Like most missionaries and American citizens throughout the world, I found myself on a plane heading back to the States earlier than expected. I wasn't forced to leave Myanmar, but with new government restrictions on mass meetings, border closings, and extensive flight cancellations, it was time to get back to Minnesota and shelter in place. I'm happy to be home now, and my wife and family are more than relieved.
But what about those who cannot flee to safety? What about those who have suddenly lost their jobs, livelihood, and ability to pay their rent or find food? For those of us who are not struggling to survive personally, what is our responsibility to care for others less fortunate? Even more, what is our opportunity to let our lights shine for the sake of Christ and his kingdom?
And where is God in all this?
I, along with most of you, am praying for God to stop the spread of this virus. I'm praying that God will protect me, my family, and all the people. But honestly, I don't know what to expect of God related to protection and healing. Given so many have already died and many more will certainly get sick, some of whom will die, how else might God be at work?
There is so much I do not understand, but what I do know is that how you and I respond in the crisis will make a difference. Where God is most evident to me is often in how he shows himself through people--in their acts of kindness, in their goodness toward one another, in their self-sacrifice for the sake of others. Many of us sense God's presence the most when we get beyond our fears and self-interest to think about the needs of others, and then actually reach out and do something for someone else.
When I wrote my last e-newsletter, "Kairos time in Myanmar" I had no idea that the words I wrote for that troubled context would now apply to my own country just a couple of weeks later. As I said then, in the face of overwhelming threats and suffering, now is the time to stay the course with our Kingdom work. What was possible just two weeks ago may not be possible now due to social distancing requirements, but there is always something we can do. First, each of us needs to do our jobs (if we still have them), as best we can, for our own sakes as well as for our society. Second, we need to show up for those who are suffering.
Christ calls us to make sacrifices in order to be there for others when they need us the most. We can show them by our actions that Christ's love is real and that the lordship of Christ truly makes a difference in our decisions, priorities, and use of time and resources.
At Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries, our staff can all work from home. We will not conduct any group programs that will put individuals at risk from the coronavirus. We will press on with our translation work in Myanmar and Pakistan. I am now actively mentoring, counseling, and encouraging students, pastors, and leaders from Myanmar via the internet. I'm also reaching out to 20 Burmese graduate students from MIT and elsewhere around the world (those who have a Faith, Hope, and Love connection) who are currently studying in the USA. Some of them are frightened and unsure what to expect. I'm calling each one to offer academic, emotional, and spiritual support. For the broader public, I will be writing essays and journal articles and serving on the home front wherever I can. I expect the next several months of writing and ministry to be very full in some new and fruitful ways
How you and I respond in the face of the current global crisis could be our finest hour as Christians. Our circumstances may have changed significantly, but our calling has not. Now, more than ever, we need to let our light shine.