An Update From JAARS President Woody McLendon Concerning COVID-19

By Woody McLendon

It’s hard to believe that it was only six weeks ago that I shared with you—and with our mission partners around the world—how JAARS was responding to the accelerating COVID-19 pandemic. Even in the hardships and challenges, we’ve seen so much for which we can thank God.

First let me say a heartfelt thank you to each of you—our friends and partners—for your faithfulness, grace, and prayers during this time. At JAARS, we not only made the transition to working from home for most of our team six weeks ago, we’ve also found creative ways to serve and support those around us. We’re grateful all who continue to pray for and support us in ministry, too.

I’m thankful that our JAARS team has …

  • Opened our hearts and our JAARS housing to receive Wycliffe and SIL colleagues evacuating from their countries of service to find a safe place to quarantine. Many from our staff and community worked together to care for these friends and colleagues and thankfully they are all now released from quarantine safely.
  • Transitioned our Aviation pre-field orientation classroom training here on campus—almost overnight—to use distance learning technology, even though the orientees are here already, in order to provide social distancing protections for all.
  • Organized to make and donate PPE, including face masks, face shields, and now gowns, to meet needs in our area and beyond. We’ve been able to share information on how to access Scripture for free online, in text, audio, and video forms alongside the practical PPE donations. Just last week we reached a milestone of 1000 face masks sewn and distributed, and the team is still going strong!
  • Learned to use new technology for collaboration, including Zoom, Google apps, and others, to work together despite our current limitations on travel and work. In many ways we’ve been able to accomplish more than we thought possible by collaborating globally in ways we hadn’t attempted before.
  • Safely passed through the critical phase of this crisis, with the help of our COVID-19 Crisis team and all of you.
  • Strengthened our bonds with you—our prayer and financial partners, and our global partners—by reaching out, praying with and for you, and seeking creative ways to serve in these days. I’m thankful for having so many dear brothers and sisters worldwide to serve alongside in God’s mission.
  • Shown the love of Jesus to our neighbors in many practical ways, too.

We are soon entering the next phase in this journey. Here on our campus in North Carolina we will be following the phased release of restrictions that the North Carolina Governor recently outlined. We will implement steps to return to more normal operations, in line with CDC and other health guidelines, in the days ahead. At the same time we are monitoring the global situation and will monitor our capacity to send staff and teams safely to international partner locations.

JAARS continues to be active in ministry locally and globally even with restrictions on travel and the NC stay-at-home order. We believe it will still be some weeks before we will open our campus to visitors again, though we hope to have more staff working on campus in the near future.

While we still have a long road ahead of us, we are not alone! The Lord Jesus promised to be with us and guide us, and he gives us each other to walk together in this journey (at least six feet apart for now …).

The health impact of this pandemic is but one part of the challenge. The economic impact is still unfolding, for the global economy in general, and for JAARS and our mission partners specifically. News this week that over 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March is weighty. Many companies have or soon will go bankrupt. No one knows exactly how the days and months ahead will unfold.

Probably most significant are the emotional and spiritual impacts of this crisis. We’ve seen, heard, and watched a number of these already. It may get worse. At the same time, God is opening hearts and minds of many to the message of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.

And so we have hope! Paul in Romans 8:18-28 expresses this truth powerfully:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

As you wait patiently and in hope, may the peace of God guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

With thanks,

Woody McLendon