The famous missionary-explorer David Livingstone once wrote in his journal, “Anywhere, provided it be forward.” Yet, for Livingstone, forward wasn’t always possible. He faced delays, disease, obstacles, and downright impossibilities. But with perseverance, he pressed on through the heart of Africa preaching the gospel and exploring routes for future missionaries. His example is both inspiring and instructive.
I’ve never faced the kind of challenges Livingstone faced, but I know something of the frustration of yearning to move forward in ministry while physical and spiritual opposition outside of my control pushes back. Indeed, many of us in ministry have experienced this frustration over the past months through the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the truths that has encouraged my heart over these past months is the sovereignty of God. He is in control. He knows what is going on. And He will make it all work together for His divine purposes. This confidence has encouraged me to watch for evidences of His providence—blessings He is working behind the scenes.
I think we’ll be many months in discovering the hidden blessing of God through the COVID-19 pandemic, and there will be some that we never see until eternity. But over the past weeks, I’ve been encouraged to see a few of the mighty works of God through our church family and in the ministries God has given to us.
Lancaster Baptist Church
That God has held congregations together through this past year is a powerful testimony to Christ’s promise in Matthew 16:18: “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Over the worst months of COVID, it was amazing to me to watch as God gave our church members unique opportunities to witness for Christ. Weekly, I continued to hear of people being saved through the one-on-one gospel witness of our church family. And even when outreach opportunities were limited, God continued to bring guests to our church services—sometimes through the invitation of members and sometimes through the very nature of the uncertainty in our world weighing on the hearts and minds of people in our community.
Easter 2021 services were a huge step forward toward a more normal mode of ministry and outreach for our church family. On this one day, our church family invited and brought over 140 guests, and nearly 50 people responded to the preached gospel invitation and received Christ as their Savior. Several people were baptized, and many families returned for the first time since the pandemic started.
West Coast Baptist College
COVID-19 dramatically changed everyone’s lives, but the lives of students were especially impacted by this pandemic. In March 2020, after much prayer and counsel with health and government officials, West Coast Baptist College chose to send students home out of concern for the rapidly-spreading virus. This decision required significant changes for faculty and students alike. Within a matter of days, every class had been moved to an online format, allowing students to complete their enrolled classes.
As the summer arrived, it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t going anywhere. Our administration worked around the clock throughout the summer to structure and restructure the logistical aspects of the college’s academics and physical spaces to reopen for in-person classes in the fall semester. During this season, God miraculously provided funds that were used for repairs and renovations in every dorm to ensure a safe, sanitary environment for every student.
When the fall semester finally arrived, the student body—including an incredible freshman class—came on campus with a powerful excitement and enthusiasm. This has been a special year at WCBC. Not only has it included many unusual memories, but I have been grateful for the spirit of faith and flexibility among our students. I believe the Lord has been using the experiences of this year to give future pastors, missionaries, and Christian servants the skills to overcome challenges while keeping their hand to the plow in service to God.
Amazingly, out of the three hundred colleges in Los Angeles county, West Coast Baptist College was one of a small handful that were open for in-person learning during this pandemic. We praise God for His protection of our campus and for allowing us to remain open through the entire school year.
Lancaster Baptist School
If you have ever wondered what faithfulness and dedication look like, come visit the dedicated servants of the Lord here at Lancaster Baptist School.
Like the college, our Christian school pivoted to online learning in March of 2020. The restrictions placed upon schools in Los Angeles County, however, exceeded those placed upon institutions of higher learning. In fact, for the entire first semester, our county refused to allow any schools to operate in-person classrooms.
The administration and faculty at LBS worked tirelessly to overcome these challenges by pivoting to a day camp structure. The new structure limited students to small cohorts (to help with contact tracing should the need arise) and provided creative avenues to harness technological tools that enabled us to continue to provide sound academic learning and biblical instruction.
These changes, however, involved herculean levels of flexibility and time investments from our teachers and staff. Their willingness to pour their hearts into students during this year has been a true blessing to me. I’m sure the full fruit of their sacrifices this year won’t be seen until eternity.
As we rounded the halfway point in the spring semester, government restrictions loosened, and schools in our area have been returning to various types of in-person learning. I’ve been thankful for the LBS students to get to enjoy something of a return to a more normal school environment as we come to the final weeks of the school year.
Give God the Glory
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Lord has given me the privilege of speaking and praying with pastors and missionaries around the world who have all faced similar-but-different challenges related to this unusual season.
Although the specifics vary, a constant reality in all of our experiences has been the faithfulness of God.
COVID isn’t over. But as we round a corner of at least some return to normalcy, let’s be sure to give God the glory for the fruit He continues to give and the victories we have seen.