News from the Edge

Pastoring in COVID-19 Times

”Most of the congregation is happy and haven’t become discouraged. People are coming to Christ and reconciling with Him. I see God’s hand at work. He is doing the work, not me.’’ – Pokomchi Pastor

We spoke with a few pastors to find out how they are continuing to do God’s work at this time of many restrictions and the church can’t meet as it normally would. Also, how the congregation is reacting to these changes. 

It was uplifting to hear that these pastors and their congregations are doing well overall. The pastors expressed how they are seeing God moving in these modified ways of reaching out.

What are these changes?

 A large Sunday church service is no longer possible. In these remote, under-developed areas, broadcasts of online services are not an option like they are in North America. They have to continue to meet spiritual needs differently. Instead, small ministry groups, leaders, or 2 -3 families at a time are meeting together in the church, with physical distancing, hygiene measures, and for short periods only. The pastors are providing spiritual encouragement through leading prayer and reading the Bible and/or doing a short sermon. They sing and take communion together. This is strengthening the church.

Also, people are more vulnerable and open to a relationship with God at this scary time. The pastors are seeing an increase of people reconciling to God and accepting Jesus as their Savior. The pastors are continuing to be faithful to their calling by being His hands and feet.

”As a pastor, I am the head of the church that God has appointed me to. It is a great responsibility. In light of COVID-19, I need to use my knowledge in how to interact with others correctly and prevent the spread of the virus. I am fearful going to peoples’ homes for myself, my family, and their families. I don’t want to do something incorrectly, but I know that this is God’s will that I continue visiting.’’ – Pokomchi Pastor

Another way of outreach is through home visits. They are doing a lot more of these. Some church members are fearful of contracting the virus and do not accept visits from the pastors. Others want a visit and see this as a real blessing. The time of prayer, Bible reading, and singing worship songs brings much joy. They have told the pastors that they are happy to see them continuing to work despite the virus.  They give thanks to God. They are also grateful to the pastors for the visits and have given them basic food items to show their thanks. The majority of the congregation is positive and hasn’t lost hope. The pastors are pleased to see this.

Some pastors regularly preach in the streets and brings God’s Word to neighboring villages. They continue to do this despite the risks. They take the needed precautions at this time and also trust in God’s protection as they do God’s work. They know that when they go, they are not alone. God goes before them, so they bravely venture out. They do not have the freedom to stay at home. There is much work to be done.

How cell phone technology can help connect

The pastors are also connecting with the church families using the available technology. WhatsApp is a popular and accessible phone texting app that is widely used in Guatemala. To those that have telephones, internet on their phone, and sufficient cell service, the pastors are sending even more messages and Bible verses through this app. Not all have this though. To reach out to more people, one church also can broadcast over the radio and continues to preach God’s Word there.

”Most (of the church) are still strong. Some are weaker in faith due to fear. They wonder what is going to happen to the church without everyone being able to meet together. Some want these regular services to happen now. Some are not in agreement with the small short gatherings that we are doing now’’ – Pokomchi Pastor

Life in this pandemic can be an unsettling time, but it is a time to trust in God and grow in relationship with Him. One church is doing just that. They have intensified their practice of fasting. For 3 months now they have been fervently fasting and praying for those in Guatemala who are sick in the hospitals with the virus. They are praying that God would end this pandemic and that the church would be able to gather together as before.

As one could imagine, there are struggles being a pastor, even more during this time. We asked them how we could be praying for them. Below are their requests

  • Protection from the virus for my myself and family, especially as home visits are done
  • For the 10-20% of the congregation that have strayed away, are not strong in their faith, and have allowed the devil a foothold in their lives, or are discouraged
  • That the majority who are still following God, would remain faithful
  • For decrease in fear and increase in unity in the church
  • For wisdom and courage as I do home visits
  • For complete recovery of those who are in the hospitals with COVID-19
  • That the Diploma in Theology sessions would be able to continue
  • That the church would be able to gather as normal

We thank you in advance for your prayers for the pastors. We and the pastors are so grateful to have your support in this. It is not an easy task that they have been called to, but it a privilege to serve God in this way.