Same mission: MT in lockdown
As a trainee working with internationals, my ministry has been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. From late January, many of our regular guests began self-isolating, and since cases escalated in March, around 50% of those we were witnessing to made the decision to return home at short notice. It’s really sad knowing that we will likely never see most of them again, and it feels like our ministry to them was cut short. The remaining 50% are trying to get home but are facing flight cancellations and little support from their home governments, so they have remained here in isolation, often without many local friends. Though we want to reach out to them, many are too polite to accept help and uncommunicative on social media.
On a personal level, I can no longer enjoy many of my favourite parts of being a ministry trainee. No more chatting with people at church, no more singing together, no more working in the office with the other trainees. Working from home has also taken some getting used to – I live in a small house and have had to use my bedroom windowsill as a desk! Unable to continue our cosy, familiar habits and events, we have been forced to be creative and proactive in how we keep our ministries going and keep proclaiming the Gospel.
One of the challenges of reaching out in this time is that we don’t know what is going to work, and what people are interested in joining. One of our team has started up an online Bible study for internationals; encouragingly, a lady who normally can’t make evening studies is now willing and able to join in. I am eager to reach out to those who are needy and lonely with a more casual event, though this is taking a while to plan and finalise. Other than this, whilst church has gone digital and started presenting Sunday meetings as pre-recorded live-streams, my lack of technological prowess means I’m not too involved in putting the videos together; however last week I had the strange experience of recording myself doing the reading for Sunday in advance, and it has been fun getting to grips with video-chat software for all our staff and leaders’ meetings!
Though the changes haven’t been easy, it is encouraging to remember that God is sovereignly in control over the present circumstances. With that in mind, the mission remains the same – to build myself and others up to be more like Jesus. I have been able to continue meeting with my 1-to-1 partners via video chat and have been encouraged by how they have been relying on the Word to keep going and process the situation. These uncertain times have opened many people up to having deep conversations they would normally shy away from; for example, I received an email from a relative asking questions about God’s sovereignty! My prayer is that these times will show many their need for Jesus Christ!
Luke Butcher is a ministry trainee at Moorlands Church, Lancaster.