Serving on a mission trip can be one of the most rewarding experiences as a college student—but the pandemic has introduced an unprecedented series of challenges to missionaries as countries around the world closed their borders. Restrictions were placed on travel, and social distancing made reaching out to the community harder than it already was. People have been living in fear and isolating themselves, not just from the gospel but from the missionaries who wants to share it with them. As the world begins to recover, here’s a look at specific changes to mission work due to the pandemic and what can be done to get students back in the field.
One of the major challenges of the pandemic for missionaries around the world was the travel limitations. With so many countries closing their boarders, it became challenging to launch new missionaries into the field and return missionaries to the field who were home to itinerate or came back due to the virus. This resulted in fewer missionaries on the field in general during the pandemic and less work being done to help global communities.
Social distancing requirements were another challenging element of the pandemic for missionaries. Ministries were no longer able to meet in person and people were generally isolated from each other. Christians had to find other solutions, and it was difficult to minister to new people who were now isolating in their homes and wary of interacting with new people. In some cases, missionaries went home during the pandemic instead of staying in the field and social distanced that way. Missionary training institutions were also limited as they attempted to prepare people for the field. Not all communities have access to the same technology that helped much of the world go on, so even accessing resources proved to be a problem. While platforms like Zoom became the answer for some—and many churches were able to adapt to a streaming model—not every community could make this happen.
Fear was another major challenge of the pandemic, which made outreach and discipleship difficult. People were wary of interacting with others, which hindered missionaries from building new relationships and continuing to build on the relationships they had already started. Though it’s been difficult, God’s mission wasn’t stopped. The pandemic has caused many to think more seriously about life and perhaps caused them to doubt the places they looked to for hope. But it’s also helped prepare ground people’s hearts in what really matters, which ultimately can only make mission trips stronger as we find ways to make them work again.
So, what now?
As the world continues to return to some sense of normalcy, we each have a role to play. We encourage high school and college students to step up and be the next generation of missionaries and mobilizers to the unreached. There’s a harvest in the field; we need missionaries willing to go despite the challenges as well as mobilizers willing to send them. Some ways you can do this include prayer, financial support, and pursuing training yourself. Prayer for the missionaries on the field is crucial; communicate with missionaries at your church and other mission-sending agencies to see how you can pray in a way that’s meaningful to them. You can also connect with mission-sending agencies to provide financial support. But maybe you feel called to engage in cross-culture missions yourself. If this is you, I encourage you to seek out mentorship and get connected with a good missionary training program that’ll help you be prepared for this valuable work.
Although this year has brought on new challenges, it has also brought to light a lot of important things. While travel limitations and social distancing forced us to change how we approach missions, the work we do never stopped. As we move into a season of recovery, there are many opportunities to be a part of God’s mission in the world and aid communities in need.
Find colleges that will allow you to pursue meaningful missionary work with our featured Christian colleges lists.