International (MNN) — Missionaries everywhere have felt the effects of the pandemic, with many forced to either return to the U.S. or minister with limited ability to travel.
Andy Keener of Wycliffe USA explains that many of the organization’s missionaries flew back to the country when the pandemic began.
“We’ve had more than 200 families that needed to come back to the U.S. for one reason or another related to COVID-19,” he says. “There are also a lot of people who are staying in the city or staying in one location where normally their ministry would be in other places, so it’s pretty much impacted everyone.”
Wycliffe assisted many missionaries with returns to the U.S. through their fund, reserved specifically for emergencies.
“This [fund] is actually something we’ve had for quite some time. We keep a fund so that we can address emergencies that pop up that really no one could prepare for,” Keener explains. “During the COVID-19 period, many folks have been able to access those funds to get on evacuation flights. It’s been a real blessing for our folks, but to be honest, the fund has taken a real hit [from this].”
One such family left Papua New Guinea on an evacuation flight. Gavin, a helicopter pilot, transports Bible translation teams and supplies. His wife, Carrie, works at a medical clinic. The couple has five children, one of whom has a compromised lung. Because of the danger COVID-19 presented to their child, Gavin and Carrie decided they all needed to return to the U.S. However, they hope to be back in the field soon.
“Gavin and Carrie are excited to get back. They want to get back in a way that protects the health of their children, especially their child with particular health needs. We’ll be working with them and figuring out the best time for them to get back,” Keener says.
Ready to Return
Other missionaries hope to return to their places of ministry soon, too. However, as Wycliffe works out exact details, everyone is staying busy.
“We have doctors on our team who are thinking through the appropriate courses of action,” Keener says. “In general, we paused our return to international assignments through the end of July. In August, we expect to see folks starting to make their way back where the government restrictions allow them to return and where they can, in a healthy manner, get back to their ministry in the country where they serve.”
“That being said, these folks keep working, they keep pressing ahead. There’s a lot they can do remotely these days. They’re not sitting around twiddling their thumbs. They’re really pressing ahead with their work.”
How You Can Support Missionaries
As these missionaries prepare to go back into the field, Keener asks for prayer.
“Pray for wisdom, good listening ears, understanding, and quality information,” he says. “We have so many people that have dedicated their lives and hearts. They’ve said, ‘If I die in the country that’s something that I’m willing to do.’ At the same time, we don’t want people taking unnecessary risks.”
You can contribute to Wycliffe’s emergency fund for missionaries and learn other ways to pray for the ministry here.
*Header image courtesy of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA