Missionary Work in the Age of Coronavirus Continued

Midnight Call Missionaries

The coronavirus pandemic is more protracted and pervasive than many had initially assumed. Its effects on the various Midnight Call outposts is very different. An overview.

BRAZIL 
By Markus And Ellen Steiger, Porto Alegre

A lot has changed in our country since the end of March. The world declared coronavirus a pandemic, and everything was turned upside down. Our president announced that the virus was just a flu epidemic. The Supreme Court ruled that every governor and every mayor has the autonomy to determine whether, how, when, and for how long they want to impose sanctions in the face of Covid-19. For us that meant: total lockdown at the beginning, which then turned into a partial lockdown, then again into a total lockdown, then into a partial lockdown… Since pharmacies are also dependent on printers, we were freed from a total stop, and only had to close the print shop for one week. Four employees are working from home offices. Those who rely on public transportation weren’t allowed to go to the mission site for two months. The print shop kept going, with two employees who came in their car.

During this time, we tackled various projects that had been on our minds for a long time, but we’d never actually implemented: for example, offering the magazine digitally on the internet. Since the post office wasn’t working properly, we had no choice but to take this step. We were pleasantly surprised by the response. Next, we took on the task of putting the Bible courses online, which we had previously been offering in our relatively new classroom. Everything has been switched to online courses; the good news is, more students have registered because the lessons are no longer tied to a specific site. Some books were already online as e-books; we are now promoting the format and offering more. Of course, we’re making use of the time to offer more articles and messages on the website. We have intensified contact with our readers and friends in Brazil through a weekly email newsletter. We also received positive feedback from the podcasts that were heard before the pandemic. We were surprised by the large number of orders for study Bibles that we offer on secular websites such as Amazon or other online bookstores. 

It makes us sad that we had to cancel the 22nd Conference on the Prophetic Word this year, and postpone it until next year. In its place, we plan to offer an online conference with five lectures. And the trip to Israel should have originally taken place in April of this year. We postponed it first to September, and then November, and now the date is April 2021. Despite everything, we have a lot of reasons to be thankful, because the Lord has made our service possible even in the pandemic, and interest in the prophetic Word is increasing. God is faithful.

BRAZIL
By Ernst And Elvira Kraft, São Paulo

We can only thank God for how He has carried us through to this point, and is still carrying us through. Our two bookstores were closed for three months. There were only a few orders for tracts, which was predictable since people had to stay at home. But we were still able to pay our three employees, and also pay the rent for the stores. We had one employee quit, because she is battling depression as a result of the pandemic. Due to the situation in Brazil, we are going to give up one of our bookstores and pass it on to a pastor and his wife. Pray with us for wisdom and clarity as to how the work may continue according to God’s will.

BOLIVIA
By Eberhard And Rosmarie Hanisch, Riberalta

Due to the government’s early measures, the school and boarding school have been closed since mid-March. In the meantime, we’ve lived through all the stages together with the population, from understanding to desperate. But we know that it is Jesus who carries us through, and we are completely dependent on Him.

Many of our employees have suffered all the symptoms of the infection. Mid-June to mid-July were the saddest days so far. Sometimes we would write up to three condolence notes in a day. There were many funerals on the streets. A special cemetery for Covid-19 deaths has been created in Riberalta. The Evangelical Alliance posted a video with 70 deceased pastors from all denominations. A retired employee of ours lost his wife and son within a week. Several brothers and sisters from the area around the church have died, pastors have been infected, and many of the teachers in our school have experienced illness. Some were desperate for oxygen, and the pharmacies ran out of aspirin. Parts of Riberalta were completely isolated for protection. It’s a miracle that Obed and Rebecca Hanisch (and recently, the last volunteer who worked for us) were able to leave the country. In the meantime, illnesses have receded somewhat, but Riberalta is one of the highest-risk areas. With its 10 million inhabitants, Bolivia can be compared with Switzerland by population. But it has twice as many people who have tested positive for the infection, and a third more who have died. However, hardly any tests are being carried out anymore. We’re now experiencing greater flexibility with all measures, since people have to work to live. The supply situation has largely been restored, and it has been possible to work in stores until 5 pm. Gatherings are prohibited; however, the police hardly check anymore.

In July, our teachers put a lot of effort into creating a plan for virtual learning, and established contact with students and parents. Nevertheless, one-third of families can’t maintain the internet due to its cost. Protests arose across the country due to the inequality, and there is a risk of destabilization. Because the protesters rejected many options for running the school, the government officially ended the school year on August 1(!). After so much work, this is a huge disappointment for our teachers. Nothing is certain in Bolivia, and we’re wondering what’s ahead.

The church’s leadership has decided to continue preaching on Sunday mornings, but only using virtual media. Because of the risk of infection, we meet in the open on the mission site for morning devotions, and experience numerous blessings. Our small team works in site maintenance; we have created garden beds and sanded down and repainted the school furniture in four classrooms. In the boarding school’s new building, sanitation work was carried out in the bathrooms, the doors were completed, and windows were installed, all with a reduced workforce. The bookstore is open twice a week for half the day. There is great demand for Bibles and teaching materials for children. In a new WhatsApp group, we’re making Midnight Call magazine more accessible.

The people’s openness is encouraging; some are asking about eternity. At government agencies, individuals speak to you and ask about the signs of the end times. Those who can’t sleep at night show their gratitude for the radio shows, and people are asking how they can donate toward them. A mechanic also repaired our tractor for free as a contribution to our work. (Years ago, his colleague received a package of literature from Midnight Call in Iraq, where he was working!) People have met Rosmarie doing errands on the street, and expressed their joy at seeing her. It gives the impression that they’re glad there are some foreigners getting through the situation with them as locals. We are grateful for all intercessions and gifts!

Midnight Call - 12/2020

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