*Ben and *Amy had just arrived in the United States for their March-to-June home assignment when the world shut down to slow the spread of coronavirus.
In short order, their church services and missionary gatherings were suspended, upending their schedule, as well as leaving them in an unfamiliar part of the country without a place to stay.
Yet, throughout their ongoing sojourn away from their work in South Asia, God has provided for, and sheltered them, time and again.
“I feel like the Lord sent people to us, because we didn’t really know anyone in this area,” Amy said.
“The Lord placed people in our path,” Ben added. “When we shared our story, they would say, ‘I know somebody who knows somebody that I think can help. We just followed those paths and it became something rich and rewarding.”
Even so, bouncing from house to house was not an ideal situation.
“Early on, it was a bit of a struggle,” Ben said. “We were moving every week to somebody’s basement, to somebody’s bedroom. We kept moving and moving, and honestly that was hard.”
Not only was it stressful for the couple to impose on the kindness of families who opened their homes at the last minute, but the families themselves were under stress from localized lockdowns, disruption of jobs and finances, and the overall psychological and emotional toll the pandemic has taken on millions.
Ben and Amy found a cabin in Tennessee made available to them through Christian Hospitality Network, where they were able to plant themselves for a full month. However, they chose not to stay longer, because doing so would deprive the owners of valuable income from renting it out.
Through God’s gracious provision, another cabin was made available to them as long as they need it. They appreciate having a small kitchen to cook meals, and a desk and Internet so they can keep up with their responsibilities in South Asia.
As the pandemic has dragged on, and many countries are still closed to foreign nationals, the couple expect they could be Stateside through early next year, if not longer. The gift of extended shelter provides them a small measure of security and stability in the midst of a chaotic and indefinite situation.
Another Eurasia missionary family who canceled their home assignment loaned their van to Ben and Amy, providing the couple reliable transportation without the astronomical cost of a long-term rental, or the pressure to buy a vehicle.
With the extra time in the States, Amy is seeking medical care for some health concerns, and is thankful for the ability to pursue tests and appointments near where they are staying in Tennessee, rather than traveling long, complicated distances in South Asia for evaluations and treatments.
Adjusting home assignment
As many churches shifted rapidly to online worship services, the couple were invited to share their missionary presentation through video conferencing. However, this raised a new challenge: sometimes they travel to sensitive areas for ministry, and cannot share their stories publicly on the Internet.
Some churches set up private, secure video meetings, enabling Ben and Amy to share with the congregations. One church held a COVID-adjusted Vacation Bible School (VBS), inviting the couple to send short, daily videos for the children. At the end of the week, Ben and Amy joined the children through live video to present the Evangecube, an evangelistic tool used by JESUS Film ministry teams around the world. Several children prayed to accept Jesus into their lives.
Afterward, Ben and Amy received an email from one child’s aunt and uncle. Their niece had told her family about her decision for Christ; her family was profoundly grateful.
“Just to have a child’s name and to know she really went and told her family, ‘Look what I did,’ that’s the biggest blessing,” Amy said.
As churches in some states are allowed to reopen with special distancing and hygiene measures, the couple have been invited to some churches for in-person gatherings.
Many churches who were forced by lockdowns to cancel their deputation services sent funds to the couple’s deputation account anyway.
“That’s just our church,” Ben said. “That’s why we love our church and our people. We have so many things to be thankful for, it’s almost embarrassing.”
Global Nazarene support in the uncertainty
Ben and Amy are thankful for the exceptional care and support they’ve received at all levels of the General Church. They credit their colleagues and field strategy coordinator with staying in regular contact with them from South Asia, as well as the Eurasia Regional office team, especially Jennifer Mann, the personnel coordinator, for hosting monthly video meetings to keep the diaspora of Eurasia missionaries informed, connected and praying together during the global disruption.
Additionally, Marty Hoskins, Glynda Wesley, Mary Elizabeth Waters-Smith and the rest of the team at the Global Ministry Center continue to ensure all missionaries are cared for, prayed for and kept regularly updated during lockdowns at their place of assignment, or while they’re stranded off the field by the pandemic.
“The General Church has done a good job of caring for us,” Amy said. “I know that our leaders are making difficult decisions. I feel like my well-being is a priority [for them]. I haven’t felt like the quality of service that we get as missionaries as decreased at all. Even though we’re all going through all this COVID stuff, the church is moving forward through technology.”
*Names changed for security
This article was written by Gina Grate Pottenger and previously published in the September 2020 edition of Where Worlds Meet.