How are Mennonite Brethren around the globe being impacted by COVID-19 at the start of the new year? This week’s update includes updates from Tabor College and Fresno Pacific University as well as the International Community of Mennonite Brethren.
The state of the coronavirus in the U.S. as of Feb. 1 includes reports that the country continues to see steep reductions in new cases. For the first time since November, the country is averaging fewer than 150,000 cases a day. But the continued spread of new variants has scientists deeply worried about the months ahead, and deaths remain near record levels. More than 90,000 coronavirus deaths have been announced so far in 2021.
While about 1.3 million people are receiving a vaccine dose in the U.S. every day as of Feb. 1, less than 2 percent of the country has been fully vaccinated.
Tabor College president continues to recover
Tabor College President Jules Glanzer, who was hospitalized Nov. 28, 2020, with COVID-19, was released from the hospital Dec. 28, 2020. He was cleared to return to work beginning Feb. 1. In a Jan. 26 update posted on the school’s website, TC reports that Glanzer will “ease back into the role as his energy level allows and will balance his responsibilities utilizing online and telephone communication and on campus/in person visits as appropriate and required.”
Read Glanzer’s reflection on his COVID-19 experience.
Fresno plans for in person instruction
Primarily face-to-face instruction will return to all Fresno Pacific University campuses for the fall of 2021.
“Our campuses have felt empty since in-person instruction ended in March 2020 and we look forward to meeting face-to-face again this fall as much as is safely possible,” President Joseph Jones says. “Progress with vaccines has made us more optimistic than ever about prospects for bringing this community physically back together to provide the education we know is most effective.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, FPU has acted in accordance with the latest health information as well as shelter-in-place orders from the State of California and the City of Fresno and guidelines from the County of Fresno Department of Public Health.
As details for implementing in-person instruction are worked out in the coming months at FPU’s five campuses—Merced, North Fresno, the main campus in southeast Fresno (also home to Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary), Visalia and Bakersfield—updates will be posted on the university COVID-19 website: fresno.edu/coronavirus-covid-19-news-and-information.
ICOMB shares prayer requests from Malawi, Japan
The February 2021 update from the International Community of Mennonite Brethren includes reports from Malawi and Japan, two countries that have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in recent months.
Safari Bahati Mutabesha, bishop of the MB Church of Malawi (MBCM), requests prayer for his country and the MB churches there. He reports that beginning in the second week of December 2020, the number of people testing positive has increased daily and hundreds are dying. There are few testing centers in the country and Safari fears there may be many more positive cases.
Specific prayer requests are:
- For daily bread as people cannot go to market centers to do business. Many people are living hand to mouth and depend on daily income.
- For those who live far from hospitals and cannot access medical care.
- For church members who have tested positive and have to stay in isolation but have no access to food.
- For church members who cannot afford face masks and soap and are high risk.
- For the food insecurity facing Malawi. The food from the previous harvest has run out and harvest season is many months away.
Takao Sugi, president of Nihon Menonaito Burezaren Kyodan (JMBC), the MB conference in Japan, reports that coronavirus infections in Japan were relatively low compared to Western countries until around the fall of 2020, but the number of infected people increased rapidly at the end of the year. Japan’s government policies prioritized economy, and people’s sense of urgency about the crisis waned until infections rose drastically.
Most churches have switched to online worship due to the state of emergency. Spiritual care is needed for older members who do not have access to the Internet. It is difficult for anyone, even family members, to visit those who are in facilities for the elderly.
Some churches don’t have the capacity to offer online services and have instead been delivering a summary of the Bible message to each household. These are some disparities between churches. However, for the churches that can offer it, online worship gives people who have never been to church the opportunity to hear the gospel. Takao Sugi’s church had a Christmas Eve service online, and unbelieving relatives living far away also watched it.
Despite these blessings, because ministry and outreach has been based on gathering people in the church, the number of people baptized decreased dramatically and some churches are in financial difficulty. The Japan Mennonite Brethren Conference 70th Anniversary, which was scheduled for September 2020, has been postponed to September 20, 2021. It may not be possible to gather in person, but the planning is going forward.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and one grandson. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.