COVID-19 Grace

A Message from Michael Oh

Michael Oh 11 May 2020

The world has been fighting the coronavirus pandemic for many weeks. How is God present in all of this, and what impact has such a global event had on global mission? Michael Oh, Global Executive Director / CEO of the Lausanne Movement, shares an important message to address these questions. Watch, listen, or read, and if you are encouraged, please share it with others.


Listen to the Audio

Transcript of the video message

Hello, dear friends. I smile as I think of you, wondering where in God’s world you might be right now in one of the many amazing cities and nations across the earth. At the same time, my heart aches for you as I think about what hardship you and your family might be facing, as all of us are trying to respond well to the leadership challenges brought about by this COVID-19 pandemic.

I wanted to take a few minutes to share something that’s been on my heart these days. At the 2nd Lausanne Congress in 1989 in Manila, a Chinese brother shared a really powerful testimony. He shared of his imprisonment in a labor camp because of his faith. The authorities thought that the best way to reform and torture him was to make him empty the cesspool of human waste. All the human waste collected from the entire camp stagnated in that cesspool. He shared these words that I’d like to share with you.

‘I had to walk into the disease-ridden mass to empty it, and all the time I had to inhale that horrible stench. My captors thought it was the best place for a Christian leader, but I enjoyed working in the cesspool because I liked the solitude. In the labor camp, all prisoners were under constant surveillance. None of us could be alone. Only when I worked in the cesspool could I be alone, then I could pray to our Lord as loudly as I wanted. I could recite the Scriptures and psalms of the Bible that I still remembered. No one would come close enough to protest. In those years, one of my favorite hymns when I worked in the pit was “In the Garden.” And when I sang this hymn in the cesspool, I understood the meaning of garden, and I knew where God was. I met my Lord in the garden of the cesspool.’

That Chinese brother could be thankful for the cesspool. There, he experienced cesspool grace. That is a grace that can only be experienced in a cesspool. I am sharing this story with you because I think it holds some real perspective for our lives and for leadership today. You may be facing some very heavy challenges in your life, or certainly will face various kinds in the future. Maybe cancer, anxiety, financial struggles and decisions, the suffering or loss of a loved one, depression, being hard-pressed in your leadership through crisis—sufferings of many kinds.

It’s my hope and my prayer that you will be able to see and experience the unique grace that is offered to you in that circumstance by your Heavenly Father, your faithful Heavenly Father. Cancer grace. Anxiety grace. Unemployment grace. Depression grace. In these days of global pandemic, you and your family, your church and your community, your friends and neighbors are facing circumstances and challenges unlike anything that you’ve experienced before.

If you’re like me and my own family’s experiences of heartaches and tragedies, you’ve probably asked God, begged of him in the midst of your suffering to take that thorn away again, and again, and again, just like the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul says, ‘Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”’

Just this past week, a dear friend of mine who is battling with leukemia and has three family members who have tested positive for coronavirus shared with me that his nine-year-old niece has now been diagnosed with leukemia. I spoke with another friend who leads an amazing ministry that impacts millions and millions around the world. He was grieving with me over the layoffs that they’re going to be making because of severe financial struggle and because giving to the ministry has dropped by 40%. I don’t know what the nature of your suffering is today, but I know that God is with you, and I know that his grace is sufficient for you.

Like our brother in the cesspool, I trust that in every circumstance, you will have the opportunity to experience the closeness of God in your suffering in a very unique way, and that God will open up the opportunity for you as well to testify to the good news of God’s grace.

So today in the midst of the unique challenges that you face in this pandemic, it’s my hope and prayer that God would grant to you COVID-19 grace—a grace that you can only experience in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. May God be with you, my friend.