As I write this from Asia, we are weary from yet another round of strict restrictions on travel and gatherings. The world entered the third wave in June; Asia is facing some of our hardest days yet. Today, six countries in Asia are in the top 10 countries facing the highest new cases per day.
Eighteen months ago, one colleague was out of her host country for the New Year’s break when COVID-19 hit. The borders were closed, and she returned to the States. She’s now been stateside for more than a year.
Another colleague was in the United States when Covid arrived. He was at the end of home assignment, refreshed and ready to return. Alas, the borders have been closed.
A family of five waited months for a visa to Indonesia only to learn days before departure of new travel restrictions on children. In the middle of their quandary, the Lord has opened a new door for them to go to Thailand.
For those of us with a heart for Asia, this has been a long and difficult journey. When Covid-19 first appeared in Asia, the countries here quickly remembered the first SARS outbreak in 2002 to 2004. We adopted aggressive strategies based on that first experience, but now face significant setbacks and roadblocks. What are we to do?
Simple answer: press forward.
Pressing Forward — With a Twist
We know that nothing separates us from the love of God. At the same time, we know that most people living in Asia are in fact separated from the active witness of the Church. Most of those around us — Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or secular — will likely never meet a follower of Jesus or hear the hope of His resurrection.
So, taking to heart Jesus’ words that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us, we press forward. With a twist.
Actually with more than just one twist.
One colleague is going to work with the same language group she served before. However, she’s preparing to do it in a new host country.
A family will oversee their business in their host country while living in the U.S. (We call this a non-residential strategy.) Meanwhile, their church has asked the husband to focus on the youth of the church, mobilizing them as the next generation of workers.
A couple has moved to Thailand to work with a team from yet another country focused on a third country in Asia. Again, this is a non-residential strategy, working with international teams, coaching and mentoring them. Together, they will engage a community of people where the couple can not live — at least for this season.
The biggest common denominator is that we are embracing a long-term vision, what I call “playing for the fourth quarter.” We may be down at the end of the first quarter or even at half time — but we do not give up halfway through the game. We play to position ourselves to come on strong in the end, to win the game at the last buzzer.
Efficiency vs. Patient, Persistent Growth
Our American value of efficiency is running into God’s strategy of patient, persistent growth. And we are learning to trust Him and to grow our own hearts around His. In the process, we are discovering it is not our methods, but His love lavished upon the world that draws people to Himself.
God is powerfully working in every circumstance. In fact, Thailand saw its largest number of new churches ever planted in one year during COVID-19. And we wait with anticipation to see what more He has in store.
Pray with us that we would grow closer to Him, filled with His passion and tempered by His patience. He is eager to see all of Asia invited into His heavenly banquet!