This article was first published here on 3 April 2020. It was last updated on 18 October 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 updating this page as the situation changes.
In August Japan saw its largest surge in infections thus far. However, by the end of September that had subsided, and the government lifted the state of emergency from the whole country as of October 1st. They are still being cautious, especially about large events and dining/partying venues, and local governors are asked to keep some restrictions in place to help avoid a rebound.
At the same time, the country has been vaccinating people at a rapid rate: with around one million injections given each day now for several months. At the start of October 60% of the population were fully vaccinated and 70% had had one injection.
We’re thankful that during this large surge of infections, the death rate remained low, though the medical system was stretched.
Please pray for wisdom for the government as they seek to stimulate the economy and are pondering ways to encourage people to do local travel in a safe way.
At our recent online field conference we heard from the 13 new missionaries who, in ordinary times, would be in Japan and studying language full-time or starting their ministry placements. However, they are all still in their home countries waiting for the government to again issue religious workers visas. Pray that this will happen soon.
Pray for people who want to do short term work in Japan with OMF and have also been unable to come.
Pray for wisdom for church leaders as they decide how to proceed in their local areas. Some churches have been meeting online for much of the last 18 months. Pray that Christians would be seeking the Lord for themselves, but also that they would find fellowship with other Christians.
Ulrich Kohler, OMF Thailand Field Director writes:
‘Over the past three or four months daily new infections with COVID-19 have searched heights which nobody in Thailand would have thought possible even half a year ago. After being paraded as a model country in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis over the second half of 2020, this development has come as a shock to the nation.
As of now, vaccination efforts have only covered a small part of the population – and this is not due to reluctance to get vaccinated but due to a lack of vaccines available.
The situation of the past three or four months has also dashed the faint hope of speedy revival of the tourism industry in Thailand. Virtually no tourists for more than a year now has had a significant impact on the economy.
As economic hardships continue to mount (especially for the poorer part of the population) pray for discernment for the Church in Thailand in how to care for the needy in body, spirit and soul.’
– for the continued success of measures to reduce cases in Thailand
– for wisdom and courage for church leaders so they can help those in need
– for creativity in how to nurture people spiritually when personal interaction is restricted
– for discernment for the Church in Thailand in how to care for those in need
Throughout August a significant COVID-19 outbreak in Vietnam has intensified, especially in the South. There are now around 12,000 new cases each day in Vietnam with most of them in the South. In Ho Chi Minh City, the army is delivering food to people who are not allowed to leave their homes. This lockdown is in its second month and the authorities are desperately trying to contain it. Everything in the city has been shut down.
In Hanoi, with only about 100 cases per day, the authorities have instituted slightly less severe lockdowns and people are allowed to leave their homes with permission two times per week to buy food or work in industries deemed essential. Currently, 70% of factories and businesses are shut down in Hanoi and its surroundings.
In each case, these lockdowns are expected to last into mid-September and hopefully virus numbers will begin to come down. Please do pray for the success of efforts in this direction.
Given this situation, all church activities in southern cities and big northern cities have had to move online. In the countryside, things are more relaxed but travel is restricted. In many ways, Vietnam is now experiencing what the rest of the world experienced in mid-2020.
– For wisdom for the government setting policy regarding Covid-19 containment and the potential re-opening of borders
– 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
– For churches unable to meet together physically – for creative ways to encourage one another
As a new school year starts in Taiwan, our team there are thankful to God that low COVID cases means school will resume in-person with general precautions. Teachers have been vaccinated and everyone will wear masks like last year. A batch of Pfizer that is soon arriving will also be reserved for junior and senior high school students.
We’re thankful that many OMF workers have been able to receive vaccinations which allows us into schools for ministry. Those of us who haven’t will need rapid tests weekly.
Over the summer, some of our families have also moved cities or countries (both for home assignment, and to Taiwan as new workers). We ask God to provide good friends for the kids, spiritual growth, and good teachers.
For wisdom for the health authorities in Taiwan as they deal with the outbreak and for effective measures to contain the spread
Metro Manila was placed on Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), for the third time, from August 6-20 in a bid to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, while the authorities continue to monitor the situation closely in other parts of the country. As of writing (Aug 12), it reached a record number of COVID patients on Aug 11, at 12.021. Within the first four days of this latest ECQ in Metro Manila, four hospitals have already announced full capacity (or nearing) for COVID-19 patients.
At the same time, the government is ramping up its inoculation program, with supplies through procurements and donations from other countries, as well as the WHO’s COVAX program.
We give thanks that our members are well and many have got their first vaccine.
– for the authorities as they continue to monitor the situation; the number of cases are rising and there are talks that the ECQ might get extended, which would have a bigger impact on the economic situation
– for the smooth rollout of the vaccination program, and no crowding at inoculation sites
– for the distribution of financial assistance to low-income families in Metro Manila
– against any natural calamities, e.g. volcano eruptions, typhoons (rainy season from May to December), especially during lockdowns
Yuzo Imamura, OMF Cambodia Field Director wrote on 20 June:
‘‘After the update at the end of May, the number of the new Covid-19 cases has gradually increased. Though there is no lockdown, the government and the people continue to be vigilant. The vaccination program continues to progress well. At the time of writing (20 June), more than 30 per cent of the population has had at least one vaccine dose. Phnom Penh city has become one of the highest vaccinated cities in Asia. The vaccination program steadily expands to provinces while COVID-19 cases have surged in the provinces. The government aims to complete the vaccination program by November.
Last week it was reported that seven cases of the Delta variant (increased transmissibility and virulence) have been found among people returning from neighbouring Thailand though there was no community spread by the Delta variant.
Please continue to lift up Cambodia in your prayers and pray that more people know God’s love and care.’
Please pray for:
–God to provide for those who are suffering with a lack of food and income.
– The success of the vaccination program.
– Every Cambodian Christian to love their neighbors, help their communities and display the good news of Jesus.
– OMF workers to spend time wisely and use these unique opportunities to proclaim the gospel of Christ by words and deeds.