These are unprecedented times in our lives, communities, cities, countries and all over the world.
The spread of the coronavirus has caused many of the campuses we minister on to switch to online classes and encourage students to return home. Many churches have decided to host online services instead of physically gathering together. Businesses and restaurants, where many of our staff meet to mentor and disciple people, are closing or have already closed.
Our groups and staff have been asked to suspend large gatherings, Bible studies, prayer meetings and one-to-one mentoring sessions. We agree this is a good decision to stop or slow down the spread of the virus, and we have instructed all Canadian Navigators to abide by the directives given through federal, provincial and municipal authorities.
Instead of shutting our ministries down, however, we have chosen to move our work online. We are committed to being faithfully present with people through life circumstances, and this current health crisis is no exception – we simply have to get more creative in our approach.
In Hamilton, our campus leader Bruce Narbaitz is co-ordinating with the other groups on campus to gather students for weekly prayer meetings via video conferencing. Currently there are three happening each week, with the plan being to add two more soon.
In Ottawa, our campus leader Emily Lorentz says that while things may look different, the function remains the same.
“Last night we met for our weekly large group gathering called NavNight via Zoom. We explored scripture meditation, God’s truths in Psalm 46 and the Living Water on offer to us all, in the exact way we need it. As for Bible studies they are also happening via various video chat platforms. One to one meet ups and discipleship meetings are also switching to a video chat platform where we’ll continue to share not only the gospel, but our whole life as well (1 Thessalonians 2:8).”
The group at the University of Calgary is also going strong. Their suite of weekly small group Bible studies have not missed a beat, except now they’re held virtually. Since the students are taking classes online, the small group participants hang around on the Zoom calls after the Bible studies end to chat. Campus leader Rick McCallum says the focus of the Thursday noon study he leads was on James 4:13-17. The group had a sobering conversation on attitudes towards planning the future. This passage is more applicable to us now in light of the sudden arrival of COVID-19 and the complete cancellation of all plans and course work for 30,000 students on campus!
One of our Campus Mentors, Julia Poon, says the University of British Columbia Navigators have been continuing their regular ministry cadence as well.
“We were encouraged to see students committing to spending time in the Word and with each other despite the social distancing. We also had our first online student leadership meeting the other day. Across Canada, we have been utilizing the Zoom video conferencing platform. It allows us to still host interactive events with options such as breakout groups and screen sharing. We recognize how critical it is that we remain connected to the students during this season. I was speaking with one international student who was feeling anxious about determining when to go home. It is a testing time for our faith. Social distancing has added a new layer of challenge for many students who are already wrestling with anxiety, depression, and/or loneliness.”
A DIFFERENT WAY OF LIFE WITH NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Church history is punctuated with examples of crises that ended up advancing the Gospel in new ways.
Stephen’s martyrdom propelled the first believers out of their comfort zone of Jerusalem, and “those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went” throughout the known world (Acts 8:4).
The imprisonment of the most prolific apostle in church history seemed catastrophic, but Paul wrote from his Roman jail cell that “what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel,” and many other believers “dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear” (Philippians 1:12b,14b).
This virus is driving us into a different way of life, but also into unique opportunities for ministry. Please pray that Navigators everywhere would dare all the more to creatively serve others, boldly proclaim the gospel to friends and family and offer the comfort and hope we have in Jesus during this fearful time – without fear.
PSALMS TO COUNTERACT FEAR & STRESS
What can we do with our fears when we face a crisis? After reading many newsfeed articles that drain us, these verses from the Psalms can fill us up. They provide profound perspective and real hope!
- For wisdom, as we lead with the message of hope and peace that comes only with the gospel, and that this crisis empowers students to own the mission of God more than ever before!
- That those we mentor and disciple will rise to the challenge of speaking the gospel to their souls, pressing into community and seeking new opportunities for service and mission in this time.
- For everyone’s spiritual and mental health in the midst of isolation.
- For protection, creativity and wisdom for our staff as we discover new ways to minister in this unique time.
I just wanted to thank you for what you are doing for my son. He lives now in the NAV house at the University of Calgary. As he recovers from a difficult period in his life I am so comforted to know that he has strong Christian mentors and people of God around him.