Missio Dei Harvest found new ways to conduct missions online when travelling became a challenge amidst the pandemic that started in 2019. MDH’s ministry leader, Chua Kim Peng, shares about their journey.
Missio Dei Harvest is the ministry in City Harvest Church dedicated to overseas missions work. In pre-COVID days, MDH would send out mission teams to overseas churches every week. Many of these churches were started or are run by graduates of City Harvest School of Theology. When COVID-19 hit and the nations closed their borders to travellers, MDH’s activities and plans came to a halt.
God’s work, however, is not limited by distance or space. When MDH brought their mission trips online, God continued to do His work among His people.
ADAPTING TO DOING MISSIONS ONLINE
“The initial challenge is our mindset,” shares Chua Kim Peng, MDH’s ministry leader. “We were very used to what we thought a mission trip should be—I go to the church, preach, give an altar call, the people come forward, I lay hands and pray for them, they are delivered, they are healed. This is the fixed structure in our human mind.”
The first breakthrough came when the church went on a virtual “home visitation” with Mang Thang, the senior pastor of Myanmar Harvest Church. Over Zoom, the team prayed for a man who was unable to walk and witnessed his healing.
“It was very encouraging not just to the church members (in Myanmar), but also to our ministry members—God still heals through Zoom,” Kim Peng recalled. “After that, we shared the testimony with the rest of the members—the Lord is still healing, delivering and people are still receiving salvation.”
Since then, the ministry continued holding online meetings with their overseas partners. “We call them ‘online engagements’ and not just missions. Because of COVID-19, we have to change the way we operate and widen the approach to the way we do things,” Kim Peng shared.
Between Aug 2020 to Aug 2021, MDH had conducted 184 online engagements. This included online mission trips, online fellowships with the overseas church’s leaders, and ministry discussions. “Ministry discussions are done in small groups where we discuss ground issues with the pastors of our partnering churches. They will tell us their challenges and we will discuss some of the ways we can help them. This also helps us to plan future mission trips based on their needs,” Kim Peng elaborated.
Another thing that MDH did was record sermons for their partnering churches. “Some churches are in far-flung villages and their Internet connection is not so good. It is very hard for them to log in for an hour of online cell group meeting or service,” Kim Peng explained. “They have requested for us to record sermon videos for them—some are full 45-minute sermons, while some are short two to four-minute videos. They will use WhatsApp to send out these short videos to their villagers.” These sermons are recorded by MDH’s members and leaders.
ORGANISING THE MINISTRY’S STRUCTURE
Besides serving the overseas churches online, MDH also took time to organise its ministry structure and train its 120 members. Back in 2019, God gave the ministry a vision to strengthen its operations with a plan for the next three years. “The word for the first year (2020) was ‘Moulding’; God wants us to soar on,” Kim Peng shared. In 2020, MDH went through a season of organising its structure and tightening its operations. They took time to write out their Standard Operating Procedures for both overseas mission trips and online engagements. That year, they also started training second-tier leaders, whom they called “Kingdom-builders”. “These are CGC equivalents,” Kim Peng explained, referring to the connect group leaders in CHC’s cell groups.
“For this year, the word is ‘Discipleship’, God wants us to soar even higher,” Kim Peng continued. “To soar higher as a ministry, we should go deeper in our relationship with God; and also with one another. This year, the church also went into a season of Silence and Solitude and seeking God, so we know we are aligned (with the church’s vision).”
Tan Kim Hock, the pastor that oversees MDH, gives the ministry leaders online Bible study on a monthly basis. This will continue into the new year. The ministry members also fellowship and hold online devotions on team levels to build relationships with one another.
The word for 2022, the last year of MDH’s three-year plan is “Harvest”. “God wants us to get ready for harvest,” Kim Peng shares. For this reason, the ministry will be focusing on integrating and training new volunteers.
CHALLENGES OF DOING VIRTUAL MISSION WORKS
While MDH managed to continue its mission work even in the midst of the pandemic, it faced a number of challenges—one of which was logistics.
“When we were able to travel to the overseas churches, we were able to bring practical help to them. We did carnivals, medical outreaches and other community outreaches. We would install lights for them or bring them water, among other things,” Kim Peng shared. When borders were closed, MDH suddenly found it challenging to provide the churches with the supplies they needed.
“We wanted to send face masks to some cities in the early part of COVID-19 and our contacts were able to give them to us free-of-charge. However, the masks were stuck at the city’s custom for a long time,” he shared. “Our hearts went out to them. Eventually, we managed to send out some medical supplies to them,” he added.
The ministry members who had built a close relationship with their overseas brothers and sisters also missed having personal contact with them. “When we were there, we shared their challenges face-to-face—I missed this part very much,” Kim Peng said, adding that the rest of his team shared his sentiments.
“We would put our hand on their shoulder, we’d hug them, and we’d cry together with them. But now, when I hear of their leaders and members passing away, all I can do through Zoom is to say, ‘I’m so sorry to hear of this’. I wish we can be there to cry together and laugh together with them. The personal touch is just a bit different through Zoom.”
With borders opening up again, overseas missions work will become a possibility in the near future. In the meantime, God’s work continues—even through online platforms.