Although SIM UK worker Jonny Anderson experienced hardships and discouragement as a result of the coronavirus, his ministry and family are standing firm in Jesus.
Jonny began his Serving In Mission ministry after moving to Bolivia in 2010 with his Colombian wife Olga and two of their three children — Joanna, ten, and Jonah, eight. Their 11-year-old son Joel is at boarding school back in the UK.
The family was forced to abandon plans to spend Easter together after Joel’s return flight through Madrid was cancelled and his back-up route through Brazil was also disrupted when Bolivia announced Europeans could not enter the country.
As events unfolded, Jonny and Olga scrambled to find an alternate way to gather their family. “It took us a day to realise, ‘Hang on – if they’re going to close this country down and Britain’s shutting down, we’re probably better off being with Joel in Britain to sit it out with him there,” said Jonny.
But by the time Jonny and Olga had collected enough money to fly back to the UK, the local flights had sold out and the international airports were not an option because of the driving distance and curfew restrictions. “That was a real wrench,” added Jonny.
However, the family is grateful to the Lord that although he was far away, Joel was supported by friends and kept busy with cricket and video games.
“Joel made the mental adjustment and seemed to be alright,” added Jonny, who kept in touch via Skype several times a week. Olga also gave Joel some remedies to curb any homesickness, telling him: “Phone a friend, tell them about it, or make yourself a hot chocolate and think of us,” which is good advice for others who may be anxious and stranded far from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Quechua people that Jonny and Olga serve are also undergoing a level of isolation. The social distancing limited the couple’s ministry to share the gospel with the community through oral ministry. However, following a suggestion from his neighbour – Dutch theologian Janita Ortiz – God used Jonny to make a series of videos in the Quechua language, xplaining the biblical responses to the COVID-19 crisis, to be shared on social media.
Fear is one of the featured topics after a neighbour told Olga how frightened she was of contracting COVID-19 or facing financial difficulties. Although the woman had genuine faith in Jesus, her church culture had imposed the idea that these trials would be God’s judgement on her.
“Some in the area are very fearful, because their pastors tend to say in sermons that they’re not doing enough, not coming to church enough, not giving enough money,” explained Jonny. “So, they fear an economic collapse and they’ll get the disease as a punishment because they haven’t been faithful enough.
“Olga told the woman that God dearly loves her and that those misfortunes wouldn’t be a punishment from God and that she needs to trust in him.”
The message of God’s compassion will now be shared via video with a wider audience and despite the challenges of keeping up to date with the ever-changing global situation, Jonny aims to produce a new video each week.
Helping Jonny with the video project is Bolivian mission worker Edgar Ramos. Jonny met Edgar 13 years prior in London, and he will be an indispensable resource as a trilingual public communicator (English, Spanish, and Quechua).
Praise God the Anderson family were reunited on April 4.
Give thanks that God is at work through this time of crisis and that through conversations with neighbours, Jonny has identified a number of confused Christian beliefs.
That the series of videos will challenge the misconceptions the coronavirus crisis has exposed and Quechua believers will grow in their knowledge and understanding of God’s love.