Openness in SE Asia – Thanks to COVID
In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, disciples of Jesus in Northeast Thailand have changed how they begin conversations with people when they go out to prayer walk and share the gospel. Media coverage and the extensive government lockdown have created fear and uncertainty. Going to nearby villages can draw criticism and opposition. Each village headman, assisted by volunteers, investigates any visitors from outside the village, especially those returning from other countries.
Social pressure is intense, so adjustments have been made in approaches to sharing the gospel. Some believers have switched to only sharing in villages where disciples live and are known. Since more family members are at home together, they can all hear the Good News at the same time. And when more family members hear together, they are more likely to feel free to come to faith in Jesus.
Another adjustment has been ensuring that disciples who do go to other villages know how to prevent COVID-19 transmission and how to help those who may have the disease. The disciples have learned that, by talking about the pandemic and meeting a felt need by giving out health kits, they can create opportunities to engage in spiritual conversations. (The kits contain a small bottle of isopropyl alcohol, a bar of soap and hand towel, a hand-sewn washable face mask, a pamphlet on COVID-19 prevention produced by the Thai Ministry of Health, and a Scripture verse or Bible portion.)
After passing out kits, talking about how to prevent contracting the virus, and sharing information such as when to take loved ones for medical care, disciples ask, “Are you or your family suffering in some way from the lockdown?” or “Is anyone feeling anxious or fearful?” After listening to the reply, they share, “I follow Jesus, who gives peace that transcends all understanding and guards my heart and mind.” (Phil 4:7) The disciple then shares a relevant personal testimony, shares the gospel, or prays a blessing that addresses the particular concerns. Overall, believers are finding more openness to the gospel than in normal times. Several have come to faith in just the past month!