At this time of year, many Serve Asia Workers would usually be preparing to go on short-term trips to help with God’s work in East Asia. However, in light of COVID-19, plans this year have changed. Travel restrictions mean that Christian workers are temporarily unable to go and serve overseas. This is just one way the global pandemic has affected people in the UK. Although we have all faced disruption in some way, it does not mean that dealing with this disruption is easy. Many people are feeling anxious, lost, or alone right now. If you are one of those people, I would like to take some time to encourage you. You may receive peace by turning to God and resting in his everlasting arms.
Disruption turns us to God
It is certainly striking to think that only a few months ago nobody expected we would be living through a global pandemic. Considering how much things have changed recently, feeling disappointment is understandable. Changing plans so abruptly is difficult, especially when you were planning to do something exciting and wanting to share God’s love with others. As an extrovert, I have found the disruption especially difficult. Not being able to do the things I want, or see friends and family during lockdown, has been particularly hard. However, when I turn to God I find comfort.
As Christians, we can put our trust in God because he understands our struggles and provides help. Jesus lived in the world he created and experienced the full range of human emotion. He can relate to our pain and disappointment because he has been through it himself. In John 14:17-44, for example, Jesus wept with Mary at the death of their friend Lazarus. This shows that God intimately knows what it is like to suffer. The passage then goes on to explain how Jesus raised Lazarus to life again. This awesome display of God’s power shows the hope Jesus can provide during suffering. It also reminds us of what Jesus later did on the cross. Jesus died to take the punishment we deserve and rose to new life to restore our relationship with God. The passage in John, then, not only shows that God knows our struggles but that he also lovingly provides a solution to them. Jesus dealt with our eternal worries on the cross. Now, those who accept Jesus as Saviour and King can live in the certain hope of everlasting life with him.
Paul found joy in isolation
The Bible also helpfully tells us how early Christians dealt with suffering. The apostle Paul wrote some of his letters to the early church whilst he was in prison and spent a lot of his life facing persecution from Roman authorities. Like us, he knew suffering and felt isolation from the outside world. Although he experienced real difficulty, he remained remarkably positive because of the joy he had in knowing Jesus. He described knowing Jesus as a joy that surpasses all understanding. He said, ‘in all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy’ (2 Corinthians 7:14). Because he trusted in God’s plan, he was able to write that we ‘rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope’ (Romans 5:3-4). Although Paul knew suffering, he believed Jesus was greater. We too can ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ (Philippians 4:4) by remembering everything Jesus has done for us.
You may also be thinking that it is difficult to find practical ways to be involved in God’s work in East Asia at this time. Well, one key piece of advice we often give to Serve Asia workers as they prepare to go and serve in East Asia is to be flexible. Day-to-day life in East Asia can look very different so it is important to learn to be adaptable. Perhaps, now, we can also take this advice on-board.
OMF believe there are at least six ways we can all engage with God’s work in East Asia: pray, inspire, welcome, send, learn, and go. Since the going option is temporarily unavailable, one way we can practice being flexible is by turning our focus to another one of the six ways. You might want to start a virtual prayer group to pray for a country or a missionary you support. You could learn by reading a new book on mission – Ultimate Grace by Levi Booth is a great place to begin – or finding out more about a particular people group who have had little chance to hear about Jesus. You may also want to inspire friends at church to think about how they can use the skills God has given them to share Jesus with other people. Another idea could be to talk with someone at church to see how you might welcome someone from your local community to worship God with you. There are lots more opportunities out there!
God’s plans continue even when our own plans face disruption. As we deal with this difficult situation, let us first turn to God for help. Remembering what God has done for us and trusting that he is in control can give us peace. Once you have done that you might start thinking about practical ways to engage with sharing God’s love with East Asians. You can, perhaps, try something new and explore another way to reach God’s world. God’s work in East Asia is not limited to getting on an airplane and going to East Asia. We can all still share the good news of Jesus whilst we are at home. You might even be surprised at new opportunities you come across. God might even use this season in your life to shape your faith in a powerful way.
OMF (UK) Serve Asia Coordinator
Frederick grew up in Kent with three younger brothers. He has spent five years studying History at university. Since September 2019, he has been part of the Serve Asia team in the UK. He enjoys photography, reading, and playing sport.