When the world seemed void of promise, new opportunities for missions arose. For many churches during the pandemic, opportunities to serve across the world grew scarce and they began to recognize a greater need in their local community. Others worked around obstacles to continue serving other countries. Churches have seen a shift in missionary focus leaning in either direction in the wake of COVID-19.
Local Missions Focus
For sophomore music composition major Michael Fausett, the pandemic shifted his focus toward local outreach. His love for missions stems from his home church in Texas church, Coronado Baptist, which often emphasizes the importance of Acts 1:8.
“With missions specifically, we are called first to be missionaries to Judea and Samaria, which is our county and state in a modern context,” Fausett said.
The foundation of his church’s ministry before the pandemic was volunteering at their local homeless shelter, sharing the gospel while handing out hot chocolate at Christmas and door-to-door evangelism. As a youth leader, Fausett had to adjust to meeting on Zoom and canceling events to avoid possible outbreaks. The youth group supplied some of the main volunteers in local missions, and the church was intentional about outreach through their schools. However, for the past couple years those ministry opportunities have been limited, forcing the church to look within its own church body to meet the needs of its members. As Texas begins to lessen its COVID-19 restrictions, Fausett’s church continues to expand its local outreach because of the importance it holds to serving others in its community.
“It’s equally important to help and share the gospel, minister and serve in your own community” Fausett said.
Sophomore pre-nursing major Liam Kelly also recognized the importance of reaching out to the local community through his church at Crossroads Grace Community in California. At the start of the pandemic, his church canceled a trip with their youth group to San Luis, Mexico, two weeks before going because the borders were shutting down.
“Instead of leaving the country, we focused more on local outreach,” Kelly recalls. “In our town we would serve in the local food banks, and there was a time when our youth group tried to get as much as much money together to pay for a local Thanksgiving drive,”
Kelly’s Church’s mission shifted their focus to the local community by organizing food drives and multiple fundraisers for those struggling financially during COVID-19.
Both Kelly and Fausett’s churches still found obstacles within local ministry. Social distancing, mask mandates and periods of quarantine interfered with many of the much-needed ways of outreach ministry to serve others in their area. Even so, their churches are working for more accessible ways to pour into their cities, and they see God’s hand in turning their focus inwards toward their local communities.
Global Missions Focus
After three months of delay from COVID-19 restrictions, professor of Old Testament history and literature David Talley went on a global mission trip to Uganda and Ethiopia in October 2021. Talley, along with his team at Church Transformation Network, utilized a four-phase program to provide pastoral training to denominational leaders. He and his team were required to test for COVID-19 72 hours prior to their flight and go through additional testing upon landing, which could have caused them to quarantine abroad an additional two weeks. In the spirit of perseverance, Talley and the Church Transformation Network maintained a positive mindset.
“You just have to get places. It’s just a matter of navigating the airlines,” Talley said. “There really wasn’t much of a problem outside of the airports,”
Despite the drawback of frequent COVID-19 testing and the risk of quarantining in another country, Talley continues to find opportunities to serve and is currently planning trips to Rwanda and Thailand for next year.
“People are afraid of COVID. I’m not, and so it hasn’t limited me at all,” Talley states. “As long as the door is open, I walk through it.”
For Professor Talley and his church, there was no shift in focus away from global missions trips but rather a persistence in pursuing them regardless of the challenges. Their priority was the pastoral ministry they provided, not their own comfort in providing it.
Following where God led them, churches concentrated their outreach either globally or in their own cities. Although COVID-19 caused some limitations to church ministries, it also forced them to become more intentional and persistent in each of their missions.