Caring for Missionaries in Light of COVID-19
Answering Your Questions about Missionary Care
COVID-19 is reshaping life for everyone and reminding us we live in an uncertain world. Pioneers workers are serving in places where they may feel this uncertainty more intensely than others do. We want to assure you that we are making every effort to care for these missionaries. So, we thought it would be helpful to give you a glimpse of what that looks like.
1. How does COVID-19 affect missionaries?
In recent years, Pioneers missionaries have served in areas devastated by earthquakes, tsunamis, war, political unrest and other challenging crises. In each of these situations, we work both to mitigate unnecessary risk, as well as to support them as they share the gospel and offer care to those in need. Like other crises, COVID-19 provides an opportunity for Pioneers workers to be “salt and light” in the communities in which God has placed them. We look forward to hearing—and sharing—testimonies of His grace in the midst of uncertainty.
2. Are missionaries being stranded on the field due to the State Department’s recommendation that U.S. travelers abroad return home?
The State Department recommendations are written largely for people visiting other countries from the U.S. Since Pioneers missionaries are not “visitors” but long-term residents of their host countries, this recommendation does not apply to them in the same way. However, the State Department guideline that “U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel” is being taken into strong consideration of any travel plans for those planning to leave for the field.
3. Are Pioneers missionaries coming home from the field?
The decision for a missionary to come home or stay on the field is made by them in consultation with their field leaders, sending churches and our Member Development Team. Additionally, a missionary’s presence in their host country may be affected by local laws and regulations. Each missionary’s situation is unique, and Pioneers is assisting them individually in making this decision. We continue to monitor State Department recommendations, as well as local guidance related to COVID-19 from U.S. embassies and consulates in the countries where missionaries live.
4. Is COVID-19 affecting missionaries’ access to services from Pioneers-USA?
The US office is still functioning. However, we have asked all employees who are able to work remotely to do so in order to increase social distancing and decrease exposure. We are grateful that technology allows our Member Development Team to continue to serve our missionaries without interruption, as they meet with them using Skype, phone and email. Additionally, sending and supporting churches are involved in providing care and counsel, and field leaders continue to care for teams and members in their ministry locations.
5. How does COVID-19 affect events at Pioneers-USA’s headquarters?
Unfortunately, we have had to cancel all on-campus events until the end of April to limit the spread of this virus. Even as we do this, we are exploring ways of increasing our use of virtual tools to conduct orientations, training, missionary debriefs and other gatherings. While these resources are no replacement for personal engagement, we see this as an opportunity to trust in God and to respond creatively to new challenges.
6. Is Pioneers continuing to send missionaries to the field?
Pioneers continues to mobilize and prepare people God is calling to join and start teams among the unreached. Some missionaries may delay their departure dates. We fully anticipate that once this crisis has abated, missionaries will continue to depart for the field unhindered.
7. Are there any financial implications to missionaries serving in areas affected by COVID-19?
Pioneers’ Donor Services Team is still processing checks and sending receipts. The impact of the virus on our office and disruptions to other services outside our control may delay processing gifts. With this in mind, we ask that missionary supporters consider giving via EFT (electronic funds transfer) to ensure prompt processing of gifts. Our Donor Services Team is available to assist with this at 407-581-7458. Please note that missionaries who temporarily come home from the field continue to need financial support until they are able to return.
Missionaries serving in affected areas may incur unexpected expenses if they are required to leave the country at short notice or are taken ill. While we stand by to assist them in facing these challenges, we also encourage supporters and prayer partners to reach out to their missionaries directly to determine tangible ways they can also help.
8. What can I do to help?
If you support a missionary—with Pioneers or any other organization—please reach out to them and offer them encouragement, prayer or a listening ear. A mission organization serves an important role in making it possible for someone to serve among the unreached, but there is no substitute for the personal connection missionaries have with the churches, supporters and prayer partners who “hold the rope” for them.
Would you join us in praying for the protection of those who are vulnerable to COVID-19? We also pray for healthcare workers and government leaders working hard to diminish the spread of this disease. May the church fearlessly demonstrate the love of God and the gospel of Jesus to a watching world.
See also Pioneers’ Response to COVID-19.
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