As vaccination numbers rise, doors in London are starting to open.
The joy of being physically present with others has perfectly complemented the simple joys of blue skies and summer sunshine.
Now we can meet indoors in groups of six and outdoors in groups of 30. We can gather for worship with other believers—though we still can’t sing together.
What would have once felt unimaginably restrictive now feels like a gift we hope never again to take for granted!
Looking back over the last year, I can see now how this pandemic has shifted my perspective, not only personally, but also as a church planter in an unreached immigrant community.
A Changed Perspective on Suffering
I need these simple gifts pressed down into my heart daily.
Though my family and I seem to have come out of this phase of the pandemic without long-term effects from Covid itself, we have experienced many disappointments and losses.
Lockdown kicked in after only the first two services of our fledgling church plant.
Our kids struggled to cope with the months of isolation, and family members in America got sobering diagnoses and we couldn’t visit!
Even now restarting our in-person ministries and reconnecting with our friends in the community has been tiring. Especially because we’re still under the strain of navigating a pandemic.
Most of my friends have been eager to meet up now that we’re allowed, but I’ve found it hard to get back to the type of spiritual conversations we’d had before. This painful return to something like normalcy is suffering too!
But in the face of real sorrows and struggles, God has graciously been teaching me a new perspective on my suffering.
He’s helped me see suffering as a part of following after Jesus as I experience a death. And he’s shown me that because I’m walking in the path and pattern of Jesus, I can also anticipate him bringing resurrection in and around me through that death!
Paul experienced this and explained it to the Corinthians: “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:11-12).
But because of my shift in perspective on suffering, I can step into the tiredness and awkwardness of restarting relationships knowing I’m following after Jesus.
And I can anticipate him working mightily as I die to myself in love for him and my neighbour.
A Changed Perspective on My Heart
The adjustment from no in-person ministry activities to almost everything restarting in the span of a few weeks has been exhilarating and exhausting!
This intensive restart has given me a fresh perspective on my own heart.
I’ve seen in quick succession many of the ways I turn to self-reliance and unbelief rather than trusting and resting in God.
In the immigrant community in which we work, it was hard to maintain virtual contact with our friends during the height of lockdowns. I struggled then to remember that my worth was not determined by my meager output as a missionary and instead was held secure in Jesus.
Now that I’m again teaching in-person English classes and meeting one-on-one with friends, the temptation looks different, but the root is the same. I’m busy and have been able to share the gospel with people, so I’m tempted to feel justified by my increased usefulness.
Praise the Lord that my worth and justification do not fluctuate based on my productivity as a missionary but are freely given and unwaveringly kept by Jesus!
With more to do, I’ve also found myself trying to shoulder the responsibility of heart change in the people with whom I’m meeting rather than waiting on the Spirit to do his work.
When I feel a pressing urgency to reconnect with my friends or discouragement when our conversations don’t go in the direction I’ve hoped, those are opportunities for me to turn in repentance to God for unbelief in the sufficiency of his great love and all-surpassing power to draw people in my community to Jesus.
A Changed Resurrection Perspective
Because of these shifts in my perspective, I’m on the lookout as restrictions ease for how God is bringing resurrection out of the struggles of the past year.
The core team for the church plant has been a little surprised and very encouraged that many people who wouldn’t call themselves Christians keep coming to the monthly services that we restarted in April 2021.
That’s more than came to the first two services we held in early 2020!
Are they genuinely seeking?
Bored after lockdown?
Simply loyal to the friends who invited them?
We’re not sure in every case, but they’re coming. They’re hearing the gospel in their heart language and beginning to become a part of our community.
The spirit is at work!
Written by a Serge Missionary, serving in London as a leader of a church-planting team in an unreached immigrant community. The author’s name has not been shared to protect privacy.