The coronavirus has started to spread rapidly in the UK. A little while ago we still met at church without shaking hands or hugging, but we still could meet ‘same as usual’.

However, from 18 March, churches have stopped physical meetings and started to do things like Sunday services online. All pubs, restaurants and cafes are now closed. Everything has changed so quickly.

I have had to cancel all our gatherings and the Bible study. Although I haven’t met anyone in these groups physically since then, I have talked to them via Skype and Messenger or other technology.

Sadly, one result of the current circumstances has been an increase in tension and some people behaving erratically. A group of my friends were shouted at and attacked on the street. People started panic buying at supermarkets. I have never seen a long queue at 6 am in front of the supermarket before.

Most of Japanese students and some Japanese families have returned home. I started to wonder how I could do my ministry without meeting Japanese people. The ministry seemed to stop before my eyes.

The ministry seemed to stop before my eyes.

Moving online and learning to recieve

However, I created a LINE group (similar to WhatsApp) with Japanese mums who came to the gatherings and the Bible studies. I called them at 10:30am on Thursday and seven mums joined the group. We shared our fears and worries about the virus. We could smile at the end of the call as we felt relieved to know that we were all OK at the moment. We enjoyed our chat and laughed a lot.

When I was organising the gatherings and the Bible studies, I was always busy. I rarely had time to really chat with them in the two years since I started hosting all these activities. Now I am able to talk with them one by one much more deeply on the phone. When I closed the LINE group by praying to God, I saw some of them feeling relieved by hearing my prayer.

My usual ministry seems to have stopped but I can see God has started working in peoples’ hearts differently in this chaotic situation.

I asked three students if they wanted to do an online Bible study. I started it with one student this week. I asked him if he wanted to continue to do it next week. He said ,“ummm,…” I thought he didn’t like the Bible study online. Actually he said that he wanted to do it more than once a week. He asked me to do it three times a week. As all activities have been cancelled, I have plenty of time to do it with him three time a week. He said, “I want to know Jesus more! Thank you, Hiromi, for spending your time for me.”

I came here to share God’s love, the good news of Jesus, with Japanese people in the UK, which I have done. But I have started to learn to receive from God as I cannot meet people because of the coronavirus.

My usual ministry seems to have stopped but I can see God has started working in peoples’ hearts differently in this chaotic situation.

Hiromi Soma
OMF Diaspora Returnee Ministries

Hiromi is from Japan and became a Christian while an international student in the UK. Returning to Japan, she found it hard adjusting to Japanese church culture and felt called to help new Christians prepare for life in Japan. In 2018 Hiromi returned to the UK with OMF to work with Japanese students there.

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