Ebola, Covid, and Movements, What?

In 2014, an outbreak of Ebola emerged in West Africa, infecting 8,704 people and killing 3,589. A Disciple Making Movement* was already underway there when the deadly and highly contagious virus struck. To help ministries and movement leaders grappling with new ministry paradigms due to COVID-19, a movement leader from West Africa recently shared insights on multiplying the church during a pandemic.

First, the movement leaders adopted a strategic long term plan. They asked themselves, “How can God use us to deal with the damage today, but also to put in place the foundation of his kingdom for the future?” 

The majority of the movement’s effort was “repurposed” into serving the public alongside other community leaders. They worked with government officials, mosque leaders, health workers, and other church structures and charitable organizations in a concerted effort to combat the virus and its effects. (These efforts would later create unique Kingdom opportunities.) They worked to help the public accept reality, combat fear, and become educated about Ebola. Followers of Jesus brought food into villages, volunteered in medical clinics, drove ambulances, buried the dead, prayed on hospital grounds, produced encouraging radio programs, and served willingly in any way they could. In serving their communities, many risked their lives, and several died after contracting the virus.

People in the movement didn’t stop sharing the gospel. Yes, momentum was lost. The process of a Disciple Making Movement relies on sharing with others and meeting together to discuss Scripture. But they did press on. Whenever they could, they pointed others to God and trusting in Him. They prayed and fasted. They encouraged people and endeavored to bring hope. People saw the hand of Jesus through the serving believers. Communities that had not previously been receptive to the gospel opened up because of the service of believers in the midst of the crisis. “We followed a lot of people back to their villages, and some decided to follow Jesus.”

This leader stressed the importance of serving in our own areas of influence and exhorted the global church to move toward the current situation, not away from it. By working for the common good through the combination of their prayers and meeting felt needs in the community, they found they were able to shape the culture around them. After the Ebola crisis passed, the church was able to bounce back and found their work had produced “spiritual dividends.” That is good news indeed.  

*Part of the DNA of Disciple Making Movements (and the agencies that serve and facilitate them) is to share important lessons learned with other movement practitioners. We wish to thank our friends and 24:14 partners at New Generations for permitting us to share the information in this article with you.