A simple greeting entails at least a handshake, if not a hug. Now we can’t do that…
At the beginning we were confined to our homes, but now people are moving about.
Nonetheless, wearing masks is obligatory and we live with limits on gathering of 50 people inside with distancing of 1-2 metres. Unfortunately, reinforcement of certain measures is rather weak.
In this culture, interaction is very important, within the context of community, extended family, church family, etc. Greetings are one expression of this. A simple greeting entails at least a handshake, if not a hug. Now we can’t do that…
Communicating solidarity and support during difficult times is often expressed through a group, a community, not just one-on-one. We cannot gather together as friends to give condolences, nor participate ‘normally’ in a funeral service. Travel restrictions have prevented families to mourn together the loss of their members…It is very painful…It is very hard to live with these restrictions.
In June, the government allowed church services to begin again, but with restrictions. This has helped relieve some of the isolation. Churches are obligated to limit their services to 50 attendees, which, depending on their original size, makes for several services. Our church has had 5 services, which stops us from meeting our ‘normal’ friends, and those we do meet are hidden behind their masks. The mask creates a barrier and makes communication difficult; you can’t read the entire face, not see a smile or a frown…Ann has realized as a non-francophone that she depends on facial expressions to complete her understanding of a conversation and the mask muffles words.
COVID-19 impact on ministry
Ann’s teaching at the CMA University was suspended, as well as that of other missionaries at other institutions. Ministry had to take another form, such as prayer meetings on Zoom, increasing conversations’ through WhatsApp or by normal telephone. Our knowledge and use of new technologies has had to increase. Unfortunately, time zone issues limited our connections across the ocean for some Zoom meetings. The urgency of COVID-19 also pushed us to be more regular in our communications.
The radio ministry has continued throughout the crisis and is of great help to the general population. It is a means of communication, education and information for the listeners about God’s good news, and specifically on the crisis. Listeners have tuned in to live worship services while at home, receiving comfort and encouragement through music and conversation.
However, the radio depends on income from announcements of activities at local churches and ministries, all of which have stopped. ‘Frequence Vie’ has suffered. To broadcast its programs in Abidjan and in four other cities (Abengourou, Bouaké, Man & Yamoussoukro), the radio ministry rents tower time and uses electricity; electricity and water bills, taxes and pension contributions, as well employee salaries continue and need to be paid. Sadly, some part-time employees have had to be let go.
During the most fearful time of COVID-19, embassies were strongly recommending repatriation and so three SIM colleagues returned to France. Special authorization for travel even between cities, emergency car repairs, plane reservations, etc, all had to be managed – and at short notice.
A positive note
Last year we moved into a new house. Confinement allowed us to slow down and also time to attack numerous unfinished projects.
Thanks to COVID-19, we have had the opportunity to meet many neighbours who otherwise would never have been home!
We have opportunity to share with each other, which creates community: visiting the sick, bringing a meal, participating in a group WhatsApp, sharing gardening ideas, the contact of a good worker or supplier, or simply borrowing tools.
Neighbours have asked us to start a weekly English conversation class and possibly a beading class. This all makes for creating community and opening the way to share our faith.
Although Ann’s beading classes at the Women’s department of the CMA University of Abidjan (UACA) had been cancelled during the height of the pandemic, they restarted in June. These classes are attended by women who accompany their husbands for theological studies, but some of the wives have limited reading skills, which represent a real challenge, even for teaching manual activities.
Three women, along with their husbands, have finished their studies and will soon return to Mali and Guinea. They expressed how, at the beginning, they were completely ignorant about jewellery making - even being afraid to learn but through the classes they are now skilled and confident! They now make their own jewellery and are eager to sell their products, thus increasing limited incomes. They will also teach others under their care at church and in their communities, and also share God’s love with women.
Martine discovered that a seemingly complicated South African technique was not insurmountable! She came to class to proudly show Ann the jewellery set she had produced at home (earrings, necklace and bracelet). Ann was also very proud!
- we continue to be motivated to share God’s love during these uncertain times by taking advantage of the opportunities and communication platforms
- programmes aired by Fréquence Vie touch the hearts of listeners
- that funds would also be available to pay the many bills
- the ministry to street children, Enfants de Gloire, would continue at the centre and for provision of godly teachers, as well as daily food and supplies
- decisions made by leaders - family, church, and political - would honour God and bring people together to recognize the truth of His Word
To support the Radio Expansion in Cote d'Ivoire Project (095360), go to www.sim.ca/radio-expansion
To support the Thriving Women Project (095366), go to www.sim.ca/thriving-women