From a pastor who leads a group of churches in Central Asia
“We've been quarantined for coronavirus. The government is trying to counter the spread of coronavirus in this way. Residential complexes where the patient was found are cordoned off. Movement around the city is restricted, both on foot and by car. People are fined for violations. We encourage people to get together both at homes and for Sunday worship. We pray for those who found themselves in a complete cordon. Today at the meeting we will discuss ways to help those in need. There are people in Almaty today, near shops, who are already standing and approaching people because they have nothing to eat.
“Our Church in the city has switched to online ministry. The authorities wanted to change the law on religious associations, and wanted that every sermon to be put on the Internet was submit for religious expertise. And now the government allows us to upload it online.
“All small groups gather in the city through Skype and Zoom. Outside the city believers gather at homes. There are also those whose parents do not let them out, and there are those who are not allowed by children. And also there are those who don’t come by themselves and that’s why they visit small groups through online meetings. Starting tomorrow, it will be quarantined in all the Almaty region as well.
“Thanks God that we can hold home groups. Every leader of the small home group is responsible today for holding his group meeting during the week and on Sunday.
“The Earth is changing its face now. Everything and everyone is trying to survive. Schools, institutions, and even governments are changing their form of ruling. And the Church is no exception. We are looking for the solution in this situation, but there's only one way out – it is online ministry…
I believe that God makes history! He allows all of this, He stands above all of this. I believe, that as it was for the first church God allowed persecution and sent them into the scattering, so it is for us today. The church needs to refresh its calling today. Because the calling stays the same, God doesn’t changing it for us. So we should think on how can we save people and make them disciples in such a situation? What should we do? …
“I thank God that we are holding home groups. We were waiting for persecution, but this is another form of harassment. We were forbidden to gather. I thank God that over the past 10 years He has been preparing us, and now we are ready to meet changes in society, and still continue to influence the world. I am glad that we are now a Church without walls, a Church that has come out into the world to influence and shine. I have a huge thank to God for this. I thank for the missionaries who taught us the word of God purely, and through this we are now a Church that is ready for such changes.
“I think and pray for the churches that met only on Sunday. So that they, too, although it is difficult now, can be rebuilt and continue to be a Church.
“And for the Church of God, this is an opportunity to influence the world. Hallelujah!
“Pray for us, we need the wisdom of God to lead His people correctly. As for me, the need for prayer is the same, so that God gives his Word to His people through me. I see that God is expanding His influence, because I am preaching through video now.
“We can't show the sermon in live, because of the poor internet connectivity. That’s why we record the sermon and worship. So the whole Church can watch…
“…in a week and if the quarantine will be delayed, the members of our home groups will start having material problems. There is a rise in the price of food. But this is not a reason to call them needy yet. No money, no salaries, no job, apartment rental is unaffordable. There will be a lot of this.
“And probably home group should help, based on the capabilities. Times are changing, and coronavirus is the first swallow. If we just run and give out help from the Church, then we will teach people just to use it, who will get used to living on dependents and couldn’t raise victimhood of the home group, that is showing real love. If the church just start helping, discontent will begin: «They were helped, and what about me?» We always have cases when people just want to take. In the Church, we help the poor, and so we even ask for certificate. Sometimes people just take «in reserve». And some may start writing on the Internet that the Church is bad, it has money and does not help. I am sure that people who are already used to get help or those who come to the Church to solve only their needs will put so much pressure on the Church to help them and solve their own problems.
“The first principle is to solve problems together, with the home group! If someone has no place to live, then let him move in to the pastor to the member of the home group. The home group can think and decide whether a man is really in need. And this is a real show of sacrificial heart. Each home group should resolve problems inside the community. If there is any, home group will see it.
“The second principle is to act through the pastor. If the home group can’t help then they should ask for prayer and support from other home groups or another organizations, with explaining real situation. All such messages must go through the pastor. I’m sure this is correct order. Then you know that if the pastor applies for him, it means that his situation is really bad.
“One more principle, the home group knows the situation and prays. And let people know that, that there is such situation now and this is how it is being resolved. That is everyone shares his problem with the home group and then they pray together and think about the solution. I’m sure, God will open the opportunities for us to resolve the situations.
“There are some people who left home groups and went to another churches, and now they ask pastor of the home group (which they visited before) for help. Their appeal characterizes the home group ministry very well. They remember about the sacrificial hearts and the ministry. But everything should be resolved inside the home groups. Together. The home group knows better about their circumstances, and I’m sure, that our first reaction must be joint prayer in the home group.
“Now there are cases when believers from other churches ask for help. Though this is not the time for people to die under a fence. I think that if they knock the door of their own church, ministries would emerge there and they would get help.
“We can help our neighbours, whether they are believers or not. But when people deliberately come to church, looking for the help, then I think we should put a barrier to this, because they should refer to their church, which knows their real situation better than we do. I can help myself as far as I can, but I can’t use the church’s resources for resolving their problems. In such situations I answer that I can’t make such decisions without the ruling of whole community. That’s why I ask you to pray that God would help us to develop the principles, how we can be more effective and helpful and influence on this world…
“Children are at home, schooling is going to be online. We decided to read the Bible completely. We began yesterday morning. This was my old dream, to read the whole Bible together with my children. I believe this is a beautiful opportunity to spend time with children and to worship God together.”