How to Pray for Missionaries in Limbo During COVID-19

Masked woman rests forehead on hands
COVID-19 is keeping missionaries from returning to their countries of service. Here's how you can pray for them.

Some missionaries take years to raise their support. Most take many months. Iona and Perry* raised their full support in just 102 days.

And they did it in the middle of global pandemic.

Any other year, people might have seen such success as God rushing the couple to the mission field. But it’s been six months since the couple finished raising their support, and they’re still waiting to go.

“We were planning on leaving for Southeast Asia in September 2020, but that ship has sailed, and we are still in the U.S.,” Iona says. “The borders will not open for international travel this year.”

The couple isn’t alone. Around the world, nations are keeping tight regulations on who crosses their borders.

TEAM has 11 new missionaries waiting to go abroad, as well as seasoned missionaries who are serving remotely in the U.S. or Canada. Missionaries from other agencies are facing similar struggles.

“We are kind of living in the ‘neither here nor there,’” Perry says. “We have quit our jobs and sold our homes. … This is an uncharted area for most of us.”

This month, will you pray with us for missionaries in limbo during COVID-19? Let’s ask God to calm missionaries’ fears and show them how they can use this time for His glory!

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1. Pray for peace, wisdom and contentment while missionaries wait.

COVID-19 restrictions forced Ron and Amy Barber to leave Manila in March. They thought they’d be back by summer, so they only packed a few bags. Now, their apartment lease in Manila is about to run out. If they don’t renew their lease, they’ll have to have their things moved from afar and find a new home when they return.

The transient nature of missionary life creates unique challenges for missionaries on hold. They need lodging, but because borders could reopen at any time, they can’t settle into anything. Reverse culture shock is always an obstacle, but it’s stronger this year due to political unrest.

Learn more about what returning missionaries experience in our piece 8 Ways to Serve Missionaries Coming Home

“This has been the hardest year of my life,” says Stephen Langley, a TEAM missionary to South Africa. “Being stuck between worlds is nothing short of heart-wrenching.”

Ask God to calm the hearts of missionaries in limbo during COVID-19 and give them wisdom as they make hard decisions. Pray that God will give them His mind and heart in this season.

2. Pray for opportunities to glorify God where they are.

Zoom meeting with a coffee cup. Zoom meetings like this one are giving missionaries the chance to keep serving during COVID-19.

Some teaching ministries can be transferred online, but that can be difficult for missionaries serving rural areas. Ask God to direct these workers’ steps so they can find the best ways to serve Him during this time.

While missionaries are stuck in their home countries, many are finding ways to keep serving and growing.

Bible professor Deb Prentice is using this time to study and prepare for her next semester in eSwatini. Iona and Perry are serving Somali refugees with tutoring, language learning and spiritual outreach. Ron is training Christian leaders online. Many are also brushing up on their language skills and finding ways to speak to church groups and supporters.

Pray for strong internet connections for those ministering online, and ask God to direct missionaries’ steps as they seek ways to serve. “Pray for daily reminders that we aren’t stuck, but we are, as always, in His plan,” Iona says.

3. Pray that missionaries can safely go to their host countries soon.

God is graciously working during this unsteady season. Missionaries are growing Him, serving others in their home countries and finding space for physical rest and healing. Still, the command to make disciples of all nations cannot be forgotten.

Zoom is a great technology, but it limits workers in making deep connections. And internet ministry is impossible for underdeveloped areas where internet signals are extremely weak. Other ministries, such as medical care and community development can only be done in person.

Pray for nations to find safe ways to live with the virus and safely invite missionaries back. And in the meantime, ask God to strengthen local believers as they continue His work.

*Names changed for security.

Click here to download a printable copy of this month’s Prayer Focus, with additional prayer requests from the field!

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TEAM - The Evangelical Alliance Mission

TEAM partners with the Global Church in sending disciples who make disciples and establish missional reproducing churches to the glory of God.

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