Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a time for everything. Almost five months ago, when Bolivia was going into lockdown, we were given 72 hours to decide on whether to stay or leave. It seemed right to stay. Now, it seems right to return to Canada for a time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Even though we have lived with extreme restrictions here in Bolivia, we have not regretted the decision to stay. It has indeed been a ‘kairos’ from God—an opportune time. I (Bill) have been able to stay in touch weekly with my national leadership team for Pastoring of Pastors. God has made this time beautiful by enabling my group to make pastoral calls to some 300 of our pastors. Through the calls we learned of the needs of pastors and were able to redirect project funds to provide food hampers for pastors who had been without income.
When one pastor and his wife contracted Covid-19, and when his wife passed away, we could see that the need for those needing help during the crisis would grow. In anticipation, we proposed another project to help with funeral and medical costs of pastors and their families with Covid-19. As news of pastor after pastor with Covid19 started coming in, we supported them through prayer, emotional, and practical help. Around 30 of our Baptist pastors have contracted Covid-19. Often the whole family contracts it at the same time. Now, as the list of our pastors who have passed away from Covid-19 grows, we can provide a bit of support. Direct support of Covid-19 sufferers is not the only thing we’ve seen grow. Our CBM team of field staff has had time to meet, via Zoom, but more regularly than when we were all busy going places.We’ve been much more involved with CBM office staff who have had time to intentionally connect with field staff. Supporting churches, looking for things to fill their Zoom services, have connected with us more than ever. God has made this time beautiful. Ministry has diversified.
With more Bolivian churches holding Zoom services, I (Bill) have been invited a number of times, to preach. I’ve even been invited to preach on radio (although only once). Janice has been sought out to do special music on the piano for church services. The Pastoring of Pastors ministry has expanded during the pandemic as well. Although we can’t meet in person, Dr. Kornfield has continued to offer training events via Zoom. Our Bolivian pastors, at least those with internet or data, continue to participate in these events—one of which was an event of four hours per day for three days. Ongoing training events are happening bi-weekly. The vision of the movement has grown, to be one that focuses not just on pastors but on intentional discipleship in general. God makes all things beautiful.
Staying, even though in our apartment most of the time, has been beautiful, but now it seems right to leave. Ministry has moved to being online which means it can be conducted from anywhere in the world, with participants coming from everywhere in the world. So, at least as long as the pandemic lasts, the location doesn’t matter that much, as long as one has connectivity.
The risk, however, is quite different from place to place. Here in Bolivia the number of Covid-19 cases just keeps growing. At first, we didn’t know of anyone with Covid-19. Now, two members of my small group have it. I could list about 30 pastors I know who have had or have it. One pastor in my leadership group, probably died of Covid-19. My Spanish teacher had to take a break to recover from Covid-19. Initially, Bolivia, with stricter restrictions, seemed safer than Canada. Not anymore, even with the lockdowns. We also have to consider our age and health challenges that make us vulnerable. So, when we recently got our permanent Bolivian visas, something we had been waiting around to get, giving us more flexibility regarding being out of the country, we decided that it was time to go back to Canada for a time. We’ll keep doing ministry from Canada, as we’ve learned to do from Bolivia, but with less risk. We’re trusting that God will keep making the times beautiful.
1) Health. Each day I hear of more people I know who have contracted Covid-19. We praise God for recoveries, but five of our pastors are now with their Lord. Pray for prudence, safety, medical help, recovery.
2) Denominational and Seminary leadership as they seek to carry on routines while promoting safety and caring for those affected by Covid-19.
3) Pastors. Pray for their finances, for family, for health, for perseverance in ministry as it might be without financial support, for their ministries and creativity, and for mental health.
4) Political stability. The quarantines have postponed elections and caused financial hardship, resulting in protests and blockades, sometimes violent. Elections are planned for October 18th. Pray for a peaceful process.
5) Janice and Bill. Health. Safe travels. Adjustment to working from home in Canada. Ongoing concerns in Bolivia. We plan to leave Bolivia on August 18th and arrive in Canada on the 19th.
Thank you so much for your continued support!
Bill & Janice
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