Global Contexts: How Countries Shape the COVID-19 Experience of Amish and Mennonite Missionaries Abroad
1.1. Religious Moral Worldviews
1.2. Perceptions of COVID-19 Restrictions in the U.S. and Cross-Nationally
1.3. Amish and Mennonites
1.4. Current Study
1.5. Anabaptist Missionaries
2. Materials and Methods
3.1. Government Restrictions
The family remained in quarantine for two weeks and was released upon receiving a negative COVID-19 test. They received a certificate providing evidence of their negative test.“We arrived … in Addis on June 3. […] This hotel was one of the hotels designated to take travelers entering the country who needed to be quarantined. We needed to stay in our rooms at all times, so we spent some time each day on the balcony watching the busy street, as well as the construction of a few multi-story buildings. Each day until we had a swab test, someone came to take our temperature. We ordered our meals by phone or from a menu someone showed us at our door”. 15 July, Nazareth, Ethiopia
“Despite the heat, as I biked to my office, I noticed many joggers and bikers wearing masks. The law here is that a mask must be worn in public, even outdoors, but there is an exception for sports. As Israel has one of the highest infection rates (COVID-19) in the world, it became the first advanced country to order a second lockdown to fight the pandemic” (25 September, Jerusalem, Israel).
“On Wed. we did not have school as we had planned to go to Chihuahua to do our Christmas shopping. On Tues. our plans changed a bit. “They” were saying that in Chihuahua they won’t let more than one person from each group into the stores at one time. And “they” also said that “they” are pretty strict about too many people in one vehicle”. (18 November).
“We were informed that to disregard the ban of gathering for religious services in groups of 10 could cost the head pastor a fine or imprisonment. The government put the police in control of how the quarantine is executed. Luzhani, the village adjacent to Shipintsi, is in lockdown and constant police presence because of several confirmed cases of coronavirus”. (8 April, Shipintsi, Ukraine).
“On July 1st, the buses between Shipintsi and the city began rolling again, after being shut down for 3-½ months because of the coronavirus pandemic. […] Passenger trains began pulling into the Chernovtsi station in the middle of the month. Brother R*, who lives in a border town on Ukraine and works in Romania, is struggling with the coronavirus restrictions. After a 2 week isolation session in Romania he received a document from the police that he thought would allow him to daily cross the border to go to his job in the furniture factory. However, his police document was not sufficient, for which reason he has stayed at his job in Romania for 3 weeks without coming home to his family”. (12 August, Shipintsi, Ukraine).
3.2. Perceptions of Government Restrictions
Notably, even though the scribe in Liberia indicated that wearing a face mask while singing is not their “favorite thing”, they still wore it and did not criticize the practice.“A normal day for us will probably include donning our masks and going to a few shops for a few groceries in the morning or evening”. (8 July, Northern Iraq)“Some areas of Iraq are seeing an increase in COVID cases. Our immediate area has not been affected yet. We are required to wear masks while in public. Most people obey the guidelines, which should reduce the risk of a large outbreak. Thankfully, businesses can remain open and there are no curfews at this time”. June 17, Northern Iraq“Lots of people are wearing masks in public, and we are all being careful not to travel more than we have to”. (1 April, Zappruddya, Ukraine)“And in the middle of a hectic morning when there are 3 things that need doing, to take a moment and thank God for this busyness because it means we can interact with people again! And best of all, the joy yesterday to go back to church after 6 long months! […] Worshipping with our African friends was sweet again; though I quickly discovered singing through a face mask is not my favorite thing to do!” (25 September, Liberia, West Africa)
The scribe indicates that the government “took the danger of the virus very seriously” and that many people stayed home “hoping and praying” that COVID-19 would not spread.“The first case of the virus showed up in the capitol around March 10. The government took the danger of the virus very seriously and began to close things down. First they told people to refrain from large gatherings, including church. Then they began to close down businesses and city to city transportation. The Ethiopian brethren stopped coming to the office around the 20th, so we slowed down to only serving walk-in students. The next week all public transportation within the city was stopped, which greatly changed the town. Now many people are walking to town for food, walking to their jobs if they still have one, and many are just sitting at home hoping and praying that the virus will not spread through the city”. (15 April, Nazareth, Ethiopia)
The scribe made a point to indicate that everyone is “in good spirits” during the stay-at-home order, which suggests acceptance of the restrictions.“Lockdown measures continue to be put in place and enforced. As of this past Fri., the government has issued a stay-at-home order. Vehicles carrying food or medical supplies are still allowed to move about if they carry a government-issued pass. We have been staying on the compound, even sending in our orders for groceries. This is the fourteenth day I have spent on the compound, by far a record for me. I must say that everyone seems to be in good spirits”. (15 April, Liberia, West Africa)
“We were meandering our way through some Jewish neighborhoods at sunset on Yom Kippur, when we realized that many synagogues are currently outdoor synagogues, because of the laws prohibiting indoor gatherings of people. The streets in front of the neighborhood synagogues were lined with people holding prayer books and chanting their evening prayers. Often there were people standing on both sides of the street, facing the synagogue. It felt both majestic and intrusive, biking smack through the middle of sunset prayers on Yom Kippur”. (14 October)“The lockdown affects Sukkot traditions also. It is traditional to invite friends or family to your “sukkah” (booth), but the current laws forbid this. Saturday morning our family took to bikes again for some fresh air and exercise. We decided to bike through some Jewish neighborhoods and observe the sukkot (booths). […] People take their meals in the sukkot, so we enjoyed hearing the happy sounds of dishes clanking and people eating as we biked around”. (14 October)“Reflection reveals that lockdowns can unlock fresh opportunities. As soccer fields transformed into synagogues, our family enjoyed observing some outdoor High Holiday action that ended with the Feast of the Tabernacles. We also need to worship outside currently, but at least we can do that!” (11 November)
As the Ethiopian brethren insisted on following government recommendations to wear masks, the American missionaries complied. Additionally, the scribe notes how greetings have changed during the pandemic to accommodate physical distancing. This entry indicates how context affected compliance and likely contributed to their perceptions of the restrictions.“We were privileged on Aug. 23rd to resume our church services here. However we were limited to a space or 2 m between worshippers unless you were seated beside a family member. The first Sun. the Americans did not wear their masks, but the Ethiopian brethren felt everyone should do so, since the government recommends it. Now most everyone wears those fuzzy things during the service except when speaking or singing. … The greetings used here changed from 6 years ago. In pre-COVID-19 times, a buddy-type greetings for the men, was a shoulder bump and if it was long-time, no-see you gave several of those alternately from right to left. The feminine greetings was similar but instead of a shoulder bump, it was a cheek touch. A professional greeting was a right handshake while touching your left hand fore finger to your upper right arm. That has changed now to a slight bow while placing your right hand on your upper chest while trying to maintain the proper distance”. (16 September, Nazareth, Ethiopia)
3.3. Voluntary Restrictions
“Today is the first day that we have ended our self-imposed quarantine on our compound. We had been relying on our national staff to do our deliveries and other work while we took care of the warehouse and paperwork. […] We had been locked down for 127 days, starting on March 23. All of us are glad to have the ability to leave the compound to do things”. (5 August, Liberia, West Africa)“Last Friday, June 4, was the last day of the government-enforced lockdown. Our CAM compound is still not planning to open up at this point, until we see what the next step is that the country will be taking. It’s getting very long, but it helps me when I count my blessings”. (24 June, Northern Iraq)
Voluntarily self-imposed restrictions are evidence of support and agreement with such rules.“We live in a country where testing is extremely limited and the government does not give much direction how to handle a virus”. (8 April)“In spite of a country that hasn’t implemented many restrictions or social distancing, it’s interesting to see how people have created a measure of this on their own. We are concerned about taking necessary precautions and at the same time get involved with transporting medications and treatments to those around us who need it”. (27 May)
3.4. Contextual Factors and COVID-19 Perceptions
Memories of Ebola and resulting food and water shortages are fresh memories for Liberians. The scribe reports that “they know firsthand what effects a pandemic like this can have on their country”, which may influence their perceptions of the pandemic and government responses to it.“Coronavirus became a reality to us here in Liberia on March 16, with the first case being reported in Monrovia. For a lot of these people it brings back memories of Ebola. Some are scared about a food shortage, and others are having a hard time getting water because the pump they normally access is now inside a locked compound. There is a gas shortage, and transportation is expensive. But in talking with some of our national staff, they have challenged me in that even though they are scared, and they know firsthand what effects an pandemic like this can have on their country, they pray, commit it to God, and trust Him to take care of them”. (1 April)
The scribe reports “feeling privileged”, suggesting that this encounter had a meaningful impact on them. Where residents cannot afford routine medical care, the scribes can envision the tragic effects of COVID-19 spreading through the population.“J* sought treatment for her burns in a different province. The public hospital treated her for a while then they stopped because she didn’t have identification papers with her. Her husband returned to camp to get her papers. While he was there the travel ban went into effect and he could not return to his wife, so she couldn’t get treatment. She decided to return to camp but was detained at a checkpoint. After 3 days, they finally sent her for 14 days of quarantine then allowed her to return to the camp. […] Her story causes me to try to imagine the powerlessness of having no money to pay for the hospital expenses and being denied care because you are a refugee and don’t have your proper papers. After a visit like this you leave feeling very privileged”. (9 September)
Hearing these accounts may influence the perceptions of the missionaries regarding COVID-19 and government restrictions.“The continued restrictions create added difficulties for some families. One man said he is not able to go to work since the COVID-19 lockdowns. We are privileged to help a small local organization with distribution of food and cleaning supplies along with hygiene items for needy families. Most of the people helped live in small villages outside the city. […] One Christian man says “Thank you” from all the Christian villages of Iraq for the help they receive from the churches in America”. (19 August, Kurdistan, Iraq)“The schools are non existent in camp. The school situation wasn’t very good before COVID-19 and when the virus came, the remaining schools were closed down and haven’t opened up again. We often hear people asking how their children will learn if they have no school. Instead the children play all day on the dusty streets or become bored with the life of nothing to do in camp”. (21 October, Northern Iraq)“With quarantine restrictions loosening a little bit here, we’ve been able to get out more. In the beginning of June we visited the Father’s House, a Home in Kiev that works closely with Children’s Service. They help troubled children from abusive homes as well as orphans. They lost some of their supporters from other parts of Europe due to COVID-19, so CAM helped them out with food parcels, as well as comforters and soap. It was well worth seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when they helped unload the truck!” (1 July, Zappruddya, Ukraine)
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Nazareth, Ethiopia||Washington-Franklin Mennonite Conference||School, handwashing stations, prison ministries, and gifting Bibles.|
|Kurdistan, Iraq||Kingdom Channels||Restoration team, visiting IDP camps, English class, distribution of food, cleaning supplies and hygiene products.|
|Northern Iraq||CAM||Visiting IDP camps, distribution of food and hygiene products.|
|Jerusalem, Israel||CAM||Distribute food, health items, wheelchairs, and other aid to the poor.|
|Nakuru, Kenya||CAM||Food distribution and digging wells.|
|Chihuahua, Mexico||Old Order Amish||Teaching mission; operate a school.|
|Middle East||CAM||Medical team: burn care, medical care to refugee camps and remote villages, food distribution, hygiene kits, and layette bundles.|
|Managua, Nicaragua||CAM||Food, clothing, and healthcare item distribution.|
|Shipintsi, Ukraine||Master’s International Ministries||Church planting, tilling gardens.|
|Zapprudya, Ukraine||CAM||Food and clothing distribution, schools, and medical care.|
|Liberia, West Africa||CAM||COVID-19 aid, distribution of food and medical supplies, and school.|
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Corcoran, K.E.; Stein, R.E.; Colyer, C.J.; Mackay, A.M.; Guthrie, S.K. Global Contexts: How Countries Shape the COVID-19 Experience of Amish and Mennonite Missionaries Abroad. Religions 2021, 12, 790. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100790
Corcoran KE, Stein RE, Colyer CJ, Mackay AM, Guthrie SK. Global Contexts: How Countries Shape the COVID-19 Experience of Amish and Mennonite Missionaries Abroad. Religions. 2021; 12(10):790. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100790Chicago/Turabian Style
Corcoran, Katie E., Rachel E. Stein, Corey J. Colyer, Annette M. Mackay, and Sara K. Guthrie. 2021. "Global Contexts: How Countries Shape the COVID-19 Experience of Amish and Mennonite Missionaries Abroad" Religions 12, no. 10: 790. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100790