With a newly elected president, the country seems to be stable and it hasn’t yet been affected much by COVID-19 and ecclesial activities are still going on as usual. There are no restrictions on people gathering but they keep to the hand washing safety measures. So the brothers and sisters are still meeting for breaking bread as usual. Soon we are hoping to resume the outreach activity which was put on hold during the presidential elections and it will be followed up with visits by local brethren for baptism interviews. The truth is progressing well and we thank God for the social media we have been using.
The two main cities Yaounde and Douala are ‘hotspots’ for the virus and we have brothers and sisters in both places, but so far it has not made inroads into the Anglophone area where most of our ecclesias are located and we are currently unaware of any cases in the ecclesias.
Several events – Bible classes, Sisters’ classes, have been postponed. Some ecclesias continue to meet with strict social distancing, handwashing, etc. A COVID-19 education campaign was held in the village of Tole, organised by a brother and sister who run the local health clinic. This attracted a lot of attention and it also gained us some useful publicity because it was filmed and broadcast several times on the TV news.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
The country appears to have been spared the extremes of COVID-19 impact experienced elsewhere. To date a total of circa 7,000 cases have been confirmed, but with less than 200 fatalities. There is a form of lockdown which has prevented ecclesial meetings in the larger centres of population taking place, being replaced by smaller home-based Breaking of Bread meetings.
There has been a further outbreak of Ebola in the area around Mbandaka in the Equatorial north-west of the country (where we have an ecclesia); and to date 18 deaths have been reported. The country is also continuing to deal with what was earlier in the year, described as “the world’s largest measles outbreak”.
DRC South East
When the area around Uvira and Baraka suffered severe flooding – CBM Welfare support was very appreciated. COVID-19 movement restrictions are also a challenge, and with a lack of employment it has been difficult for brethren to stay indoors and feed their families.
A First Principles teaching group has been set up on WhatsApp. This tool has been a great help in DRC, Burundi, Tanzania for interaction and circulating messages, and we thank God for this technology. Outreach preaching activity has been put on hold due to COVID-19, and 90 people are studying and waiting to be baptized soon, God Willing. Local brethren also following up a number of our French website contacts.
School facilities will not be able to be used for the foreseeable future (notably Accra and Cape Coast). Brother Thomas describes this as a “hammer blow”. As elsewhere, the economic consequences of the pandemic are difficult to compute but will be considerable.
A report received in early July said that places of worship are now open in N’Zerekore and the villages of the Forest region. N’Zerekore, Gonon, Boma Sud, Kankoré , and Samoé all had services on Sunday 5 July.
“We even started our village preaching from 1st to 6th July. Yesterday, we were in Boma Sud. In all, the brethren and visitors in the villages were all happy to see us. Some were not in place, but they are now informed about the start of the work of the Lord. Now, we move and worship freely here in the N’Zerekore Region. People are doing their normal work like before”
There is no recent news from the Conakry region. This is a densely populated area and meetings are not currently taking place in Sonfonia.
Places of worship are now allowed to open but with restrictions. The economic situation was already bad and has declined. Some members have been able to join Lapworth meetings online which has meant a great deal to them.
Monrovia are holding memorial meetings. The virus is in four counties, including Montserrado. Essentials like medical drugs, food can be transported between counties. Gbarnga and Jorpolu have been meeting every second Sunday since the crisis.
“We meet and discuss as brothers and sisters, we felt this was a test to the people of God in this country. Markets were open as well as entertainment centres from 8am to 3pm so what will separate us from the love of God?”
Nigeria & Benin
Nigeria has the highest number of confirmed cases outside of South Africa and Egypt. But as the most populous country in Africa the rate per 100,000 is very tiny. However, as with many African countries the actual amount for testing is quite low, so the numbers may be higher than reported.
The cases are predominantly in Lagos, Abuja and Kano where restrictions are in place, elsewhere lockdowns have been relaxed and ecclesias are meeting. Some members have moved out to more rural areas to better survive any lockdown and to keep away from the higher risks of towns and cities, which means that attendance is down.
Of the three cities where lockdowns remain, we only have an ecclesia in Lagos. Lagos have been meeting using Zoom throughout the pandemic and those experiencing lockdowns from afar afield as South Africa, Ghana and a young Brother from Lagos currently studying in Cyprus have joined. When the rest of Nigeria was in lockdown others around the Country also joined Lagos for worship and two of the three members in Kaduna still do. Not everyone in Lagos can join because of shortage of data and internet unreliability, but most have at least occasionally. The Lagos ecclesia and those joining them have benefited from regular exhortations and Bible Classes presented by brethren in the UK and Canada.
The small number in Benin continue as normal.
We are still in touch with Brother Omar, in Gisenyi- Rwanda. We were planning to conduct an outreach over there in April 2020 with some of his Bible students, and some of our three contacts who are taking Swahili lessons in Kigali, but due to the virus we could not do anything. We are hoping soon once everything opens up, that we can resume the outreach meetings in Rwanda which will help us to evaluate our contacts and see if they are ready for baptism.
Things are not too bad with 1,572 positive cases and 63 deaths across the population of the whole country. A one page thought on the daily readings is sent each day, and a weekly video exhortation via WhatsApp. Churches have been closed for approx. 3 months. There is some hope that they may open soon.
The Gambia’s airspace was closed and the governments of The Gambia and its sole neighbour Senegal, agreed to close their border on 23 March (with exceptions for “essential services” and transporting food and medicine). The infection rate has been low – our brethren and sisters have been kept safe and continue to isolate themselves.
Bro Mike Green via linkmen