2020 is a leap year. In the Chinese cycle, it is the year of the rat.
I will remember it as the year of the eraser.
My role as International Coordinator for Evangelization usually involves frequent travel. I visit countries across East Asia to discuss ministry strategy, help train our colleagues, and participate in consultations. As a result, much of my work gets planned far in advance. Once the schedule for an activity is set, I write it in my pocket diary. For years, I used a pen for this task. In 2020, plans were so uncertain that I switched to a pencil. Each page of my diary has smudge marks, evidence that events were erased.
In addition, scores of face-to-face activities were converted to virtual ones. I had to create a new system for recording the platform which would be used. For many, the system also needed to note the link and password to the event.
During the early months of the COVID-19-induced lockdown, I grew comfortable with meetings being held in cyberspace. However, the quarantine continued and, with it, the quantity of virtual meetings. I learned how many I could handle per day. That information then influenced my scheduling of future meetings.
Several months ago, I started making plans for 2021. Fewer events have been scheduled than usual. Still, there were enough that I needed a pocket diary for the year. Normally, Manila bookstores start carrying such planners in September. By late October, I still had not seen a single one. It made me wonder, “Do the bookstores and printers know something I don’t know? Has 2021 been cancelled or postponed?”
Eventually, I made my own pocket diary. Some of its pages are filling up. I am writing the scheduled activities in pencil. My eraser sits nearby, ready for action. As I make these plans, James 4:15 echoes in my mind:
“Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (ESV).
This reminder prompted me to create a wish list for the first part of the year:
If the Lord wills, congregations will start gathering again for worship services.
If the Lord wills, the livelihoods of millions of hungry households will be restored.
If the Lord wills, school doors will open again to throngs of lonely students.
If the Lord wills, my pen will be re-employed and my pencil and eraser will get a long holiday.
OMF International Coordinator for Evangelization
Andy Smith has served as the International Coordinator for Evangelization for the past few years. Prior to this role, he spent 16 years planting churches, providing field leadership and training other church planters in the Philippines. He began facilitating training events throughout East Asia before coming on as the International Coordinator for Evangelization.