Since January 26, 2020, everything has been temporarily suspended. Due to the sudden outbreak of the "COVID-19 virus", the Sunday worship meetings and all activities of 14 Christian churches in Fufeng County, Shaanxi province have been suspended.
Online audio gatherings have been taking place for nearly three months now. At present, nearly 70 percent of the believers have been brought back into the flock and received timely pastoral care. This means that nearly 30 percent of the faithful are not effectively cared for. These believers are mainly senior citizens who do not have mobile phones or do not know how to properly use them due to their low level of education. They are unable to handle a smartphone, and thus are blocked from being pastored in their congregations.
Under the guidance of God, the churches in Fufeng County, Shaanxi made contact with believers in various ways, and they returned to the online church praise group in twos and threes. For a small number of individual believers, Fufeng County church Elder Fan Kexiao led some of the co-workers to make contact with them through door-to-door visits.
Pleas to a "stingy" husband persuaded him to buy a mobile phone to attend the online gathering
An aunt told of how she made her husband buy her a mobile phone.
She shared: "I pleaded with my husband like my grandson used to plead with him. I told him, 'Look, I'm God's daughter. I've been a believer for decades and I go to church regularly. Now that we have encountered this pandemic, I can't even go out. What should I do? If I can't join the online church chat group, if I don't hear the words of God for one single day, I'll get sick soon. If I am really ill, who will cook and wash clothes for you? Who will walk with you? Who will eat with you and clean the home? If I'm really sick, you will have to take care of me and there will be no one to take care of you. My husband listened to this and hurriedly said, ‘Fine. Fine. I’ll buy one for you, I’ll buy it for you.’ "
The aunt said excitedly, “Thank God, God let me back into God's home.” That very evening, the aunt joined the sermon in the online praise group. Afterwards, she could not stop telling everyone she met: “It was wonderful to hear the messages clearly in the online praise group. I miss everyone so much.”
God's wisdom is unfathomable for those who wanted to hear his word.
One morning, an elderly sister called and said to Elder Fan, "What you are worried about can be solved easily. I don't own a cell phone. Even if I have one, I don’t know how to use it. For this reason, I will arrive at the home of another sister who has a mobile phone more than ten minutes before each Sunday Worship begins. At this sister's home, I will listen to Sunday worship with the sister's family."
Then, the church informed the believers who do not have mobile phones, through a variety of ways, to find a sister or brother nearby with a mobile phone. They can then join the online chat group and listen to the sermons at his or her house or in groups of two or, at most, three.
Arrange co-workers to be on duty in the church on Sundays, receiving believers who come to the church from time to time.
Since sermons are now preached online, Elder Fan also made arrangements for two workers to be constantly on duty in the church. With the reopening of Wuhan, the country has gradually recovered its economic vitality, and Fufeng county, like the whole country, has seen an improvement in its situation. As a result, some older brothers and sisters think they can begin to attend church meetings. On the Lord's Day, they come to church in twos and threes. At this time, the co-workers on duty will patiently persuade them to go back home.
But the brothers and sisters said that they had already come to the church, and if they went back at that time, they were afraid that they would miss the sermons on their way home. The co-workers on duty would make them wear their face masks, open their cell phones and let them listen to the words of God at the church.
The church would also arrange the co-workers to take turns going to the church to receive brothers and sisters from different areas who have come to the church. When they met each other, they would talk about how much they missed each other. They talk about things of God and their experience in participating in the online chat groups. They looked particularly happy.
Give God's love and warmth through visits.
On April 27, the church organized a group of four co-workers to visit nine people.
Every time the group visited a home, the elder would comfort and encourage them with the words of God. When each visit was about to finish, the visiting group members would bless and pray for them again. This moving scene was repeated in every household and brought tears to the eyes of every sister and brother. Their tear-filled eyes and their trembling voices showed that their hearts were filled with gratitude.
In the past, this kind of ministry was a common one for church pastors. But this ordinary ministry in this special time makes every heart feel particularly different and be filled with special gratitude.
One elderly sister said that although she did not join the group, she arranged her own daily devotions. She reads the Bible and prays every day. She listens to the words of God on her phone and tells her friends about the gospel.
During this visit, brothers and sisters with smartphones were immediately invited into the chat group. On-site guides were offered to show them how to view the group message and how to enter the group to listen to sermons.
A sister said her church's visits would continue, in order to reconnect family members who have not been contacted since the beginning of the pandemic, and call back many of the sheep who had been separated by the pandemic outbreak.
-Translated by Nicolas Cao