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Surprises in the Midst of a Pandemic

November 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:6-8 NIV).

An ISMC staff couple recently told me how they invited an international student, who wanted to know more about Jesus, to join their church’s online Alpha course. Let’s call her Fiona. Suddenly, Fiona wanted to get baptized! In the middle of COVID-19, Fiona joined a brave group who were baptized in the icy Bow River near Calgary. The couple who had invited her were astonished at what happened although they had asked people to pray daily for Fiona during the Alpha course. They told me that when they later read John 3:7-8, they understood exactly what had happened—it was the Holy Spirit blowing like the wind.

For a year in which the world has been suffocated by a coronavirus that attacks the respiratory system, it is so heartwarming to know that God’s Spirit is still blowing over the world, breathing new life! That is what He’s done from when the earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. He hovered over the surface of the waters as God spoke light and created life. To create a perpetual pattern, in the darkest hours of world history, God shows up to further His mission of filling the earth with His glory.

During my just-ended four-month sabbatical, I read sociologist Rodney Stark’s seminal work, The Rise of Christianity. It was fascinating to learn that the history of Christians facing pandemics goes back to the first century. The early church faced two epidemics; the first in 165 A.D., killed a third of Roman citizens. It is surmised the first epidemic was smallpox and that the second, just 86 years later, might have been measles.

In the midst of such calamities, Christianity thrived because:

  1. Christians bolstered by their faith endured hardships better than others. More Christians than non-believers survived the epidemics and grew the faith.
  2. Christians laid themselves down, even to death, comforting the dying, bringing solace to the afflicted. This made Christianity more favorable in the eyes of non-believers.
  3. Large numbers of people, especially pagans, would have lost the bonds that once might have restrained them from becoming Christians.

We haven’t shut down, not even for one minute, at ISMC. Not only are we pursuing digital strategies, there have been other local initiatives such as providing accommodation to stranded international students and delivering care packages to many. Just like in the first century, people are much more open to the gospel now than they were in the times of relative stability just months ago! May the Spirit of God surprise us again and again with salvation stories and kingdom advancement amidst the pandemic. But then again, in the words of Jesus, “You should not be surprised.”

Dr. Yaw Perbi
ISMC President