Jesus is alive, and he is our only hope. That’s what Russell, a missionary with Global Gates, wants people to know during this coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). He shares that simple but profound message of grace and truth with the people he is reaching with the love of Christ. Sadly, he must do it via telephone, FaceTime, or text message instead of in-person due to social distance, stay-at-home, and self-isolation guidelines and precautions.
Russell, a South Asian Christian from a Muslim background, lives in Queens, New York. His primary ministry focus is with Bengali Muslims, but he also engages Muslims from Pakistan and India, and some Hindus. He regularly labors among the unreached people groups (UPG) in the Jackson Heights and Elmhurst neighborhoods designated as ground zero for COVID-19 in the United States.
That has not stopped Russell from sharing the gospel with people, which is what folks need most in this global health crisis. He goes right to the Bible, and walks them through Matthew 24, Psalm 91, and 2 Chronicles 7:11-15.
“This Word of God gives them hope and encourages them,” Russell said. “The Messiah is a healer. This is a very good opportunity. People have heard the gospel, and they’ve been asking a lot of questions about the second coming of Jesus. People are really seeking the truth.
“This is a great opportunity to share and review the gospel again, encourage people, pray for them over the phone, and send them a text message. It’s really incredible.”
For example, one of his relatives back in his home country just gave his life to Jesus, and thanks to technology Russell can disciple him digitally.
While the gospel is a message of hope, it also has eternal ramifications when it comes to whether people are going to spend eternity with or apart from God. The reality that heaven and hell are real is sobering, especially as we face a pandemic that is claiming hundreds of thousands of lives around the world and threatening to take more. Many of these people have not trusted Christ as Lord and Savior nor heard the good news of Jesus.
Russell has experienced the grief of COVID-19 up close. He has friends, believer and non-believer alike, who have died from it. A fellow Christian, who comes from a Muslim background, died from COVID-19 a week ago. A pastor visited the man before he died, and now, he and his wife are infected with the coronavirus. This pastor and his wife have three daughters.
Tragically, the coronavirus also infected a 38-year-old Bengali Muslim woman, who died soon after contracting it. She left behind three children, including a 14-month-old baby.
Russell does not want people to panic in this hour of darkness. Instead, he wants them to hope in God.
“God has a purpose,” Russell said. “Everything that’s happening there’s a purpose behind it. According to his super plan God is alarming us to correct our faith, to correct our eyes, and to seek his face, so that we can know him more. He’s drawing us close to him.”
He added he has given many people weblinks to the Bible and guidelines for reading the Word, prayer, and seeking God’s face for redemption and refuge. Russell wants them to know Jesus is alive, he is near, and he is watching.
“Many people are reading the Bible right now,” Russell said. “They are seeking the Word of God to comfort them. Most people are panicked here because of the situation and watching the news. People are getting panicked most of the time. They’re asking questions.”
Russell’s phone has buzzed incessantly with calls and text messages since the pandemic arrived in New York City. He uses those opportunities to share the hope he has in Jesus, which is not only a living hope but an eternal one.
God has a purpose, and he is at work even if we can’t see what he’s doing. God is using this global crisis to draw people to himself in repentance and faith.
And like Russell, we in Christ can find rest in the promise that God works all things for our good and for His glory.
-Ben Doster, Global Gates Director of Communications, email@example.com