Since the beginning of the pandemic, stories proliferate of missionaries creatively continuing to minister to and bless the people they are called to serve in other countries. This is wonderful, uplifting and not surprising: This is what missionaries do.
The other part of that same story is that national believers continue to minister to and bless the missionaries who are called to serve them in those “other countries.” This is wonderful, uplifting and not surprising: This is what God’s people do. Following are a handful of anecdotes from the other part of the story.
- Ring! Ring! Ring! It is 4 a.m., but to tribal people that seems a perfectly acceptable time for calling a friend to let her know they love and miss her. IMB missionary Jillian is single so she spent many weeks in solitary state-mandated quarantine, with only her cat, Turtle, in the apartment for company. But she is never forgotten. Her friends and fellow believers from tribal groups where she ministers call often with encouraging messages, worried because she is alone—something unknown in tribal communities. They tell Jillian how God is blessing them, and let her know they are praying for her and for her family in the U.S. They always ask about Turtle and want to see her. Jillian says, “To me it is a blessing to hear from them because I love them and miss them so much.”
- Many Venezuelan refugees have made it to Peru, even to distant jungle zones. IMB teammates Joe and Josh needed masks to distribute to vulnerable peoples. Josh asked Ángela, a refugee from eastern Venezuela, if she would like to earn some money sewing the needed masks. Since four generations of extended family live together in a tiny two-bedroom home, and the family struggles each month to make rent, this surely would be a blessing. Ángela, however, even in her extreme poverty, asked that the IMB team only provide the materials, which she could not afford. She did not want to be paid anything because she wanted to give back. She had her entire family involved, including two sons in their early twenties and a nephew and his wife who live with them. In assembly line fashion—cutting, putting together, and sewing—the family knocked out 250 masks in short order.
- “He insists we call on him for anything at any time,” IMB missionary Russ says of a local national pastor. Two years ago, Russ and his wife moved to a new country, new city, a new culture, a new people group. “We have been blessed by [our friend as he] has come alongside us and made us feel welcome here in the city of his birth,” says Russ, going on to describe a godly man, helpful to them with logistics, who not only is a person of peace but also a friend and brother.
- The area where IMB missionary Brian works was closed off to the outside world when the pandemic began, leaving a vulnerable people group at risk for food. Brian had food packets to distribute through Send Relief, but could not access his people. That is when a national believer and long-time friend stepped in. This person, who works in the area of family well-being through a government agency, has permission to make regular trips to the tribal group as well as to hire a chauffeur for the trip. Since the pandemic began, this believer “hires” the missionary as chauffeur to drive to exactly the area he needs to do food distribution. The agency employee gets work done, and the missionary has a legitimate reason to be in that closed area. Brian expresses that this caring attitude and practical help from a local believer is “such a blessing to me” as well as to those who receive much-needed food packets.
- IMB missionary Tisha shares that, due to their pastor’s contact with a grocery store, the missionary team can buy in bulk, at discounted rates, exactly what they need for feeding programs. The food is delivered directly to the church, where the pastor, his family and the youth pastor help the missionaries put together the food packets and load them for delivery. “We have been incredibly blessed by our local church… and their partnership with us,” states Tisha. She explains they have been able to accomplish together what they never could have apart.
- Not an hour passed from when quarantine was announced before Venezuelan immigrant friends in our house church called. Knowing we are part of the “mature” age demographic that may be more vulnerable to the virus, they said, “Let us know what you need. We will get it and bring it to you.” Colombian friends in our Bible Study group had fresh-from-the-farm coffee delivered to us. When my husband, Paul, needed to withdraw a significant sum from the bank for food for Venezuelan refugees, our neighbor and fellow believer across the hall, a retired Colombian army general, sent his adult son along as bodyguard.
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.