Community Life at GFA World During Isolation
Thoughts from a GFA World staff member on serving behind the scenes during a pandemic
STONEY CREEK, Ontario — When the COVID-19 outbreak first began, for most of us it was just an unknown disease, in far off China. For me, it didn’t affect my day-to-day life, so I dismissed it, until suddenly, I could not ignore it anymore because it was right on my doorstep.
Almost overnight it seemed, the disease spread around the world and fear seemed to take over society. Our lives were now affected by an unknown, unseen virus, that, although invisible, had the power to throw everything into chaos. Now, we seek to carry on with our lives in the new normal that has emerged, that is, isolation and social distancing.
But can we, as a society, really exist on our own? How much will our day-to-day lives be affected by the absence of close relationships, human contact and even something as simple as a handshake?
Life at GFA World is built on community.
We believe that as followers of Christ, we were not meant to do life on our own. As staff members, we are not just focused on the work, but on relationships. We hold onto each other for accountability, encouragement and friendship and that remains during times of rejoicing and challenge. The COVID-19 lockdown, with the isolation it has brought, could have had the potential to draw us apart but instead it has provided us with the ability to serve and care for one another in a new way, perhaps deepening our relationships as we learn to hold onto one another from a distance.
Yes, we have physically been apart. In the past few months, there have been no community meals, no gatherings for prayer or celebrations, no visiting in each other’s offices or just stopping by to see how someone is doing. I think I miss those things the most. Especially not getting to celebrate someone’s birthday or go out for coffee together.
But we have continued with the daily rhythms of our community life. Prayer meetings have continued virtually, giving us a way to see one another, pray for the different needs facing us here and around the world, and remind ourselves that our purpose is still the same. The needs of those who are suffering and without Hope around the world are still there, in fact they are all the greater as a result of what we are going through. When I am tempted to feel as though I have nothing to be grateful for, I am reminded of the thousands of people enduring lockdown in third world countries. Compared to them, my isolation is definitely not suffering.
There have even been some new ways to stay connected-virtual movies, read-aloud and delivering goodies to each other’s mailboxes. For those of us who share a house with roommates or family members, perhaps for the first time ever, we are together 24/7. This has been a great blessing for me as my relationships are becoming less superficial and more open. It provides someone to cry, pray and laugh with and keeps my focus off myself on the hard days.
There has been a lot more time for solitude and silence during the pandemic. That can be a challenge to get adjusted to when you are used to busy life, always on the go, but it is actually a good thing in disguise. In silence, you are able to recognize what is in your own heart, hear God’s voice more clearly and be okay to rest in His presence.
So how will this impact my life in the future?
The COVID-19 virus will eventually be a thing of the past, at least that is what we hope and pray for. But I think normal life as we knew it will never be quite the same again. Fear can take a while to overcome, and as much as some of us may crave human touch and interaction, that uncertainty may linger in our minds for a while: “Where has this person been? Is it okay to shake their hand? Give them a hug?”
As Christians, we have something to hold onto that is greater than our fear of death or suffering. It is the expectation of eternity with Christ, which is now drawing closer than ever before. We can walk through some of the darkest times and places, with no fear because we know our Saviour has triumphed over death. In the early church this was demonstrated many times during the numerous plagues and persecutions Christians faced. Often Christians were the only ones who would treat those who were sick and dying, because they were not afraid to lose their own lives. This active demonstration of Christ’s love in the face of suffering had a tremendous impact not only in their immediate communities but all over the then known world.
In present day, Christ’s love triumphing over fear is seen in the lives of believers who are serving tirelessly in countries that are the most severely affected by the COVID-19 virus. GFA National Workers on the frontlines in South Asia have taken this opportunity to represent Christ to those who are starving, homeless and hurting as a result of the pandemic and lockdown in their countries. They could be staying safe at home with their families, but they know safety is not their calling as Christians. They are willing to put their own lives on the line so others may share in the Hope they have been given.
Going forward, my hope and prayer is that God’s love will triumph over the fears I face and no matter the uncertainty and turmoil around me, I can rest in God’s sovereignty over it all. I want to be less afraid of giving up my life and more focused on eternity with Christ. I don’t want my own desire for safety or comfort to ever take the place of obedience to Christ, serving others and bringing Hope in the darkness around me.
I think God has used this time of isolation to give me a greater realization that life is not in my control. No matter how much I strive and worry, I can’t ultimately change my circumstances. My desire is to continue, when all this is over, spending less time worrying and more time being grateful, looking for ways to build up and encourage others. Having extra time alone has made me more aware of my own limitations and struggles and I want to learn to use them to grow stronger in my faith and closer to Christ.
There will, no doubt, be other challenges to face when the COVID-19 outbreak is over. As followers of Christ, difficulties are part of the journey. But no matter what the future holds, may our confidence rest in the One whose love triumphs over fear.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.”- -1 John 4:18
GFA World, www.gfa.ca is a leading faith-based mission agency, helping national workers bring vital assistance and spiritual hope to millions, especially to those who have yet to hear about the love of God. In GFA World’s latest yearly report, this included more than 70,000 sponsored children, free medical camps conducted in more than 1,200 villages and remote communities, over 4,800 clean water wells drilled, over 12,000 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 260,000 needy families, and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry. For all the latest news, visit our Press Room at https://press.gfa.org/news.
PHOTO CUTLINE: Life at GFA World is built on Community: Canadian-based mission agency GFA World, www.gfa.ca focuses on staying connected and serving others during the COVID-19 lockdown.