Two days ago we returned to our home in China. It was a surreal experience. We boarded a mostly full Thai Air flight on which every single passenger was wearing a surgical mask. It was somewhat comical to look around as we all tried to navigate the mid-flight meal service given our new facial accessories.
Once we made it to our Chinese airport, we queued up with fellow masked travelers and were served by faithful airport personnel taking similar precautions. The seriousness of the situation was cemented when I saw several employees walk by in full HAZMAT gear. Not sure what their role was, but it provided an extra dose of sobriety.
We’ve been back for a few days now—checking in with church members and neighbors and mostly staying indoors.
Having received numerous questions about our well-being and needs, I thought it might help to share some prayer requests from behind the Coronavirus Curtain.
1. Pray that we’d walk with faith and wisdom.
We inhabit a social-media age in which news agencies are rewarded by the click. And an anxious consumer base is, for those agencies, a good thing. Thus our feeds (and hearts) are often filled with alarmist reporting.
And yet now there is an outbreak of global concern. Pray for us, then, as we fight against anxiety and walk the line between faith and wisdom. Pray that we don’t lose sight that God is our help and our refuge, and he himself is untouched by disease (Ps. 91). Pray that even if we experience the worst imaginable outcome—that we ourselves or someone we love gets nCoV—that Christ would remain our sure and steady anchor. Pray we’d trust God and not waver in faith.
Christians in China, whether national or foreign, will make their own decisions during this time, but pray none of us would be driven by fear. May we be full of faith and godly wisdom instead.
2. Pray for healing and safety.
This is the most obvious request for most of us.
Pray that those who have the virus will be healed, and that its spread would slow and be soon eradicated.
Pray that the government agencies would have wisdom and skill in containing the epidemic, and that doctors and nurses would be energized for their work.
Pray for scientists and biomedical engineers scrambling to invent a way to cure and immunize against this new virus.
3. Pray for gospel opportunities.
Pray for Chinese Christians, pastors, foreign missionaries, business people, and educators who remain in China to have open doors for gospel conversations in light of this crisis.
Ask God to make the compassion and unity of his church adorn the gospel in these dark days.
Pray that Christians’ faith and hope would give platforms for speaking of Christ.
Pray that the resolve and sacrifice of missionaries would pave a way for fruitful ministry.
4. Pray for wisdom in decision-making.
Missions organizations are discussing how to advise their workers. Church leaders are praying about how to shepherd their members. Christians are considering how to counsel friends and loved ones. We’re all well aware of how Christians have sacrificially served in pandemics throughout church history. But should a church gather to worship on the Lord’s Day in a time like this, or should they stay at home? If they decide not to meet, for how long will they refrain? If they decide to meet, what safety protocols should be in place? Should those in the expatriate missionary and marketplace community return to their home countries, or stay where they are?
It’s hard to imagine all the precarious situations people are facing as government agencies screech to a halt, schools delay semesters, and companies take massive financial hits. My church is small, but just in my immediate circle I know of couples who are mid-adoption and at risk of being separated from their child if they’re evacuated or quarantined; new parents who now have a child without proper documentation; students who were told they’d receive a student visa that’s now not being provided; and employees who aren’t getting paid and are wondering if the promised paychecks will ever come. Much wisdom is needed.
5. Pray for church unity.
As you may imagine, not all Christians agree as difficult decisions are being made. To give but one example, one Chinese church member might feel a church should not gather on the Lord’s Day during this season, while another might see it as appropriate or even necessary. The former may hold their position as a matter of general medical caution or patriotism or submission to government. The latter may feel that the public panic is overblown and that the biblical encouragement for Christians to gather on the Lord’s Day overrides the government’s directives not to do so. It’s not always immediately clear who is right and who is wrong in such cases. But it is clear that Satan would love nothing more than to use such scenarios to sow disunity in Christ’s church.
Pray that godly leaders would be trusted, that we’d assume the best motives in our brothers and sisters, and that we’d act with charity and clarity as we’re making decisions without much modern precedent.
We’ve decided to return to China—and stay—because this is where we live. This is home for us now. And many of our brothers and sisters can’t just hop on a flight out. Not that it’s wrong to leave, but we’ve decided to stay and stand with those who are here.
We hope to be hospitable and hopeful. We want to hold out light in darkness, point to peace in anxiety, and introduce people to Christ the Rock in uncertain times. Please pray for all Christians in China toward similar ends.