When COVID Changes Your Overseas Plans

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You planned for so many eventualities in going overseas. What if we can’t raise all our support? What if my dad goes into the hospital? What if we can’t get visas? But it was pretty hard to see COVID coming.

Now maybe you’re wondering if you’ll be able to go at all.

And the gravity of this feels real. You’ve made tremendous personal sacrifices already, upending your life like a junk drawer.

What do all these sacrifices mean if they don’t result in you going? Isn’t the need still as great, or even greater?

A few thoughts to keep top of mind–things you probably already know somewhere in your soul, but might want to wrap around yourself.

  1. God’s timing and God’s place are perfect.

The world will inevitably different following COVID.

It’s true: Perhaps the people group on your heart will no longer be an option. Or perhaps you’ll show up 6 months later than you planned, if at all.

But know this: You will be right on time to the location of God’s design.

You will reach the people God ordained before the beginning of time (see Romans 8:30).

I’ve written before about sliding down a waterslide with my son one summer. The engineers had designed that all the water flowed into the pool below. A hole in the slide would have hamstrung that–but that didn’t happen. Save a few well-designed sloshes, all the water arrived where intended.

And our Engineer orchestrates nothing less.

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Proverbs 21:1

Whenever and whenever you arrive (or stay), could needs perhaps be more felt? Could nations be more open to the Gospel? Could the proper person hear who wouldn’t have otherwise?

2. God will give you enough.

Rumblings of post-COVID recession, even depression can discourage even the most enthusiastic support-raiser.

Or maybe you’ve sold your house and wonder how long your new salary–intended for the developing world–can hold out as you hunker down in an apartment.

Maybe you’re wondering if you’ll ever obtain a visa, or how long your support can make it till then.

Or will your BAM idea still be relevant in a suppressed economy?

We often pep-talk ourselves up for the field with Philippians 4:13. But let’s make sure it’s hitched to 4:12:

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record: God will grant you what you need to get you to his where, his when. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Skip down to verse 19 in Philippians 4:

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

3. Develop an appropriate theology of risk.

As you go on the field–and definitely before encountering risks–it’s wise to pray, seek cousel, and decide beforehand on guidelines to assist what situations would cause you to leave the field, enter a higher-risk situation, or shelter in place. 

Right now for many missionaries, these decisions have involved if or when to leave the country before airport closings. Their personal risk (and their families’) in proportion to medical availability. Their personal convictions regarding ministry opportunities and suffering alongside those to whom they minister, versus stewarding the gift of their lives.

Noble, Christ-following, courageous, Spirit-filled believers will land on every side of every issue.

(This is one significant advantage of going with an agency, which offers tremendous help and guidelines in emergencies so you’re not alone and attempting life-altering decisions in an adrenaline- , fear-infused crisis. Read more here.

Many missions organizations strategically provide significant resources, guidance, and support right now amidst COVID.)

Columnist David French recently wrote on the comparison between cowardice, recklessness, and courage–examining these in light of Jesus’ second temptation (to throw himself down, assuming angels would catch him). Check out his COVID-relevant thoughts here.

More resources:


4. Our COVID-closed doors are God’s open ones.

As we unpack in this post, recall that Paul received a “no” from the Holy Spirit to 2 places where he’d eventually receive a “yes”. (One, incidentally, was Asia.)

This is not to say God’s “no” for you now is really a “not yet”. But Paul’s “no” directed him toward Macedonia. We don’t know if he ever even saw or converted the Macedonian man in his God-given vision;  those he converted seemed to be a motley crew.

Yet they resulted in the church at Philippi.

Even then, remember that what we see as valuable, indispensable, and often visible-results-driven ministry may be quite different than God’s vision.

The goals that have inspired us–and not wrongly so–may in fact not be God’s end for us.

Admittedly, his purposes–like this very moment–may often involve you staying right where you’re at.


Like the Cross, your journey may initially look like defeat. 

Thomas Merton writes in his “Letter to a Young Activist”,

Do not depend on hope of results. When…doing…essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no results at all, if not perhaps results opposite …

The big results are not in your hands or mine.…

All the good that you will do will not come from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love.

What God is doing in you–your journey–is also part of your destination.

Like this post? You might also like

COVID-19, Living Overseas, & Answering Fear

Coronavirus: Ideas to Pray for the World (Printable Infographic)


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