When life was “normal” prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kay Bennett logged many hours ministering to victims of human trafficking through the New Orleans ministry center.
But since the city has been in quarantine mode, thanks to New Orleans—and all of Louisiana—being one of the epicenters for COVID-19 cases in the United States, that ministry activity has substantially quieted.
“Due to our governor and our mayor issuing a proclamation to stay at home, limit gatherings and close certain businesses, we have not received calls regarding human trafficking,” Bennett said.
And while that may sound good on the surface, it doesn’t give her reason to stop praying for the plight of trafficking victims. In fact, just as much of the country is finding ways to use technology for good, in lieu of in-person gatherings, Bennett believes traffickers are doing the same to carry on their business.
“I am sure that through online services, human trafficking is still taking place,” she said. “Due to having to alter our services to homeless females, such as providing shower ministry, we, unfortunately, have not had the contact with potential trafficking victims that we normally have.”
That doesn’t mean the New Orleans ministry center isn’t open for ministry. And residents in the community know it.
“Friday morning, the doorbell rang with a young couple needing diapers and wipes for a 3-month old baby they were watching for a homeless girl who is 17 years old,” Bennett said. “The 17-year old asked them to take care of the baby because she could not take care of him and was afraid to catch the coronavirus.”
Bennett then pointed out a study she read that says homeless people will be twice as likely to be hospitalized and three times as likely to die during this pandemic than the general public.
Such a reality breaks Bennett’s heart.
“They are vulnerable because they are older and sicker, cannot keep their conditions sanitary on the street, and have nowhere to isolate and stay at home,” she said.
Additionally, scores of children in the city are being homeschooled after the virus outbreak shuttered school buildings. This exposed not just a need for food for students, but also school supplies.
That’s why, as of last Friday, the New Orleans ministry center got busy getting snack packs and backpacks full of school supplies and hygiene items out to community residents.
“We reached out to local pastors and church planters to let them know that we had backpacks with school supplies in them,” Bennett said. “The pastors and planters came to Baptist Friendship House and picked up 352 backpacks to deliver to those in need.”
It’s another example of how Send Relief ministry center leaders are seeing local churches come alive in a tough time.
“We are thankful to them for being the hands and feet of Jesus,” she said. “It’s important to us as missionaries to be flexible and adaptable during this unprecedented time we’re in.”
Clarkston ministry center specially equipped to meet COVID-19 health needs
As of last Friday, the tangible effect of the new coronavirus has shown up among the refugees and immigrants who call Clarkston home.
“We are at the beginning stages of seeing how bad this is going to get in Clarkston,” said Trent DeLoach, senior pastor of Clarkston International Bible Church and Send Relief Missionary.
“We have four confirmed cases in Clarkston right now,” DeLoach said. “We expect things to get worse before they get better. We are still waiting to see how we can respond. We are preparing to provide some care packages for our medical workers, and our normal, day-to-day ministry has pretty much shut down.”
The Ethne Health clinic has been crucial, DeLoach says, in providing ministry through care to the Clarkston population. The clinic has been testing between five and 10 people each day, but more importantly, Ethne Health has been instrumental in navigating the language barrier for patients.
“Ethne Health is helping lead the charge to get information to our community in languages they understand,” DeLoach said.
Dan Zagomi, a Clarkston International member, is also doing his part to ease the communication struggle by being a door-to-door source of information among the Congolese families in the area.
“The work that Dan is doing is incredible,” DeLoach said. “Two of our Congolese families have tested positive for COVID-19. Multiple families are requesting Dan to come and pray for them. He is spreading safety information house to house at great personal risk to himself because this is the only way to adequately communicate with our international neighbors.”
In addition, DeLoach said the ministry center is working diligent to get basic food supplies and cleaning items to as many residents as possible.