March 31, 2020

Staying or leaving, global workers live courageously in the midst of COVID-19

Written by  Micah Brickner
Eric and Janelle’s family, serving in Germany, enjoy family togetherness during this time of quarantine due to COVID-19. From left to right: Asher, Janelle, Andre, and Khaira. Eric and Janelle’s family, serving in Germany, enjoy family togetherness during this time of quarantine due to COVID-19. From left to right: Asher, Janelle, Andre, and Khaira. Eric/EMM

SALUNGA, Pa. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact many people in nearly every country around the world. Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) workers, serving in 30 different countries, have each experienced this outbreak in different ways. In the midst of the unknown realities that lie ahead, EMM workers live courageously in the hope of Christ.

“Courage is not dependent on emotions or circumstances, it is a choice,” said Jeremy and Jennifer Janzen, who serve as regional representatives for Southeast Asia. “And a discouraging situation requires an equal or greater amount of courage to overcome it, so courage has the potential to come most alive in times like these.”

In a March 19 email to EMM’s constituency, President Gerry Keener wrote, “It is important to emphasize that no worker is known to have contracted the disease. Nonetheless, we are encouraging workers to take necessary precautions and to practice the utmost caution should they choose to travel. We are requesting that all workers who return to the U.S. take a 14-day self-quarantine following the CDC’s standards.”

Each location where EMM workers serve has its own complexities when it comes to prescribing a uniform organizational strategy. Every worker was encouraged to prayerfully consider whether or not they would leave their current location of service to relocate home.

Workers were able to consult with their strategic coach, regional representative, or Missionary Support Team leader to make this decision based on their specific setting. Whether choosing to stay or planning to leave, each EMM worker continues to live with courage in the midst of this outbreak.

Stuart and Amaris Allan serve with EMM in Nairobi, Kenya, where Stuart manages the Amani Gardens Inn and Amaris is a physician at a local hospital. The Allans shared, “After much prayer, seeking counsel, and investigating options, we are making the choice to stay in Nairobi. As we look to the immediate future and the months to follow, we see a great need here in Kenya that we can help to meet — both medically and logistically.”

EMM regional representatives for Central and South Asia, Alexander and Maria — whose names have been changed for sensitivity reasons — are preparing for the financial implications of the outbreak in their country. In addition to his work with EMM, Alexander manages a meat-processing business. He and one of his employees had to make last-minute deliveries throughout his city prior to a mandated shutdown being put into place. Until further notice, they will be unable to deliver any more of their products to customers and restaurants throughout the city.

In Germany, EMM workers Eric and Janelle — whose last names have been omitted for sensitivity reasons — have attempted to see how their family can grow in the midst of this international health crisis. Janelle has been praying that their children would learn — in new and deeper ways — to find their identities in Christ and in their family. “Playing games, crafting, telling family stories, and reading together are ways we have been trying to pass the time and build a sense of family belonging,” said Janelle.

For some EMM workers, courage manifested itself in choosing to leave their location of service. Each rationale for leaving has been different, but some reasons that workers might have considered leaving include an early departure for an already planned home leave, lack of access to adequate medical care in the event of national borders closing, and concerns about the possibilities of situational local violence against expatriates.

Keener encouraged constituents to join him in prayer. “As you think about our workers and staff, please take a few moments to intercede on their behalf,” said Keener. “Likewise, I welcome your prayers specifically for me and EMM leadership as we continue to make our staff and workers’ well-being a top priority.”

EMM’s Executive Council appointed a three-person COVID-19 task force to monitor the situation daily, providing information, recommendations, and additional plans as needed. This task force has been working with EMM leadership to provide timely communication to global workers, domestic staff, and other interested persons.

Staff members at the Salunga Central Administrative Office prepared for the continuity of operations in response to state and federal recommendations to practice social distancing. Since March 18, staff members have been providing essential services for global workers through a combination of teleworking and minimal onsite presence.

The Salunga office will be functioning with this arrangement until further notice, during which time the office will be closed to the public. Staff will be responding to emails and regularly checking their voice mailboxes should someone call the office.

To continue to support the work of EMM and individual workers serving around the world, go to emm.org/give.

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