Some congregations in the Christian Reformed Church are finding creative ways to maintain contact with World Renew missionaries in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and its resultant restrictions on travel.
At Midland Park Christian Reformed Church in New Jersey, the congregation’s Faith Promise Committee connected with World Renew missionary Leanne Geisterfer through video in place of an in-person presentation. Geisterfer was to have visited Midland Park this past spring as part of World Renew’s Connection Tours, where its workers share their stories of ministry.
In place of the in-person presentation, Geisterfer sent a video to the Midland Park congregation of her work in Latin America, which will be presented at an upcoming worship service.
“I’m excited for when we can get that in front of the congregation,” said Mark Wisse, who co-chairs the committee, which typically consists of 9-12 members.
After conducting services exclusively online for several months, Midland Park resumed having live, in-person services with social distancing in July while continuing to stream its services as well. Wisse said he hopes the church can incorporate a video from a missionary as part of its “mission moment” at its Sunday services at least once a month.
Geisterfer recently retired from World Renew after 38 years of service. The video offered her an opportunity to introduce the Midland Park congregation to Corstiaan Van Aalsburg, who will be replacing her as a team leader for World Renew in Latin America.
Midland Park has had a long history of supporting missionaries for World Renew and other Christian organizations during its more than 125 years as a congregation.
“Our church has been very eager to support missionaries, even when times are bad,” said Carol Covick, co-chair of the committee.
Typically, each committee member is assigned one or two mission workers that they maintain communication with on a regular basis. Communication has most often been relayed through email, and Covick provides missionary updates in the church bulletin weekly.
In addition, the congregation hosts a mission emphasis event every November where missionaries provide updates on their work. With the pandemic putting a halt on travel back to the United States and Canada, having a video of a missionary’s work can be an effective tool in sharing with a congregation that provides financial support.
“It opens a window where we can see them and see their work,” Covick said.
A number of other World Renew missionaries are also using this tool to share about their work with congregations in North America.
Faye Yu, a program consultant for World Renew in Malawi, was actually in the middle of a Connection Tour when the pandemic hit in March, forcing her to cancel in-person presentations. So she sent a video to congregations that support her work.
“(It was) a presentation I made to a church on Victoria Island (British Columbia) to a children's Sunday School. The kids raised money to purchase bamboo for one of my projects,” Yu said. “I wanted to share with them what life was like in Malawi. The kids really enjoyed it. They asked really good questions and were very engaged. One of the parents actually emailed me a few days later to share that her kids told her about the presentation and what they learned. Carrie asked me if I wouldn't mind recording it, so that is how the video was made.”
Covick said that Midland Park may choose to host its November mission emphasis event, which typically take place in the second and third weeks, through videos.