Hurry up and wait: Clinging to calling during COVID-19
By Amy Bareham Chapman | Peru in South America
Juanita calls me via Zoom from her mother’s home in Lima, Peru. She is under strict instruction not to go outside unless absolutely necessary. Like millions of people around the world, Juanita is spending the first half of 2020 in quarantine due to COVID-19. Missionaries often grapple with the unknown, but this global pandemic has given new weight to the unexpected.
In May, Juanita was supposed to be on a flight to Ayutthaya, Thailand. She intends to join the Faithful Witness team there and is eager to share God’s love with a community that has had minimal exposure to the gospel. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has disrupted those plans – a looming obstacle barring the way like Goliath.
As a result, the world has felt increasingly tumultuous, and trying to talk specifically about the future seems futile. Yet Juanita hopes with fervour. She is anchored by God’s reliability and remains encouraged because of the clear calling he has placed upon her. After all, Juanita has been waiting to go to Asia since she was a young girl; she is used to making room for God’s timeline.
She shares: “When I was a child, God put in my heart to work with the people of Asia. Little by little, I could understand the necessity of others needing to know about Jesus.” Growing up in a Christian family, Juanita was surrounded by believers and interacted with local missionaries. They helped her comprehend the anointing on her life. While God prepared her next steps, Juanita pursued an education and a career in nursing. “I studied for two years,” she says, “and when I finished all my studies, my church sent me to the jungle of Peru as a missionary for seven years.”
In 2015, Juanita went to a conference in Lima where she learned more about the growth of the church in Asia. At that time, she remembers praying to God: “Use me, use my skills, my career – everything – for [your] glory.”
Since then, God has taken the childhood dreams of his daughter and allowed them to flourish. Juanita connected with Chris Conti, Mobiliser and Director of SIM’s VAMOS e-zine, and began the process of becoming a Faithful Witness worker in Thailand.
Chris remarks: “Juanita has visited no less than 50 churches in the past year. She really understands her role in mobilising the churches she visits, helping them learn about their part in the Great Commission. This is her focus more than raising support, and churches are responding to her selflessness.”
Chris also speaks to the gravity of COVID-19 for other missionaries in Juanita’s position. She says: “As many Latinos have limited budgets, finances are one of the first areas that have been hit. Some of our workers have already been told not to expect funds that were committed.” She also explains that emotionally, the virus has taken a toll: “Latinos are very involved in people’s lives and seeing them suffer often is [felt] at a deeper level.”
Juanita’s thoughtful preparations have led to one undeniable ‘not yet,’ and this feels like such a loss for Thailand. But Juanita has channelled her disappointment into a learning opportunity. Because she can’t see her three brothers or four sisters right now, she views the quarantine as a practice run for when she’s on the other side of the world and dealing with homesickness. And she professes God’s goodness despite the delay in her relocation.
"This is a time that God is using to show me his patience. I can remember his promises for me. I have peace in my heart that God is in control."
She reflects: “This is a time that God is using to show me his patience. I can remember his promises for me. I have peace in my heart that God is in control. In his perfect time, I will move to Thailand.”
Although Juanita’s feet aren’t on the ground in Ayutthaya, her heart is postured toward the city’s people. She is loving and praying over them from a distance – proof that self-isolation is a kingdom invitation to intercede on behalf of Christians everywhere. In Juanita’s acceptance of this invitation is a firm belief that the God who topples Goliaths is still at work, no matter how grave things may appear.
• discernment as missionaries with pending travel plans try to prepare for the future.
• discipline and quick comprehension as Juanita learns Thai.
• anointing and affirmation as the Peruvian church grows and new believers are called to mission.