Around the world, everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this is “old news,” the day-to-day challenges remain fresh. But the hope found in Christ never changes. One Challenge partners are listening to the Holy Spirit and finding new ways to support their communities.
In a nation in Southeast Asia, disciple making movements are growing. Leaders of these movements, with whom One Challenge works, are seeing great tragedy due to COVID, but also innovation and responsiveness to the gospel.
Facing Loss and Tragedy
The reality in this nation is conditions are worsening, but the laborers for the Harvest are at work. “We are feeding over 3,500 families a month. Our leaders select the neediest, contribute, and deliver at low cost. We have lost about 546 people in our small group networks to COVID deaths,” T says, a One Challenge mission worker. “Our national co-workers are challenged by needs, reeling from grief, and scrambling to replace fallen leaders with others who can provide care for the needy. They serve valiantly. God has given us a glorious treasure in the gospel, but we are clay pots, fragile and limited.”
The One Challenge team in this nation works to support and care for these leaders – offering care and counsel over Zoom calls. In one of these calls, celebration was in order as these national leaders shared about new innovations helping believers find jobs.
“Many factories have closed, laying off tens of thousands, including our small group members. Many of these have adult children move back home with their young families, also laid off. People are desperate, food handouts are critical. But we want to start jobs that hold promise for the future,” T says. “Because many of our deaths have occurred where people work and sell in close quarters, we try to start jobs with low COVID-19 risk, where we build in precautions, and rely on few but trusted relations with good connections.”
Innovation in Times of Need
Beginning in late August, reports of significant increase in job starts in networks of small believer groups was enheartening, in spite of conditions where COVID illness and deaths are increasing. In these months, co-labors started 2,359 jobs.
Here are some ways co-workers have helped job starts:
- Our men connect “shortened economic systems,” connecting sellers to users or skills to those who need them. Through one catalyst alone, 413 jobs were provided on construction projects and 217 people found farm laborers jobs. This pattern has been echoed by other leaders. Also through these leaders, sellers of raw ocean salt were connected to buyers, and fishermen who couldn’t sell their fish when markets closed are now drying their fish and selling to believers in our networks.
- Our people assist with “neighbourhood loan funds.” Because personal funds are exhausted, farmers can’t buy seed or fertilizer, small stores can’t restock their shelves, and construction projects can’t buy their materials, everything stops. We help trusted local leaders join as micro loan group managers and entrust revolving loan funds to them. Recommendations by these loan groups indicate the trust needed to get these no-interest small business loans. A (prominent) bank asks one of our men for his recommendations on loans, which indicates good reputation and trust. We rented a large field so several people can grow crops and raise animals for their food needs.
- Our men facilitate “cooperative deals.” The prices of crops fluctuate wildly so the farmers don’t know if they will make a profit when they sell. One of our men has negotiated a memorandum of understanding with crop prices guaranteed for one day. Then, through our networks, they get the word out quickly so farmers can decide when to harvest.
- Our people coordinate “group symbiotic businesses.” Twenty-four groups of seven families each help each other with needs. Many have created online sales groups in which one woman cooks, one markets, one delivers. Now this set of linked groups have expanded their cooperative businesses and added other cooperative businesses, providing income for 288 families. In another group, six professionals created a system and market online, 87 make soybean milk, and 29 sell it in stores. These products are marketed via WhatsApp groups to families known to protect each other by adhering to health protocols. A new concrete block making business is employing 21. Blocks can be stored until prices are good. They found a store that buys.
- Our people train skills. One is training six seamstresses, and many men were trained in making backyard fish tanks out of bamboo framed tarps. Some obtain their families’ protein in this way, while others sell their fish. Seventy-two people were trained in welding skills, 10 of whom have created are making and selling plant racks. Many women were trained to make COVID masks and hand sanitizer, and make and sell them. Also, some were trained in handicrafts made from tree roots, which they sell.
These jobs may seem small on a Western scale, but they are bringing hope to needy families. There is a lot to celebrate and a lot to pray for.
Pray with One Challenge
- Pray for the leaders of these networks and small groups. Many are dealing with great loss in the midst of counselling others in their grief.
- Pray for more job opportunities and innovation. Pray families would be fed and that the virus would be controlled.
- Pray for the gospel to continue to spread in this nation. God is capturing the hearts of these people. Pray the movement would continue to grow.
Holistic Ministry One Challenge is an international agency committed to bringing God’s transforming love and hope to all people. We identify and work to meet the physical, emotional, and social needs of individuals and communities, providing opportunities for deeper level relationships and deeper levels of change. These ministries include education, medical services, agricultural development, community development, and small business mentoring … helping local people to build a healthy community.