NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) Theologian Joe Sawatzky, Church Relations representative for Mennonite Mission Network, had been deliberating about whether to share some of his Bible studies online.
The dark cloud of COVID-19 gave him an answer.
The pandemic inspired Sawatzky and his Church Relations colleagues to provide a silver lining in the crisis through a live-streaming Hope Series, launched Mar. 23. As his contribution, Sawatzky will provide Bible studies on Jesus as healer, from the Gospels, for 15 to 20 minutes on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. EASTERN, beginning Apr. 1.
The Hope Series, produced by Mission Network’s Church Relations department, charged with providing resources for congregations and establishing personal relationships with these churches, has three parts. Along with the Bible study, the series also includes a daily prayer time at 1 p.m. EASTERN on Mondays through Saturdays, and video reports from mission workers and partners, “Hope Around the World.” Those reports will air at 4 p.m. EASTERN on Thursdays, beginning Mar. 26. To join the live-streaming event, make sure to like and follow us on Facebook at @MennoniteMissionNet. Keep your eyes on Mennonite Mission Network Facebook page at the scheduled times for the live broadcasts.
“Even though I prefer to do Bible study face-to-face, today’s social media world, and the counsel of my colleagues regarding how to provide hope during this pandemic, motivated me to finally launch into a virtual space,” said Sawatzky, who served with his spouse, Anna, with Mission Network in South Africa from 2006-2014.
“Though we are physically separated from each other, this Hope Series can help us to study Scriptures and pray together. It can help remind us, ironically, that at a time when we aren’t to touch others, Jesus often touched others during his healing of them. This Bible study can help us explore the multiple ways that God’s healing works.”
Sawatzky also noted that some of the inspiration to focus on this topic came from his days of service in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, where healthcare was scarcer than in the United States. “Because of that, peopled tended to depend a lot more directly on God for healing,” he said.
Planned for now is Sawatzky’s sharing of six Bible studies each Wednesday evening through May 6. It’s the Church Relations team’s goal that the living word of Scripture will ground people on the rock of Christ during times of shifting sands.
“The Bible is always a vital part of our faith, but in times of uncertainty and anxiety, it becomes even more important,” said Jason Boone, coordinating minister for Mission Network’s Peace and Justice Support Network, a part of the Church Relations department. “Scripture grounds us in the truth of God’s love. We desperately need the hope that is found there. I’m grateful for gifted teachers like Joe who help us encounter Scripture in new and deeper ways.”
Sandy Miller, senior executive for Mission Network’s Resourcing and Mobilization division, of which Church Relations is a part, shared, “The Spirit of God was at work within our hearts in Church Relations, nudging us to encourage Joe to offer hope in virtual ways. Joe was already primed, through his study and articulation of Scripture, to offer us the centering words that we all need that Jesus is our healer in all kinds of sickness and brokenness.”