As an organization that operates globally, Rosedale International (RI) often faces unique challenges that other faith-based organizations do not. Obtaining (and retaining) visas and determining secure approaches to communication for workers in closed countries are just two of the many complex issues we regularly face. This past year presented the same concerns. Those concerns, however, became secondary as the pandemic presented a new set of challenges. Many of our workers faced a choice: remain in the country and continue to minister to those who need Christ, or depart and wait for circumstances to improve.
In the Mediterranean region, RI’s workers who remained—many of whom live in cities or urban areas—experienced lockdowns which slowed outreach and inhibited connection with others. Even so, they have pressed on in faith.
Several workers* are currently enrolled in language schools or master’s degree programs. Others teach English online or at local academies. Some use their skills to preach, teach, lead worship in their local fellowships, and invest time and energy to disciple those whom God has placed in their lives. Still other workers run businesses, creating opportunities to build relationships with a broad range of people. One worker disciples young believers in their faith and trains them in the art of theater. This group performs Gospel-based dramas and creates videos which reach a large audience—some receiving thousands of views on YouTube and Instagram. Another worker serves as a trauma counselor for at-risk teenage girls.
Even through a year of obstacles, these workers have persevered in their mission to make Christ known.
Even through a year full of obstacles, these workers have persevered in their mission to make Christ known. Kevin, RI’s Mediterranean Regional Director, reflected, “I have been so impressed with the creativity and tenacity of our workers to continue to connect with friends and contacts by whatever means possible to share the good news of Jesus.”
RI’s workers in Asia were also impacted by the pandemic. Early in 2020, many Asian countries closed their borders and imposed strong travel restrictions. These restrictions largely spared the region from COVID-19, and provided new opportunities for outreach.
The team in South Asia faced a strict lockdown, causing the hostel ministry to be temporarily suspended. This restriction accelerated discipleship among the students who chose to remain at the hostel during the early stages of lockdown. These boys—all from Hindu families—came to faith as they studied the Bible with team member Linton.* They returned to their families to share what they learned, and one boy in particular has been instrumental in opening ministry opportunities. The team visits his area regularly, and recently hosted seminars where more people expressed an interest in Jesus.
In Southeast Asia, a state of emergency currently limits large gatherings, but the team has continued their ministry with small village groups.
In Bangkok, Thailand, COVID-19 led to reduced tutoring opportunities for Tom, RI’s Asia Regional Director, and his wife Candice, Member Care Provider. It also meant the end of language study for team members Jacob and Dani. As a result, Jacob began teaching at a Thai school, connecting him with a group of students and their families. Tom also pursued a teaching job, and was hired by Bangkok Christian International School. He now instructs a diverse group of students from different faith backgrounds, and feels he’s been placed there at a pivotal time in their lives. Candice continued her tutoring and has developed significant relationships with her students, even counseling and praying with several.
In Pattaya, Thailand, the Grace 58:12 team continues their work to open a children’s home. Though the pandemic slowed the legal process, they were able to receive a foundation license and rent a community center. They hope to accept children into the home this month.
“We desire to be diligent and dependent on the Holy Spirit.”
In both regions, global restrictions due to COVID-19 have further complicated the already often-complicated visa application and renewal process. The task of keeping workers in their locations and focused on their ministries has proven increasingly tenuous and difficult. The Thai government currently grants amnesty to those living in the country with expired visas, but the policy has an uncertain future. Tom shared that renewing visas for Jacob, Dani, and Angie and Firman, members of the Grace 58:12 team, has been challenging.
As the pandemic continues to worsen in North America, the virus is likewise spreading rapidly in many places around the globe, creating new concerns for RI and our workers. Please remember our workers as they navigate outreach and build relationships through the additional challenges created by COVID-19. Pray that they would be a light to their neighbors and make Christ known—and pray for RI as we discern the path forward. As Kevin expressed, “We desire to be diligent and dependent on the Holy Spirit and need much wisdom, guidance, direction, and prayer as we navigate the many challenges ahead.”
*Names and details changed or removed for security.