BCM Moves Beyond Covid
De Herikon Kids Camp
Psalm 126:3 reminds, “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”
After a year of upended plans, travel cancellations, and innumerable deaths, this verse may seem like a contradiction. Can we be filled with joy or say God has done great things for us after a year like 2020? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, BCM churches were shuttered, camps eerily quiet, a “hard stop” put on many ministries. Even more shattering was the tremendous loss of life, including within the global BCM family. In the hardest-hit areas like India, Ukraine, Peru, Myanmar, South Africa, burials of one BCM missionary or pastor followed another with barely a reprieve in-between. Many of these countries are experiencing yet another wave of the pandemic. We grieve alongside of them and ask you to remember the suffering in your prayers.
A quote by John Piper reads: “There is a time when the fragile form of this world is felt. The seemingly solid foundations are shaking. The question we should be asking is, ‘Do we have a Rock under our feet? A Rock that cannot be shaken—ever?’”
The answer is again a resounding “Yes!” When this last year felt as though built on shaky ground, Jesus remained our immovable, solid Rock, and what is built on him can never be truly shaken. The following brief cross-continental tour shares just a few reasons to rejoice in how God is moving beyond Covid through BCM global .
North America Reopens In-Person Children’s Ministry
Fun outdoors at Big Sky Bible Camp
As the pandemic made its waves across North America, churches were faced with difficult decisions of whether to stay open, close, or move online. To wear masks or take them off. In fall 2020, BCM missionary and children’s ministry director Lisa Biegert oversaw a new ministry method for quarantined families. Her church had a large children’s ministry, but leaders had been praying for parents to become more involved in their children’s spiritual lives rather than just dropping them off at church programs. Then came Covid—and “church in a box.”
The church-in-a-box program supplied children with at-home activities to go along with weekly online video Bible lessons produced by Lisa and others. Since parents were now the “teachers,” they became very involved in their children’s spiritual formation. With in-church programs now reopened, these families are now the most consistent attendees with children receiving Jesus as Savior, being baptized, and actively walking with the Lord. What had appeared a terrible setback ended up being the catalyst needed to involve church families in their children’s spiritual lives.
While most BCM camps were shuttered for the 2020 summer season, summer 2021 has been an exciting time of fresh beginnings for USA camps. Big Sky Bible Camp in Montana and Camp Sankanac in Pennsylvania are among those booked to capacity within weeks of opening camp registrations. Big Sky has functioned at full capacity, including overnight and day camps as well as Camp Promise for those with special needs. At Sankanac, campers have enjoyed a brand–new gymnasium. Other Pennsylvania and New York camps had some continued capacity restrictions but rejoiced to hear silent campgrounds filled once again with music and the laughter of happy campers.
In North America’s most southern nation, Mexico, BCM missionaries were thrilled to return to in-person Vacation Bible School. While attendance remained lower than usual, Bible lessons were recorded so additional children could participate virtually through Facebook. BCM Mexico’s Sunday morning services continue to be made available online as well with more than four hundred households participating virtually along with in-person attendance.
Basketball Camp in Camp Sankanac’s new gym
Innovation in South America
BCM Peru online Bible club
One country undergoing a second wave of Covid and continued mass lockdowns is Peru. In 2020, the BCM Peru team created numerous innovative ways for children to remain connected to their weekly Bible clubs. Those innovations have continued into 2021. Each week, the BCM Peru team creates an entire online Sunday school class which children tune into across Peru as well as a variety of other Spanish-speaking countries.
“Sunday school teachers from many different countries watch the videos to get ideas for their own classes,” BCM Peru missionary Shantal Odicio shares. “They often write asking permission to use the videos or ideas themselves, to thank us for the help, and even to request training and materials for use with their own classes.”
On Saturdays, the BCM Peru team holds two online Bible Clubs using Zoom. Working with forty churches across Peru, they have almost five hundred children participating in these interactive classes. They have also reopened their Bible and Ministry Training Center outside of Lima for in-person students with an emphasis on children’s ministry training.
Across the border, Brazil also remains extremely hard-hit with COVID-19. But this did not slow down the BCM Brazil team, which continued to reach into poor slum districts with the gospel. For summer 2021, BCM Brazil’s camp in Recife has reopened to in-person campers, including the always-popular English camp.
Shantal Odicio with Bible club materials
ISMT Spreads Across Africa
One distressing cancellation of 2020 was a large-scale In Step with the Master Teacher children’s ministry training conference. After a year of Zoom-only trainings, resuming in-person events was a great joy for BCM Africa personnel. In April 2021, ISMT Lead Trainer from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mado Fumunguya, conducted an in-person ISMT training with fifty-five pastors and Sunday school teachers from one DRC evangelical denomination. The sessions gave participants practical action steps for working with children in their churches and at home. A second training was then organized as the denomination hosting the first training realized they needed an additional one specifically for church leaders.
In late May 2021, Mado led a second training in a different area of the DRC with seventy-two pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, schoolteachers participating. Mado has now been joined by two other women trainers who are working with her to schedule ISMT training across the DRC.
ISMT Lead Trainer Joshua Anguyo from Arua, Uganda, has been working alongside BCM for the past five years in children’s ministry and ISMT training. He is now spearheading BCM ministry in Uganda with the goal of multiplying children’s ministry. When BCM missionary and ISMT founder Dr. Esther Zimmerman visited Uganda in late May 2021, both Dr. Zimmerman and Joshua were able to share God’s heart for children on a local Christian radio station.
Dr. Zimmerman shares, “We then met with the regional Church of Uganda bishop in Arua, Uganda. He is directly responsible for over seven hundred churches and has asked Joshua to partner with him in seeing that children’s discipleship ministry is established in each church over the next few years.”
Dr. Zimmerman’s purpose in traveling to Uganda was an intensive one-week, thirty-plus-class-hours ISMT training with thirty-three children’s ministry leaders handpicked and sponsored by their church leadership for a nine-month course in conjunction with Africa Renewal University (ARU), a Christian university in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, and outlying student locations. This was the first of three weeks on-campus training for them. A second residential week in September will take these students through BCM’s Train the Trainer course, then a final module in December on leadership and strategizing for the future.
Madagascar was one of the planet’s poorest nations before COVID-19 made relief efforts an even greater necessity. BCM Madagascar leader Ratovohery Jean has spearheaded multiple relief distributions for impoverished children, including both food essentials and school supplies. But BCM Madagascar hasn’t just offered physical relief. Despite the pandemic, over one thousand Malagasy children have continued to hear the gospel in weekly BCM Bible clubs.
Online teacher training
BCM Europe Takes Creative Access Outdoors
Outdoor camp at Castledaly
Europe remains under many Covid restrictions, but after a year-plus of virtual ministry, several BCM Europe teams have dug into their creative sides by taking 2021 summer camps outdoors. In Ireland, the arrival of COVID-19’s Delta variant postponed the reopening of BCM’s Castledaly Manor camp and conference center as indoor gatherings are still restricted. The Castledaly team responded by pitching tents and moving overnight camps entirely outdoors.
Castledaly director Jenna Dancey shares, “We had several people praying for good weather. God didn’t just give us good weather but sent a heatwave with some of the highest temperatures on record in Ireland!”
Young campers were delighted to meet in-person again. Castledaly’s camp theme this year was apt: “God is Still in Control.” And indeed, through lockdown, protocol changes, and indeterminate weather, God has shown himself in control.
In BCM Italy’s Camp Maranatha and De Herikon in the Netherlands, 2021 summer camps were also conducted mostly outdoors. At all these camps, sessions and activities were made available online for campers unable to attend in-person.
BCM Irelands online Camp Cookery
Asia Still Under Lockdown
In contrast, BCM ministries across India and other Asian countries remain largely under strict lockdown due to resurgences of Covid. BCM missionaries and leadership there ask for ongoing prayer as they continue to navigate through the pandemic.
A Prayer Room for All Nations
Virtual Prayer Room
Prayer has been exactly the focus of Sophia Wong, BCM’s International Children’s Ministry Director. A new BCM Kids Facebook site connects BCM children’s ministry leaders around the globe by sharing resources, encouragement, ministry reports, and prayer requests. Sophia began inviting participants to join her for a weekly Zoom prayer time, focusing each week on a different country where BCM ministers, which is why it has been termed a “Prayer Room for All Nations”, who is American born of Chinese descent (ABC), explains:
“There is a popular Chinese greeting: ‘ni chi fan le mei (have you eaten yet)?’ It reflects how important Chinese people considered having a full stomach. In 2021, there is a new greeting circulating among my Chinese friends: ‘ni da yi miao le mei (have you gotten your vaccine)?’ This change from a ‘full stomach’ to ‘full protection’ signals the confidence we have in the COVID-19 vaccine to protect the health of our family and community so we can have a better life. However, as Christ-followers living in the midst of a global pandemic, our greeting to each other should be ‘ni dao gao le mei (have you prayed)?’ to demonstrate our total dependance on God in this uncertain time.”
To date, the Prayer Room for All Nations has covered over thirty countries and BCM ministries in prayer, including the military coup in Myanmar and massive resurgence of COVID-19 cases in India. Sophia expresses, “Our hearts became saddened when we heard the news that dear BCM friends went to be with Lord because of COVID-19. We gave praises to God when he answered our pleas for healing and funding. We shed tears for the dire situation of unaccompanied minors caught in the border of the USA and Mexico. Our joy came when the Spirit touched our hearts to respond to a certain request with concrete actions. The Spirit of the Lord was so vividly present in each gathering. Many wonderful things have happened in those [weekly] thirty minutes.”
These Zoom prayer times have connected children’s ministry leaders from across the planet. BCM Lead Trainer Joshua Anguyo in Uganda shares his appreciation of connecting with other BCM personnel from many different regions: “This prayer time is not in vain. I remember after prayer for Uganda that a man who had been abducting and trading children was arrested and prosecuted. He wreaked so much havoc and is now in prison. Praise the Lord!”
Sophia invites everyone to join the BCM Kids Facebook page and their Prayer Room for All Nations Zoom sessions, which will resume fall 2021.