BITS & BITES
Where? …in the world are Greg and Carlene during the COVID pandemic?
Carlene left South Africa as we had planned in March, which turned out to be two days after the first reported case of COVID19 in South Africa. Greg arrived two weeks later, just before SA’s COVID lockdown, when Emirates rescheduled his trip for the last flight out of Durban. We are thankful to be on the same side of the ocean!
As restrictions lessened, we began working out of ZEMA’s office in Zion, IL. Also, we were able to go to Indiana to celebrate (drum roll, please….) Kyle’s engagement with Maddie Grace Hayward and then helped him move back to Kentucky. We are also happy that we can now visit with Corbin and Maddie with a bit more freedom.
What? …is happening in terms of ministry?
The administrative responsibilities as Field Director and running the Home Office has only changed slightly. As social distancing became a reality, we quickly began learning to use Zoom and have had many virtual meetings. We wanted to be in touch with the heart of how ZEMA’s missionary families are doing, so we’ve invited them to meet regularly as a group to support one another, create a place of encouragement, and be able to swap ideas. Each one is considering: “What should my ministry look like now?” We’ve met with the ZEMA board and the Field Council, and have helped to keep things rolling with a Case Statement Committee and the Media Management Team.
The home office is working on acquiring accreditation from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). We are putting together the required material to participate in Moody Bible Institute’s virtual missions conference in October, and keeping up with the general administrative transactions that routinely occur.
In Southern Africa, all of the Zion Bible Schools closed until they could lawfully meet as SA began to ease the restrictions set in place with a military lockdown. One school was able to resume meetings recently; they were a small school and found a venue that would help implement the government parameters. Other smaller schools are hoping to open soon, possibly in August. With most of the schools closed, the missionaries have turned to WhatsApp and other means of communication to support Zion Church leaders. Praise God that we already had structures in place to improve online resources for the Zionists.
In Southern Africa, the feelings of fear and isolation are intense for many people. Many exist in high-risk categories, and especially in rural and low economic areas, unemployment increases. The missionaries seek to avoid exposure not only for personal well-being but also to prevent exposing others and to encourage others to think about the safety of those around them and honor the local authority. Despite social and governmental efforts, my survival today often takes precedence over your survival tomorrow. In many areas, people view the COVID restrictions as options, and South Africa did not flatten the infection rate curve.
The Hoffman’s and Swanks are holding down the fort at Sunbury, which is closed, possibly reopening early next year. For now, they are doing what they can to support the families of Sunbury’s staff as well as the local community. They are also busy preparing the camp to open within the legal guidelines, and as safely as possible. They have carried on with several building and maintenance projects as they can obtain the necessary supplies, and as God provides the resources required.
When? …will ministry in South Africa return to normal?
We expect that our life and ministry will never look like it did a short time ago. What is normal, anyway? We, along with the other missionaries and ministry partners, eagerly anticipate the day we’ll recognize the #newnormal!
We expect that in the new normal, physical safeguards and personal space, which were once optional and relative, will probably become a more commonly held expectation. While struggling to implement guidelines in South Africa, we already see a growing appreciation for the need for sanitation and beginning awareness of better boundaries during sickness. For how long will these continue? And to what extent? There is no way of knowing. We think there may always be, as Kit Tischler, one of our ministry partners, said, “a question of how to honor both love and law.”
We know the new normal will include more virtual interaction, online resources, and digital communication than in the past. Carlene has been working with a team of missionaries and home office personnel to update and rebuild our websites. ZEMA.org has much to offer, if you haven’t looked lately, please see what more there is to learn about ZEMA ministries on this website. ZEMA has another online resource created as a ministry tool for Zionists, and people in Southern Africa. This site now has downloadable material such as The Trumpet of Zion radio programs, and the Zion Banner newsletter. At this time, Zionists may use these resources for the cost of the data. Our team is presently applying for a site rating for ZEMASA.org that would allow unlimited downloads from this website free of charge in South Africa. We also have another team developing material to make available for Zion readership. The development of these sites has been a silver lining on the dark cloud of COVID.
We, along with the other missionaries, we are concerned that somehow the new normal needs to include realistic opportunities and options for amaZioni who live rurally, and without access to data and virtual resources. ZBC (the Zion Bible Schools in eSwatini) have experimented with virtual studies for their students. While encouraged by the response from urban youth, at this time, they consider these efforts to fall short, with little reach into the many rural and poor communities.
Why? …haven’t the Seghers returned to South Africa?
In January, we planned to take three trips to the USA in 2020. We scheduled the first trip during March and April. We plan to reschedule our return flights when transportation into South Africa resumes. Initially, it seemed it could happen in June. However, every month, the airline has extended its schedule. July, August, and now Sept 30th, could be the next flight scheduled into South Africa. Looking at the COVID curve for South Africa, we expect this pattern of monthly extensions to continue for some time. Mentally we are preparing to be here until the beginning of next year.
We are not the only ones confined by the shut down of South Africa’s borders. Just as we are limited to the USA, so are Tim and Luann Kuehl, and Stephen & Jessica Langley. Additionally, the restrictions have kept Howard & Lynn Swank and Kit Tischler in South Africa, preventing return trips they expected to make.
How? …can we pray?
• Pray for God’s protection, healing, strength, and that we all might continue in hope and trust God to be sovereign, the author, and finisher of our faith through every circumstance.
• Pray for those who have COVID19. Pray for strength, healing, and the blessing of life in Jesus’ Name.
• Pray for direction regarding the new normal for our ministries with the amaZioni.
• Pray for guidance regarding how and when to open Zion Bible schools (ZEBS & ZBC)
• Pray for those creating new means of communication and sharing resources.
• Pray for God to give each missionary peace and contentment where God has placed each of us.
• Pray that international travel would resume.
• Pray for those applying for visa extensions Langleys (2020), Kit Tischler (2020), Hoffmans (2021)
• Pray for the ZEMA Board Meeting and Annual Business meeting on August 13th.
• Pray that through Moody’s Missions Conference, God would continue to lead students to be ministers of the Gospel and reach out in a world that is shutting down.
• Pray for guidance in interacting with MBI students during the conference, and after.
• Please pray for direction and God’s provision of jobs for our daughters-in-love. Amy and Maddie are both presently unemployed and, along with our sons, considering their next steps. Both are currently enrolled to study, while simultaneously considering what type of work is suitable for their current situation.
• Pray as Kyle and Maddie Grace move into this exciting chapter of their lives: details, communication, flexibility, and honor as they too figure out the #newnormal for weddings!
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalms 46: 10