Sometimes, God uses a sermon to get people’s attention. Sometimes, He uses a pandemic.
Western Europe, a region teeming with spiritual darkness, has proven to be a harvest field with little interest in the gospel. One national partner with East-West named Ivan* has been faithfully tilling the soil of this mission field for more than two decades. He has attempted multiple evangelistic strategies—prayer walks, street interviews, gospel postcards, classes—with little to no fruit from each effort. Some have come to faith, Ivan said, but “most have either thrown it out the window or put it on the shelf of their minds.”
But things changed when COVID-19 entered Europe.
Governments began to shut down businesses and services as the virus spread from country to country. Busy streets became quiet as people were ordered to stay at home. Thousands became sick, many losing their lives.
Fear, panic, and trepidation began to peer through the veil of contentment many Europeans had.
“But at the same time, there is a huge time of opportunity,” Ivan said. “We are seeing people open to help, and also very receptive to significant spiritual conversations with our neighbors.”
Soon after lockdowns began, Ivan and his wife started receiving messages from friends in their home country, across Europe, and even outside of Europe. These friends, many of whom were not believers, asked how Ivan and his wife were handling the pandemic.
“We are fine,” Ivan would reply. “I am glad you asked. Let me explain to you why.”
These messages opened the door to spiritual conversations with friends who were previously closed off to the gospel. Ivan and his wife prayed with their friends, talked to them about their fears, and explained the hope they have in Jesus. Several friends have professed faith in Christ. Others, though not ready to take a leap of faith, have been exploring the Bible in greater depth.
The lockdown has also freed up time for Ivan to have more intentional one-on-one conversations with the young church leaders he is discipling. By having the chance to ask more personal questions, he has discovered ways to better shepherd these church leaders based on their spiritual needs.
He has begun training one leader on basic Bible study methods and another leader on biblical principles for emotional health.
It took a pandemic to open up new evangelism and discipleship channels in the ministry, Ivan said. The fruit sprouting from this once dry mission field is evidence of God’s sovereignty in the midst of chaos and tragedy. Ivan has seen first-hand the urgency of continuing the mission, even in a global health crisis.
“We believe this is a time of awakening in Europe,” he said. “There is a receptivity that I have not seen in 22 years connected and serving in this precious land.”
*Identity changed for security purposes.