I greet you in the name of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.

As we ended 2019, social media was abuzz with news of a mysterious disease that’s was severely affecting people in a town called Wuhan, in China. At the time, we imagined that, with the current advances in medical research and the world’s machinery to respond to medical emergencies, the disease would soon be controlled and confined to China.

This does not seem to have been the case as the whole world is currently suffering the effects of a devastating global emergency of an unprecedented nature. The ripple effects of which are already manifesting in various ways that are compromising some lifesaving efforts on the ground.

The COVID-19 pandemic has so far had devastating effects on society at both macro and micro levels, bringing untold loss of life and suffering to human beings in all aspects of life; Physical, psycho-social, emotional and spiritual. Needless to mention that the world’s governments have been left with no choice but to implement life saving measures which on the other hand have had a negative impact on economies and subsequently people’s livelihoods.

The Southern African region has not been spared any of this devastation. The situation is considered dire as the region already has most of the countries struggling economically, an impoverished population and further compounded by the disease interface of HIV and AIDS, Malaria and TB, highly migratory population due to struggling economies as well as a high incidence of social ills such as Gender based Violence.

Across the region, governments have for the past two months( since the first cases of the disease were recorded)  instituted regulations termed ’lockdown’ which  ensure that most economical activity is suspended, people stay at home to self-isolate and be safe from infection, a very noble idea with telling devastating ripple effects.

While these are noble responses they have resulted in negative effects on the implementation of the activities in the Department of Mission and Diakonia. And a possible negation of the pace that had been set to ensure a meaningful contribution to the ‘end of AIDS by 2030’ PLHIV are not able to easily access their ARV treatment, Livelihoods have been affected, job losses resulting in a hungry population, reduced funding for project activities as the funding partners struggle to cope with the effects of the pandemic.

However while paying attention to the COVID-19, and observing the statutory regulations, it has been imperative on the LUCSA Department of Mission and Diakonia to find innovative ways to ensure that the momentum in responding to the pre-existing needs of the populations where we are serving is not lost, as the COVID-19 is already negatively aggravating their situation. We therefor can hardly afford to halt our response initiatives.

In John 10:10b our Lord Jesus Christ says ‘I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance’. As a department we continue to pray for the people we serve, that God may continue to watch over them and give them strength and coping mechanisms; our partners that they may be blessed with life and resilience; and for ourselves, that The Lord may give us wisdom and continue to guide us such that we continue to serve Him through His people in a meaningful way that will restore us.

How does the church continue?  It cannot be business as usual in such a challenging situation. Can we open up our churches as decanting centres for ARV Access? Can the church continue to be a healing space by providing psycho-social support? How would the church ensure that the HIV and AIDS and other social ills responses continue? Our youth and other vulnerable people, are there efforts that ensure that we remain relevant to them until the other side of the pandemic?

May God help us to be his hands as the scripture continue to guide us: (Matt. 25:35-40….. I was hungry…)

May God continue to watch over us all!

Compiled by B.B. Dube.