Covid-19 caused Victory Lutheran Brethren Church of Hsinchu, Taiwan to temporarily close the building. Victory Hakka Fellowship decided to find a way to continue to meet. It was simple, and it was certainly not traditional, but we offered people the opportunity to be encouraged. After scouting out locations, we decided on a park near the church. It had built-in seating with natural spacing. This arrangement satisfied people’s concerns for safety in group settings. We told people we would be there between 10 and 11:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings (unless it rained) to talk, pray, worship, and encourage one another.
We met there from March until the end of June. More than once there were clouds overhead and a few drops of rain fell, but we were blessed to be together. People sat in the shelter of a large tree. When the sunlight reached a certain spot, you knew it was time to close the service.
The location helped us to put aside fears so we could concentrate on loving God and loving each other. Upon our arrival with the books and papers for worship, we found someone had already swept to make the area neat. Most individuals used the Bible on their cell phones. After the service, people took time to encourage and care for one another. Later a loudspeaker was used to help with music, teaching, and prayer.
We had all the parts of worship normally found in a church setting—a call to worship, songs of praise, and prayer. Scripture was read and we heard the words of God that encouraged our souls. We successfully gathered to praise God and encourage each other. Was it convenient? No. But it was enough.
People became accustomed to the location and we “had church” in the park. We didn’t seem to disturb those around us. In fact, some people were even eavesdropping on our activity. Because people felt safe, we had our normal members and began to add new friends to our group. How did people get there? They were dropped off by family, walked, took scooters, an electric cart, and some came by wheelchair. We had more people attending outside than we recently had inside the church building, because some came who are shy about entering the church building.
People encouraged one another while keeping a safe distance. Greater than that, people were introduced to Jesus. Members were discipled in the basic truths of the Christian faith. Some were being prepared so they could make a choice concerning baptism. The Triune God was glorified during times of trouble and fear.
During this time, we wanted to learn how to communicate love and concern. We wanted to help believers, but even more so those yet to believe in Jesus. We offered people this option so we could see one another face-to-face, while the location helped them feel safe from the possibility of transferring an infection.
The goal was to have people encourage others personally. Call a person on the phone or through other messaging systems. Send a card or note of encouragement, but not through social media. This shows others that you specifically thought of them. Tell them you are praying for them, and then pray with them—either in person or on the phone. For example, I even recorded prayers for a friend I could not visit in the hospital. He was comforted by the prayer to the heavenly Father who was watching over him.
People learned to care for others. We became people with boldness yet caution who found ways to love each other. We did not want to miss the opportunity God had placed before us to touch people when they needed the love of God. The Holy Spirit cared for both our needs and the needs of those around us.
By the end of June it was too hot to be outside, but with the virus situation in Taiwan being very stable, we were able to return to the church. Pray for us as we are working to find ways to encourage those who are still shy about attending worship in the building. We are also planning for other outside activities when the weather is cooler.
In all we do, may God be glorified and may precious souls be blessed for all eternity!
Michael and Delores Kittelson serve Lutheran Brethren International Mission as missionaries to the unreached Hakka people of Taiwan.