From a Missionary’s Window
Apr 6, 2020 | 5 min read | Kelly Lillpop
It’s interesting being inside, at home, as spring begins to unfold outside the windows. Small buds are beginning to form on the ends of some branches, and a few trees have blossomed gorgeous pink and white flowers. I live in a small town just outside the major city of Wroclaw, Poland, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the city center. Out here there are fields and buildings, old homes and new apartment buildings and even a post office and a grocery store.
In the age of Coronavirus, the seasons still change while we are at home, only leaving to walk the dog or occasionally go to the grocery store. My husband and I just celebrated our 7th anniversary of serving with Josiah Venture in Poland. Throughout these years we have trained young leaders in evangelism and discipleship using summer camps. A few weeks ago, like a long line of dominoes toppling one after another, the events we use to train these leaders were cancelled, one at a time. Many of our short-term teams who come to serve at these camps have had to postpone their trips until next year. It’s disorienting to go from a normal rhythm and a full calendar to little certainty, and cancelled plans that were made years in advance.
Much of our time and energy is now being directed towards contingency plans. Plan A, B, C, and D are being created depending on variables such as the spread of the virus, when restrictions will be lifted on travel, and limitations on meeting in large groups. The logistics, structure of ministry, participants and volunteers are being evaluated in each of these scenarios.
With all of the sudden changes comes a sense of loss not only for our ministry, but also for our personal relationships. While we serve on a team in Poland and on the greater Josiah Venture team in Europe, most of our work happens remotely. It is mainly at our training events every few months or in-person team meetings three times per year, that we have quality time with our teammates. Those times together cultivate the friendships we have, which normally function long-distance as we are each based in various parts of the country. It is those connections which bolster us up to go back out to our own regions and towns, and the loss of them is disheartening.
However, as we process these losses, we are also forced to open our eyes to new ways of connecting, caring, and training. Just as the seasons change and new life springs up around this time every year, there’s a sense of newness in ministry as well. There are restrictions, yes, but also new opportunities.
El Dorado, JV Poland’s ministry for the youth by the youth, had to cancel their retreats, but is now daily producing devotionals for teens to read in their homes. Entitled, “Closer to Him,” the writings take advantage of this unique time by connecting students to Christ and the Bible while they are physically disconnected from their peers.
Our local church, The Bridge, has gone online for livestream church services, something up to this point has been uncommon in this region of the world. Many local churches, on average with less than 100 members, are bravely stepping out of their norms and comfort zone by learning to engage the church online. During this crisis, we are experiencing the leadership of our church in new ways as they step up online to preach peace and trust in God during uncertainty. Both of these displays of faith are both reassuring and inspiring.
One girl I disciple began memorizing chapters of scripture last summer. Recently I wrote to her to ask if she’d like to practice with me online. We both sat in front of our computers, me looking at the Bible in my lap and nodding encouragingly, and her speaking God’s word aloud. Spending those 30 minutes together was a practical way to be refreshed relationally, and also to continue to honor her efforts to commit scripture to memory.
Our ministry efforts may look different right now- they definitely do! However, the entering of spring outside reminds me that ultimately, it is God, the Creator and Savior, who will cause righteousness to rain down and salvation to sprout up. May it be Lord, in Central and Eastern Europe and all over the Earth!
"Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it.” Isaiah 45:8
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