China (MNN) — A coronavirus continues to spread through China and to other countries, presenting new challenges for Asian Access.

The coronavirus first appeared in the city of Wuhan in China. Like the SARS coronavirus in 2003, this currently unnamed virus has mutated to be able to infect not just animals, but humans as well. Precisely how it made the jump from animals to humans is unknown. The virus causes pneumonia, making it potentially deadly. With almost 3,000 confirmed cases around China, over 80 have died.

China has quarantined more than 50 million people, and has placed a travel ban on 16 cities. Officials expect the outbreak to worsen, and China is racing to produce enough medical supplies to deal with the crisis. Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the United States have also reported cases, but the World Health Organization has not called it a global health emergency.

Joe Handley of Asian Access says the spread of the virus is disrupting the travel and work of the ministry. “For instance,” he says, “I know of one group that was supposed to meet this year . . . they were going to be gathering in Southeast Asia, and everyone from Wuhan was asked not to come and that was before the government put the restriction on that area.”

The conference will meet, but the organizers are going to great lengths to make sure the attendees stay healthy. “We will provide face-masks, hand sanitizers, tissues, and bottled water for all participants should they wish to use them. An extra precaution we have implemented is to require all participants from mainland China to wear a face-mask throughout the conference.”

The Chinese government extended the Lunar New Year holiday by three days in order to limit travel, and has even encouraged citizens of Wuhan itself to remain indoors. Handley says this is forcing Christians in the area to rethink church. “They’ve had numerous attempts lately because of persecution, to rethink church. And one way that they could do that now is probably via electronic means.”

How To Help

Handley says believers can help by praying for the region around Wuhan.

“They’re deeply impacted and their hospitals are overflowing. This is a chance for the church to be the church, using extra precautions, wearing face masks . . . being careful not to do anything that’s going to spread the disease, but they also want to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the midst of what’s happening.”

As fear of the virus spreads, so can the Gospel. Handley recalls the words of a senior ministry leader in China, saying, “Please pray for China. This is a humbling time for us, and a time for real spiritual reflection. He said, Actually, this might be spiritually good for us to be reminded that even a rising, growing power can be brought down by a small, unseen bug.”

Handley says the people at Asian Access need prayer to know when to have people travel, and when to let them stay home. The outbreak of the virus will increase costs for the ministry, and Handley asked for prayer that funds would rise to meet them.

  

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