Last updated 2 February 2021
When we wrote our last update in June 2020, we were hopeful that the COVID-19 pandemic would pass, and the world would begin to recover by the end of last year. Instead, we see countries entering second or further waves of COVID-19 infections, with many reintroducing strict measures to contain the virus. Still, we are grateful that the number of OMF workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 remains relatively small. The majority of those affected had mild symptoms and have now fully recovered, although one former OMF leader in his eighties did not recover and returned home to the Lord. Though sad at this loss, we rejoice that he is now with the Lord and that the others have recovered. God has graciously protected OMF as an organization.
Although vaccination efforts are now increasing in many countries, the COVID-19 virus is still spreading globally and with new variants. The ensuing restrictions on international travel have resulted in many OMF workers not being able to go to their country of service or return home to start their ‘home assignment’ as originally planned. This has had a significant impact on OMF ministries and our various ministry centers around the world.
Nevertheless, we have seen increasing numbers of people applying for long-term service in various places, which is most encouraging in these uncertain times. We also praise the Lord for sustaining us financially while opening our eyes to new opportunities in new ministries. Virtual meetings have replaced all in-person international gatherings, and the attendance at online events have, in many instances, surpassed that planned for physical meetings. We have also been doing things more creatively, as we experiment in ways we never thought possible before the pandemic. We are very grateful for these developments amidst the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.
OMF International is maintaining its vigilance as the pandemic continues to unfold. Here are some of the ways we are responding:
- We continue to monitor the global situation as it develops, and as different parts of the world experience different phases of the pandemic.
- Through networking with like-minded international organizations, we learn from each other how to best respond and proactively strategize in the present global context.
- We evaluate options and appropriate steps where workers cannot return to their previous locations, or face other COVID-related challenges.
- We continue to monitor travel restrictions and their impact on our ministries, such as short trips for meetings or long-term relocations.
- We remain open to creative responses to the limitations caused by restrictions in some areas, and how these could translate into activities in new areas.
All OMF centers have established a mode of operation appropriate to their COVID-related context. Whether physical events and various OMF gatherings can be held will depend on the situation in each country. Wherever feasible, in-person events will continue to be replaced by virtual meetings. International travel remains restricted. Serve Asia short-term mission placements are limited to very few specific needs or special opportunities.
Please pray with us as we continue to navigate this unprecedented situation under the Lord’s guidance. Pray that there will be new opportunities to witness and minister to those around us. Pray too that many OMF workers, who have been unable to return to their places of ministry, will either be able to do so soon, or will receive the Lord’s guidance if a change of focus should be considered.
No matter where our workers are, our aim is to continue to seek ways to practically show God’s love to our neighbors, share the good news of Jesus, and support local churches and believers as we journey with them through these challenging times.
Sam Wunderli, Assistant General Director
On behalf of the OMF International Leadership Team
1 February 2021
Responding in prayer
We know it can be hard to know how to pray at times like these. So we have prepared this short resource ‘Four ways to pray in light of COVID-19’, which includes a brief reflection from General Director Patrick Fung.