*Names changed for security
On Jan. 13, 2020, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 outside of China was reported in Thailand. Since then, Southeast Asia has experienced wave after debilitating wave of the virus.
While the virus has ravaged the globe, some of the effects of the virus in Southeast Asia have been even more crippling than they are in the Western world. Workplaces, churches, restaurants and entertainment venues have experienced closures. Schools have moved to online learning and masks are mandated. People stock up on food, villages close to outsiders, and for those less fortunate, food and money rations have begun to dry up.
Many countries’ borders have closed; nobody’s allowed in. If IMB workers leave, they cannot return unless they quarantine for two weeks in a government run hotel. Some airports and bus stations are closed and streets and markets are eerily quiet.
While most western countries have access to good vaccines, many countries in Southeast Asia do not. This region faces shortages, corruption and limited options.
In many cases, IMB workers in this area have not had a visitor in over a year and a half. Workers watch with hope as other countries open, and the pandemic slows, but for many countries here, the spread of the virus is just ramping up. Hospitals are full. People are dying in the street. Often, testing positive for the virus will result in public shame and for others it will require quarantining in a government run hospital. Nationals are scared and angry. In some places protests and coups are occurring.
Like many in the U.S., ministry activities have come to a standstill or changed drastically. Workers are forced to identify new, creative, and in some cases somewhat unorthodox ways to continue their mission.
Across Southeast Asia the stories may vary but the task is the same. Journey with us to hear from one family seeking to honor God as they maneuver through the chaos and confusion.
Editor’s note: The missionary featured in the video and his family are now out of quarantine and have had the opportunity to follow up with some of the individuals mentioned.
David and Lark Washington* serve with the IMB among Southeast Asian peoples. This was published on imb.org.