (Matt 16:18).
- Encouragement of missionaries on the field has perhaps never been more necessary (at least in my lifetime). We all find ourselves in need of encouragement as the demands and challenges of life in a fallen world press on us. Paul’s church planting pattern involved circling back to churches he planted to “strengthen the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith…” (Acts 14:22). While Covid is still front-and-center, many other issues compound the challenges of ministry, especially cross-culturally. The pressure cooker of today’s realities requires churches to provide intentional encouragement to help sustain field personnel across the globe.
- Hitting a moving target is never easy. Let’s face it, data and policies seem to change weekly related to Covid. Expecting these unexpected changes will aid the short-term mission team in staying focused on the mission rather than the obstacles. For Paul, Roman imprisonment did not derail his plans for gospel advancement (Acts 28:30-31).
- Since we are dealing with a moving target, stay up on current Covid information. Short-term mission teams will need to research Covid requirements for their travel locations. Even connecting flights, particularly in other countries, may require something different than the team’s destination city or country. CDC provides information related to the virus (http://cdc.gov). To find up-to-date info about travel in particular countries, search “US embassy and consulates in ________ (name of country).” Then simply select the information about Covid-19.
- Flexibility is still the 11th commandment in short-term missions. “Thou shalt be flexible,” says the short-term mission team leader to his team. Covid does not lessen the discomforts of crossing communities, countries, and cultures; it enlarges them. God does not become frustrated over challenging circumstances, whether Covid or the like. He is sovereign over them. While describing the glorious salvation of God’s people, Paul reiterates that God works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11). God’s sovereignty is not meant to be a topic of theological debate. It’s meant to be a comfort for our lack of sovereign control. This truth is not just for our salvation, but for all of life, even short-term missions. Thus, be flexible as God is moving the pieces of the puzzle as He sees fit for your short-term mission team.
While COVID-19 remains active, the gospel of Jesus marches on. Short-term missions can still be part of God’s plan to engage communities, cities, and countries around the world with the good news of Jesus. Don’t allow Covid to derail your church’s mission involvement. Rather, trust God as He is working, and then adjust and plan accordingly.