Barriers and Breakthroughs
Posted on November 2, 2020 by VMMissions Staff
Now in their sixteenth year of service as a family in South Asia, Anne shares about this latest season of COVID-19.
By Anne (not her real name)
This latest season of COVID-19 has been a time of very visible limitations. For months, the majority of the population of our country did not leave their homes unless absolutely necessary. Many activities such as visiting local believers, getting to know our neighbors, and enjoying worship times with others all halted, just like most of the world. All these limitations have pushed us to wonder what God is up to. Was God still moving?
In the major city in South Asia where James and Anne live, the skyline changes as millions gather for an annual Muslim festival. Photo by Carol Tobin
In our country of over a hundred million Muslims, the few thousand believers are often the only believer in their town and have no church to meet with. Invisible walls of distance separate them from the church community. Due to COVID-19, our house church reluctantly switched to Zoom meetings. But to our surprise, attendance increased!
Local members of our church invited isolated believers from around the country, and our church participation tripled. A new believer named Sohel lives in an area where there is no church. Working in a garment factory, he only has one day off a week. Connecting on Zoom has enabled him to take part.
In a lot of churches there is a clear wall between minister and laity; the minister leads the service, and the rest listen. The Spirit seems to be breaking down this wall for us as well, as our church members have taken turns to preach, lead, or share their testimonies. One week, Sohel shared his testimony, and afterwards three believers spoke up with words of affirmation and encouragement to their new brother. We hope this taste of fellowship will be so sweet that Sohel will search for fellowship and grow in boldness to share with his Muslim wife and coworkers. May Sohel plant a church in his neighborhood. That is our prayer.
The walls that separate the unreached in our country from the gospel are subtle but strong: ignorance, poverty, lack of education and access to knowledge, community pressure, seclusion of women. Due to COVID-19, media use has boomed in this country. So it’s exciting that the media company that James works with is in the forefront of helping to provide gospel access for this huge unreached people group. We are seeing these barriers of access broken down as online seekers like Sohel are being connected via social media and websites both with the Word and with volunteer local mentors who can share the gospel with them.
This pandemic time has been a rich one for intercessory prayer. I pray regularly for families serving outside the capital who have very little emotional and spiritual support. It’s been a joy to catch God’s heart for these families and to pray accordingly. I have rejoiced from my prayer balcony of news about witnessing and discipleship opportunities, and healings. Recently, I was praying for a local team ministering in one of the most densely-packed refugee camps in the world. Who would have imagined that during COVID-19 these believers would be brave enough to pray for the sick in that place? That day, the Lord moved. A lady who came for prayer with a sore ankle had an encounter with the Lord that led to her forgiving her enemies. Beyond that, the Lord is leading those who came for prayer to make steps towards baptism! Surely nothing can limit our Lord.
We also carry a prayer burden for young believers to be positioned for meaningful work. James has spent years working to pass on his particular computer and media skills to a handful of young believers. Now these not-so-young men have started an on-line training program for a rising set of young people who likewise need to be given skills and vision for work as witness.
This is a hard article to write because, though we are celebrating what God has done, we are also grieving. Life has been far from victorious. As believers it is possible to grieve and rejoice at the same time. To do one without the other feels like a lie. In recent weeks, James was called upon to help with music at a memorial service of a 15-year-old believer who committed suicide—a kid who had participated in our last youth conference. Then just days ago, we said tearful goodbyes to our previous teammates who had to leave the country due to security clearances being denied. Likewise, other co-workers are now being forced to leave. Multiple friends of ours have been hassled rudely by police and asked for bribes. We grieve with our local friends who just buried their father after his untimely death from COVID-19. We grieve but we are not without hope; the Lord Jesus will return and wipe all these tears.
We take to heart Paul’s words in Romans 10:2, which fit the people group we live among so well. “They are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” We resonate with the words that follow in 10:14. “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?” For that reason, we continue to serve and continue to look for the walls to come down.
Anne serves with her husband James (names changed due to security concerns) and three children in a major South Asian city, in partnership with Pioneers.