Many of our national churches and their congregations have been working proactively to make sure that their contact lists are up to date so that we stay in touch regularly with members and their families during the coronavirus crisis. Enhanced online services are being provided where possible, and, in some areas, sermons, Bible Studies and Communion services will be streamed. A major concern is, of course, for the sick, the elderly and the isolated. In addition, the financial sustainability of some of our churches may be a challenge if the crisis is ongoing. A few of our members have come down with the virus, but at the time of writing their symptoms appear to be mild. Much of Europe is in a state of lockdown or partial lockdown, and religious gatherings have been banned or restricted for the time being.
For regular analysis of the developing situation, go to visit the European Centre for Prevention and Disease Control
All the best,
James Henderson, Superintendent of Europe
Several of you have asked me about the situation in Italy, which now is considered the most severely impacted country in Europe (almost 30,000 infected, almost 2,000 deaths, but also more than 2,000 healed).
One Italian member, a medical doctor from the Milan congregation – Vincenzo Scannapieco, has contracted the virus at work (like many other doctors). He says he is doing fine now, and had mild symptoms, including a low fever. He is more worried about his family, especially his grandparents who are more at risk, He appreciates all the prayers sent on his behalf.
All other GCI church members in Italy are ok. A couple of them are in isolation because they had indirect contact with infected people. We had to stop meeting for worship services two weeks ago, but the leadership team keeps in touch with all members and makes sermons available online. Fellowship is currently limited to WhatsApp, mail, phone, and other technology.
Personally, we live in one of the most impacted areas of Italy (Bergamo) but are ok (closed at home and working online). The main problem is the lack of intensive care units. Authorities are working hard to increase them as quickly as possible. Many are working long hours to help keep the sanitary system available for everybody. In Milan, a hospital is being set up with the same record time as we have seen in China.
Regarding Switzerland, members of the Swiss church are all ok. We still had services this past weekend, but since the virus is expanding also in Switzerland, we might also have to be more drastic there.
We do remember all of you in our prayers and hope that we can all come out of this in a reasonable amount of time.
With brotherly regards,
At the moment we have 5,813 confirmed cases reported in Germany and 13 deaths. The virus continues to spread and the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. It is important that we all do our part to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. “Social distancing” and personal hygiene (particularly proper hand washing) are key mitigating measures. Let’s not forget the elderly, a particularly susceptible group, who may need special support at this time, as many are unable to go to the store to get essentials. This is an opportunity when the light of Christ and the gospel can shine brightly through us.
We are praying for you all and for the leaders of our nations as they make decisions.
Dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ,
To the small but faithful group of direct volunteers the Lord is using to carry on GCI ministry in Spain, my wife and I hope and pray you and your families are in good health, good spirits and that none have been affected by the coronavirus around your area. We are full of gratefulness, praise and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father for the gift of undeserved justification and of eternal life He gave to ALL humans in Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Regarding the coronavirus, today the number of infected detected cases spread throughout Spain are nearly 7,753, with almost 200 casualties, all of them people who were suffering other sicknesses. Almost 10% of the infected people have been released from hospital today, hopeful news and a positive trend. Thanks to God, we do not have any infected church members. Following the instructions given by the government and the health authorities, in accordance with the Federation of Spanish Evangelical Churches’ guidelines, we will not have services this and next Sunday. We will resume services on March 29 if there are no new directives given. Currently, we in Spain, are under a full country lockdown to try to reduce the spread of the virus, so that the National Health System is not saturated.
We pray for all people affected around the world, not only those affected by the coronavirus directly but for all those who are going to lose their jobs as a consequence. These health crises and others clearly show us how weak we humans are and how desperately we depend on our Creator and Lord Jesus Christ, even when the majority of people are living oblivious of that reality. Let us ask that many people come closer to God, recognizing how much they depend on their Creator.
Regarding our own health, thanks to God, Brigida is practically recovered from her surgical intervention, and day by day she is gaining her regular hemoglobin rates. The pathological analysis of her cyst and myoma tissue removed show there are not any malignant traces. Glory to God!
Thanks to God’s care and wonderful intervention, I continue very well with the enzalutamide regular maintenance treatment, to keep my PSA levels as low as possible. In addition, the hormone injection, which I’m receiving every six months, to keep my testosterone levels as low as possible. With God’s favor and this treatment, the oncologist is trying to keep the cancer inactive or dormant. Once again, thank you very much for your prayers for Brigida and for me. We keep on praying for each of you and all our spiritual family around the world.
Blessings and Love from Brigida and me to each of you and to your families.
In the Netherlands we decided to cancel all bible studies and services, including Antwerp, Belgium until April 7. We provide services through WhatsApp, with a sermon, songs and opening and closing prayer. We contacted our elderly members living at home, and as far as I know, nobody is affected by the virus.
We have an interchurch Prayer day on March 18 for the whole nation and are striving to help where we can, letting our lights shine.
In the Netherlands, according to reports, there have officially been 1,135 people who caught the virus, with 20 deaths. Most, if not all, older people with preexisting health problems. Around 6,000 people with mild cases have been reported. So, the real number might be higher. In Belgium, some 12 babies or very young kids have been affected.
Most businesses and non-essential places of work have been closed. Our province Brabant is hit the most severely with a shortage of Intensive Care beds, which they are trying to solve.
My sister-in-law (of my elder brother) has cancer and was sent home to make place for Coronavirus patients. Tough reality hits home! We hope she will make it through this terrible time.
We are praying for God’s protection and encouraging members to follow the measures recommended by the government, and common sense. We are encouraged by 1 Timothy 2:1-8 to pray for all men, and lift up hands to God, to pray. So our motto is not to shake hands, but to lift up our hands and hearts to our Creator who cares for us all.
May God bless you all richly and may people see the need for God in their lives!
Frans & Lamberta Danenburg
Denmark and Norway
Denmark and Norway are addressing the Coronavirus situation by closing schools, universities, kindergartens, restaurants, pubs, barbershops, etc., to reduce contact points among the population. Norway and Denmark have closed their borders. Norway has enforced the most severe measures used in peacetime since the second world war to combat the spreading of the virus in the population. This deeply impacts the economy. Sweden (similar to England) is using a different strategy. Sweden is not closing down but allowing its population to become infected so it develops resistance to the virus hoping the hospitals are able to handle the maximum number of sick patients, while trying to protect the elderly and those who have additional illnesses.
I only have up to date figures for Norway. Two weeks ago, there were only four people in Norway who were affected by the virus. Today the number is 1,100 and four have died. Scandinavia was affected later by the virus than other central European countries.
I ask for God’s protection on all of you, and as Santiago wrote, let our light shine in this time of difficulty. An hour ago, my next door neighbor rang my doorbell and asked if I needed help in buying food. She thought I was shut in because of the virus. This is what I should be doing.
May God bless you and your families.
Carl Fredrik Aas
While many Australians are still in recovery in the aftermath of the bushfires and flooding, we are now faced with coming to terms with Coronavirus (COVID-19). Compared with other countries, we have a relatively low number of reported cases at this stage (452), however, the stats show that in Australia it takes just four days for the number of cases to double. Hence, we are in the vital stage of monitoring and responding in order to slow the spread of the virus, and to flatten the curve of infection rates. The situation is constantly evolving and currently there is a prohibition of inside gatherings of more than 100, with further advice today to not travel overseas, to avoid non-essential large groups and a 14-day self-isolation for anyone coming into Australia.
Our various church areas have been taking measures to curb the spread of the virus and beginning this weekend all church services will be cancelled for a minimum of two weeks which will then be reviewed and assessed. This gives us breathing space to plan and consider next steps, and to prepare ways for sharing sermons and messages electronically to help ensure we all stay well connected and nurtured even in isolation, that we are all one in Christ even if physically separated. So far, we are very grateful to report that no members have been affected and likewise for the New Zealand and Pacific region. We hope and pray this will continue and that we can do our part to help ensure the elderly, children and vulnerable people will be protected from any rapid spread of the virus.
Daphne Sidney, Superintendent of Australasia
As of the afternoon of March 18, there have been over 200 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 17 deaths and 7 recoveries in the Philippines. This week the President declared an Enhanced Community Quarantine over the whole region of Luzon including the capital Metro Manila. This functions like a lockdown, during which modes of travel in and out will be restricted, public transport is suspended, and people are mandated to stay at home except for essential food, medical, and humanitarian activities. Work and school are suspended, though utilities, banks, and hospitals remain open. The Malaysian Prime Minister has likewise declared a partial lockdown until the end of March, with similar suspensions of school, work, travel and social and religious gatherings. India is also trying to contain the spread of the virus through a similar partial lockdown, with closure of schools, banning of big gatherings, and travel on hold.
Church-related trips, camps, and gatherings have been postponed. Last weekend, we began an online service via the GCI Philippines Facebook Page with songs, Speaking of Life videos, and main messages, to continue providing this Hope avenue to our brethren. We are also exploring regular family prayer times. This will continue until the end of enhanced quarantine period in Manila on Easter Sunday, April 12.
None of our members in Asia have yet been affected by the virus. We thank God for His protection. However, a number of our bivocational pastoral team leaders and members have already lost their jobs or incurred more losses as their companies had been badly hit. More may be laid off in the coming days. Some front liners have expressed concerns of possible infections as they do their jobs with limited equipment and supplies. We will continue to check on the welfare of our members through the pastors and district directors. We maintain regular communications online, and as well as among the Philippine National Ministry Team, and regional WhatsApp and Zoom meetings with the Community of Practice. Looking forward to further communication and instructions from Home Office. Prayers for everyone and wishing your families well during these difficult times.
Eugene Guzon, Superintendent of Asia
North America and the Caribbean
Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we are hunkering down in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. We are preparing for the worst, but praying and hoping for a quick recovery from this pandemic. Many states are closing schools, businesses, restaurants, theaters, gyms, bars, etc., hoping to slow down the community spread of this virus. All these closures are having a severe impact on thousands of workers, especially those who make minimum wage and/or live paycheck to paycheck.
We have cancelled all Worship Services and church gatherings until April 1 out of precaution and in support of President Trump’s request to close things down for the next 15-days. We are encouraging our Pastors to give sermons via Zoom or Facebook Live so their members continue to stay connected. We are also encouraging our pastors and members to be looking for ways to “be the Church” by loving and serving our neighborhood during this time of increase isolation, such as taking them a meal, or getting them groceries if they are unable to get out. This is especially true for those who may be elderly or suffering from a compromised immune system.
We know that God is faithful and bigger than a virus or any other challenge we may face. In Him, we have hope and peace. It is by and through His love we will make it through this stronger and more deeply connected with one another.
Michael Rasmussen, Superintendent of North America & Caribbean
Over the last week, I have been in constant communication with the three regional directors of Latin America regarding the Covid-19 pandemic in their churches and communities. I am pleased to report that as far as we know, none of our members have been infected with the virus. In our United States Spanish-speaking congregations, we have followed the lead of the home office and cancelled services last weekend and it is headed that way for this coming weekend as well. Some of our churches are set up virtually through Facebook Live and are reaching our members through those means. In my own congregation, we have cancelled all our small groups for the foreseeable future, and we are in communication with our members through social media, text, and voice messaging.
In South and Central America, the conditions are not severe, but the amount of cases continue to increase. The governments are starting to take measures like those in the United States. Our congregations are complying with the suggestions of their local governments. Most of them cancelled services this past Sunday and will continue to heed the urges of the authorities. Per Luis Soto, Mexico has not been hit hard with the pandemic yet, but cases are on the rise and there is a lack of direction from Federal and local authorities.
Overall, our congregations are in good spirits and maintaining a positive attitude based on faith and hope.
Heber Ticas, Superintendent of Latin America
Like the rest of this wide globe, most African nations have put a ban on nonessential international travel in the next two to twelve weeks when situations will be reviewed on individual national basis. A number of major airlines are no longer coming to Africa. African airlines have also made adjustments to their international flight schedules. The USA Embassy in Burundi is not issuing visas to the USA. If not already effected, USA Embassies in other African countries may follow this route. It is just a matter of time. In other words, travel out of and into Africa has become difficult.
Kalengule Kaoma, Superintendent of Africa