Sadiri Joy Tira on the Global Church Family and the Coronavirus

Image: Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Sadiri “Joy” Tira (DMiss, Western Seminary; DMin, Reformed Theological Seminary) is Coordinator for the Lausanne Diasporas North American Strategy Group. He also serves as Missiology Specialist at the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University and Seminary (AUS), Calgary, AB, Canada; on the Advisory Council of Gospel-Life.net at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois, USA, and on the Board of Directors for SIM (Canada) and MoveIn International. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


The World Health Organization has named the Coronavirus, “Covid-19” (https://time.com/5782284/who-name-coronavirus-covid-19/). This virus started in Central China and has spread to over 51,800 lab-confirmed cases globally (https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200216-sitrep-27-covid-19.pdf).

This outbreak has impacted economic growth, tourism industries, geopolitical landscapes, and “people on the move.” Specifically, thousands of travelers—businesspeople, international students, migrant workers, family members seeking reunion, and even recreational migrants, have been locked down and isolated.

Airports, markets, malls, schools, recreational facilities, and even church buildings are closely monitored. Foreigners in China are now being evacuated and repatriated to their homelands — a reverse diaspora!

Last week, the Asia Theological Association announced that Rev. Dr. Wilson Teo, a respected Singaporean church leader, senior pastor of Grace Assembly in Singapore, has been infected with Covid-19. To date, 16 cases linked to the congregation have been identified (https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/coronavirus-grace-assembly-of-god-services-suspended-but-members-using-tech-to-pray-and).

How do we respond to the Covid-19? I am not a medical expert, economist, or political scientist, but just like Wilson Teo, I was a local church pastor, and a reflective practitioner of international migration.

Let me suggest a brief response to this global crises through the lenses of biblical-theology, missiology, and pastoral ministry.

First, we need our theology to be moored in solid biblical truths and principles, because this will help our ethical practices.

God is sovereign and all-knowing. His eyes are not closed to global current events and personal crisis. God is our refuge in times of troubles, and he is our defender, as well as our deliverer.

With this guarantee, we must not fear (Ps. 91). Even God’s children are exposed to pestilence, as recorded in the Bible. For example, leprosy was deadly and rampant during the Roman period. The lepers were isolated and considered unclean social outcasts, but Jesus, the compassionate healer, ministered to them, transcending gender, cultural, and racial considerations of the time.

Today, we are exposed to all kinds of infectious diseases, including Covid-19. The words of the Apostle Paul are comforting: “Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering, and hard times or hunger and nakedness, or danger or death… I am sure nothing can separate us from God’s love…” (Rom. 8:31-39).

Second, during seasons of epidemic outbreaks, the church must respond pastorally.

I am writing this post in Toronto, Ontario, arguably, “the most multicultural city in the world.” Recently, I invited a friend for dinner. He responded, “Great, but I don’t like eating ‘oriental’ food — these restaurants have corona viruses!”

I was appalled to hear these condescending and discriminating comments. Pastors have a prophetic voice and we must remind God’s people to practice peace, hope, and courage, and encourage God’s people to be empathetic and sympathetic to those who are hurting.

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Source: Christianity Today