PASTORAL CARE IN THE MIDDLE EAST DURING CORONAVIRUS
Updated: Sep 3
By Laise Sindra Ribeiro
Have you ever thought about how to be a pastor in the Middle East in this time of the coronavirus?
Most countries in the Middle East have taken radical measures in the fight against the virus and the situation is no different in the Kingdom of Jordan.
Jordan decreed a State of Emergency, closed airports and borders, schools and universities, stopped all its activities and finally introduced the National Defense Law (Martial Law).
What does that mean? The Government did not allow people to leave their homes at all. In three days of forced quarantine, security forces arrested 880 people and the sentence is up to one year in prison.
Going to the pharmacy or supermarket was prohibited and it was only possible to have things delivered. Leaving the house was completely prohibited. After those three days, the government eased restrictions, allowing people to leave the house to shop for essentials between the hours of 10AM and 6PM.
Refugees in Jordan are still living in bad conditions. The coldest months are from December to March and most of the refugees don't have resources to buy blankets and appropriate heating systems to warm up their houses.
So how is the heart of a pastor in the face of so many needs that his sheep have during this time? We interviewed two ministers in Jordan who are supported by VOM . Please, follow the interview and pray with us for the comfort and wisdom of the Holy Spirit for such a time as this.
We asked what it is like to be a pastor and a Christian in this Jordanian context under curfew and coronavirus. Our ministers answered:
"The difficulty lies in not being able to fulfill others' needs as you are locked in without the possibility of moving freely. We tried to get permission to be able to go out and meet the needs of so many, but we’re rejected! Also, I’m not being able to do the services properly. Not everyone follows the online service for we are not prepared as people to do so. We cannot reach out to the families. We try to do our best in whatever means we have, but sometimes it is not enough."
According to our pastors in Jordan, there is no problem against Christians and religious persecution in Jordan because of the coronavirus. The Government imposed the same restrictions on all religions in the same way. However, the Government recognized more the traditional churches, like Catholic and Orthodox in comparison with the Protestants and gave them more permissions to move and help the needy.
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 word “Christian” is used here to describe people from different Christian denominations. So, the true Christians were treated differently. You may find a church priest moving around and not being questioned, and a pastor not allowed to move freely outside his house.
In answer to questions about how God has been providing wisdom in how to encourage church disciples and to administer the teaching of God's Word during the coronavirus crisis, the pastors responded:
"The church has leaders and pastors that are meeting together daily through Whatsapp (communication app on their phones), discussing the needs of the people and even with the limitations, how it is possible to act and help our disciples. For example, Whatsapp groups, the Facebook page of the church and broadcasting the services are some ways that we are continuing to encourage people. Also, we are 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 showing an awesome interaction with the discipleship."
Concerning how the ministry has suffered after the coronavirus, our ministers shared that the church lost donors and partners who had been providing funds that were vital to the ministry's ability to provide food to our refugee families. Due to current travel restrictions, we will not be able to receive volunteers for the time being, which considerably decreases the ministry’s budget.
Finally, we asked if the pastors have dreams of new prospects for the church's performance after this crisis and what has God been placing on their hearts. They hope that people will draw closer to God and will realize how short their lives are. They 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. One of our pastors answered:
"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 get reunited and restart the great commission that the Lord has commanded us to do."
Please continue to pray for our ministry in Jordan, for our pastors and for provision for the refugee families. Let's pray for the light of Jesus to be more visible in this dark time.
MAIS which stands for Mission in Support of the Suffering Church  and Aziz Family are organizations that support Christians living in the midst of war, natural disasters or persecution. Their focus is on humanitarian aid, community development, training, and welcoming refugees. They serve Christians in the context of suffering in a way that helps them to reach autonomy and have everything they need to fulfill their vocation in society.
 The interview was conducted by Laise Sindra Ribeiro, a Lawyer in Jordan (https://www.instagram.com/lyse_pv.31_8.9/).
 For more details, please check at: https://www.instagram.com/missaomais/ and www.maisnomundo.org.
 For more details, please check at: https://www.instagram.com/familiaaziz/ and https://www.facebook.com/familiaaziz/.
 "JAF: 880 Curfew Violations Recorded During The Last 24 Hours". 2020. En.Royanews.Tv. http://en.royanews.tv/news/20387/2020-03-23.
 A specific project sponsored by The Voice of the Martyrs Australia provided relief for the refugees that suffered persecution and now are in Jordan waiting to be resettled in another country. With the support of VOM, the jordanian church provided food distribution, Bibles and school kits for refugee families in February 2020.