“Leche!” shouts a little boy. He grabs the can of milk out of a bag and starts hugging and kissing it.
Missionaries pitch in to buy a coffin so their friend can be buried in the cemetery instead of a mass COVID-19 grave.
Churches pool their money and start committees to provide food for the neediest families in their neighborhoods.
When the new coronavirus turned into a pandemic, many people wondered, “Will COVID-19 put global missions on hold?” And while missions does look a bit different these days, we’re happy to report that God is still working to transform lives.
We asked missionaries from TEAM and South America Mission how they’re still serving in the midst of COVID-19. Both ministries are founding members of Therefore Alliance, a mission collaboration created to increase Gospel impact and bring glory to God by working together. Here’s what their missionaries told us about COVID-19 ministry.
Life and Death in Peru
Despite strict lockdowns, Peru’s number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. Hospitals have limited supplies — and limited space in their morgues.
When missionaries Stephanie and Todd Edgar lost a friend to COVID-19, the body was slated to be sent to a mass, unmarked COVID-19 grave by the highway. The family didn’t have money for anything else.
In that dark hour, the Body of Christ stepped in.
Stephanie and Todd helped buy a coffin for their friend. And with some help, the family got their loved one released and sent to the city cemetery.
But while death seems to be the unrelenting theme of the day, God is also bringing new life into the world.
Craig Gahagen serves in missions aviation. And in the midst of COVID-19, he says, “We have been averaging about one medical emergency flight per week. Most of these flights are for pregnant women in distress.”
One woman was 38 weeks pregnant in a small river town with limited medical resources. The SAMAIR team flew her to the city of Pucallpa for a potential cesarean section. Earlier in the quarantine, the team evacuated a young missionary family.
“When we fly, strict anti-infection protocols must be followed, including protecting passengers from the pilot and vice versa,” Craig says. “We are not carrying known COVID-19 patients, but since patients can be asymptomatic, we must exercise extreme caution.”
Everyone Needs Food, Scripture and Nature
For many missionaries in Latin America, COVID-19 ministry has been a bit less dramatic, but just as vital.
Los Cabos, Mexico, is a prime tourist destination. But with travel shut down, families are struggling to buy food. Thankfully, missionaries Art and Vicki Reyes and their congregation have been preparing for this moment.
For years, church members have contributed food items each week and given them to families in need. Now, they’re donating even more.
“Some of these folks are rather poor themselves, so they give out of their poverty,” Vicki says. And though everyone expects the economy in Los Cabos to get worse, God is already answering prayers through donations from the Reyeses’ supporters.
Farther north, in La Paz, Mexico, Steve and Lois Dresselhaus would normally be taking groups kayaking. Being surrounded by nature makes it easy to turn conversations to the God who created it.
Now, instead of taking their neighbors out into nature, the missionaries are bringing nature to their neighbors.
“Our house church group … has started a food bank, which gives rather substantial bags of basic staples to families in three neighborhoods,” Steve says.
And with each bag of food, Steve includes a Bible text printed on a quality nature photograph. It’s a little piece of nature and a reminder of God’s faithfulness while most people are confined indoors.
The church doesn’t have enough money to help everyone in need, so they had to form a committee to decide who to serve. But with each delivery, they get to share who they are, why they’re helping and how people can join them after the curfew is lifted.
Missionaries Caring for Missionaries in Northwest Brazil
Craig DeLille, South America Mission’s field director for Brazil, made an epic road trip with a friend to bless Brazilian missionaries and a Maxacali indigenous community. Both groups have suffered severely because of quarantine measures adversely affecting the informal economies so many in Latin America depend on.
The quote below is from Craig, who shared details of the outreach while expressing thanks to donors who provided funding to make the outreach possible.
“I just wanted to thank you for the generous contribution to bless the Maxacali village in Minas Gerais, Brazil. My dear friend Pastor Iraque and I were privileged to be able to travel over 2,000 miles round-trip over five days to visit with missionaries who serve indigenous communities throughout the northeast of Brazil, pray with them, offer words of encouragement, and provide for some of their basic needs. We delivered 44 food baskets to the missionaries along the way and 250 to the Maxacali village once we made it to our destination. Since we had 6 food baskets left over, we added three stops to our return and were able to bless two missionary families and a local pastor as well. We returned home late Tuesday evening, our age showing a bit, but very grateful for the opportunity to be Jesus’ hands and feet and humbled by the depth of His love for us.”
How Can You Pray for COVID-19 Ministries
No one knows how long COVID-19, or the side effects of our fight against it, will last. Please stand in prayer with missionaries throughout Latin America as they serve those in great need.
- Pray for good health and safety as missionaries and local churches serve — whether by delivering food, evacuating people or serving in medical facilities. Ask God to give them wisdom in every situation.
- Pray for continued funds to buy relief supplies. As local communities run low on funds, global churches, from the U.S. to Germany, are stepping up. Missionaries are also applying for grants to fund COVID-19 ministry efforts. Please pray for favor as they submit these applications.
- Pray for greater understanding of and love for local communities. Good missionaries always strive to understand those they serve, but a crisis bonds people in a unique way. Pray that this time of hardship won’t be wasted, and that relationships will be even stronger by the end.
- Ask God to open hearts to Him. Pray that missionaries and local believers will make clear what motivates them to serve others. Ask that people will see their service as a demonstration of God’s love for them.
- Ask God to show you how you can serve your own neighbors. We all know people in various states of need. Ask God to reveal who He would have you serve right now, and ask Him how to do it.
South America Mission and TEAM have been responding since the beginning of the crisis. Our gospel collaboration has allowed us to respond more widely and more quickly than we could alone. This blog post was originally composed by Bethany DuVal, who serves as TEAM’s marketing manager and editor.