Global work continues during the pandemic
Have you wondered what I’ve been doing during the pandemic when I cannot travel? Over the next few paragraphs, you’ll learn about current projects as well as how the pandemic has opened and expanded new ministry opportunities. The truth is, yes, ministry looks a bit different, but health care needs have continued to grow which means that I am adapting and engaging in new (and exciting!) ways.
The devastation from COVID-19 has been on the news for the last few months. As hospitals and clinics attempt to meet the demand for care (often unable to help simply due to lack of resources), International Ministries has been working with partners to provide funding, counsel and support. One of these partners, Asia Pacific Baptist Aid (APBAid), is leading Baptist churches and hospitals in how to deal with the effects of COVID-19 on their communities. I have been in many video calls and trainings with our brothers and sisters in India to learn more about what help is needed and offer any care and counsel that they present.
One of the newest ministries developed from these conversations. A pastor shared that he no longer knew what to preach from the pulpit because the devastation was so overwhelming. He wondered what words he could use to be of service to his congregation, sharing that suicides, spousal abuse and depression were all increasing. I was then asked to coordinate a team of volunteers that would be willing to offer PsychoSocial support, to include training on dealing with trauma, counseling of pastors and medical workers as well as moderating small groups. Although we have yet to have our first counseling session, I continue to participate in the planning. It is a HUGE undertaking to try and decide who will receive this resource first and also not overwhelm the volunteers who have offered their services. Please continue to pray for direction and wisdom on how to proceed.
Alongside the PsychoSocial care, we have have been made aware of the number of Baptist pastors who have died, often leaving their families without a means of income, or orphans who have lost all adults in their family and now need a place to stay. Through the generous donations of the IM family, we have been able to send funds to be used by widows and orphans within the Baptist family in India. More is needed! Over 80 Baptist pastors have lost their lives during this most recent surge. So, not only do congregations lose their leadership, but families are devastated by the loss at a time when the congregation is unable to minister as they would under normal circumstances. If you are interested in making a gift to this worthy cause, please click this link: India Covid Crisis and share your resources with our Family. You may give to the general crisis relief fund or, if you’d like your gift directed towards the needs in India, please indicate that choice in the section: “Dedicate my donation in honor or memory of someone.”
One of the locations where I spent a lot of my time prior to COVID-19 was Bolivia, specifically the House of Hope in Cochabamba. With the travel restrictions and the lack of medical resources in Bolivia, I have been unable to travel there to assist my dear friends. This is one of the places I have had to come up with creative ways for supporting the ongoing work of the House of Hope.
I think it is important to note that most of the rest of the world, outside of the United States, does not have access to the finances, medicines, advanced medical care, or deep well of resources that we have become used to receiving. This is one of the reasons that I am called to work in these places. It would also make sense, then, that these are the places most drastically affected by a global pandemic. We may feel that the pandemic is over but the reality for the vast majority of the world is that they are still under lockdowns and facing horrific shortages of medical equipment, supplies and, most importantly, vaccines, to fight. We must not forget this fact and we must not fail to support in every way possible, our partners around the world.
Several months ago, I began an online Bible study with leadership at the House of Hope. We were discussing how to deal with anxiety during this time and what the Bible said about a prescription for that anxiety. It focuses on trusting God. Easy to say but often hard to put into practice when those around you are dying or suffering. Much of our discussions centered on how to turn over our cares to God while using the resources that are given to us…then trusting the outcome to God’s plan. This meant being supportive in every way that we are allowed when face-to-face contact is limited, educating ourselves so we can be resources to others, finding new ways to stay connected, and being an example to our communities when resources like vaccines are offered. Needless to say, it was much easier for me to say and live this out here in the USA.
Then, just a few weeks ago, my dear friends, Carmen and Richard, who run the House of Hope, became infected with COVID-19 and developed very serious complications. Their entire family was ill and their oldest daughter, who is also in medical school and only recently recovered from COVID-19, became the primary caregiver. This was at a time when cases were surging, no medicines were available, oxygen was non-existent, ICU beds were a premium that simply couldn’t be found and countless rumors circulated about “cures” or preventative measures available (none of which were helpful and often were damaging).
Prayers went out and I remained in contact with their medical providers throughout the day for a couple of weeks. We discussed possibilities for finding oxygen concentrators and the whole community came together to try and help Carmen and Richard. At one point, we even discussed what would happen if one of them died. But, we simply kept doing what we could, researching all of the options for care and for finding needed supplies. Eventually, they both passed over the critical moment and are currently in recovery. It will be a long recovery and they need your continued prayers and support. Everyone knows someone who has died in Bolivia. Pastors and lay leaders have died and their communities are struggling to come together…but they do. They are trusting God for healing and for help. If you would like to continue to support this ministry, please click this link: Bolivia House of Hope. Let us not forget the great impact this ministry has had on the surrounding communities and find ways to keep them moving forward!
Consultations, vaccines, and study
The last year and a half have brought many opportunities to serve my local community as well as the broader ABC family. In January 2020, after returning from a two-month trip around the world to explore global health, I began learning about a new virus called, COVID-19. It was clear that this virus had the potential to cause a severe global crisis but there was early hope that everyone would do the right thing and protect each other. What was soon discovered, though, was that politics more than science were influencing how the pandemic was controlled.
Watching the world suffer has been heartbreaking for me. At no other time have I seen people work against each other in such destructive ways when health was the topic. I determined, early on, to learn as much as I could and hope that because people knew and trusted me, I could help influence their response to controlling the outbreak. I have to admit that it has only partly worked. In an age of conspiracy theories, mistrust of leaders, and polarization it seems there are more battles than I can fight on my own. So I have decided to do what I can in this moment with what resources I have. These resources include my voice, my experience, and my networks.
After being one of the early people vaccinated here in the state of Georgia, I began working with the Medical Reserve Corps as a volunteer vaccinator. For many weeks, we were able to vaccinate almost 3000 people a day at our site. It was an exhausting work, but I was able to answer questions, alleviate fears AND get a vaccine into the arms of many people. Unfortunately, within a matter of days in late spring, numbers of people requesting vaccines dropped to only a couple of hundred people and my services were no longer needed. I have continued to help people make decisions based on accurate information and I will keep doing that.
As the pandemic continues to dance around the globe with new mutations, I would ask for your prayers for the many people I serve and work with who do not have access to the abundant resources we have here in the USA. People are dying from lack of medicines, oxygen, supplies and vaccines. We must not forget them simply because they live in a situation different than ours.