Wherever you are, I am pretty sure the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you. It’s a good thing God’s love has a global – and personal – reach, too. It is our prayer that you are experiencing God’s peace, which transcends understanding.
How are you holding up? What are your stories during this time? More importantly, what is God’s story in you? Let me share to you little-big stories that have been happening the past month – more like a collage of God’s stories woven together into a beautiful fabric within IVCF Philippines.
“This global crisis…encourages me to choose to cooperate and be an instrument
to people who love to show their care and support for the frontliners,
who are risking their lives for this battle.”
– Juneca Rose Junta, Bohol Graduate Volunteer
March 15, 2020. The whole National Capital Region was under community quarantine. This was done to combat the COVID-19 threat in the country as the number of infected patients was alarmingly on the rise. Public transport, schools, offices, businesses, and industries in the Metro, except for the essentials, were shut down. All except the frontliners – medical personnel, grocery workers, market vendors, pharmacy employees, the police and military – stayed home. But when more COVID-19 positives poured into the country’s hospitals, the quarantine was extended to the whole of Luzon Island. Some provinces and cities in the country implemented community quarantines to further reduce contact. “Social Distancing” became a by-phrase.
What are we to do?
The question reverberated among the IVCF staff scattered in the country. A movement whose primary ministry is among the students, IVCF Philippines also faced the challenge of ministering outside the campuses. The first obvious answer was to join the rest of the country in staying at home. Only as necessary – purchasing of food and essential supplies – did people go out.
The second was to intercede. Traditionally holding a two-day prayer retreat in March, the NCR and Southern Luzon staff conducted a virtual prayer time instead, done through the use of social media. Main prayer points included government leadership, cure for COVID-19, IFES and the IVCF ministry. As the quarantine days wore on, prayers continued to pour. National office staff continued with their daily prayer time at the office, albeit with masks and social distancing. Regional field staff prayed in their IV homes or over the Internet with their students. The Southern Luzon Regional Unit, under the leadership of Emadel Canon, posted pictures of frontliners who are IVCFers and friends, with a short note of encouragement. These were then posted on their Facebook page so that more people could pray for these brave men and women – heroes, really – during this time.
And how do you do Bible study when you couldn’t meet face to face? Do it via Facebook! The field staff shifted to online Bible studies to minister to their contacts. Being freed from rushing-to-next-class schedules, the students had more time for richer discussions and deeper reflections. Bicol Regional Director Rafael Magdaong conducted online Bible quizzes, which further enriched his engagement with his students.
But IVCF didn’t stop at the virtual level, for there are very real needs at hand. In partnership with MEANS USA, staff, students and graduates from Cebu City, Tagbilaran City in Bohol, Tacloban City in Leyte, Borongan City in Samar, and the municipalities of Rosario, San Francisco, and Prosperidad in Agusan del Sur made home-made face shields and masks and distributed them to frontline partners. Graduates from Dumaguete City pooled funds and distributed rice and food packs to 62 tricycle driverswho suffered from the loss of income. Likewise, graduates in Bacolod City donated funds so Western Visayas RD Mizpah Villamor used them to help traysikad drivers in their community. In General Santos City, staff Eleazar Canonigo (through the donation of a Cebu graduate) helped 24 students from Mindanao State University who were stranded when the order for community quarantine took effect. Meanwhile, NCR staff helped ISACC in its relief operations by being the data gatherers via phone in contacting some Quezon City churches so that the organization could direct its food pack distribution to the families that these churches were ministering to. ISCF Coordinator Arjay Janoras helped in the packing and distribution of these food packs. Countless other things were done by IVCF staff, students and graduates in order to help those who needed aid.
As the ECQ is extended until the end of April, the IVCF family, whether here in the country or abroad, will continue to extend help in any way that we can. Companies call it their Corporate Social Responsibility. We simply call it the way Jesus commanded us: “Love your neighbor.”
We don’t know if the quarantine in the country will be extended further. We are not sure when we are going back to normal. We are uncertain of the end of the COVID-19 crisis. But of this we are confident: God remains to be in control.