Responses have come in from around the world sharing stories of how Timothy Leadership Training’s Loving Your Neighbor in the COVID-19 Pandemic manual has helped people better understand and cope with the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.
The responses have shown how TLT facilitators have taken the manual and distributed it in creative and effective ways, combining medical information in the manual with the message of loving your neighbor, said Gillian Ferwerda, content coordinator for Raise Up Global Ministries, of which TLT is a part.
“A core theme in the manual is that God values and protects human life, and [the manual] then fleshes out how to love your neighbor and how you can be a Good Samaritan to others during the pandemic,” she said.
“The manual reminds us that God is our protector and our stability at times such as this with so much instability. It encourages us to have faith.”
Released in early April to its global network of TLT facilitators, the manual came with small grants to help facilitators distribute it in myriad ways to people in cities, communities, and remote areas in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere.
The manual combines general medical advice, such as to avoid gathering in groups and to wash your hands frequently, with biblical themes from the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 and from other Scripture passages.
Reading through the reports, sent in from TLT facilitators in countries worldwide, Ferwerda said it is clear the manual filled an important need, especially in places where information on COVID-19 was lacking or nonexistent.
“We’ve gotten a lot of very good feedback,” she said. “I love that we are able to work with churches to get credible information to places where accurate information can be hard to access -- in the more remote areas and languages.”
One of the most encouraging things, she said, was seeing how many people stepped up voluntarily to translate the manual into other languages.
“It shows a great eagerness to serve the church and the people in their heart language. I love our progressive partners’ efforts,” she said.
In April, TLT sent the manual to about 200 TLT coordinators and ministry partners in many different countries. Each one of these coordinators and partners sent it out to their own network.
“It’s been adapted for YouTube, radio, Zoom meetings, structured WhatsApp video curricula, with Bible verses added for evangelism to Muslims, and more,” said Ferwerda.
As part of the process, she explained, their partners were asked to come up with action plans on how the manual could and would be used.
“Action plans have been varied—from sharing information and creating handwashing stations to disinfecting streets, creating face masks, distributing food, etc. This is one of the beauties of the ability to contextualize so that local churches are meeting needs in ways that apply to the local people,” said Ferwerda.
For example, one of TLT's partners distributed this manual to believers in a Muslim-dominant country. The way Christians responded to COVID-19 and worked out their action plans brought positive communication between the Christians and their Muslim neighbors.
Meanwhile, two people in Sierra Leone gave their lives to Christ because of the outreach.
“It is little stories like this that bring joy to my heart. God works through the efforts of his church, with what they have. It is a joy to serve our hardworking partners. But it has been such a struggle in prayer for those who are suffering,” said Ferwerda.
In the words of facilitators, here is a look at some of the responses and reports of action plans TLT has received from the field.
- “After going through training, several leaders used WhatsApp to contact families to offer information about COVID-19.”
- “A special separate manual was developed for children, using the topics related to the spiritual and human needs in these times of pandemic.”
- “A printed COVID-19 manual was distributed house to house by neighbors, and a PDF manual was sent to leaders to print for teaching.”
- “One of the action plans was to organize a neighborhood-wide protocol of periodic cleaning and disinfection of their streets, while maintaining appropriate physical distance. This was the beginning of an awakening of great solidarity, mutual aid, helping the sick, and providing food aid to people most in need.”
- “There is a great response from the readers in many families. Many lost jobs, and many farmers and day laborers lost their work. But this manual is helping them to be strong in faith and is giving great awareness about COVID-19 that people didn't have before.”
- “We ran a short COVID-19 TLT manual orientation program for a half-day with about 25 participants. Among them are leaders and pastors of different churches, and some are from individual families. We taught them the basics of COVID-19 awareness and the best way to use the manual.”
- “We encouraged the church leaders to help their members use the manual in family groups. We also encouraged them to teach awareness about COVID-19 to their neighbors who are nonbelievers. This will show them the love of Christ and also help them see that we believers care for them and pray for them regularly.”
- “One pastor taught the COVID-19 TLT manual to his Facebook followers. Twenty-six people listened to it live, and many are following on YouTube. He did not do it using TLT facilitating style but studied the chapter and preached. We also sent the PDF of the manuals to the listeners.”
- “We distributed it to all trainers. A large number of pastors say they have been inspired by it to preach on the subject. We also made 10 audio messages from the COVID-19 manual, and they were broadcast on the radio.”
- “After studying the manual as families in our church, we collaborated with friends to distribute 50 bags of rice and oil to the poorest of the brothers, as well as to the neighbors of the church. What a testimony we got in return. Thanks for the manual on COVID-19.”
- “We are happy to inform you that the office has successfully completed the translation and publication of Loving Your Neighbor in the COVID-19 Pandemic into four languages -- namely, Bemba, Chewa/Nyanja, Lozi, and Tonga. We pray that the manuals will be of great and valuable use in our ministries at the local church level.”
- “God bless all the parties involved in the manual preparation, especially those who brought the initial idea and contributed the topics. How wonderful to obey God when he brings an idea to put into practice something in a way that can influence many people. Glory to God!”
- “When the church leaders saw me, they were very happy with the material we gave them. They said this is the first relevant material they have received on this issue. They thanked God for TLT’s ministry in Ethiopia. It was risky travel, but God protected us, and we returned back peacefully to our families.”
Abu Bakarr, a resident of Port Loko, received a WhatsApp interactive video of the COVID-19 manual. It was provided by Relay Trust, a partner of TLT working on providing theological education via mobile technology where the internet is limited. In his report about his action plan, Bakarr wrote that he was going to share the video with his elder sister, Ramatu, “to show that she is of value to me, and I love her so much.”
His sister, he wrote, is not staying with him as she is a married woman. “She is living in Freetown while I am in Port Loko,” he said.
But that didn’t matter because she also had a WhatsApp line.
“I am going to use that as an opportunity to share with her the Word of God, teach her to love her neighbors in this time of crisis, share with her the videos that I've got and also the ones I shall be receiving, and some of the audio teachings in the course,” he said.
Across the many miles between him and his sister, Bakarr said, he hoped to bridge the gap between them to share life-saving information as a measure of his love for her.
“I hope this will be an opportunity for her husband as well as her two daughters to learn about loving their neighbors in this coronavirus pandemic,” he said.