A lot has been happening here since sending our February update less than two weeks ago, and it seems good to keep you current about how the situation is unfolding around us.
As of March 2, the World Health Organization was reporting 254 confirmed cases of covid-19 in Japan. That number included 15 new cases since the previous report the day before, and some of those are here in Nagoya. Of course, 254 people in a country the size of Japan represents only a tiny percentage, but there seems to be an expectation that the number could trend upward very rapidly.
Last week, the Japanese government took several steps to try to contain the spread of the virus. For example:
Beginning this week, all elementary, middle, and high schools are closed until at least early April. Our boys are thrilled, but it's proving to be quite disruptive to the way things operate here.
Companies have been encouraged to use technologies that allow workers to be based at home where possible.
The government has also asked groups to cancel unnecessary gatherings for the next two weeks.
In an effort to comply with the government requests and to love our neighbors and the city, our church leaders made the decision to cancel worship at our downtown campus and encourage those members to gather in smaller groups to watch the "live stream" from the Nagakute campus. We will follow this plan for at least 2 weeks and then reevaluate.
Right now, our family is healthy and in good spirits. We're washing our hands a lot more often, and we're opting to drive our car more and stay off the trains. Of course, the boys are doing school from home.
So, how can you pray for us right now? Here are some ways:
Pray that the virus wouldn't spread widely. We'd also appreciate your prayers for our protection and for that of our friends.
Pray against the crippling "virus of fear" - especially among Christians. There's a lot of anxiety all around us right now, and we're certainly not immune to that either. Fear is even more contagious than covid-19! Pray that the believers here would not be anxious about anything but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving make our requests known to God. And pray that the peace of God that passes understanding would guard our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. And pray that our childlike trust in our Father's care would create opportunities to share the Good News with our neighbors!
Pray for Japanese families who are at home together and much less busy right now. One of our friends said, "I love the coronavirus! My whole family is home every day!" May God use this time to strengthen marriages and grow families!
Pray for our service this Sunday. For the second week, we'll be broadcasting the service on Facebook for those who can't attend due to the virus. There are some reasons that we don't use this approach every week for our worship services; however, this week, there will probably be many who are watching that would not visit our Sunday services. Pray for the Spirit to work in those who tune in.
As you probably know, Gina and I are in a unique position here. Our work puts us in a place where we are interacting with Japanese leaders, church members, and also with many missionaries. Each of those groups are experiencing unique fears and needs right now. Will you pray that the Spirit would refresh and strengthen us, so that we can be a blessing during this special season of ministry in Japan?