2020 brought a host of challenges to nonprofit missions, notably in the form of COVID-19. Concerns related to the spread of the disease shut down countries for months, forcing some missionaries to stop working completely. Others were trapped within their mission fields, unable to receive outside assistance or be extracted without significant legal paperwork. Without proper medical supplies, volunteer aid was significantly limited. Fly-in missions were impacted the most, stopping volunteers from reaching restricted countries, but these complications did not stop the efforts of missionaries around the world.
“One of the most amazing parts of COVID-19 was how the mission field continued to operate even in the face of adversity and chaos,” says Ethan Feick, an entrepreneur located in Nashville, Tennessee. “While the pandemic has slowed global mission work, it certainly hasn’t stopped groups from planning, mobilizing and preparing to help those in need. If anything, these latest challenges are helping mission-based organizations become more agile and responsive in the face of adversity.”
According to The United Methodist Church, the effects of COVID-19 have reduced the output of missionary groups and charities, but not as much as one might think. Some have continued to operate despite lockdowns and other quarantining efforts, providing hope, support, and healing to an increasingly needy world.
In Robertsdale, Alabama, a group of mission supporters sells thousands of fruitcakes to raise money for missionaries in need. The church was unable to process fruitcakes in 2020 due to lockdowns and sanitation concerns, but the planning committee was hard at work looking for new ways to raise money in the future. Today, the church expects to once again don their baking caps and create more than 1,500 fruitcakes for charity.
Warren Alfeche is a missionary continuing to work in spite of the difficulties created by COVID. A longtime homelessness advocate and Global Mission Fellow, Alfeche serves in Northern Ireland by teaching about available resources and poverty reduction for school-aged children. The effects of the Coronavirus have slowed his efforts to reach the needy, but his impact on the community has not been reduced. Alfeche’s work on the front lines allow hundreds of at-risk individuals to find hope and healing from complex housing situations.
The Hope Center in Latvia is another example of mission work continuing to thrive despite economic and physical shutdowns. Mothers in need and their children are welcomed to stay at the home for prolonged periods of time, and they are provided with food, shelter, and educational opportunities to grow and thrive. Although transportation and supply chain challenges prevent volunteers from serving at full capacity, many full-time staff members are stepping up to the plate to provide medical transportation, grocery shopping services, and field trips for the families.
Butler, Indiana’s Mechanics on a Mission continue to provide for their communities, specifically those facing exorbitant mechanical costs due to auto repairs or accidents. With the cost of living higher than ever before, vehicle owners are finding it increasingly difficult to find affordable repairs for their cars. Mechanics on a Mission was launched to meet this need, caring for hundreds of cars since the beginning of the pandemic. While supply chain issues and increased traffic have slowed their efforts to serve the community, they have certainly not stopped their work. Mechanics on a Mission is projecting growth in the coming year.
The Dream League is another mission which experienced some minor complications in the wake of the Coronavirus shutdown. Located in Sugar Land, Texas, the mission of the Dream League is to allow children with disabilities to play on a baseball team. The baseball league currently assists more than 120 players and is continuing to receive staunch support within the community. The effects of COVID-19 made it nearly impossible to meet face-to-face for games and practices, preventing the league from enjoying social interaction. However, organizers are planning for their biggest season yet, hopeful to jumpstart the league again in the very near future.
Missionary work around the world has been impacted by Coronavirus, complicating interpersonal interactions, displacing families, and preventing vital goods from reaching needy families. Despite this, the hard work and dedication of mission organizers continues to ensure outreach at all levels of society. According to International Volunteer HQ, mission efforts are still fully operational in dozens of countries, including:
- The Asian Pacific Islands
- South America
- The Caribbean
- The Middle East
New requirements, including negative COVID tests taken within 72 hours of mission departure, have been enacted to protect both volunteers and the public in general. Concerns associated with the virus have also led to supply chain slowdowns, which dramatically reduces the available materials for minsters and their fields. To combat this, many missionaries are beginning to rely on overseas donation shipments to support communities in creative ways.
Those wishing to help volunteer have a number of options. For large-scale missions, international travel plans can be changed or canceled within 14 days of departure. In any case, ministry efforts are finding unique and creative ways to remain operational even during trying times.
As restrictions associated with COVID continue to ease, mission fields around the world will once again scale to full capacity. Until such time, nonprofit groups will continue to look for new ways to overcome obstacles and reach the communities who need them most.