COVID-19 has increased the interest in the Gospel. There is a growing desire to know who God is. I do not believe we are in the end of days, we are in a time of revival.
—Pastor Jagan*, Bhutan country leader
At least once a year, I read through all five chapters of Lamentations in one sitting. Unsurprisingly, 2020 found me there a few more times than in the past. I have found that the full power of the book’s most famous verses can only be felt when reading the passages that come before and after.
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” Lamentations 3:22-24
Abject horror and pain and despair are on either side of this beautiful truth. In the midst of the lament and devastation, however, come these verses of mercy and compassion and hope. It is not a promise of a far-off peace or an escape from harm—it is a promise of God’s faithfulness in the midst of suffering. His mercies are new every morning of an ongoing crisis. He is our portion during every day of grief. Great is His faithfulness during devastation.
Many of the hundreds of pastors and missionaries we support have become sick with Covid-19. Nearly every one of them has lost relatives, church members, and community members to the virus. Lockdowns have led to economic collapse, starvation, children being forced to leave school, rising drug use, increased domestic abuse, and more. South Asia also saw its worst flooding in 30 years in some areas.
Within all of this, and not despite it, the majority of the pastors and missionaries we come alongside would say 2020 was their most fruitful year of ministry, both with people’s openness and their acceptance of the Gospel. This outcome was not a foregone conclusion. I believe that through having a robust theology of suffering and lament, our South Asian brothers and sisters were well prepared to build God’s Kingdom in 2020. Many of our partners have long had their faith forged in persecution and financial poverty, among other challenges. They have learned to love when it is hard, to serve when it is inconvenient, and to turn to God as their portion in the midst of suffering. People had questions in 2020, and Christians acting like Christ—putting others first, feeding the hungry regardless of caste or religion, praying for the sick and teaching hygiene lessons to prevent spread of the virus, clothing people by providing masks, caring for those overlooked by society, comforting the bereaved—were the ones they could turn to.
Their response challenged me in 2020, and I hope it does the same for you. As you read the stories in the following pages, I pray you are reminded of God’s faithfulness, not only at the end of suffering, but in the midst of it. In Christ,
Kate Therese, Executive Director