Amid the coronavirus pandemic, a Nazarene couple in Belarus is adapting their ministry efforts, and are exploring new ones, including outreach to a children’s cancer hospital.
Luca* and Elena* moved to Belarus in 2017 to begin laying the groundwork for establishing the presence of the Church of the Nazarene in this Eastern European country. Among the early doors God opened for them was the creation of a kids’ club, which includes a special group for hearing impaired children.
Earlier this year, the couple developed close ties with some of the employees at the cancer hospital, and about 30-35 children being treated there, along with their parents.
“In early March we were discussing reproducing the kids’ club there, and organizing something for the teenagers that are undergoing treatment,” Luca said. “We were even planning to do a small remodeling project in late summer with the help of a paXan mission team [from Germany].”
Although the project is put on hold because of the pandemic, Luca and Elena learned that the hospital personnel do not have enough masks, protective coveralls, or even infrared thermometers – items critical to working with people who may be infected with COVID-19. They were told it is extremely difficult to find enough items on the market.
“After a lot of searching, we have been able to order some thermometers, and we provided them with funds to purchase some locally made protective coveralls,” Luca said. “It would be a real tragedy if the virus got to the over 200 immuno-compromised children at the hospital. We pray daily for all of them, especially those we have come to know personally in the last months. May the Lord be merciful.”
The pandemic has also affected the kids’ club.
Although Belarus’s government is one of the few in the world that decided not to implement strict measures to contain the novel coronavirus infection, Luca and Elena are among many people there who have decided to self-isolate and take other recommended precautions.
“In agreement with all of our kids’ club friends, we made the decision to move all of our activities online,” Luca said. “That was a difficult decision to make because we had just moved to new facilities for our Sunday meetings. The place is very comfortable, and closer to the area where a lot of our deaf families live. Unfortunately, we got to use it only once. But we felt that it was important that our club would not become an instrument for the spread of the infection.”
Adjusting the club’s activities for online has been challenging, Luca went on. The team set two goals: to make it simple, and engaging. The club meetings include presentation of a new Bible story that connects with the previous one, an interactive quiz to help children remember the story and internalize it, as well as crafts and activities. Everything is explained through short tutorial videos, which include sign language translation for the deaf. Luca and Elena also take Sunday afternoons to “visit” kids and their families through videoconference to see how they are doing.
The couple has also started an online Saturday evening Bible study with some of their Belarusian friends.
“It’s been encouraging to be able to connect with them, including some who don’t even live in [our city], and I think they have found it useful and stimulating, as well,” Luca said. “We are not sure what will come out of it. We pray that the Lord will use it to transform hearts and create better disciples out of all of us.”
Luca and Elena have also made more frequent contact with the elderly people they know. They call regularly to ask if they are OK, and if they need anything. Through all this, their relationships are becoming more open and with even more affection for one another.
“We pray daily for open doors and the courage and faithfulness to walk through them,” Luca said.