Zoom: A Vital Ministry Partner
“What happens now?” thought Emilee as the pandemic bore down on France, resulting in what seemed like an eternal state of lockdown. “How am I supposed to continue my ministry under these circumstances?”
She had been meeting with a couple of women in a discipleship capacity, until one of them moved away and the other had a baby and decided to take a break. Now, with Covid-19 shutting everything down and isolating people, Emilee felt the ministry she loved slipping away. Everything came to a halt. The train trips into Paris to meet one on one with young believers over coffee, the walks around her own neighborhood on which she met new people, the personal interactions over café tables that cultivated spiritual growth—all seemed to fade away completely.
Emilee’s church in the 3rd Arrondissement of Paris had been planted over six years prior. It reached and ministered to both a native French and immigrant population. Its multi-cultural atmosphere gave it a healthy and vibrant atmosphere, where people came together out of many languages and traditions to worship and study God’s Word, but Covid-19 had now silenced these Sunday gatherings.
Not only could the church no longer meet, but its weekly community groups, all of them based on which part of the sprawling city people happened to live in, were forbidden to meet in person. These groups had fueled connection and spiritual growth. A vibrant urban ministry now seemed paralyzed by the pandemic.
So, Emilee began to pray. She prayed that despite Covid-19, God would lead her to new discipleship opportunities through her church. She knew that so many in her congregation were new believers. Others had been believers for a while but were still young in the faith. Most of them were students and young professionals, many of whom were first generation believers in their families, and they needed mentoring from more mature believers to keep them encouraged and growing.
As Emilee wondered whether ministry as she knew it would ever revive, the women’s pastor at her church sent out a survey asking its female members what the church could do to support them. One of the boxes to be ticked was, I’d like to be discipled by a woman more mature in the faith.
I could do that! thought Emilee when she read the survey. She let the women’s pastor know that she would be available to disciple anyone who ticked that particular box. The pastor quickly got back to her with a name. After Emilee contacted the woman, she added another woman to form a group of three. Before long, the pastor gave Emilee another name, and out of that contact, another group of three sprang up.
Naturally, these groups had to meet over Zoom. Emilee wasn’t sure about how effective that would be. She was a social person who thrived on face-to-face interaction, and now she found herself stuck at home, staring at little boxes on a screen.
Yet surprisingly, Zoom turned out to be a tremendous boost to Emilee’s ministry. Being able to tune in from home helped people to attend the meetings even when they were exhausted after a long day of work or school. In a city of long commutes, the ability to meet online cut out travel time. It neutralized the temptation to skip a meeting because of bad weather or running late. One group of women decided to meet over Zoom during their lunch breaks—no small sacrifice in a country that takes its mealtimes very seriously!
What Emilee feared would be “less than” turned out to bring unexpected blessing. As France still struggles under various phases of the pandemic, Zoom continues to facilitate spiritual growth in Paris. It started with a simple prayer—”Lord, I’m available and willing.” Emilee hardly had to lift a finger; God brought her women to disciple in response to a prayer offered amidst a time of frustration and uncertainty. And Zoom, so alien and impersonal at first, turned out to be a vital ministry partner.
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About the author:
Jenny Garrity and her husband Kim joined GEM in 1984. They have served in Germany, Belgium, and most recently, Greece in response to the refugee crisis.