Faithful service amid fear and uncertainty

Faithful service amid fear and uncertainty
By Alfinda Herman, Roma Network/Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Like many around the world, life and ministry changed drastically for the Apostolovski family in 2020. Sokrat and Lena, together with their adult children Aleksandar and Kristina, have been serving Roma communities in Skopje and around North Macedonia for nearly 18 years. Aleksandar sat with me and reflected on ministry during the pandemic.


This season of ministry has seen many cancellations – church services as well as personal discipleship in one-on-one settings. The Roma Leadership Conference, a grass-roots initiative which aims to help and mature Roma leaders in the Balkans and beyond, also had to be put on hold. These cancellations, however, didn’t mean ministry came to a halt.


“One funny thing about this period, it was common in Christian circles to ask people ‘What did you learn when the world stood still?’ Well, we learnt that we didn’t stand still!” Aleksandar recalled.


“We suddenly had a lot of people who had a lot of needs, not only spiritual needs, but also emotional, health and physical needs.”


See the need, meet the need


While many churches made the switch to online services, this was simply not an option for their church and the communities they serve. Many had limited to no access to devices or the internet. So instead of live-streaming or Zoom-ing, much of ministry happened through one-on-one phone calls.


“We were constantly on the phone, talking to people about all sorts of challenges they were facing,” Aleksandar said.


Many of these challenges required a very specific, personalised, tailor-made approach.


“One challenge was to do with children and schooling. As soon as the pandemic hit, the government decided that schools would switch to online education for safety reasons. This caused a lot of problems in Roma communities because of limited access to technology,” Aleksandar said.


“For example, it was difficult for people to access printers, even in normal circumstances. All the print shops were closed. So we’d go to the teachers, pick up the homework or download it and print it for the children to complete. When they completed it, we would collect it and deliver it back to the teachers, or scan it and upload it.”


Another activity that kept them busy was delivering food parcels to eleven communities across the country.


“We work with people who are in the same situation as the day labourers in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 19. They simply have to work so they can pick up enough money to feed their families that day. But those kinds of day jobs became impossible during the pandemic. It meant that some communities were on the verge of starvation during the winter time,” Aleksandar said.


God’s hand during trials


In the midst of all these challenges, the Apostolovski family witnessed God’s blessings and provision.


“We were extremely grateful to God for all the generosity we received. There were people who really gave sacrificially. In that way we could avoid starvation for these people,” Aleksandar said.


“We kept on thinking about that passage in Deuteronomy. Moses talked to the Israelites about their time in the wilderness. He pointed them to the fact that their food did not run out and their clothes did not tear these 40 years in the wilderness. That’s how we felt.”


The pandemic has also opened doors for further ministry.


“One thing that we’ve seen is people, both inside and outside the church, have become way more open, not just to ask us questions about what happens after we die, but also to ask the really important questions in life, including who Jesus is.”


Combatting fear


Presently their church is meeting in person again, with all the necessary health protocols. However, many in their church and communities are still hesitant to join in-person meetings. The atmosphere of fear has been a persistent challenge.


“As followers of Christ, one thing we know is that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. On the contrary, perfect love casts out fear. One thing we’ve tried to combat fear is to speak about it,” Aleksandar said.


“We had a couple of sermons in our church addressing the whole issue of fear and chaos. In these sorts of situations there’s nothing more important than asking: What is God up to? What is God doing in this situation? What does He do with all the chaos?”


Looking ahead


Since the pandemic seems likely to stick around for a while longer, the Apostolovski family is waiting on the Lord’s guidance on how to best move forward in service.


“I’m personally looking forward to restrictions-free services. All of us have experienced the mixed blessing of online meetings, but they’re simply not a replacement for community. That’s especially true in this part of the world, where coffee with people plays a huge part in the culture,” Aleksandar said.


“We’d love to see God extend our involvement, impact and influence with various leadership trainings connected with the conference that we were running. We’d like to see that happening again. That’s been one of the ways we’ve seen God working effectively in the past.”


Aleksandar also shared an encouragement for those in ministry who are affected or discouraged by this season of uncertainty.


“Keep holding on to God’s promises because greater things are yet to come. That’s what we’ve been doing. God’s purpose for his world and his church does not change, regardless of what is changing around us.”



Alfinda is an Australian missionary living and working among Roma people in Macedonia with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Together with her husband Aidan, she serves among the Roma through literacy, Scripture translation, use and engagement.


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