WEA Secretary General Bishop Efraim Tendero shares how the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka provided their high-quality responses to the current pandemic.
Hello! I am Efraim Tendero, secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance. None of us are happy to have our lives turned upside down by a global pandemic. Here in Manila, because I am a senior citizen, I am not even allowed to leave my house!
But as usual, Christians around the world are responding creatively to the challenges of COVID-19. They are sustaining the church and serving their neighbors in powerful ways.
Each week, we will feature a different country where national alliances of evangelical Christians are having a great impact for the Kingdom of God. Last week we talked about how Christians in Argentina were assisting the government with food distribution to 4 million people. Today, I have an inspiring report from Sri Lanka.
The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka represents about 200 churches and 200,000 evangelical believers. This is only about 1 percent of Sri Lanka’s total population, but the evangelical alliance there has been extremely effective.
When the coronavirus reached Sri Lanka, the government imposed a nationwide curfew. The evangelical alliance responded quickly by developing messages for its churches on how to keep people safe during the COVID-19 crisis. The alliance’s guidance for faith leaders was of such high quality that the World Health Organization and the country’s Health Promotion Bureau approved placing their logos on the document.
In addition, the alliance recognized that the closure of churches could severely impact the lives of pastors in areas with limited resources. Accordingly, it provided relief assistance to 300 Sri Lankan pastors and their families. In addition, about 1,000 families have received relief packs with enough food for two weeks.
With people spending so much time online during the pandemic, Sri Lanka’s evangelical alliance recognized the risk of increased misuse of digital communications, including hate speech and disinformation on social media. The alliance released a Digital Citizenship Toolkit in March, containing seven modules on topics such as digital literacy, rights and responsibilities, security, and activism. This information was delivered in both print and webinar formats.
Sri Lanka’s evangelicals were especially successful in reaching youth with critical messages. The alliance’s youth wing produced podcasts and live events that reached over 25,000 people on social media. Church youth leaders and others produced short, relevant video messages on topics such as “What is the role of youth during this time of crisis?” and “What should Christian witness look like during this time?”
Many churches have come together for prayer, and the alliance’s relief arm has partnered with a Sri Lanka nonprofit organization to provide mental health support to people who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
One church member who received support told the Sri Lanka alliance, “I am a mother of 5 children suffering from cancer. My husband is a daily wage earner who lost his income due to the COVID-19 lockdown. In the meantime I was supposed to go for a breast surgery. That’s when I received the financial contribution from the alliance, which helped our family through this difficult time. I have had the surgery and am back at home. Thank you for your support and prayers.”
Another woman from a coastal town thanked the alliance for sending relief rations while her husband, the family’s sole breadwinner, was stranded in Colombo, the capital city, due to the curfew.
A Muslim laborer who lost his income and had two family members dealing with cancer was thrilled when the alliance visited his home to distribute rations. He was surprised that a Christian group was helping him too.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul praised the churches in Macedonia because in their most severe time of trial, “their overflowing joy … welled up in rich generosity.” Evangelicals in Sri Lanka are behaving in the same way. Their high-quality responses to the current crisis have been of great value to their broader community.
No matter how much or how little we have, we can all help those around us in some way. The Christian community in Sri Lanka displayed incredible resilience after the tragic church bombings of last year, and they are demonstrating it again now during COVID-19.
Be alert today to the direction God places on your heart. I believe that he wants Christians to take on effective servant leadership in countries all over the world to demonstrate the saving and transforming power of the gospel.
Have a great week and please come back for another inspiring story next week!