|Who would have expected last time we shared a ministry update how the world would have changed in the last three months? When we communicated last, the United States had just moved into quarantine status, following many other countries around the world, a slowdown expected to last for weeks, not months. Since then, virtually every in-person event we had scheduled personally as well as across our global ministry fields has been cancelled with no clear end in sight. We are thankful that God is never surprised, and his kingdom continues to be built and his message of love go out, regardless of what happens on our planet.
The newest issue of our ministry magazine BCM World is dedicated to just a sampling of BCM ministry response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on lives and ministry from virtual Sunday schools now reaching thousands of families in several Latin American countries to BCM Philippines creatively utilizing lock-down to bring together home groups from a hundred churches for an in-depth series on the Christian family to a restructuring of training conferences from in-person to digital across Africa. BCM global response is just one small candle of the light the body of Christ is lifting high around the world even in these difficult times, so let us give praise even as we continue to pray for the countless millions affected by this pandemic.
Here at our BCM international headquarters and on our fields, the reality of COVID continues to change how we interact and do business—and not always in a negative way. As you will see in some of the samplings of ministry in our magazine issue, this time-out has allowed ministries to explore the possibilities of digital/virtual outreach to the point that many are planning to continue a version of the “new normal” even when the pandemic is over, especially the ongoing interaction Zoom and other platforms are making possible for continuing training and mentoring vs. the historic approach of teaching conferences as an end in themselves . While our International Ministry Center is now fully open again, virtual management and prayer meetings and working from home where possible continue and have proved remarkably effective.
Meanwhile, most of our global summer camping programs are on hold or have shifted to some delightfully creative virtual options . But a few USA camps are open at fifty percent capacity in Montana, Pennsylvania, and New York. Our Christian camp in the Netherlands is operating fully, and our camp in the Philippines has just finished their first week of camp. Please pray for camp directors as they are dealing with MANY constantly changing protocols and restrictions. Please pray for God’s protection as well on staff, volunteers, and campers that they remain healthy and COVID-free. And above all, pray that the gospel will touch young hearts, whether at our in-person camps or virtual.
You may at times wonder if COVID-19 can possibly be worth all the hype. We in the United States have access to some of the best health care and greatest resources on planet, so with the occasionally discouraging news even after months of quarantine, it is easy to forget the virus isn’t confined to North America. Most developing nations have neither the health system or testing to even track the spread. A sharp reminder came this week from a dear friend in Bolivia, where we served 16 years and BCM has ministry. In one church we know in the highland city of Cochabamba, a current COVID hotspot, seventeen church members have died and seventy tested positive in recent weeks. We are hearing from more and more others there who have lost numerous family members and friends. Many children have been left orphans. This in the city where testing and health care is available. There is no way to even calculate the explosion of the virus throughout the country, and most affected will die without ever having access to health care or testing.
Meanwhile, other contacts have shared of the rise in deaths in Ecuador, where we have many ministry colleagues, to the point where bodies are piling up because there is no place to bury them. Current estimates across Latin America are that the actual infection rate is at least fifteen times the official reports, again because so few have access to health care or testing. You can be sure this situation is being replicated across the developing world as the virus has been quietly spreading among the most vulnerable of our planet over the last four months since this situation became public. Compounding suffering is the spiral into starvation as the most vulnerable have been on lock-down without ability to earn their daily bread, including many BCM church-planting missionaries and pastors. Our fields are responding as funds are available (see BCM World issue for examples), but the situation is getting worse. Please pray for God’s protection and provision for our ministry leaders and body of Christ in these hot zones and for God’s sovereign will to be done regardless of how the pandemic plays out.
We ask for continued prayer for our oldest son Michael, who has now been home with us four months with very gradual improvement (the long-term damage from the gang attack have proved far worse than doctors at first hoped; check out symptoms of post-concussion syndrome). At this point he is not able to return to his PhD program or work. We are still praying for full recovery and are just thankful he is home safely with us, and his siblings try to spend time with him as much as they can visit. Please pray for God’s intervention and will for his future.
For far more field news than we can share here, you can always find daily posts, prayer, and praise on our BCM Facebook page. And thank you again for your prayers and partnership with us and the BCM global family.
Serving together with you in God’s Kingdom,
Dr. Martin and Jeanette Windle