“The COVID-19 crisis has been very tough for us,” Pastor Pascal, leader of the Assemblies of God church in Gbegbessa, Benin, shared. “We have lacked food and we have not found anybody to come to our support. Hadn’t we had faith in God, we would have abandoned the ministry. Very few church members would ask to know how we were doing and help. We were abandoned to our own.”
The church was planted back in 2010 as part of Global Aid Network’s (GAiN) water and church planting strategy. Villagers received access to both safe water through a deep-capped water well as well as had an opportunity to hear about Jesus. Pastor Pascal, which was from a church in a nearby village (called a mother church), committed to a long commute to this church plant, so that he could invest time in the new church.
“I did a lot of teaching by myself or through a lay leader and was able to baptize a bunch of people there. I have taken care of the church like [I did with] the mother church, being with them on a regular basis.”
In February 2020, the church started an evangelism program, which resulted in increased church attendance. But when COVID-19 hit not too long after, the country implemented restrictions on public gatherings in groups, meaning that church meetings were no longer permitted. Many churches, including the one in Gbegbessa, had to meet in member homes for shorter periods of time and in smaller groups. Eventually, the church in Gbegbessa decided to stop small house meetings and instead have Pastor Pascal go house to house to visit members’ homes on his own.
GAiN has been connecting with pastors in Benin, Togo, and Tanzania during the pandemic, through calling and texting, to offer support and coaching.
The goal is to provide pastors with the tools to help promote health and encouragement to their communities, bringing knowledge and hope. Pastors help spread the message on how to reduce the spread of the virus, as well as provide care for church members and encourage their members to demonstrate love in their communities.
Government restrictions in response to COVID have also heightened food insecurity in these countries. To help alleviate some of the burden, GAiN is providing one to two months worth of food to pastors and their families (approximately 450 pastors in Benin, 200 in Togo and 40 in Tanzania) as part of the Pastor Support Program. Pastor Pascal is one of those pastors.
“Two weeks ago, I received a call from the GAiN people who wanted us to come for a meeting. I was very glad to hear that because I know these people may want to support us in some way. I started to call them on a regular basis to make sure I don’t miss the opportunity,” Pastor Pascal said.
“As I got to the GAiN office, I noticed bags of rice and am happy because I am sure I am going to bring food back home for children, my wife and myself. We will cook food and rejoice. This food will last for many weeks. Everybody in my household will be very happy.”