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On This Journey Together, We Have to Trust God!

A Letter from Paula Cooper, serving as regional liaison for East Central Africa

July 2020 

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Dear Friends,

I am currently sheltering-in-place in my home in Lusaka, Zambia. As you know, I serve our Presbyterian partners in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, and Zambia. God called me to participate in the Missio Dei, practice missiology, and walk alongside our partners. The question for all of us—at least for me—is where is our faith anchored during these unprecedented times? I cannot preach faith and trust in God and not demonstrate it and walk it! I choose to walk alongside our Presbyterian partners as best I can.

I thank God that during these devastating days, we, who believe in Christ, are joined to Christ as we walk through this pandemic together. Our partners are suffering the effects of this pandemic. We’re all in this together, even though we’re an ocean and miles apart. Below are reported statistics of the countries that I serve from the website, Coronavirus Life Tracker:

Kenya: 11,252 confirmed cases, 3,068 recovered cases, and 209 deaths.
Malawi: 2,614 confirmed cases, 1,005 recovered cases, and 43 deaths.
Rwanda: 1,435 confirmed cases, 752
recovered cases, and four deaths.
Zambia: 1,895 confirmed cases, 1,412 recovered cases, and 42 deaths.

In late March, schools, universities/colleges, and churches were closed by the countries’ governments. They closed borders, airports, what passes for public transportation, and many non-essential businesses: restaurants, bars, hair salons, and barbershops. Large gatherings for church activities and funerals were initially restricted to 10 persons. It has now been increased to fifty persons. People are required to wear masks. Many are not allowed to visit their family members in the locations designated for quarantines, hospitals, or prisons.

Since the onset of the pandemic, my work with our partners has continued. PC(USA) notified our partners of emergency funds available to combat the pandemic. Many of our international church partners’ health departments, hospitals, or clinics received emergency grants from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and World Mission. These grants assisted our partners in sensitizing and educating the most vulnerable in their churches’ communities. The grants supported these wide-ranging efforts: translating flyers or pamphlets into various languages, teaching individuals to sew masks, distributing masks to students and prisoners, educating people on wearing masks, distributing hand soaps and sanitizers, providing emergency food aid such as cornmeal, beans, kapenta fish, and rice.

Many of those living on the margins depend on their informal markets to provide food and shelter for their families. Closing essential markets has thwarted those who live from hand to mouth and rely on the merchandise that they sell to survive. I keep in touch with our partners via emails, Facebook, WhatsApp, and local telephone calls to learn about their activities during the pandemic. Some of their stories have been prepared and published by the Presbyterian News Service and on the WM Facebook page. They call to make sure that I’m safe and doing well!

How am I surviving? I’m glad you asked.

Proverbs 3:5-7 tells us, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil (ESV).

These verses have been the rock that I’ve stood on for years. I strive to trust Him in all aspects of my life. He is my Sovereign LORD in whom I can trust. I cannot begin to tell you how often my own insights or poor decisions have led me down some tough paths or to walls that I couldn’t tear down or climb over. I’m not in the habit of feeding my fears; I focus on feeding my faith. I acknowledge God, even in the midst of this pandemic.

I’m reaching out by sending emails to pastors, churches, and presbyteries seeking invitations to participate in their virtual church activities, worship services, minutes for mission, adult or youth Sunday schools, Presbyterian Women, and presbytery meetings. I’m reaching out on various social media platforms, and calling individuals, pastors, churches and presbyteries who pray for me and support my position’s sending and support. I’ve attended and participated in virtual worship services with several congregations. I’ve recorded Scripture readings and minutes for missions to be included in pre-recorded virtual worship services. I’ve conducted virtual PowerPoint presentations during adult Sunday schools or worship services. I’m waiting for your invitation to join or participate in your congregation’s or presbytery’s virtual platforms.

My prayers are with you all in the States! I’m trusting God that you are following the precautionary measures. Please be wise! Be safe! “Prevention is the best cure!” Please, keep me, the other mission co-workers, and World Mission in your prayers. I know it’s a difficult time right now. If you are able, please, consider giving to the regional liaison for East Central Africa position.

May our Risen LORD and Savior, Jesus, the Christ, cover us, be with us, be in us, and through us during these days of improbability and hope.

“We walk by faith, not by sight!” Amen!

Lovingly and caringly in Christ, Paula

Paula


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