Yesterday, I was part of an FIEC webinar looking at how Covid-19 and the lockdown has affected ministry in deprived communities. I will share the session here when it is available on the FIEC website. I was particularly grateful to John Stevens for asking us to share about our ministry and for keeping deprived communities on the agenda.
One of the questions we looked at was how the lockdown has specifically affected us in our communities. In no particular order, here are some of the things that have been difficult for us.
Without doubt, one of the biggest issues we have faced has been the mental health of many of our folks. A significant number of our people suffer from depression, PTSD, paranoid schizophrenia and other mental health issues. Lockdown, for many of them, has left them alone with their thoughts and unable to engage with the structure and contact that typically provided them with some relief.
Whilst there have been some new evangelistic opportunities for us during this time, there have definitely been more casualties than openings. A lot of our ministry to the local Muslim community necessarily requires either group meetings or else centre around family and homes. But without being able to engage face-to-face, the overwhelming majority of our opportunities have dried up on that front. Trying to replicate either our English Classes or Dialogue Evenings online hasn’t worked excellently and one-to-one contact online has been almost non-existent. Our regular football outreach obviously cannot happen and efforts to try and keep in touch by playing mobile app versions of football games have petered out. Most of our opportunities are not with new contacts but existing ones and so our inability to meet with them directly has made life difficult on this front.
Discipleship & Translation
Again, much of our discipleship was happening one-to-one. Maintaining the momentum we had before lockdown has been difficult. Many struggle with the online element of community groups and others haven’t found livestreams easy. But zoom one-to-one meetings have also not happened as well as we might hope.
Much of the issue here stems from our inability to translate so well online. We haven’t found a credible way to simultaneously translate our livestream. We do (usually) get a translation of the sermon after the even that our Farsi-speakers can download. Nonetheless, a large part of our Sunday offering is simply inaccessible to a number of our folks. Likewise, communication on screen is much harder generally, even among people who share your language. Trying to communicate in community groups whilst translating what is going on has proven particularly difficult. This has been extremely difficult.