This article was first published here on 3 April 2020. It was last updated on 2 April 2021.

Find out how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected churches, as well as our workers and their ministries, across East Asia. Updates and prayer requests from several parts of East Asia are below, with more information to follow.

We’ll be regularly updating this page as we receive new information and prayer points.

Vietnam

After successfully containing an outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, Vietnam has enjoyed a year of relative normalcy. Since that time there have been two outbreaks of significance. The first outbreak was in July of 2020 in the central region, and another again around the lunar new year in January and February 2021 in the north. The most recent outbreak has been contained and in both cases, disruptions to life were local in nature and there was not a country-wide lockdown.

Vietnam has been restricting travel into the country in an effort to prevent future outbreaks, which has shut down the foreign tourism industry. Other aspects of life have returned to mostly normal for the time being. There is hope that the global rollout of vaccines will make it possible for the opening of the borders in the future but no firm timeline has been given.

This current situation leaves us with the following challenges.

For our teammates:
– who want to come back from home assignment, but there are no visas
– who need to renew visas and would normally have to leave the country to do that

For the country:
– Foreign tourism, a major source of income for the country, has completely disappeared.
– Other businesses, particularly those engaged in manufacturing, have suffered from reduced orders

For the church:
– While there is very little COVID-19 present in Vietnam, there are still mandates restricting the size of gatherings and crowds which limit some church events

Please pray:
– For wisdom for the government setting policy regarding Covid-19 containment and the potential re-opening of borders
– For wisdom for our teammates who have expiring visas to know what opportunities may be available for them to stay in the country
– Pray for Christians to be a good witness to those around them and always be ready to give a reason for the hope that they have in Jesus

Cambodia

Yuzo Imamura, Cambodia Field Director, writes:

‘The third community COVID-19 spreading incident in Phnom Penh has spread over Cambodia. Since February 20th, there have been more than 1,200 COVID-19 cases related to and 5 deaths. Before February 20th 2021 there had only been about 500 cases since January 2020. Therefore, the government is making every effort to contain this spread. A new law on COVID-19 control has taken effect since March 11th. As of March 25th, masks and social distancing are required in four provinces and capital, Phnom Penh. Inter-provincial travels are also getting stricter. Some provinces require the people from Phnom Penh or endemic area the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Mid-April is the Khmer New Year, which is the major public holiday here. But same as last year, we will not celebrate the Khmer New Year in groups. Currently, all group gatherings and social activities are banned across the country. Church services go online if possible, but many churches in rural areas have not been able to meet online in the pandemic.

Cambodia began its vaccination program in February and will also provide it to foreigners working here.

Please lift up Cambodia in your prayers and pray that more people know God’s love and care.’

Please pray:

– Pray for those who have lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic. Ask that Christians will be able to show love and support to their neighbours in this situation. May they find that God is the one who provides for their daily needs
– Pray for every Cambodian Christian to display the good news of Jesus and help communities (such as by educating about COVID-19, teaching how to wash hands effectively, etc.) inspired by the love of Christ
– Pray for OMF workers to can spend time wisely and use these unique opportunities to proclaim the gospel of Christ
– Pray for our TCKs and their parents who look after their children studying online while schools are closed

Japan

As of the start of April 2021, Japan has seen three waves of COVID, and looks like it might be starting a fourth. Local prefectural governments impose limitations when cases rise to a level that causes concern for the hospitals in the area. The government continues to ask that residents avoid gathering in crowded places and closed spaces, and having close-contact with people. Several prefectures are asking businesses such as restaurants and bars to limit their opening hours. Most people wear masks outside of their homes. The vaccine rollout is due to start soon.
 
Japan is not currently processing most new visas, so a number of new missionaries and their children are waiting to enter the country. However, missionaries who already have a Japanese residence card (like those on home assignment) are able to return at this point. International travel remains difficult, and every person entering Japan has to spend 14 days in quarantine, so missionaries are being encouraged to avoid travel as much as possible.
 
We are unable to plan for an in-person field conference, so an online one is planned for September 2021.
 
As in the rest of the world, the situation continues to flux and change and we can’t tell what the future holds.

Please pray for:

  • wisdom for missionaries and church leaders as they make decisions
  • all of us to keep our eyes fixed on the certainty of God, rather than the uncertainty that surrounds us
  • new visas to be processed again
  • those waiting for visas to enter the country, that they would know God’s peace at this time

More updates to follow.

Our practical response

We have also been responding to this outbreak in practical ways. Click the button below to read an update from Assistant General Director Sam Wunderli about the steps we have been taking to protect our workers at this time.

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.

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