For local missionaries in remote areas of Southeast Asia, use of social media and Zoom as solutions to COVID-19 restrictions is not always possible and can sometimes be dangerous.
Ministry through social media posts in Indonesia or the Philippines can trigger hostilities from religious extremists or rebel militants, local ministry leaders said.
“We have to communicate with social media, but that can be a very big risk and dangerous for us as ministers, because there can be many sensitive things on it,” the leader of a local ministry in Indonesia said. “This is a very hard situation for the minister.”
As a local missionary familiar with his culture, the leader knows how to temper language on social media posts. He can speak more freely in church services via Zoom or teaching via WhatsApp messaging.
“We are now very accustomed to this situation – I use Zoom in Sunday services and WhatsApp in sending training modules and syllabuses, discipling and teaching people,” the leader said.
Poor villagers do not always have access to smart phones, laptops or Internet connectivity, but local missionaries help them find access, from those who can safely pool resources or otherwise. Ministries seek assistance to help remote people obtain wi-fi equipment and upgraded communications equipment.
In the Philippines, a ministry leader said there are several places where area leaders have no Internet or Zoom, but that they plan to obtain state-of-the-art equipment to communicate with them and others if new funding becomes available.
“Since this is now the new normal, the focus will be on providing means and opportunity for larger majority of brethren to be able to take advantage of technology so that communication with them will be continuous,” the leader said. “We are planning to provide the brethren in the mountains state-of the-art communication equipment so that we can communicate with them.”
Adapting Traditional Methods
For evangelism, church services and training in Indonesia, local missionaries have the cultural awareness and understanding of when and how to use technologies in the face of limitations from lockdowns to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
They also know how to adapt traditional methods for coronavirus challenges, the Indonesian ministry leader said.
“For evangelism, we are not visiting people in their homes or preaching to crowds,” he said. “We are meeting with people in the village one by one, or in the rice fields, or under a tree, or in a garden. Sometimes I go to the river and read the Bible to people before they wash there.”
One of the ministry’s biggest challenges is providing food to the increasingly desperate poor.
“Villagers and local people now lack food – they’re not working and need food to eat,” the leader said.
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SOURCE: Christian Aid Mission