After nearly three years of living through a global pandemic, many of us in the West are beginning to consider COVID-19 a part of history – something “in the rearview mirror.” We are finding a new sense of “normal,” and it’s working – more or less.
But, for many training partners around the world, their pandemic experience proved radically different. The impact has been far greater, far more difficult. Some partners — particularly in Asia and Southeast Asia — spent the past two-plus years in near total lockdown. They have been severely limited in their ability to shop for daily essentials, gather with family, and even worship in person, let alone travel and train. Such an experience is hard to imagine, but it’s been a reality for many.
While the West has declared the pandemic over, many around the world are just now emerging from one of the most difficult periods of life. As faithful partners, brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s critical to recognize this reality, empathize with our partners, and reengage in relationships first. Rather than focusing on reestablishing training, the coming months will require us to reestablish, even restart partnerships. And this is key, as partnership is the life-blood of WordPartners’ mission.
As the world comes to grips with the impact the pandemic has had on economies, energy supplies, food production, and supply chains, WordPartners is working to recognize and address the pandemic’s impact on our global mission and partnership network. In places such as Africa and Latin America, it’s “business as usual,” with pastoral training at or near prepandemic levels. In others, we will need to slow down, assess the situation, and reengage with partners in a meaningful way. Only then will we begin to reestablish training groups among pastors and church leaders.
Regional Director for Africa, Jeff Gage, listening to
training partner, Timothy Wambura, of Tanzania
But the good news is, as always, God is in control of all of it. WordPartners must simply look to see where God is at work and seek to follow after Him. Please pray that God would bless us with wisdom and discernment, with the hope that a refreshed and renewed mission will emerge from this pandemic.
In other 2022 Impact Report articles, you’ll read stories of how God has continued to work even as countries slowly emerge from the pandemic. But what are the lessons we’ve learned from those stories and through the relationships that stand behind each one?
Lesson One: The Strength of National Partners and National Teams
We’ve long realized that WordPartners’ staff is incapable of training 18,000 pastors. But 304 training partners can – and are. We’ve seen it firsthand as our staff have been grounded and our national partners have picked up the baton. This reinforces that empowering national partners is essential. But even that isn’t sufficient for sustainability. There needs to be a leadership team — a national training team — for each country composed of pastors with a diverse set of gifts, skills, and experiences. Together, a team will be able to lead and sustain a movement within their nation.
Lesson Two: Technology Is But One Tool
Technology is incredible, and it proved a helpful tool throughout the pandemic. And while it will never completely replace the in-person experience, there may be better ways to harness technology for future training purposes. The pandemic forced us to adapt rapidly when we couldn’t be face to face.
Lesson Three: We Must Steward Resources Strategically
Global pandemics have a way of straining budgets, even among the most financially faithful. As such, strategic stewardship is critical to the mission’s future. Though well intentioned, expending resources in areas not aligned with our vision and values is poor stewardship. This doesn’t mean spending has been frivolous. Rather, to grow as an organization is to become sharper as we steward the precious resources God entrusts to us in order to better fill the call He has placed on us.
Lesson Four: The Future is Now
For years we have been asking how the future — the next season of ministry and mission — might demand changes in staffing, leadership, team structures, technology, travel, and stewardship. Over the past two years, we have begun to see some answers. We have brought in new senior leadership and made a significant effort to restructure ministry teams within WordPartners. While the change process has been difficult, we do believe God is preparing us to meet the challenges of the next season of ministry around the world.
In His sovereign providence, God is using a global pandemic to teach WordPartners some valuable ministry lessons. These lessons and others are being taken to heart to grow and strengthen the work around the world.