God is good, even in the time of Covid. Since our inception, Northwest has expressed confidence in the sovereignty of God and in his good purposes. In a time like this, we have the opportunity to prove we truly mean it. This year has challenged us in ways we could not have imagined. This is not news. We all could say the same. Neither is it news that God has proved himself worthy of our trust.
We know that you care about Northwest and are praying with us. Here is a snapshot of our progress in this moment of global pandemic.
It has been more than eight months since our team has been in the same room together. For all this time, we have been operating our ministry remotely via Zoom. We are unable to open our offices due to government regulation and Trinity Western’s Covid policy. This means that we have to offer all our courses either online or through contextual programs like Immerse. While not ideal, and we trust not long term, we have discovered we can still be effective in our work, even though we are all working from home. By God’s grace, we continue to prosper in our mission.
We are deeply grateful for Immerse and our other competency-based programs. When we began to develop these innovations, we could not have imagined a pandemic. But if we could have, we might have built our programs just like this. It has been exciting to watch our students utilize the challenge of doing ministry under Covid as a powerful learning opportunity. Our approach allows students and mentors to customize the ministry experience to the unique challenges of the moment.
I could tell you about Peter, for example. Peter is a youth pastoral student on Vancouver Island that I am mentoring. Peter has had to learn to adapt his entire ministry around a remote leadership strategy. Watching him struggle to discern new and unforeseen approaches to serving his students has been powerful for his own development. Through it all, God has been gracious and Peter has found encouragement.
Where we have really felt the Covid pain is with our Korean programs. While local Korean students are able to continue their studies with us, we have seen a significant reduction in enrolment for these programs due to a clampdown on international student visas. When the airplanes from Seoul stopped flying, we felt the hurt. Recent announcements from the government are encouraging. While student visa opportunities are opening up, the time required to obtain these visas has increased dramatically. It will take a while for us to overcome this problem.
For this reason, we are very grateful for the government support we have been able to receive. We have made good use of the CEWS program which has been a helpful buttress to our budget challenges. Even so, we have had to make some hard choices, delaying program launches, and reducing staff. We are hoping supporters like you will be able to help us so that we can avoid a loss this year. Given that we cannot count on the same level of government support for 2021, we will have further difficult choices to make for the coming year. But as we have often heard, “we are all in this together.” Our challenges are no worse than those felt by so many of our churches and individuals. Through it all, we have been able to trace God’s sovereign hand.
A bright spot this fall has been our ACTS Seminaries partnerships. As Covid hit we began to adjust our budget, bracing for a major hit that never came. Our ACTS students responded well to online learning, such that we are on track to meet budget on that side of our operation. Along with our ACTS and TWU partners, we are grateful that we have been able to continue to operate effectively to the benefit of our students, despite the limitations we must contend with.
Of course, the highlight of the year, so far, has been our Immerse graduation, celebrated online this past September. In this case, the problem offered opportunity. The online opportunity meant that we were able to welcome people from many parts of the world. The uniqueness of the event allowed for a sense of celebration as we all accommodated to a different form. Again, God showed his goodness to us and to our graduates.
Our building project is progressing, despite these challenges. Our work-from-home scenario has given our contractor full range to get to work on our new building. Completion has been delayed till late spring or early summer. However, given the pandemic, we would not be able to occupy the space before then anyway. Again, God is good.
Thank you for your continuing support. Your prayers and financial gifts are valued more now than ever. We are not in despair. We live in the hope of the gospel, and in the goodness of the God who is greater than Covid or anything else the world might bring.