By Richard Greene
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the world, governments clamped down with pervasive restrictions, instituting strict lockdowns to help quell the spread of the deadly disease. Churches were not immune, joining businesses in closing their doors. But quarantines can’t keep believers from worshipping God or growing in Christ.
This is certainly true in South Asia – India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Despite these lockdowns, pastors there are encouraged during this season of uncertainty as they hear how their church members are remaining faithful. Radio is playing a strategic role throughout the region in helping these Christians study God’s Word and in sharing the gospel.
Even before the pandemic crisscrossed the globe, TWR was distributing radios and media players to believers in these four countries so they could listen to quality Christian programming from TWR’s broadcast partners, particularly Thru the Bible. In fact, radio home groups were springing up by the thousands and pastors had a hard time keeping up with the growth. But now, with Christians confined to their homes, those radios and media players are proving to be a spiritual lifeline.
Kosala,* a pastor who serves on the island nation of Sri Lanka, fretted about how he would teach the Word of God to his church members and how he could share the gospel within the confines of a countrywide quarantine. “I thank God I’ve been able to use the radio home players you have given to nurture the believers of my church,” Kosala said.
Each morning at 10 o’clock, members gather in their own homes to listen to the spiritual lessons. “As a church we are gathered by one spirit even though we are physically distanced,” the pastor noted.
What further excites Kosala is that the radio-home programs are making a lasting difference in the lives of nonbelieving family members. “I hear that some of them have accepted Christ after listening to these lessons,” he said. “We thank God, and we’re praying for your ministry regularly.”
Believers in Sri Lanka also voice their appreciation for the impact the Bible lessons are having in their lives.
“I’m a Christian woman who listens regularly, and I encourage my friends to listen, too,” Charuka* said. “We cannot attend church due to the COVID-19 situation, but I thank God for the opportunity you have given us through your program to listen to the Word of God from home. God bless this ministry.”
Since its first broadcast aired in 1954, TWR has been adept at responding to natural and man-made disasters. Staff have produced relevant Bible-based programs to minister to people besieged by war or devastated after earthquakes and hurricanes. Today, TWR production teams are investing their talents to give people Christ-centered hope during a widespread pandemic when their hearts are filled with fear.
TWR Asia’s Chinese Ministry promptly created From Despair to Hope, a program comprising multiple short episodes offering encouragement and evangelistic messages to some of the hardest-hit countries. It was first produced in Mandarin, but the program is being translated into other Chinese languages as well as Korean and Japanese.
At the same time, a 26-minute interview program titled Coronavirus: What You Need to Know has been aired from TWR’s transmitter on the Caribbean island of Bonaire – the most powerful AM station in the Western Hemisphere. The program has been translated into Farsi for broadcast into Iran, another especially hard-hit country. Not only are listeners receiving pertinent information about the nature of the virus and preventive measures to take; they’re also being pointed to Christ as the only source for true eternal hope.
TWR’s staff and facilities will keep proclaiming the gospel to 190 countries in more than 275 languages – to build listeners up and help them understand that Christ will walk with them every step of the way through this crisis.
As one listener from the Middle East so aptly puts it: “I will not allow worry and fear to overcome my thoughts and feelings, and whenever this happens, I run to the Lord. I am not perfect, but I have a perfect God. The future is vague, but God knows everything, and he is in control.”
If you would like to experience a variety of encouraging TWR programs during the pandemic, click here.
* This is a pseudonym to protect privacy.
Richard Greene is a longtime journalist and feature writer who has traveled to more than 60 countries. In addition to serving with TWR, he worked for The Navigators, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse. He and his wife, Lynda, live in the mountains of western North Carolina.