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Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As we approach Holy Week and the celebration of the Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, God’s world is gripped in a global pandemic.  It is humbling to think that one of the tiniest organisms in all of God’s creation, a virus, could throw global economies into chaos and put 20% of the world’s population under lockdown.  It may be that in 2020, our remembrance and celebration of the resurrection will have more in common with the first Easter—fear, confusion, doubt, sadness, and grief.  That is, until the full realization dawns upon us that God, our God, can reach into suffering and even death and brings forth hope and new life.  In these days I have been dwelling in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.   Romans 5:1-5
I do not believe that it is God’s will that God’s people suffer.  But I do believe that God can reach into suffering bring forth goodness and life and in that is hope for me.  Perhaps out of this current darkness light will shine anew.  Perhaps we will recognize that we should be humble in the presence of our God and in relationship to God’s creation.  As we seek to use, and often abuse, the creation for our own purposes, maybe we will acknowledge that even the tiniest elements of creation can exert amazing power in our lives.  Perhaps we will recognize in deeper ways our common humanity, all vulnerable to a virus, regardless of race, or language, or national boundaries.  Perhaps we will remember in real ways that the people of God are a global people and we need each other. 
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35, 37-39
Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, not even a pandemic virus.  Pray for one another.  Love one another.  Serve one another. 
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen
Chair, International Rural Churches Association



The decision regarding IRCA-Europe's conference, which was scheduled for 8-11 June in Sibiu, Romania, is yet to be made.   The Leadership Committee plan to make the final decision after Easter.



The decision was made in the late March as a result of the Australian Government putting in place restrictions that meant the Agricultural College in Longreach, Queensland, had to close.

IRCA-Oceania Leadership meets again in May and will consider then plans for re-scheduling.

The theme "Bringing Hope in Challenging Times" could not be more apt.  The challenges will continue just as we, as Christians, will continue to seek hope and offer hope to others.


We bring a collection of updates from different parts of the world, provided by members of the IRCA Leadership and regional representatives.

If you have stories to share from where you are, particularly in relation to coping with the pandemic of Covid-19, please send in by reply email and they will be added as appropriate to the IRCA Facebook page


The situation in Malawi is not yet very clear but on 2 April the president announced that there were three cases in Lilongwe and all three were Indians. One of them flew in from India to visit and relations got infected by that person.

There are rumours that next week there might be lock-down.

The medical side is ill-prepared to tackle the problem in case of wild spread of the virus.

We are however still able to get food supplies from the local markets which (as IRCA2014 participants may recall) are lacking sanitary measures for the safety of the population. 

Honestly Malawi can only escape the disaster by the grace of God and to this effect I plead with you to cover us with the PRAYERS OF RIGHTEOUS MEN & WOMEN THAT AVAILS MUCH.

We join you in praying for the USA, Italy, Spain, and the rest of the world for God to intervene.


Copeland Nkata



Creator God
Hallowed be your name on earth. At the completion of creation you found it so good to the best of your satisfaction. Your love for us is much more important that you sent your son for our redemption. It is not your plan to eliminate evil from this world but it is your joy when we humans consciously conquer the evil with the weapons of your love for each other. Help us imagine the ways to show our love not only to the victims of corona virus but also to those who are struggling to find remedies for this pandemic. We partake with all our neighbours to abstain from all kinds of public meetings including the traditional gatherings in our churches. Good Friday and Easter are our important festivals to feel proud of our Lord Jesus for the way he loved and sacrificed for the world. Help us to proliferate the koinonia of our gatherings in terms of committing our solidarity with those who are working to fulfill your will in the context of lock-down in our own homes. Let each home regenerate as a centre of worship.  Help us to go out into the world to become voice to the voiceless to actualize new earth and new heavens.  May we reach our county India in our life time.

At the recent IRCA leadership meeting, Prasad reported on the political situation in India.  Church leadership is working with communities to ensure people are looked after.  Some churches are working together with strong leadership.



As you may already know, for Western Europe the situation is very bad, because of the many infected people, now more and more Italy, Spain, France or UK.  The situation in Romania in Eastern Europe is somewhere back from this, approximately 2-3 weeks behind these countries. The peak has not arrived yet, but the Romanian situation will be worse and become catastrophic within few days because of 30 years generalized corruption, for example, with hospital managers being political appointments.

At the beginning of the pandemic Romania had zero strategic health equipment on deposits, because of the corruption.  Hospitals are 90-100 years old and in many places (except for very few new hospitals) they are prone to nosocomial (hospital-based) infections. In many places around the country, nurses and doctors have resigned from their job, as they were sent without protection to fight this invisible enemy.
As of today the worst situation is in county of Suceava (historically Moldovia at the crossroads of Central and Eastern Europe), in the hospital of Suceava city, where first the tests were made on the basis of personal relationship.  Many nurses and doctors got infected, Covid and NonCovid patients were mixed, and, after that the medical personnel got infected, leaving patients for a long period without food drink and medicine.  There was nobody to give them what they needed or to be with them, so the patients were trying to help each other, especially in night time. One sick 84 woman in that hospital fell from her bed and remained on the floor for a number of hours, as there was nobody to help her back to the bed.
Since two weeks ago, we cannot leave our home without serious reason. We need to sign a declaration if we want to go outside, but only for certain reasons. As 03.04.2020, in the whole country 3183 infected people (866 Suceava), 118 died, (36 in Suceava), and 283 recovered. In my area, county of Brasov as for today there are 124 infected people, 7 recovered, no one died (yet)

Personally we are okay.  We try not so much to go outside of our area, we shop only once a week and we do that very, very quickly.  We praise the Lord at least that we have a garden at the back of the church, where we can go outside.  Now as the spring is coming, the weather is bringing beautiful sunshine, although two days ago it was still snowing. 

As church, I have created a facebook group for our members, for those who are already online, where I've been sending the recorded video sermon for the last two weeks ago, as well as important information to share with them, and also daily devotionals and prayers. Each day I am calling a few of the aged members of the congregation, who do not have online presence.  I had also the first funeral in pandemic time, but in the early stage of the pandemic, where people gathering was not restricted as it is now to a maximum of eight persons, besides the pastor.  The funeral service could not be held inside of cemetery chapel, but had to be outside. 

Financially, it is not now but later that will be a big problem.  The church still has enough for two to three months, to pay the bills and my salary, but after that we don't know how it will be.  Many in the congregation will, I think, have problems contributing to pay the salary and bills

I know, and I feel, we are in hands of God. Only He can help us...

The Romanian situation can be followed from here: 
Coronavirus COVID-19 România

Laszlo-Gyula Mark


The current crisis not only threatens lives but also jobs. So for some, now is be a good time to consider creating a job for themselves and others by starting a small business.
IRCA past Chair Jerry Marshall has experience of setting up several successful businesses and social enterprises in the UK and overseas. Through the challenges and victories of his entrepreneurial journey, he has put together Mind Your Own Business, a practical guide for those wanting to setting up a small business or social enterprise or help others in their community.

“Mind your own business” has been made into a 13 part series on Trans World Radio UK, starting on Sunday 5 April at 7pm (also Saturdays at 7am and available afterwards as a podcast). Each half hour programme includes interviews with Christian entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial church leaders.
The Mind Your Own Business workbook is a free download at . Jerry will also host several webinars during the series for aspiring entrepreneurs. Details will be sent to those downloading the workbook.


Lothar Schullerus writes:
We are all fine. We were called back by the Swiss government from our trip in Chiapas/Mexico. We have had very interesting contacts in Chiapas with people from INESIN (see below*), an ecumenical intercultural institute (link).  I hope to develop them into IRCA network. I have send an email in this matter to Dave in Texas, seeking contact with them through Spanish speaking people from US.
Being back in Switzerland, we had to stay for 10 days in quarantine to make sure that we will not spread the virus. During this time we worked in the home office which is what we are doing most now too.

Worship is going on as usual but with empty churches and transmission via internet. It seems we have more visitors now than before.  We are calling our church members by telephone and looking for people to be supplied with the daily needs.   This will going on at least to Whitsunday. 
Whether the conference in Sibiu will happen we will decide after Easter. We are still in standby.
We wish all of you a good and blessed time, may it bring us closer to GOD and to each other.

INESIN is a civil-society organization that strives to contribute to the construction of peace in Chiapas through promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in projects focusing on topics such as prevention of domestic violence, positive conflict transformation, migration, personal spiritual growth, Biblical translation, and strengthening Chiapanecan communities.

The Americas


In Southern Ontario Spring is starting to arrive, with warmer temperatures (4C during the day). As the restrictions broke out in Canada, we were in the middle of a week long vacation in Cuba.  We knew things were happening, but it was only when we got home that we realized the severity of the situation. What to do about our church Services? 

We are doing three weekly services (in print and in audio) and have uploaded them to our webpage at (after we send these our to the wider community). We are offering these services to our local Retirement and nursing homes. We have been phoning our faithful to make sure they are okay.

Our main message is "God is with us. We are not alone. God will prevail. We are the hands and feet of God. God through the Holy Spirit will show us how to be like Jesus in this life changing situation. Be safe. Be Strong, and keep praying”. Thanks be to God

Eric Skillings.


Dear friends of IRCA,

As we live through this time of the Covid-19, and a Holy Week we will always remember, I have two stories I want to share.

In 2003, after I had been to the IRCA Conference in Chennai, and because of that opportunity, I had another opportunity to go to India again.  Through the Council for World Mission I participated in a 3-month exchange, going to northern India, to Odisha State, to a rural area in the mountains among the Kui people, a tribal group.  It was a very meaningful experience, but I want to tell you about the response of my congregation here in Saskatchewan. In that part of India, there was quite a high rate of illiteracy, and the parents told me they longed for their children to read, as in the modern world. With the market coming into their hills, they saw the necessity for it.  Rev. Bijay Nayak, who came to my village in Saskatchewan (and who is now a Bishop in the Church of North India), shared with them his dream of starting a residential school where students would come from the remote mountain villages to learn.  My congregation got behind him, and sent him home with money to start his school.  They continued to support him financially, sending many installments of support over the years while I was in Korea.

But one year things were different.  Bijay had written, “There are new government regulations, and so we cannot receive foreign contributions for this school.”  And so we stopped, but there was $4,500 in the church bank account.  When I returned from Korea (not as minister, but retired and so congregation member), at the annual meeting in 2018 I saw this number in the financial report and asked about it.  I was told they were just holding it.  Finally, at this year’s annual meeting, I suggested looking at the United Church of Canada’s partner in that area, the Church of North India, and seeing what programs were being supported.  I found that in West Bengal State, Diocese of Durgapur, another mountainous, rural area, our church is supporting an anti-human trafficking program, providing farmers with assistance, providing children with education and opportunities, rescuing and protecting vulnerable people. Our congregation was eager to do this. 

I was very proud of this congregation, holding that much money for several years, convinced that it should be used to serve vulnerable tribal people in North India.

The second story comes from Malawi.  At the Malawi Conference, I got to know Jonathan Kaundama, whose church, New Beginning Baptist church, operates Helping Hands Christian Organization.  They feed and provide clothes to children, and give families rabbits and pigs to raise for much-needed protein.  The maize crop has actually grown well this year, and will be ready for harvesting in April.  However, at the present moment the food supplies are gone, and, it is the hungry season.  He has had to stop feeding the children.  Last year 33 people in his area died of hunger, and people were digging roots to eat.
Malawi has not had any occurrence of Covid-19 (at the point of writing this), and the country has closed its borders, shut schools, forbidden large gatherings, so that the disease will not come into the country, for they would have no protection against it.  As our Western countries worry about food hoarding in the face of Covid-19, and our government assures us food supply lines will be maintained, my heart grieves for our IRCA brothers and sisters who live with true food and health system insecurity. I feel called to repent in this Holy Week for our Western societies’ acceptance of this.  We in IRCA are called to be Voice for the Voiceless and tell these stories, so our peoples’ hearts will be open, and those generous neighbors we are seeing in this pandemic will act in solidarity.

Catherine Christie


CEDEPCA - The Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America - is an educational institution that contributes to the transformation of lives and contexts by providing training and accompaniment, and by offering spaces for reflection to women and men from diverse Christian traditions, communities, and contexts.

From a recent email:

Greetings from Guatemala!  We hope that this finds you well and healthy.

We are all aware and concerned about the issue with the Coronavirus pandemic and we are all in this together.  We have confronted an unsettling reality: life feels like it is both standing still and moving forward at the same time.

Today, we are in our third week that the CEDEPCA staff is working from home, with virtual meetings via Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, etc. These have been two weeks of intense work for all our programs. Each one has worked on an Emergency Plan and they all are having meetings to continue working and at the same time to respond through this crisis.
One of our main concerns is that this crisis heightens the needs of those already the most vulnerable. In Guatemala 80% of the population lives in extreme poverty. Each program is developing creative ideas on how to continue to work with our local partners, as well with our partners in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Our government is encouraging people to stay home, but still there are a lot of people who are leaving their home to go to work - because if they do not, they will not be able to put food on the table and provide for their families.  
Like many organizations, CEDEPCA is concerned about finances in the coming months as we navigate this new reality. We are committed to ensuring that our doors stay open, our staff remains employed, and our programs continue.  

Judith Castenada, General Coordinator

You can read more about their work at this link.


We have concern for our small town and rural communities and congregations.  We are entering planting season in much of the country after a year that was in many ways disastrous for farmers and ranchers in the US—too much rain and severe flooding in many places and tariff wars took their toll in 2019.  2020 is overshadowed by the coronavirus threat.   Although the pandemic has not yet reached many of our rural places in the US in a significant way, most rural communities have very small and fragile public health care systems which could be easily overwhelmed.   We pray that the agricultural work force will remain healthy enough to produce the food we need.  In the small town in which I live, like many across the US, we are making emergency plans should the virus overcome our little hospital.  Most of our rural congregations, many of which have small membership, are dependent upon their members for financial support which is difficult in this time of economic shutdown.  And yet, they continue to reach out in acts of charity and mercy for the sake of their communities.  In the seminary where I teach, our Friday worship is prayer for the nations.  We pray for every nation by name.  Let us all pray for one another.

Mark Yackel-Juleen

Due to shortage personal protective equipment in the pandemic, nurses in a rural hospital wear home sewn masks made by volunteers



Rural America braces for coronavirus 

Rural health systems are bracing for a surge in patients suffering from the COVID-19 disease that could overwhelm small and underfunded hospitals in an area where populations are particularly vulnerable to serious symptoms.

The coronavirus outbreaks in the United States have been the most intense in major cities and suburbs like New York, New Orleans, Detroit, Seattle and the Washington, D.C. area. But experts in rural health say they know the virus is headed their way, and they worry that smaller communities are even less prepared to handle an influx of cases than their big-city colleagues.
Read the full story here



Our borders are closed, the skies are quiet (apart from the rescue helicopter), educational institutions, community and faith facilities, and all non-essential businesses are closed.  Those who can are working from home, with on-line teaching from universities, schools, and even early childhood centres.  We are in lockdown.  For four weeks, at least, from 26 March.  We can go out to access essentials, such as food, medicine, and fuel.  We are encouraged to go out for exercise in our immediate local area, always keeping two metres away from those not in our bubble.
A "bubble" is the Government's choice of word for the immediate group of people we live with and only with these people have physical contact during the lockdown.  We talk to our neighbours across the boundary.  We have teddy bears in the window for children walking past with their family to see (and smile).  Out and about we greet one another but do not stop and talk.   We keep our distance.  

The Government is focussed on the health crisis and also working to address the economic impact as best a small nation can.  There is a strong sense of cooperation between parliamentary parties and with business and academic expertise to do what we can now to get the best chance of recovery in the future.  With Parliament in recess to allow members of parliament to isolate at home, an Epidemic Response Committee has been set up, chaired by the Leader of the Opposition and with cross party representation.  This is to ensure government accountability - presentations are made and questions are asked, just as in regular select committees - and it gives a forum in which ideas and expertise can be shared.  We are worried about what is still come, but we are proud of how our country's leadership are facing this crisis.

We are also proud of our now well recognised "essential workers", most of them minimum wage workers and not the high fliers of the economy pre-Covid19.  Farmers are being again heralded as crucial to our country.

In the Pacific, infection figures remain low, but have doubled in the last week.   The biggest concern is the health system capacity and capability.  The impact on their economies will be massive, with tourism no doubt curtailed for quite a long time.  New Zealand shares that impact and people are talking of well on in 2021 before international tourism may return.
Churches responded quickly to the call to self-isolate, taking services on-line even before the lockdown.  There are many options, including daily morning and evening karakia (prayer), which I've been helping out with for my old friends in the Far North.  For Maori (and Pacific) communities in particular, with a strong culture and tradition of community life and support, self-isolating is very hard.  It is hard to keep the young ones from coming and going, and getting together with their mates.  The elderly people are fearful, carrying as they do the stories handed down about the influenza epidemic of 1918-19.  They fear dying alone and being buried alone.

"Be kind" have been our prime minister's often repeated words.   Stay safe.  Stay in your bubble.  We're in this together - he waka eke noa.

Robyn McPhail

The bear at my window watching out for families going by

We're not Scared...We're going on a Bear Hunt
Link for Facebook page 
God among us
With information and purpose, bless us 
With enough essential services staff and equipment, bless us
With healing of the ill, bless us
With care of the dead, bless us
With hope in our mourning, bless us
With cooperation of all people, bless us
With gratitude for the heroism and compassion around us, bless us
From idiotic and dangerous behaviours, save us
From fear and panic, save us
From self-absorption and hoarding, save us
From feeling overwhelmed, save us
From unjustly blaming others, save us
From stir-craziness in our bubbles, save us
From violence and abuse, save us
From the coronavirus, save all in the world.

Tui Motu Lockdown Thoughts
Copyright © 2020 International Rural Churches Association, All rights reserved.

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