When Disease and Fear Strengthen Unity

Rachel Chimits

The team in Brazil has turned to God for instruction and blessings as their country has locked down and anxiety rules the world around them.

The New York Times reported, “Latin America became an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in May, driven by Brazil’s ballooning caseload as the number of known infections in Europe fell. Seven months after its first known case, Brazil has had at least 4.7 million cases — more than all of Europe — and over 142,000 deaths.

“The day after the country passed 100,000 deaths, President Jair Bolsonaro posted a message on Facebook defending his government’s response to the virus. “There was no shortage of resources, equipment or medication,” he wrote.

“In early June, Brazil began averaging about 1,000 deaths per day from Covid-19, joining the United States — and later India — as the countries with the world’s worst death toll….

“In late September, the country’s minister of health, Eduardo Pazuello, said in a meeting with local officials that the curve of the infection was reaching its end. Brazilians needed to ‘go on with their lives in a new way,’ he said, urging people to return to activities with caution, by practicing social distancing and other preventive measures.”

For World Challenge’s partners in Brazil, figuring out this new way of going about their lives and mission has been the focus of the last few months.

Becoming the Remote Team

After the Brazilian government decreed mandatory social isolation, business meetings and all travel were prohibited. Communities were closed. The local team was forced to social distance with its own members.

It was a different time, and there were many doubts about how the work would continue and uncertainty about how their future would look. “While we waited and prayed, though,” one team member explained, “the Lord came with his Spirit and brought peace and direction to us. We knew it was a time to dive into the scriptures. In those difficult days that everyone was facing, the team meditated on the Word, searching for deeper understanding.”

This more intentional dedication to scripture and communing with God also took the team to virtual meetings for weekly Bible studies, meetings and gatherings. The participation of everyone, sharing doubts and experiences, helped the team to remain united and firm during the pandemic.

None of this is meant to make it sound as if the separation has been easy. Families have been unable to visit loved ones, and months of uncertainty continue even today.

While not yet out of the COVID “woods,” so to speak, Brazil has begun to open up, and life has started to look more normal in the bigger cities. Unfortunately, the Jacob’s Well communities are in more remote areas and are still weeks behind big cities in the opening process. Many of the team were forced to continue connecting remotely and waiting.

The Quiet Work of Heaven

September brought the first opportunity to gather the leadership together at the center for a special time of community and training. Team members who hadn’t seen one another for months were able to speak in person, something that would’ve seemed so insignificant in February this year.

Everyone left that training with greater unity as well as a more focused vision on planning and organizing for future growth.

For those who must continue to join the group remotely, the Lord continues to work through smart phones and computers with Bible studies, leadership training and English classes. God is good.

Partners in more out-of-the-way farming communities are reporting that farming development plans are ongoing. A new co-op has been able to continue purchasing and planting pepper plants and has been effectively building local sales. Also, one of the leaders started a new Bible study at his church, and community members are benefiting from the teaching. The work of heaven quietly goes on, despite the madness that has gripped the world.

The team reported, “Relying on the Lord, we will all come out of this pandemic crisis stronger than before.”