It is amazing to see how God is working during the COVID-19 crisis with all the restrictions and changes we have had to make as a society and ministry. In June, the ANM Church Relations team discussed how to function effectively in this new normal. We had to adjust to no missions trips, no conferences, no missionaries to send to churches, and no churches to send speakers to — all things we usually deal with.
Then one person suggested that we try virtual speakers.
Since most churches are working through Facebook and Zoom now, this seemed like a good idea. We received our first request for a virtual speaker from Shelle, a lady in Missouri, within two weeks. She was getting tons of phone calls from women in distress as they were dealing with death, sickness, loss of a job, isolation, and having to interact with their families in challenging ways. She wanted to put together a conference, but it would have to be something different.
Shelle realized she could not hold a women’s conference as she usually has done because of the pandemic. Normally she would have 250 to 400 women attend an event. Shelle could not use her usual contacts to create the multiracial diversity of speakers she wanted for a virtual conference. So she googled international speakers and found ANM’s website. Shelle contacted Laverne Castillo of ANM to see if she could line up several speakers for her three-day event. Shelle did not realize that the two-week delay she experienced after contacting the office was because ANM was organizing and setting up virtual speakers for the first time. Laverne arranged three speakers for Shelle and, a week later, lined up a fourth.
As they worked together to prepare for the Shaken Not Stirred conference, Shelle was impressed with the ANM speakers’ humility and professionalism. They were quick to comply with requests for bios and a synopsis of their talks. When questions arose that Shelle needed to be clarified, one of the speakers readily explained things. Shelle was so impressed with this willingness to clarify ideas. She felt a responsibility to make sure the teachings were sound. The ANM speakers well respected that desire.
Shaking Things Up
During the three-day conference, Amber Parker of ANM gave a talk about living a simple life by focusing on Christ and not being distracted by the situation at hand. After the event, several women contacted Shelle about the powerful impact that Amber had made on their lives regarding living more simply. One woman commented, “I never thought about being a missionary right where I am.” She realized she could get started right in her community without special training. Shelle gave her the ANM website and encouraged her to reach out to get information about doing missions.
Some attendees commented that the short videos regarding ANM missionaries opened their minds to see how God is using people around the world to do His work. The videos demonstrated the value and effectiveness of native missions.
Shelle mentioned that several ANM speakers inspired attendees to do more for the kingdom, act immediately, and change their ministry. Beth Weedor’s dynamic talk on sharing so touched one lady with a ministry in Arkansas that she told her women’s group, “Okay, we’ve got to do more in our community. We’ve got to do more to share. We’re just taking care of each other, and we’re not branching out to help the community.” They started a grassroots organization that has already held a food drive, clothing drive, and school supply drive in a little over a month since the conference ended.
Doing Missions, Near and Far
One woman who attended the virtual event was inspired by seeing a video of a couple in Israel. The wife is a hairdresser and ministers to her clients while she does their hair. The lady commented, “It shows that you can use anything to share God’s word.”
Shelle shared that the video of a ministry in Egypt caused her to realize that they should support other ministries. It touched her heart that the people from Egypt said, “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for ANM.” Shelle exclaimed, “Wow, I never thought about that. If you can support other ministries, you should do that so they would be able to sustain themselves.” She has a new goal for her ministry — to come up with ways to support our brothers and sisters in ministry in other lands.
Sandy Shoshani of Israel was one of the ANM speakers. Shelle wanted to have an international focus for this conference instead of only using American speakers. She felt Americans tend to think that God is the “God of America,” when ultimately, He is the God of the whole world. Sandy helped many women to accept that vital truth. Sandy’s sharing helped open the eyes of so many people that God’s work isn’t just a reality in your town, state, or country. They realized that God is a big God, He’s everywhere, and He is doing great things worldwide.
One young lady shared that she is in recovery from an abortion. She never thought there were women in other countries going through the same experience. Sandy’s ministry to women and children in Israel touched her. You might be wondering how a ministry to prevent abortions can speak to those who have had them. Sandy, Be’ad Chaim’s leader, and her workers determine to love and accept women the way they are. As they do this, it opens the door to speak truth into their lives. Then God does the work of changing their hearts. There have been many reconciliations with husbands and boyfriends, many led to the Lord, and many lives of babies saved because of their attitude of loving acceptance. That love and acceptance came through, even with a virtual conference and a recorded message from Israel.
Beyond Her Expectations
When only 180 people signed up for the virtual conference, and a fraction of them showed up for the event, Shelle — who is used to having a few hundred attendees — was very disappointed and wondered, “What happened? Why didn’t all the people come?” Then she realized,
“What I learned during the entire experience, especially through the humility of Paul [Robbins, ANM’s Regional Director for Israel] and Sandy … God had to show me, He is in control, not me. God said to me, ‘I’m going to bring who I want to be there, not who you want to be there.’ It was such a dynamic conference. One of the things that I thought was awesome was that the speakers approached the conference as if they were speaking to 1,000 people. That meant that they wanted to please God, not other people. That was amazing. I was really, really, really touched.”
Shelle went on to explain, “I know it sounds strange, but, in a way, COVID-19 was a blessing.” Because of the pandemic, she decided to give a free online conference. God led her to ANM’s website through a Google search for international speakers. “This group of circumstances,” she continued, “is a wonderful confirmation of Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ I say this because although COVID-19 has disrupted many lives, caused many deaths, and much devastation to many, [yet] it was through COVID-19 that I came into the knowledge of ANM, and what a wonderful blessing it has turned out to be.”
What started as a fervent search to find ways to minister virtually during the isolation turned out to be a blessing to the women who attended the Shaken Not Stirred event. It has already had a far-reaching effect on multiple people and ministries.