At Barnabas Fund, we believe that God will protect and keep His people now, just as He did in Jeremiah’s time (see our Hope Deferred article). We believe that He has plans to give us a hope and a future, just as He did in a time of disaster 26 centuries ago (Jeremiah 29:11).
We want to invest in hope for our persecuted brothers and sisters, in the same practical way that Jeremiah did when he bought a field while Jerusalem was under siege.
It looks as if the coronavirus pandemic will have changed the world permanently even if a vaccine or cure is found (see our Finding Hope in Suffering article). This will impact us all, and especially Christians in places of pressure and persecution and those who are already very poor. They suffered severely during covid lockdown and life will not return to how it was before.
Church leaders are looking for solutions. Rev Ashim Baroi, General Secretary of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Sangha, wrote to Barnabas Fund on 1 July:
The future is going to be hard to overcome this situation, because the economic situation will be changed. We need to be thinking for ourselves, how can we sustain our families and the organisations and the institutions and we need to take a wise decision over how we sustain ourselves and we need to build up income generation. We cannot solve this problem alone; we need to build up our big network.
In preparation for post-Covid times, Barnabas Fund is re-structuring our project priorities, in order to strengthen persecuted Christian communities so they can survive into the future. The New Testament practice of local churches being self-governing, self-propagating and self-funding is now essential if they are to continue to exist and witness to our faith.
We want to help churches to become self-sufficient in the new realities of the post-covid world. The priorities we see are:
Investing in leadership training. We want to invest in Christian leadership, equipping leaders with the theological and other skills that they will need to lead God’s persecuted people in post-covid times. This has always been a priority area for Barnabas Fund but now, with God’s help, we are expanding it in a new way. In conjunction with universities in South Africa and the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life, we are enabling senior church leaders from across Africa, Asia and elsewhere to study, some at masters degree level and others for doctorates. For more junior church leaders we have created the Global Institute for Leadership Development, which provides practical training for ministry through courses which are integrated into their existing daily work for the Lord. All levels of study are primarily by distance learning and therefore unaffected by Covid-19 travel restrictions or lockdown.
Investing in schools and vocational training. Barnabas Fund already supports 144 Christian schools providing education for 14,860 Christian children in an average year. This is vital for their future job prospects. But we want to do more, especially in equipping Christian young people with specific skills for employment. Vocational training and apprenticeships will enable them to support their families, give to their local churches and Christian ministries, and educate their own children.
Investing in income generation start-ups. As Rev Baroi said, income generation will be more important than ever for Christian communities after the pandemic. Local churches, Bible schools, seminaries and other Christian ministries can then cover their own running costs: they only need some one-off funding to get started. The same applies to poor Christian families – a small grant to pay the initial capital costs can give a family the dignity and security of earning their living, even in a context where Christians struggle to get jobs due to discrimination.
Investing in health. Where Christians live at a very basic level, with just sufficient to cover their normal daily needs, an illness or accident can be a disaster. For they do not have the extra money needed for medical treatment. Regular medication for long-term conditions like diabetes or kidney disease can also be unaffordable. We want to help provide more Christian-run clinics for poor Christian communities, where treatment can be provided at affordable rates.
Investing in spiritual resources. We want to continue providing Bibles, Scriptures and other resources to build up the faith of brothers and sisters struggling with so many daily challenges. In addition, we will launch, God willing, a new website called Barnabas Today, providing spiritual resources to strengthen and encourage believers around the world, with an emphasis on materials written by and for those in the Global South.
Investing in help for vulnerable Christians. The vulnerable will be even more vulnerable in the post-covid world. We will continue to help victims of anti-Christian violence or injustice, converts from other religions, Christian widows and orphans, the displaced and refugees. We will also strengthen the infrastructure of impoverished Christian communities, e.g. providing safe clean water supplies. When natural disasters strike in places where Christians suffer discrimination or persecution, we will help our brothers and sisters who have no help from other sources.
Please pray with us for God’s guidance and enabling, even as we wait for His salvation and ultimately for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.