COVID-19 Update

Welcome to our podcast series Asked and Answered,” a question and answer style session with Ron and Charis Pearce. Now today we are going to answer the question what effect has Covid-19 had on the national church planting movement around the world. So welcome with me back to the studio, Ron and Charis Pearce.

Ron- How are you doing?

Joy- I’m doing great, glad to be here.

Ron- Well, let’s ask this question, how is the world doing?

Joy- Yes, that’s a good one.

Ron- That’s the best question and I think to answer that I really have to tell folks right now that everything that I say here has got to be put into context and balance and everything of that nature so we recognize the fact that Covid has spread around the world and that it has killed a lot of people. We are not getting into, as an organization, all the minutia of trying to describe and defend and take sides or anything like that. I’m just saying to you, those folks that are listening, that it has done damage to the world. Now the question is, how have the national churches, the national church planting movements, which Empower deals with, how have they responded to the challenge of Covid? That Joy, is really where we are going to center our discussion today.

Joy- It definitely narrows down the question when we are referring to the national churches around the world.

Ron- Exactly. We are going to take the politics out of it, we are going to take the medicine out of it, and we’re going to take all that out. We are now just dealing within the kingdom of God has this been a good or bad thing. Now, well people are saying it’s bad, of course it is, on the natural side of things, yes. But here is the other side; on the spiritual side of things, this has probably been the greatest period of expansion of the national church that we have had in the last, I don’t know, maybe 2000 years, just in sheer numbers. What we are seeing right now in all the fields that Empower is dealing with we are seeing opportunities galore to share about Jesus. The question is why now? The answer to that is because people are scared. Rightly or wrongly, people are scared in the world right now. Which means people are looking at eternity and they are wondering what is it going to be like? They have never faced death in a global way like they are facing it right now. Yes, we have had world wars, those were localized, those were different. This is an invisible enemy, bringing people through rumor or actual fact, to a point of considering is there life after death? And the next question is, are the religions of the world, the Hinduism, the Buddhism, the Islam, the animism, the communism, all the other ism’s, are they meeting the need to give people peace to die? And the answer to that is no. In fact, all the world religions right now are falling apart in the fact that people are scared to death. We’ve got reports from India of Hindu priests who supposedly have all the answers to life, that are hiding in their huts simply because they are scared, whereas the Christians are out praying for people. They are out, shall we say, on the streets and they are praying over homes, they’re witnessing to people, they’re sharing their food with people. This is going to take us into the next part of this answer; this one Hindu leader within India, (this report came to us a few months back), he was watching from afar how the Christians were reacting to this pandemic and how the Hindu priests and the Hindu leadership were, the religious people of their land, and he came to the Christians and said all these priests are hiding away, they are scared to death, they have no answers. There’s no hope with them. And we look at you Christians. You Christians have peace in your heart, you’ve got love. You’re loving people every chance that you get. You’ve got joy. We see smiles and everybody else we see frowns. He said, We are starting to listen to your message now because you are proving the message by your everyday walk in society.” And that is what is going on country after country.

Charis- And there is such an opportunity to share God’s love in a tangible way also. So many people are facing hardships and the Christians and the churches and church planters are able to share God’s love physically which opens the door for conversations they’ve never been able to have before.

Ron- That is exactly right.

Now the question is, how have the national churches, the national church planting movements, which Empower deals with, how have they responded to the challenge of Covid?

Joy- So you mentioned this was in India but is it other places, is it all over?

Ron- The flavor changed but the ice cream is still the same. When I say that, every culture, every situation is different around the world but the Holy Spirit is leading all believers in exactly the same path. It’s just colored a little bit different in the way that they’re doing it, the way they are reaching out and things like that. But the essence of it is always the same. You start with fear. You start with uncertainty about death and life after death. Then you move after that to looking at Christians who are behaving differently. Their attitudes are different, their language is different. Then you’ve got the proof coming in the fact of, okay those are words, but what are they actually doing? They are out there loving people. They’re not screaming at people, they’re taking them food. They are taking them everything that they need to try to show in a physical way that we are different. That is the point of what Covid has done. It has separated the world out from the belief and the actions and the attitudes of those who are born again believers. The separation is becoming wider and wider the further we go into this pandemic and now on one side we are seeing rage and hopelessness and people fighting with one another. We are seeing all these things in the world, but in the national churches around the world, in national believers, we are seeing them come together in revivals, we’re seeing the joy growing, we’re seeing the church expanding. We’re seeing the exact opposite. So we are moving from where it was a grey area before, in many countries, and now it is black and white and the separation is growing more and more all the time, which means more and more people are coming to the Lord all the time. For instance, we’ll go back to India for a second, we were talking to one leader there, massive church. When I say that, these are churches all over the Indian subcontinent and we are probably talking 20,00025,000 churches in the network. I asked him just recently, Has the church grown?” He said, In some areas, they have reached herd immunity in India because everybody had it,” which means that the churches were coming together and the government or public health or whatever they have over there said you can meet together in larger groups etcetera. So when the doors of the church opened, they estimate now that the church in India has maybe doubled or even tripled in size! And it’s all because of the example of Christians and the fact that they were always willing to give an account of the hope that lies within them. That’s what 1 Peter talks about. Therefore they were ready, they were able, and they had a different quality in their lives. They weren’t fighting through this, they were loving through this.

Joy- This is so important to hear because, and this is not a commentary on the media at all, but we don’t hear any of this at all.

Ron- I know. The Western media, whether it is left, right or center, it doesn’t really matter because we are consumed right now with our situation. We’re not concerned about a world, we are concerned about us. This shows a great immaturity of Western society as a whole. Massive amounts of ego going around everywhere. Well, the word bondservant” I have come to appreciate more and more over the years and a bondservant loses their identity, and they lose their ego, and they act like a humble servant before the Lord and before people. That is what the world is sensing right now. They are looking for a people who are different on the inside, who live with peace. They are looking for bondservants. The only place that is producing bondservants right now, it’s not a factor in China, it’s a factor in heaven, that is producing the bondservants in the world who are having incredible opportunities. This is why the church is growing so quickly.

Charis- We also know for a fact that there are so many turning to the Lord with the more requests we have for scripture. The two go hand in hand. The more people that are seeking God and seeking a relationship with Him, the more scripture is needed.

Ron- Exactly! We are doing millions this year. Millions of copies.

Joy- Scriptures have always been what Empower does.

Ron- Yes, and some people are feeling more burdened to provide the Word of God and they are helping us out just at the right time! Right now there is this hunger, Charis is right on with that because in all of these countries the people are saying okay, I want to follow God but what do I do? Well, no better thing than to hand them a Bible and it says in here, this is what we should do. I just wrote something. If we are presented with all these opportunities and then people say well then how should I live. The answer is, you look into the Word of God because this is the opportunity we have been waiting for in missions and in the church for a long, long time. Thousands of years actually. We have been waiting for this opportunity to put the word of God out there en masse, for people to pick up the book to read it, to understand the difference that Jesus promised would be the hallmark of a Christian, of a believer. And now we are able to get those out there at incredibly low prices because we are dealing in huge numbers. Therefore, the printing presses are just rolling.

<p>Person reading a Bible</p>
We also know for a fact that there are so many turning to the Lord with the more requests we have for scripture. The two go hand in hand. The more people that are seeking God and seeking a relationship with Him, the more scripture is needed.

Joy- Wow, and is this in multiple countries?

Ron- Yes, some of the areas we are working in right now, the hotspots, all of Southeast Asia, China for sure. We can’t get enough Bibles into China. Everybody is going to be shocked at this number but it’s true, the leadership of the house church movement have told us they need about 30 million copies right now. That is a minimum number that they need. They need more than that but that would just make due, 30 million! It’s a big country, 1.3 or 1.4 billion. Then you’ve got India who are seeking God and they are looking for a firm grounding that they can stand on. They’ve got all sorts of writings within Hinduism and Islam and things like that but they want the Bible because if the Christians are saying I was changed out of my walk with God and I learned how to behave in the Bible, then they say, I want that peace. It’s in the Bible? Yes, and therefore they are wanting it. And then you go to the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia. Probably the greatest hunger for God is there of anywhere, per capita, and they want the Bibles more and more all the time. Plus, you’ve got other areas. Israel right now. Huge numbers going into Israel. National believers there, we’ll call them Messianic believers, and those who are in Arab speaking congregations are just clamoring for the word of God to be able to hand out to their friends because people are scared there too. This is in Israel! So, it’s everywhere and Charis is exactly right. And the prices are low right now, to get them out. How low? A Bible in China, $2.25. Some areas in the world is a little bit more than that. We’re doing New Testaments now somewhere between $0.75-$0.90.

Joy- So did prices drop?

Ron- Yeah, actually prices dropped and part of this is just what’s going on in the world. In the pandemic, many economies ground to a halt. Well, that meant the printing presses weren’t going in their countries so they were begging for business. So just to keep their employees on the ground and their businesses alive they said, Please, we’ll do anything, we’ll print anything.” So that means we could shop around for even greater prices in these various countries. So that means $0.75-$0.90 for a New Testament and $2-$3 for a full Bible. That’s incredible! And then you just shoot them around the world, not in small numbers like boxes, we are talking container shipments.

Joy- And how much would a container hold?

Ron- Oh, that all varies. Sometimes you can get 25,000 into a container if it’s full Bibles, and other times you can get 40,000 in if it’s New Testaments. Size of the container, weight restrictions, I don’t even deal with it. It’s a lot.

And then you go to the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia. Probably the greatest hunger for God is there of anywhere, per capita, and they want the Bibles more and more all the time.

Joy- You didn’t mention Serbia and I am curious about Serbia.

Ron- Serbia right now, we’re working there in Serbia with the Gypsies and we get reports probably once every two weeks we get a report from Serbia as to what is going on. The Coronavirus has hit them very hard there but they have come through it. They shut down the economy there, which really put them into serious problems with no food, no clothes, housing, and firewood, everything like that. But we were able to come in and help them. Now on the spiritual side of things, here it comes. The number of people wanting to be water baptized has jumped and it is because people are firming up their commitment to God and they want everyone to know that they want to walk with Jesus. One couple recently were getting married and they were in marriage counseling etcetera and the Romani pastor, he wanted to take them through but their first condition was, we want to be water baptized. We want to firm up our commitment to God. We had become Christians but we were never baptized. We want to firm up that commitment before we commit to one another. So he said, no problem, two weeks from now we are going to have a water baptism in the church. In their church it is an inflatable kiddie pool!

Charis- Yeah, two feet deep.

Ron- And so they have to lay down really flat to be baptized and get fully covered. So the pastor goes in church the next Sunday and says we’re going to have a water baptism for this couple, they are going to be water baptized before they get married, the next week etcetera. Well, what was it Charis 20? 20 or 30 people stood up and said we want to be water baptized too. And it started to spread to his other congregations and the other people. What I’m trying to get to here Joy, is the fact that the pandemic, even though it was hard on them physically, spiritually it brought them to life. Bibles are going in there right now, lots of Bibles. You’ve got new congregations, you’ve got people who saw Christians sharing their love. We took in some stuff and we hid in the bushes you might say. Nobody knew what we were doing, the name Empower, but we were giving it out to the national churches, seedlings so they could get their crops started because the people were so hungry they ate their seeds and they had nothing to start all over again. So we got them seeds, we got them plants, and they put them in the greenhouses, they’re up and they’re harvesting them right now. It’s been fantastic! But again, this was a dire situation in one respect but it was the opportunity to show them Jesus. That’s where that, as Charis was saying, that love in action came into being. That’s what we have to do.

Joy- Wow, that’s incredible.

Ron- That’s what’s going on around the world right now Joy. It’s a time of opportunity, it’s a time of separation. We are different than the world. My only concern right now is that in North America, Christians would act, have attitudes, behave, and talk differently than the people in the world because God is leading in all the other countries, for us to stand up as an example of what it means to know God. That’s why the national church planting movements are so successful. The Christians are looking different. That is my prayer for North America that Christians would look and behave differently than the world.

Joy- And really adopt that bondservant mentality.

Ron- It would really help right now. It would really help because we are being judged. We are being evaluated. We are on display as the Bible talks about, especially in 1 Peter, a great book for the end times, and that means that people are going to watch as to, how are the Christians dealing with this? That’s important.

Joy- Well, there you have it, an episode of Asked and Answered” and it was really great to have this update on Covid-19. I’ve missed these updates on the national church and so that was excellent. Tune in next time! Thanks a lot.

<p>People waiting to be baptised</p>
The number of people wanting to be water baptized has jumped and it is because people are firming up their commitment to God and they want everyone to know that they want to walk with Jesus.

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