As I sit here and write this, the world is experiencing a health crisis called the Coronavirus. It is April 2020, and for most of us this is the first time we have experienced a major crisis that affects every part of our lives.
All of our meetings are cancelled, we are confined to our homes and most of our exchanges have to be done by phone or video-conference. In this context, Christians who are accustomed to meeting in the same place once or twice a week can feel destabilized. What to do with all the time available?
It reminds me of a story I heard a few weeks ago. It was about James Fraser, a missionary who preached the gospel to Chinese villagers in the first half of the 20th century.
James was working several hundred kilometers west of Wuhan in the foothills of the Himalayas, so he was very often unable to reach the converts in the mountainous regions because of heavy snowfalls.
At first he was frustrated and angry with God, who could easily have held back the snow to allow him to get to the village. But as he prayed, he felt that God was challenging him with this logistical problem.
James Fraser began to think about it and asked himself this question; what would happen if I spent my time traveling to the village to pray? It would take him five days in all. Two days to get to the village, one day there, and two days back. So he decided to pray between three and five days for each village he wanted to visit.
As the snow melted, you can imagine the missionary’s excitement as he set out to physically visit the villages for which he had prayed long hours. To his surprise, the people in the mountain villages had made much more progress in their faith than those in the lowland villages. God had acted sovereignly in the hearts of the villagers, answering the missionary’s prayers.
James Fraser never knew the full extent of his prayers, but many missiologists trace the enormous awakening that has swept through China over the past fifty years back to the one that began among the mountain people of that region during the winters when he stayed home and prayed.
Let us pray that God will intervene and that this virus will be stopped as soon as possible, because people are dying every day. But let us also pray that God will use this time of crisis to act sovereignly in the hearts of the people who do not yet know Him, and that through His Spirit He will teach us, His disciples.
Thiéry Terraz, YWAM Geneva