Oh how the Lord provides in all times, even the most uncertain times. As taboo as the phrase “global pandemic” was 10 months ago, it has rapidly become a normal part of daily vocabulary and human experience. Needless to say — ‘adapt and overcome’ has been an unavoidable mindset for the year of 2020. COVID-19 has taken anything that resembled normalcy and snuffed it out, so much so that even the thought of uninhibited social gatherings is just sweet nostalgia of a far off, forgotten time. Or so it seems. Dramatic as it may sound, for the most part that has been the reality of this time. I would venture to say that everyone has been affected in some way or another, and everyone has thought “what does this mean for me?” As missionaries, this question had a whole new dimension. What does this mean for NET? What does this mean for ministry? What does this mean for my own vocation? What does this mean for the thousands of youth that would have attended retreats and parish events in a ‘normal’ year? There have been, and still are, so many questions and uncertainties; but the Faithful One only speaks in peace and clarity. And the Lord has most definitely been speaking to and blessing team 3 these past few months.
Some of the defining characteristics of NET Ministries include our emphasis on relational ministry, small group interactions, and two-on-one-prayer-stations. Each of these components of ministry are prioritized, because it has become abundantly clear that young people are seeking authentic in-person relationships and meaning to their life greater than all of the things society tells them will make them happy. As missionaries, we know the importance of these interactions, but as missionaries in 2020 there was a real fear that these crucial components would lose their significance or fall by the wayside completely. Now restrictions, masks, social distancing, and various COVID procedures all have to be taken into account in an already challenging ministry. It would be foolish to pretend that those factors would not affect the structure of ministry this year. However, it would be entirely irrational to assume that God is limited by any of the circumstances of our world. The Lord provides in all times, even the most uncertain times. Team 3 has learned that as missionaries today we truly must surrender all ministry into the hands of God. We have learned that as humans we are limited to some degree by masks, and distancing, and COVID; but we have also learned that Jesus Christ can work through any obstacle. He can close any distance and He can take off any masks (metaphorically speaking of course). And although we do not always see this fruit flowering first hand, there have been a number of youth that have reached out and shared how their experience on retreat (even in 2020) has brought them closer to the Lord. At the end of all of our retreats there is an opportunity for the youth to fill out a “NET Share Your Experience Form” if they have something they want to share, and those forms have been the physical proof of what we already know in our hearts. God is working, and He is not limited.
In response to the question: “How did your NET retreat impact you?”, we have received dozens of responses. One middle school girl from Indiana wrote “Overall, a really great experience, from meaningful conversation, to peaceful reflection. This retreat brought me closer to God, and even my friends”. A middle school boy from Ohio shared that “It changed my life with knowing that God loves me even if I’m imperfect”. Another middle school boy from Ohio said that “It was amazing, it helped me learn how to pray and love better”. These three testimonies are just a few of many, and just a glimpse in how through prayer and trust in the Lord, even the most unusual year of ministry can bear abundant fruit. Our team has grown so much in this trust and surrender, knowing that we are His vessels and He is our strength. All of our ministry has come from that confidence and will continue to as we carry on throughout the year. COVID has definitely put a new spin on this year of ministry, but it has also brought us closer together as a team, and closer to the Lord. We will continue to lean on each other and on Him. We know that our priority is still spreading the Gospel of Christ and His message of Love, and through prayer and petition, nothing can stand in the way of this mission. No, not even a global pandemic.
Peace and blessing from NETeam3!