International healthcare workers are accustomed to making nuanced decisions. We routinely consider various cultural perspectives, resource limitations, and spiritual insights. Now, the current COVID-19 pandemic is calling all our decision-making skills into action.
How can supporters in home countries help those serving in hot zones overseas? Pray! Thinking of decisions the overseas workers face, pray for them!
Medical missionaries live in settings of varied perspectives. Cultures and values differ between international teammates, and between those serving and those being served. As COVID-19 began spreading, some people in Europe scoffed at American worriers and paraded through crowded streets.
When Americans were settling in to a phase of social distancing, one pastor encouraged large gatherings, saying “the safest place is in God’s house.” We all need to realize that overseas workers like the rest of us, are confronted with varied beliefs stemming from divergent cultural perspectives. Pray that they will listen respectfully, and that their own comments will be seasoned with grace.
Medical missionaries are accustomed to dealing with limited resources. Now, in their settings of service, they grapple daily with limited supplies, decisions about allocation of costly resources, and outside advice about how to implement interventions that simply aren’t available. Pray that they will focus on caring for people instead of just bodies. Pray that they will see value in their ministry, even when resources are limited. Pray that healing and hope will come to their patients, even if oxygen and ventilators are not readily available.
Most medical missionaries sensed a call that propelled them to their places of service. Sometimes, though, they need to be reminded that they were called to ministries of salvation and sanctification,
not just to live in safety and security. We need to pray that medical missionaries will remember Who they serve and to which Kingdom’s growth they are contributing.
We can pray that we all face the current pandemic with eternal perspectives. We need to pray that medical missionaries will be graced with divine wisdom as they discern which risks to their own security and safety are worth taking for the greater good of providing care to people in need. We need to pray that they will stay humble rather than seeking heroism, that they show compassion to individuals while not endangering the populations they intend to serve.
How can we help those serving overseas? They know that Paul sometimes fled danger, escaping hostility by sneaking over a wall, and that he sometimes faced angry crowds. They also know, though, that Paul changed his mind after listening to godly counsel and didn’t run into a rioting crowd in Ephesus. Pray for overseas workers, and be willing to bounce thoughts around with them. Stay or go? They know that Jesus once slipped away from a crowd wanting to kill Him and that at another time He welcomed those coming to arrest and crucify Him.
Supportively praying for overseas workers, we need to realize
the truth of Ecclesiastes, that there are different times for different responses to events. International medical workers are facing daily decisions during rapidly changing situations. We should pray that they will discern God’s specific will for each specific time.
How can those stateside support those overseas working in high prevalence areas? Pray for them. Pray that they will wisely sift through conflicting opinions while maintaining excellent cross-cultural relationships. Pray that they will focus on the good God is doing, even when they are confronted with discouraging resource limitations. Pray that they will have specific guidance as they make specific decisions
– about “big” questions of whether to stay or go and about “little” decisions about when to implement versus withhold interventions.
And, remember we are all in this together. No human knows all the right answers. None of us has truly unlimited resources. Even those who feel safer today might be in the pandemic’s hot zone tomorrow. Even as we pray for those working overseas, we need to be open to the guidance they might have for us as we face similar situations.
How can those stateside support those overseas working in high prevalence areas? Pray with open ears, minds, and hearts. We need to pray, while listening to God ourselves. We need to pray, while listening to the godly counsel of others. We need to pray, while realizing we truly are in this together.