How God is at Work in Europe Amidst COVID-19
It can be said with certainty that we have all been affected by COVID-19. Whether through grief, disappointment, or just plain inconvenience, the world over knows the name “coronavirus.” And out of the widespread impact of the virus, we all have a chance to respond in faith rather than fear. As GEM’s CEO Jon Burns says, “Out of crisis comes opportunity,” and in this time, we have the privilege of partnering with God in his work of bringing beauty out of ashes and good out of evil.
While it’s vital that we do not rush to quick clichés or rash conclusions, God is proving to still be at work even in the midst of coronavirus. In the wake of loss and despair, grief and lament, the Spirit of God is moving to help the global body of Christ reimagine the way we carry out our mission. From conversations over Zoom to correspondence over email, we have heard from many GEM missionaries across Europe just how God is inspiring them to still be on mission during lockdown.
May the snippets of these stories from across Europe encourage you to choose joy, inspire you with ideas on how to love your neighbor, and mobilize you to ask God how to reimagine your call to serve Him in the chaos of COVID-19.
In Deva, Romania, God inspired Karen Kurth to start a small group over WhatsApp with teenagers in her community who were curious to explore scripture and learn about Christ.
In Portugal, God led a GEM missionary to leave Bibles at the doorstep of a dozen neighbors.
In Europe and North America, GEM has held a twice daily Zoom prayer meeting where dozens of missionaries from across countries gather virtually to intercede for the world, support one another, and bring pressing needs to the Lord.
In Birmingham, England, Caleb and Christine Howard have gone out of their way to visit with their elderly neighbor by talking through their front window. Their kids made Easter themed art and gave them to her on Easter Sunday. They have continued to check in on her and run errands to keep her safe in her home.
In Clermont, France, someone who was previously antagonistic toward all things religious and would never enter a church building was willing to listen to a sermon in the privacy of her home when a GEM missionary shared a sermon link with her.
In Stourbridge, England, God is leading Fred Swartz to ask how we should be meeting when quarantine is ended. “The global church will be dramatically different after all this. Lord willing, with everything being shut down, congregations will lay down their man-made traditions and follow the patterns in the Bible for how to go about making disciples.”
In Sibiu, Romania, being confined to her apartment hasn’t stopped Bev Charles from finding ways to care for those around her. “An elderly couple and I check in with each other about every other day,” Bev shared. “I didn’t even have their phone number before. I’m praying for deeper conversations about the Lord as we talk. God’s care for me is evident in how other neighbors are doing things for me. I am grateful.”
In Cologne, Germany, when faced with the possibility of ministry closure, one missionary has instead seen God sustain and even provide extra funds and resources from partners and local relationships he’s developed there. And when face-to-face discipleship must be put on hold, he discovered an alternative way to continue discipling through the app Marco Polo. “Marco Polo is a great tool for conversations because it makes interrupting difficult. It helps me be a better listener by ‘listening to understand’ over ‘listening to respond.’”
In the Netherlands, Peter and Margré Hays are seeing a spike in online engagement on their evangelism website and are praying for people to come to Christ through these gospel resources. “We are also working on a YouTube ad for next month,” Margré shared. “We’ll see what the Lord does!”
In London, England, Mark Davis is utilizing these unprecedented times as a chance to reconnect with supporters and rekindle old friendships. “As missionaries, we are often being cared for and supported with prayer by others. The current global crisis brought to light that we have been missing out on the opportunity to come alongside our closest relationships to pray, encourage and even grieve with them. It feels like a renewal on some of those relationships.”
In Rome, Italy, Jesse and Monica Pauly are praying and discerning with their house church what practices from lockdown God is calling them to continue doing after quarantine ends, what He is asking them to start doing, and what He might be asking them to stop doing. Sometimes it takes a season of cessation to truly sense where God desires us to invest our greatest resource—time.
In Dublin, Ireland, God is reminding Keri that prayer isn’t “all” we can do as if it’s a last resort, it’s what we do as a first response. “God has reminded me what Jesus said before His death, that He had to leave so the Comforter could come. Too often I take it on myself to be the comforter, assigning the Holy Spirit to the backseat. I’ve been reminded that I am powerless to change lives, that it is the Holy Spirit who must do the work. So now, my first and most important work is to pray.”
Through all this, and more, God is working through the heartbreak and pain of COVID-19 to equip the Church “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). “God is at work in hearts,” said Bev Hawkins, a GEM missionary in France. “He cannot be put in quarantine!”
We may not have all the answers. We may not know when all of this will end. But we have hope that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us, that He will work all things for the good of those who love Him, and that He will continue to draw people to Himself even in the midst of chaos and turmoil. God is still at work, and in that, we find hope and comfort—for our God cannot be put in quarantine.
About the authors: Grant and Naomi are storytellers with Greater Europe Mission serving in Birmingham, England.