Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 4:1-9
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:1-9, NIV)
Paul’s words to the church in Corinth bring us a sense of balance in these unbalanced times. In the midst of trying to do ministries that are curtailed during the COVID-19 pandemic, or are considered questionable by those who question everything in the uncertainties of these times, we are meant to be “light shining in darkness.” Why? So that “the glory displayed in the face of Christ” may radiate from our lives.
But, we argue, our clay jars of existence are starting to show their flaws, they are cracking under the pressure. Paul would not accept that in his day, nor would he now. His confidence is in the One who placed His treasured Son in just such vessels, not to be stored away, sealed tight, never to face tragedy or the seismic events that tend to rattle, shake to the ground, and break into shards of earth returning to earth. There is something beyond our earthly lives that enables us to be “pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Christ fills these clay jars of our lives for times such as these, so that as we are pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, glory—”God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ”—may be seen in us!
In the prologue of John’s Gospel, we read: “The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5, NIV) So, do not lose heart; there are flickering, radiant expressions of Christ all around us that say to us, we are not alone, and the power of God is at work, even in our lives, even in these days. Darkness has not, cannot overcome this light. Shine on!
Pray for yourself and for others like you who are expresions of Christ’s light and love in this world:
- Lord, remind me that brokenness brings a display of God’s glory, and let me, let us not be afraid.
- Lord, don’t let us focus on the clay jars of our existence, but rather focus on the light that shines through the cracks, the grace that pours from the overflow of your love within us when circumstances shake our sense of balance, and the certainty that nothing can overcome You! We are Your’s; make a difference through us this week.
Countries of Focus
- General:Equatorial Guinea—work established in 2002; 5 not yet organized churches; 729 members.
São Tomé and Príncipe—work established in 1997; 5 organized churches, 1 not yet organized church; 207 members.
Regional: Both Equatorial Guinea and São Tomé and Príncipe are on the Central Field of the Africa Region.
Cultural: The official language of Equatorial Guinea is Spanish; for São Tomé and Príncipe, it is Portuguese.
- Special: After 190 years of Spanish rule, Equatorial Guinea gained its independence from Spain in 1968. The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe were colonized by Portugal in the 15th century, building an economy on African plantation slave labor, which continued into the 20th century. Independence came in the late 1980s. The majority religion in both countries is nominal Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic). It is estimated that the poverty rate in Equatorial Guinea is 76.8%, and in São Tomé and Príncipe, it is currently 35.6% and steadily rising. The literacy rate in the Equatorial Guinea is 95.3%, and in São Tomé and Príncipe, 96.2%. More than 60% of the population in Equatorial Guinea and São Tomé and Príncipe is under the age of 25.
Mission and Ministry
During the COVID-19 pandemic the number of cases in the Equatorial Guinea has reached 5,534 with 86 reported deaths; in São Tomé and Príncipe, total cases stand at 1,287, with 17 reported deaths. Like many nations of the world cases are on the rise, as well as COVID-19-related deaths. Health systems are stretched, and precise statistics are difficult to rely upon.
Due to the pandemic, the church has been unable to be completely functional in all of its ministry outreach. Restrictions on travel between districts has increased the challenge of reaching and visiting churches located in the interior of the country to encourage pastors and congregations. Where unstable internet is prevalent, connections are even more challenging now. As everywhere, the pandemic has impacted the economies of our focus countries, making it more difficult for the people to meet their daily needs for food, basic necessities, and income. Still, the churches maintain their optimism, and the people continue to work to further the Kingdom.
Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, churches continue to remain open and serving their respective communities to meet the spiritual needs of the people. With the support of NCM, the churches were able to distribute food to some of the families most impacted by the pandemic. We praise the Lord for continued church development, and for committed leaders and workers. The church in Equatorial Guinea is developing new ministries, like the JESUS film, to improve evangelism that reaches new areas for Christ. The Nazarene school is critical to outreach to children. Even during the pandemic, the school remains open and ministering to the students and their families.
In response to the challenges with internet, the church in São Tomé and Príncipe has been able to distribute a copy of the message and some basic studies to each family, where each home becomes a small congregation and the head of the family is the preacher. God has preserved His church, believers have been spared and the country has not been significantly impacted by the pandemic, and ministries continue. The church has been awakened, and believers, hungry for the Word of God, have drawn closer to Him. Families have been drawn to the churches. In some settings where there have been no reported COVID-19 cases, there have been conversions and baptisms.
- A theological education partnership with the South America Region and the Argentina Seminary has been approved, allowing a new opportunity for theological studies in Spanish and ordination for pastors and leaders.
- Missionaries, Camilo and Sara Gonzalez, praise God for the continued opportunities to serve with local leaders and for the continued support received from partners in the United States.
- Praise God for conversions of new believers, as well as ongoing construction projects, services of worship, and financial support that has come in for the work in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Missionaries, Fernando and Ana Maria Carvalho, praise God for protection and care during the pandemic, and for the ways in which God has guided and directed the ministry to see growth of the work.
- Pray for the district leadership and pastors in Equatorial Guinea as they continue to find effective ways to minister and meet the needs of their congregations and communities.
- Pray for the Gonzalez family, that God would give them increased grace and wisdom in project planning, for the continued health of their family, and for continued opportunities for future partnerships for the work in Equatorial Guinea.
- Pray for the Carvalho family, that they would continue to find renewed strength each day.
- Pray for the spiritual growth of believers, and a deep commitment and consecration to see the work continue to grow in São Tomé and Príncipe. Pray also for the development of an effective ministry with women and children.