In response to the coronavirus, the Israeli Health Ministry has passed regulations that require people to only leave their homes for a few reasons; the two main ones being to buy vital food and medicine or to seek medical care. To enter grocery stores, shoppers have their temperature taken at the door by a security guard and is then given gloves and a facemask to enter. The cashiers wear special facemasks with air vents and, after each customer, they spray the counter and wipe it down with antiseptic.

All religious activities are limited to gatherings of 10 people or less. Additionally, no more than two people are allowed to travel in one car. Open-air markets and businesses have been shuttered, and there are videos showing the arrests of people who did not follow mandated quarantines. The rules to quell the virus have effectively stopped school, work, religious gatherings and worship, weddings, funerals and any other activity that includes more than 10 people.

With the streets quiet and movement limited, ministry work in Israel has grown more difficult. But  Henry* and Edith*, along with their two small children, have found alternative ways to share God’s love. The couple discovered that they can reach out to their neighbours while everyone is stuck at home. When taking out the trash or going on a short walk around the building complex, they are able to tell their neighbours that they are praying for them and their health and share how God is in control of the situation. They also text their neighbours to check in on them and ask what they need during this uncertain time.

Within the team, Henry and Edith have been sending YouTube videos of worship songs to other members and exchanging Bible verses back and forth. Edith supports the women of the group by texting them encouragement and organising online prayer meetings. She checks in almost daily, making sure that no one is forgotten. Henry sends devotion guides to the team and asks that they send him individual prayer requests so that he can pray for whoever needs it. Their small home congregation used video conferencing to fellowship together.

Peace within the home

Henry and Edith’s capabilities for sharing God’s love, despite the coronavirus, has stemmed from God giving them peace within their family home. Edith said they were daunted at first by the challenge of all four of them being in their small apartment all day! They also found that reading the news often was bringing them down emotionally and schoolwork proved draining as Henry and Edith need to translate much of the work.

Despite the challenges of a crowded home, anxiety at the uncertain times and translating their children’s schoolwork, the family has seen God at work. Edith and Henry decided to start each day with prayer, and have found that they have more time during the day to pray. They limit how much of the news they take in, and, while they still feel like they want to know why the virus is happening, their trust in God has grown. They have also found that the challenge of translating schoolwork has improved the language skills of the whole family.

Also, the children’s relationship with each other has blossomed. Edith has found that playing worship music in the background has helped everyone in the home to stay calm, and it has been a blessing to hear praise to the Lord constantly. The family ends each day by reading God’s Word and praying together. Edith says: “We’re enjoying our time together, enjoying the slowing down of life. We are enjoying spending more time with God.”

The chaos in Israel can be overwhelming as people are anxious about the spread of the virus, the loss of income and about the uncertainty of when it will pass. With all this chaos, it is easy to feel like there is no one in control of the situation. But Henry and Edith’s neighbours, team and church family can see that they are not anxious, because they trust––as demonstrated by both their words and their actions––that God is bigger than the coronavirus.

*name changed

Streets are typically lined with stone buildings in Israel. Photo by Sarah Beth Pritchard

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