Regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, this has been a rough week. Our country has moved from the calm approach of previous viral threats to an all-out public-health “war,” as President Trump stated today in his briefing with the Coronavirus Task Force. To see it, skip ahead to about 18½ minutes in when they enter the room (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38IwGCO8jcE).
Why is this new coronavirus so dangerous?
It is more infectious than influenza.
It is about ten times more likely to kill than regular influenza.
It kills differently than influenza. Influenza can lead to (treatable) secondary bacterial pneumonia, while COVID-19 leads to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS.)
There is at present no vaccine. We have influenza vaccines. The first possible vaccine for this coronavirus is being developed at record pace, but it is a long way from possible production.
There is no treatment. Influenza responds to some of the antiviral agents.
Because it is new, there is no natural immunity. Years of influenza outbreaks have led to some general immunity in the community, even helping with newer strains of influenza.
Why must we get involved? Estimates I’ve seen say that 40-70% of the U.S. population will contract the virus this year. It is now in 176 countries. The wise, informed participation of all is vital to help to slow the spread of this novel (new) virus. The slower it progresses, the better our medical resources will be able to respond effectively. (There are limited numbers of hospital beds and ventilators.) Here’s how we can all help: https://www.whitehouse.gov/media/2020/03/03.16.20_coronavirus-guidance_8.5x11_315PM.pdf
How is First Baptist Church responding? I would encourage you to view Pastor Wilkerson’s videos (see the church website) that have been prepared in recent days. A week ago, churches were meeting as usual. Last weekend, assemblies were limited to a maximum size of 250, and on Monday this was further reduced to 50 and finally to 10. The situation is very dynamic and unprecedented.
Any word for missionaries? As pastors and spiritual leaders, missionaries must keep up-to-date with regard to these unforeseen and impactful developments. Everyone is watching. For the sake of those whom we serve and for the sake of our testimony in the community as responsible citizens, we can’t afford to ignore, overlook, or appear to disregard the direction of our public-health authorities.
How can we become well-informed? We must be disciplined, organized, and diligent in order to grasp and track all the complex elements and to respond appropriately. It’s tough to get a handle on everything. There is a lot of noise. We all need to know where to go locally for real answers for those whom we serve.
We’ve already published the following three updates, which are on the FBMI website:
From February, a general overview for the missionary as a spiritual leader
From March, a more focused update for all individuals in the church
From March, an approach to U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories
I’m adding today this letter with the following resources:
Any videos of the Presidential Coronavirus Task Force’s briefings to learn from the authorities themselves rather than from second-hand impressions.
Any guidance from the Bible?
We need knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. All are based upon a fear of God (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). He is the Judge of the whole earth. Let’s be right with Him and walk with Him daily.
We don’t yield to fear (II Timothy 1:7).
We stay focused on the Great Commission. Like Paul, in the midst of the storm, let’s lift up the Lord and point people to Him (Acts 27:21-26; 33-36).
We trust our sovereign God. He is perfect in knowledge, power, and love. We can trust Him and His decisions (Psalm 102).
Pray for all involved (James 5:16).
Please, take this seriously! In the White House briefing, it was mentioned that our experts are watching what happens in Italy and France to get an informed idea how the virus might affect our nation. Look at the figures from Italy on the worldometers.info/coronavirus site mentioned above. Today, the 18th of March, it was reported that Italy had 4,207 new cases and 475 new deaths. This is in one day alone, and the exponential curve is still climbing.
With our love and prayers,
Bro. Siemer on Behalf of Bro. Bosje and the FBMI Home Office Team
Primarily, we serve God by serving those missionaries who associate with FBMI. In doing so, we partner with their sending pastors and churches.
We also serve those who support these FBMI missionaries financially and in prayer.
We are responsible to wisely inform, advise, and influence missionaries when it comes to matters of their safety. We should also help them to be wise stewards of all resources, including their lives, health, and spiritual influence.
Nature of the Concern:
As Christians and as citizens of the United States, we are to submit to our authorities.
The U.S. Department of State provides extensive, helpful, and necessary resources, direction, and assistance to U.S. citizens when it comes to international travel and life as an expatriate. We are very grateful for the dedicated professionals who serve in this area.
Travel advisories are determined by an analysis of widely differing “risk indicators.”
a. Crime, terrorism, and civil unrestb. Health and natural disasters (such as we are experiencing with COVID-19)c. Time-limited events or others which create unique risksd. Kidnapping and hostage-taking
There are four levels of travel advisories: (1) Exercise normal precautions, (2) Exercise increased caution, (3) Reconsider travel, and (4) Do not travel.
If the travel advisory is at Level 4 (“Do not travel to ____ due to ___.”), it is of great concern.
a. The missionary already living and ministering abroad, whose country is newly designated “Level 4,” is in the best position to evaluate the degree of risk personally and locally and to determine the wisest course of action. It might well be wiser to stay put and to avoid the increased risks of travel and even increasing risk at the destination. FBMI will provide all possible assistance for these missionaries on the field.b. On the other hand, a missionary in the U.S. might feel compelled to travel to a Level 4 travel-advisory destination despite the warning. What should be FBMI’s response?
In the Event of Proposed Travel to a Level 4 Travel-Advisory Destination:
FBMI will help the missionary understand the likely consequences, should they choose to disregard the published direction of governmental authority. These include:
a. The United States government’s resources might only be partially available, if at all, to help in time of need. Quoting a recent advisory, “The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in some areas of ____.”b. FBMI’s resources will only be partially available to help.
i. Resources that FBMI has secured through third parties for emergency evacuation will likely not be available.
ii. Communication and financial resources and services may be disrupted.
c. Personal resources and assets of the missionaries themselves might be lost. For example, life insurance policies may be invalidated if it is determined that the person, as a U.S. citizen, went somewhere when the U.S. government told him not to travel to that destination.d. Finally, we recognize that the U.S. government has intelligence resources that we do not have. They quite likely make determinations with regard to safety based upon evidence and resources that they cannot disclose or mention. There might be unforeseen hazards.
FBMI will also advise the missionary that they might be acting contrary to the written Word. We are directed to submit to governmental authority when it does not conflict with higher, divine authority. Clear divine direction should be present to travel to a level four area.
a. Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”b. I Peter 2:13-14, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”
If the missionary determines to go to a country where his civil authority has told him not to go, then the missionary will acknowledge that he will be responsible for the consequences of his actions. He also determines to be especially prudent with regard to existing guidelines. For example, for one Level 4 country, the State Department website says, “If you decide to travel to ____:” and then they follow it with an extensive series of recommendations. The State Department understands that all areas of the country are not under equal risk and that some travelers are much more experienced and resourced than others. FBMI will continue to provide:
a. Ongoing services for the missionary to the extent of FBMI’s ability.b. Love and prayer for the missionary, his family, his church, and his spiritual ministry and influence overall.c. Representation of the missionary to his sending and supporting churches.
As we know, the world is experiencing a public-health emergency with regard to the Coronavirus outbreak. Cases have been identified worldwide, including in 35 states in America. This virus is of greater than average concern because it’s new (meaning there’s no immunity from previous cases), so it spreads rapidly through groups of people. Those who wish to learn more may use the following link, among others, to find official Center for Disease Control (CDC) updates and guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html.
Much information and how to respond to this outbreak has already been learned. It appears that over 80% of cases of this infection result in minor illness and recovery, but just as we see with influenza, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses (cancer, diabetes, lung disease, weakened immune systems, etc.) are more likely to develop a serious infection. We should all take proper precautions to help protect these who are most vulnerable. Here is what each of us should do to help minimize the public-health effects:
1. Don’t yield to fear – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7) – responding instead with faith in God, prayer, and wise behavior, as advised by our public-health authorities. In the United States, it is the CDC.
2. Do your best to reduce the risk of infection:
a. Avoid needless contact with those who are sick.
b. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
c. Stay home when you become sick, especially if you have a cough, shortness of breath, or a fever, since the cause of your sickness is at first uncertain.
d. If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue or your elbow, disposing of the tissue in the trash as soon as possible.
e. Clean or disinfect frequently touched public surfaces and objects.
f. Don’t use a face mask unless caring for the sick; then a mask and gloves are wise to use.
g. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the restroom, coughing or sneezing, or blowing your nose.
3. Respond wisely If you do get sick, for the sake of everyone:
a. Stay home unless you are seeking medical care.
b. Separate yourself from others and from animals in the home.
c. Call ahead before going to the doctor to get their instructions.
d. Wear a face mask when around others for their protection.
e. Cover coughs and sneezes and dispose of tissues, etc.
f. Don’t share personal household items like eating utensils, towels, cups, etc.
g. Continue to wash your hands often with soap and water, while continuing to clean public surfaces and objects.
h. Monitor your symptoms and seek medical care, if you get worse.
i. Continue this home isolation until those giving you medical attention give the green light to discontinue.
Our trust is in the Lord, but these simple steps will go a long way to keeping us all as healthy as possible while serving God.
As you know, the world is experiencing a public-health emergency with regard to the novel (new) coronavirus outbreak that arose recently in Wuhan, China. The picture is changing rapidly as cases are identified in new parts of the world. Please refer to the following link for the most authoritative and current updates:
It is not our place to participate in the medical response, other than to comply with the developing public- health recommendations of our medical authorities. It is wise to take effective precautions to limit and delay the spread of the infection. The CDC has prepared an excellent summary for businesses, with guidelines that are clearly helpful for churches, Christian schools, and other ministries:
Just as is the case with influenza, those who already have a chronic illness (like cancer, diabetes, lung disease, etc.) should be especially careful. The precautions of everyone help to protect the most vulnerable.
As spiritual leaders, we keep informed and do everything possible to protect those whom we serve from undue risk. It’s wise to keep the church up-to-date as we consider opportunities to serve our respective communities spiritually. For example, people in China have been required to stay home for many days, and they’ve responded by heavily utilizing their radio, television, internet, and social media resources.
As so many are thinking about the possibility of serious illness and even death, this use of electronic sources is an open door to reach the lost. Missionaries could make resources available that clearly present the Gospel, along with contact information so those interested can then reach the missionary with any questions or requests for further materials. Digital copies of the best Gospel tracts in the local languages might be a simple solution. Multi-media presentations of the Gospel in many languages are available, or perhaps missionaries could organize a prayer ministry for those with sick family members.
Please contact your Field Service Coordinator with any questions. It looks like this situation will continue for a while, and we don’t know how serious it will become. We look forward to working with you.