How COVID-19 is Affecting our Missionaries5 min read

Alyssa Anders – St. Petersburg, Russia

The coronavirus has not spread much in Russia yet. Still, Alyssa writes, “The coronavirus has certainly changed life around here, and things will continue to change, but I am healthy, I have internet, and my circumstances are uncomfortable but not unbearable.” The Russian government has limited gatherings to less than 50 people and instructed people to stay home as much as possible. The seminary has switched classes to online only, and Alyssa is taking Russian lessons over Skype and teaching English online. She shares that one of the challenges they face now are the cancellations of events, including the visit of a short-term missionary team which was going to take place in early June. But, she says, “While we’re certainly disappointed that these plans have been changed, I’m confident that God will work through this.”

Rev. David and Joyce Erber – Accra, Ghana

The Erbers were advised by LCMS World Mission to return to the US, so they joined the American Embassy flight from Ghana and arrived back in Michigan on March 26. They are currently staying in Unionville, where they continue to work full time. Rev. Erber is maintaining communications with pastors in Ghana through WhatsApp and is preparing some online courses. Joyce is keeping up with accounting dynamics for all of the missionaries, both those who have temporarily returned to the US and those who have stayed in Africa.

Prayer request: “Given that a large percentage of the people in Ghana do not have bathrooms in their own homes and depend on neighborhood facilities, social distancing is not very feasible. Please pray that the virus doesn’t spread there like it has in Michigan.”

Becky Grossman – Lutheran Bible Translators, Liberia

Becky was able to leave Liberia just before all flights out of the country were suspended. She was grateful to the airline staff who helped her and asks for prayers on their behalf as they too must be facing a lot of stress. Regarding her work, she writes, I’m thankful for the ticket change but disappointed that we can’t continue checking with the Maan or train the new Bandi team at this time. We keep trusting that God has His timing and all is in His control, something He does better than any of us can. I appreciate all your prayers.”

Rev. Roger and Amy James – Philippines

Congregations in the Philippines have not been allowed to gather for worship since March 22. On Palm Sunday, the Dean of the Seminary and Rev. Roger James led worship which was live streamed to the people of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines. Rev. James and Amy are in good health and good spirits, and they continue to carry out their daily duties. Rev. James says, “We all need your prayers, encouragement, and, as you are able, financial support and offerings.”

The Mahlburg Family – Colombo, Sri Lanka

Rev. Steve Mahlburg writes, “Though the message and mission has not changed, day-to-day life and mission activities have changed. The government issued a country-wide curfew to begin on March 20 at 6 p.m. Curfew means that we are not allowed to leave our homes. Since then, the curfew has been lifted once or twice a week except in areas considered high risk. Colombo is considered high risk. All three missionary families are confined to their homes. The government allows food and other essential items delivered or sold from trucks on the road. We all have what we need.”

Rev. Mahlburg is keeping in contact with church partner pastors and evangelists through phone call and social media. There is a lot of concern as so many people are out of work. He started providing a daily devotion and weekly church services through YouTube. Please keep our Lord’s mission work and Sri Lanka in your prayers.

Rev. James and Deaconess Christel Neuendorf – Ponce, Puerto Rico

The Neuendorfs’ initial assignment was to help people who were affected by Hurricane Maria and to start a church plant. At the end of 2019, the mission was able to purchase a building for their church. Then came the earthquakes, and they were able to provide disaster relief and emotional/spiritual support to those who were displaced. They made many connections with people during that time but had to find a new place to gather since the building was damaged.

When everything was getting settled down and back to normal, COVID-19 came and they had to find new ways to stay connected to people while maintaining social distancing. They are now using mailings, Facebook, and WhatsApp to reach out to people. According to Deaconess Christel, one of the main issues Puerto Ricans face is depression. Many people live alone, and the social distancing is only aggravating the loneliness. By partnering with missionary teammates in other parts of the island, they are offering daily online devotions and also crafts (such as a watercolor class led by another missionary member) and other ways to promote well-being.

Prayer requests: 1) for the missionaries to find new ways to reach out to the people and 2) for the lonely people in Ponce.

The Ramirez Family – Dominican Republic

The Lutheran Mission in the Dominican Republic started social distancing long before the government stepped in. Churches cancelled all fellowship activities and have been sending out daily prayers, devotions, and sermons to encourage members during these difficult times. Jeancarlos is continuing with his seminary classes, now online, and Caitlin participates in the non-contact food drop-off for church members. On April 3, she wrote: “The government has completely shut down the country due to COVID-19. Only essential businesses are open and there is a curfew of 5 p.m. This means that many of our church members are not working and have no income. As such, some families have been unable to buy food and provide for basic needs. This week our church provided food relief to a number of families.”

To sign up for missionary updates through their newsletters, visit the World Missions Page on our website.

Photo (c) Brown Bag Photography/Lightstock

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About the Author

This blog was published by the Communications Department of the Michigan District, LCMS.

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