No one would ever wish to be subjected to a crisis. But in a crisis we have a great opportunity to step up, show our real character, take action to make a difference, and show the love of God through our actions. Novelist James Lane Allen once said “adversity does not build character; it reveals it.”
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo says that he wishes the ring had never come to him and that the crisis hadn’t happened during his time. “’So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’”
During a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, followers of Jesus have an opportunity to reflect God’s sacrificial love by our actions. Recently Samson Usmael, a digital strategist with Great Commission Ministries Ethiopia, spoke at an Indigitous Ministry from a Distance webinar to talk about how to share the hope of God during a crisis.
“This is a time where the message of the church is even more relevant than before because most people are fearful,” Samson says. As Christians, we are called to be the “light of the world,” Jesus says in Matthew 5:14.
When the pandemic first started spreading in Ethiopia, the government convened a task force to help spread awareness about the virus, telling people what precautions to take, what to expect, and how to mitigate the effects. Five members of a local Indigitous community were involved in that task force, using their digital skills to help the country battle the pandemic.
Using digital strategies to communicate helped increase the nation’s preparedness and has lessened the impact of the virus. As Christians, Samson says, “we’re playing our role to be on the frontlines of this challenge.”
WhatsApp for ministry
During the month of May, Indigitous is taking part in the GO 2020 campaign, which aims to mobilize 100 million followers of Christ to reach 1 billion people with the Gospel. Even while confined to our homes during the pandemic, there are so many ways that we can share with people from a distance using digital strategies.
One of the best strategies for digital outreach is using the social tools that we are already using for other things. WhatsApp is a popular messaging app that has 1.6 billion monthly active users globally.
Samson shared the story of a fellow Ethiopian who helped plant a church on WhatsApp. What started as a group for outreach soon became a thriving new church plant. The catch is that the church meets entirely on WhatsApp. Even after things go back to normal and churches open their doors, this church will continue to meet on the messaging app, since most of its members come from countries where it is unsafe to gather for worship services.
Whether contributing your skills to a project, sharing the Gospel on social media, mentoring via email, or discipling over Zoom calls, there is a lot that we Christians can do to be a light in the darkness. “The church can exist in WhatsApp, in Facebook, in online environments, because borders don’t hold the Kingdom of God,” Samson says.