Updated: Apr 10, 2020
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has motivated many governments to impose various restrictions on travelers, ranging from quarantine to outright bans from entry. This has led to logistical obstacles for some of our missionaries and national missionary partners. Flights have been cancelled or rerouted, trips have been postposed because borders were closed, and there is still much uncertainty about upcoming travel plans. This has caused me to reflect upon how we should respond as missionaries and as Christians.
Beloved, our lives are in the hands of a sovereign God, and that must govern our reaction to this, as well as any other, trial we may face in this fallen world. Fear (worry, anxiety) really is not a legitimate option: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). It is important to note that this ability to resist the temptation to fear is not our own, but is from God. Jesus promised this to us: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Again, the Bible tells us that“God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). This, then, must guide us: a steady faith in the providence, the peace, and the power of God.
This does not mean that we plunge headlong into dangerous situations without care or caution. In the present case, there are a number of sources that provide guidance to minimize exposure and risk. Yet, Christians have always been the ones who gointo a crisis rather than fleeing it. For instance, when a horrific plague broke out in the Roman Empire in the mid-third century, as many as 5000 people were dying every day. Of that scene, it was written: “All were shuddering, fleeing, shunning the contagion, impiously exposing their own friends, as if with the exclusion of the person who was sure to die of the plague, one could exclude death itself also.” And yet, of the Christians, it was said, “Most of our brethren showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves, and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ…” Christians in Wuhan, China responded in a similar way. Because we have the peace of God, we need not be paralyzed by fear and, consequently, we can be ministers of that peace in a world that is gripped by fear and panic. Of course, not every Christian is called to the same task in these circumstances. For those who are called to serve in such situations, however, we must pray for them to rely upon, and rest in, that providence, peace, and power.
The thoughts above are governing my decisions with regard to the travel of Timothy Two’s international missionaries and national missionary partners. We must exercise care and be wise; yet, we must also continue to fulfill the calling placed upon us by God. The work of the gospel is paramount because the truth of the gospel is eternal. This virus, indeed this world, is temporal. As the Bible commands, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). Pray that we will be faithful to do just that. Pray also for those who are traveling and serving throughout the nearly 180 nations where COVID-19 has been seen. Pray that God would be merciful to the suffering and, above all, that our great God and Savior will be gracious, using the crisis – and His people in the midst of it – for His glory and the expansion of His Kingdom.