Caring for Those Who Care: Ministering to pastors on South Cone Field
When the COVID-19 pandemic made working and meeting in person impossible for pastors in the South Cone Field, Field Strategy Coordinator Alessandro Polonio and his wife, Christiane, had to get creative.
The Polonios had moved to Argentina one month before the pandemic started. Soon, borders between neighboring countries closed, requiring that ministry be shifted to Zoom. This included conferences and initiatives like Caring for Those Who Care, a project to support pastors and their families.
“This is a project where we were able to gather nutritionists, doctors, psychologists, and school counselors,” Christiane said. “All those professionals were volunteers, and the pastors, missionaries, and their families can get medical attention when needed.”
The volunteers are all members of Nazarene churches in the four countries — Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile — that make up the South Cone Field. Currently, about 30 professionals have donated their time and abilities to the project.
While holistic care is always urgently needed, the services became invaluable during COVID-19 as countries went into lockdown and social distancing went into effect. The restrictions were hard on everyone, and it was helpful for pastors to have a resource on hand if they needed it.
“The most needed or most in demand [specialists] during the pandemic were the psychologists,” Christiane said. “It has been a blessing to have help.”
The project has had its challenges. Medical systems vary from country to country, so doctors cannot write prescriptions or give primary care but only offer advice and direction to smooth the way. Additionally, the project had to restructure sessions to be more online.
As part of caring for pastors, the field also hosted an online conference in May that focused on the health of the entire person: spiritual, physical, relational, and emotional. General Superintendent Gustavo Crocker led a discussion on the importance of holistic care, a financial professional hosted a workshop on retirement and saving plans, and a nutritionist, a psychologist, and two doctors chaired a panel. The conference closed with Communion as everyone, including children, ate and remembered. Six hundred pastors and their families attended, and the feedback was incredibly positive.
“It was a very emotional time,” Christiane said. “Seeing everyone together — not being together but seeing everyone through the cameras — was a very touching moment.”
In addition to raising awareness about matters of physical, mental, and financial health, the project has fostered spiritual growth. Before the conference, women across the South Cone Field gathered virtually to pray for the conference, the pastors, and each other. They met every week, lifting each other in prayer for an hour when difficulties or hurdles presented themselves. The women continue to meet weekly now, finding fellowship and strength in each other and praying for the pastors that minister.
“It’s beautiful to see that, even in the hard moments, God teaches,” Christiane said.