What is it like to be a pastor in the Middle East during the time of the coronavirus? Jordanian pastors David and John gave Voice of the Martyrs Australia an insight into how things were and still are for their churches and congregations in this season.
Pastor David is an active evangelist who frequently suffers persecution from Jordanian authorities and local Muslim leaders. He leads the ministry of his local church and has developed many projects throughout the country to reach out to locals and refugees. In recent years, he has baptised over 300 people, many of whom are Muslim background believers. Because of this, he is constantly being monitored by the community.
Pastor John leads alongside Pastor David in their local church. He is their liaison and administrator for all the ministry they do together. Much like Pastor David, he also frequently experiences persecution.
What is it like to be a pastor and Christian in Jordan under the curfews in place due to COVID-19?
Pastor David: It is not easy to be a shepherd in this time. It is hard being away from my people. I want to visit and encourage them but we have to stay away from them physically. For me, phone calls and Facebook just aren’t enough. There are also many people who need help. We know that they’re there but we’re unable to approach them.
Pastor John: The difficulty lies in not being able to fulfil the needs of others and move freely to help. We tried to get permission to be able to go out and meet the needs of so many, but we were rejected. Also, not being able to do church services properly. Not everyone follows the online services and we can’t reach out to the families as we normally would. We try to do our best with whatever means we have, but sometimes it is not enough.
Do you think that Christians have suffered any religious persecution in Jordan because of the coronavirus?
PD: There is no problem against Christians and religious persecution in Jordan because of the coronavirus. The government has imposed the same restrictions on all religions in the same way. However, the government recognised more the traditional churches, like Catholic and Orthodox in comparison with the Protestants and gave them more permissions to move and help the needy.
PJ: The word ‘Christian’ is used here to describe all kinds of Christians from different denominations. Some are being treated differently. You may find a church priest moving around and not being questioned, but a pastor is not allowed to move freely outside his house. The lockdown is for all religions, Muslims, and Christians. But there is a privilege given to some. Also, persecution comes from the others as well. Our names are not mentioned even when we give or offer any help to anyone. People deny us and don’t want to recognise us in any way. Whatever we do, Christians give the credit to the historical churches. It’s something we have suffered for a long time but has increased in this period.
How has God given you the wisdom to encourage church disciples and minister God’s Word in this time?
PD: The church has leaders and pastors who are meeting together daily through WhatsApp, discussing the needs of the people and, even with the limitations, how we can act and support our congregations. As well as WhatsApp groups, we are also communicating and encouraging people through the church Facebook page and broadcasting the Sunday service. We’re also in touch with them by phone to see how they are doing. During the quarantine, people seem closer to God and they feel more in need of the church’s support. They are interacting so well with each other; it has been amazing to see.
PJ: Yes! This is what makes us happy and rejoice in the Lord in this critical time. Though it wasn’t as we desired, we were able to use our social media, WhatsApp and Facebook, to encourage others. We receive lots of phone calls from people asking for prayers. We are in touch with the church congregation daily. We created a WhatsApp group for this purpose and the Holy Spirit is encouraging all.
Is it possible to predict losses because of the coronavirus crisis? How do you think the church will be hurt by the crisis?
PD: The church lost donors and partners who were vital in providing ministry funds to buy food for people. It is really important that the donors keep their commitment to helping the church, even during the crisis, in order for the ministry to be able to meet basic needs.
Also, the work in Jordan is carried out by volunteers who visit from all over the world. We have a guest house that receives the volunteers and serves as a means of generating income. This in turn raises funds that are used primarily to pay the annual rent for the seven physical spaces we use in carrying out our ministry.
Due to current travel restrictions, we will not be able to receive volunteers for the time being, which considerably decreases the ministry’s budget.
PJ: It will take time for us to be able to gather the flock again. People became used to being home and have gotten used to laziness. Yes, there will be losses but we will, in His name, reach out and come back to our beginnings. Even better!
Do you expect new prospects for the church after this crisis?
PD: I hope that people will draw closer to God and will realise how short their lives are. I believe that people will become more committed to the church and that this is a good opportunity for the church to grow because Jesus is the only hope and light for this darkness.
PJ: I think it is a must! We need to pray and plan well after we come back. God has put into my heart to do lots of worship, for we miss singing to the Lord as a group of people. I might say that I do have a dream which is to see the church growing and the people rising and all coming to worship and listen to the Word of God. The true family must reunite and restart to go after the Great Commission that the Lord has commanded us to do.
If you would like to support these two pastors and others doing similar work in restricted nations, please donate to our Front Line Ministry fund.
Our Front Line Ministry fund directly assists pastors, evangelists and full-time Christian workers who courageously minister in the face of hostility and persecution. It includes provision to support underground Bible colleges, leadership training, evangelism resources, computers, transportation, small business equipment, pastor support programmes and equipping churches with resources.
To support this project go to vom.com.au/donate