Four things we can learn from the coronavirus

There’s a bit of panic in the air. You’ve probably felt it.

Like the rest of the world, I too have been trying to get my head around the coronavirus pandemic.

Please know, this article is in no way making light of the loss people have experienced through the virus to date. My heart is heavy for those who have lost loved ones already, and those who carry genuine fear for the future of their relatives, friends and neighbours.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

I’m absolutely not going to attempt to pass it off like I know anything about the actual virus itself. My medical knowledge is about as much use as a bicycle is for a fish.

But what I will attempt to do is draw out a few points that I think the coronavirus can teach us amid the disruption of travel plans, disturbance of schedules and general chaos.

  1. We are not in control

Fintan O’Toole from The Irish Times cleverly points out how there is something bitterly apt in the fact that coronaviruses take their name from the Latin corona, a crown. Their form is that of the traditional human symbol of dominion and domination.

In a world where man seeks to take control of anything and everything, the coronavirus reveals that there are limits to human control of the world.

Let’s face it, we love feeling in control.

With our advanced technology and modern lifestyles we’re generally pretty proud with what we’ve done and how far we’ve come.

We’ve an app for everything. We can more or less order whatever we want from anywhere in the world by the click of a button. If we’re missing information we can just talk into our phones and Siri can fill us in.

Can’t be bothered to get up from your sofa and book that doctor’s appointment? Don’t hassle yourself. Just ask Alexa.

Our lives run on convenience.

So when something threatens our sense of self-dependence or control it doesn’t usually sit well with us. A bruised sense of entitlement starts to raise its ugly head.

But the truth is we’re not in control of this earth. We never were and we never will be.

The good news is we can rely on the One who is.

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4 v. 11).

Yes, the coronavirus has exposed the great weakness within the human triumph. The pandemic has reminded us that we are not the great Kings of the earth as we thought we were. We’re needy creatures, who require a great Healer and Sustainer.

The virus may take on a name that symbolises power and domination, but there is only One who ultimately wears the crown.

“The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved” (Psalm 93 v. 1).

Take comfort in the fact that the One who holds tomorrow is faithful.

He always has been, He always will be.

2. We’re not owed anything

A good friend of mine reminded me the other day that life is a gift, not a right.

This hits any sense of entitlement hard.

But it’s true. Jesus never promised us health, wealth, comfort or safety. On the contrary He tells us to get ready for trouble, because it’s coming: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16 v. 33).

It’s interesting how shocked we are when disaster strikes. Of course, it’s right to be angry at the sin that is destroying our planet, and respond with sorrow when things like illness or natural disasters strip us from the people and things we love. But should we be shocked?

We are living in a broken world before Christ’s return, and we were never guaranteed protection from the mess; we’re promised His presence through it.

This is the first time our generation has had to face global pandemic of this scale. Generations before can tell you about their experiences during The Great Recession or WW2, but for us millennials under the age of 40, we haven’t really had a worldwide panic in this way before.

As a result, it’s all too easy for us to ask “Why?” when disaster strikes.

But instead of asking, “Why us?”, what about asking, “Why not us?”

Our lives are not our own. Every breath we have is a beautiful act of grace and a gift that we don’t deserve.

This should drive us to have gratitude for every moment, seizing every day we have and acknowledging that we’re never promised tomorrow, virus or no virus.

It should cause us to ponder on the beauty of life itself, how it’s been put into our hands to steward well by a good Heavenly Father, and how we ought to make the most of it.

3. We have an effect

Just because we’re not in control doesn’t mean we don’t have an effect on the world around us.

Whilst thousands are suffering from coronavirus, millions of lives will be put in jeopardy as a result of climate change, yet the media hype pales in comparison.

According to CNN, hunger is once again on the rise around the world, and climate change is a primary cause.

Around nine million people die from hunger related diseases every year. That’s almost two thousand times the number of people who have lost their lives to coronavirus at this stage in time.

Our actions affect the world.

It’s believed that even the very virus we’re chiming on about here was caused through people’s interactions with animals.

It’s important, therefore, to understand that every action has a consequence, and we owe it both to ourselves and to others to ensure our actions are responsible.

So take the advice. Wash your hands thoroughly. Throw away your old tissues. Don’t go out in public if you’re feeling unwell.

Be alert. Be wise. Take appropriate action.

But let’s also not stop there.

Let’s allow the actions we can take to slow down this pandemic to remind us that we can also take steps to slow down the changes that are happening rapidly to our climate.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

If we’ve been given this earth as a precious gift to care for, let’s make sure we take appropriate measures to look after it, whether that’s helping prevent the spread of disease, reducing pollution or whatever action we can take to make our world a better place.

4. We have hope

Conversations surrounding coronavirus have caused a lot more people to think about their mortality and death.

Now this may sound negative, but it’s actually a good thing.

What the virus is essentially doing is reminding us that we’re all in the same boat. Whether you have all the money and fame in the world or not even two pennies to rub together, death happens to us all.

Mortality has a wonderful way of uniting us together and reminding us that we’re all equal.

The coronavirus has weaselled its way into 114 countries, with more being added daily. The disease is no respecter of social status, salary size, nationality, or race. It’ll go anywhere, to anyone. No one is exempt.

As a result of this reality, people all over the world are reflecting more on what’s important to them, what their purpose is on this earth, and where they would go if they die.

It provides a wonderful opportunity for the church to come alongside our struggling fellow human and share the only good news we can in this situation: that our lives matter, we were made for a purpose, and we have an incredible, everlasting hope in Jesus that no disease can shake.

“I came that they may have life; life to the full” (John 10 v. 10).

This is the eternal hope we have. Not hope for a long life on earth with full health, wealth, comfort or safety, but hope for a full life with Jesus that lasts forever.

“For what is life? To me, it is Christ. Death, then, will bring more” (Philippians 1 v. 21).

No one truly knows what the next few weeks or months will bring as this global crisis continues. We can make predictions, but no one can see the future.

It can be hard to know who to trust with so much information being flung at our fearful eyes and ears every day. But this we can know for sure: God is sovereign, completely in control, and we can trust Him wholeheartedly with every single day we are given on this earth.

His presence will never run out.

His faithfulness will never run dry.

His goodness will never end, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in.

Keep the faith friends!

Much love,

J x


Love fearlessly

 “You have never talked to a mere mortal” – C. S. Lewis

You honestly would think she had never had a bad day in her life.

Nicky Carara had a smile that could make Ebenezer Scrooge grin from ear to ear.

As a solo missionary, Nicky has been running children’s programmes in one of the most dangerous districts of Kingston for eight years. Burrowed on the outskirts of the city, Parade Gardens is a district that has seen it’s fair share of turmoil. The two neighbouring communities, Tel Aviv and Southside, have been at war for years. And yet there she was, smiling away, welcoming my teammates and I with open arms as we joined to help run her weekly Bible club.

We were all set with equipment for activities, tools for games, and a message for the kids, but what we were not prepared for were the stories Nicky told us about these precious little lives.

“So many of these children are fatherless, either through murder, drugs or abandonment. I have children coming up to me and telling me in detail how their father got shot and killed because they’ve witnessed it, and that really breaks my heart.”

It broke ours too.

But she wasn’t even finished.

“Just last week, a little girl who wasn’t even two years old was shot whilst waiting for her breakfast during a drive-by shooting. She’s now fighting for her life in ICU. These are the things these children are seeing and hearing about on a regular basis. They are so used to seeing people getting killed or raped that it’s become ‘normal’.

“It’s a vicious cycle that never stops. Young, teenage women are getting pregnant without even having care from a mother themselves, so they raise children without knowing how to care for them properly. A child needs to know that they are loved or they’ll never know how to love in return.”

Something I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that real love isn’t passive.

Love isn’t flippant towards the things that cause harm, damage or hurt to the object. Real love stands up for what is good, right and just, even at cost to oneself.

Erich Fromm puts it better: “Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defence, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern—and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.”

For Nicky, it isn’t the ‘hero’ status or the feel-good-factor that fuels her passion for this area, it’s her real, genuine, get-your-hands-dirty love she has for these children and their parents that causes her to get out of bed everyday and brave the streets of Kingston.

It’s a love that can only come from knowing how abundantly and unconditionally loved she is herself by the One who made her.

She added, “Whenever somebody asks me why I do this, I reply with two words: Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit can transform this area.

“There are so many times when I’ve wanted to give up over the last eight years. So many things come against the children and I feel like no matter how hard I try it doesn’t get any better, but I know that voice isn’t coming from the Holy Spirit.

“Around six years ago, I hit a wall. I was really depressed and I just stayed in bed for days talking to God. Then He spoke to me loud and clear. He said, “Show up Nicky. Just show up.” I didn’t have to do anything else but show up. And because I’ve been showing up for eight years, there are people who have been able to get glasses, food, healthcare, and hear about the hope they have in Jesus.”

Suddenly her contagious smile didn’t seem so strange. She wasn’t naïve to the brokenness of this world nor shutting herself off from it, she was so convinced of the saving power of Christ and His love for every single human that it created an inner joy and strength within her that no hardship could shake.

But of course, she’s still human. Humans get scared, humans get tired, humans fail. But Nicky was quick to point out that her never-ending need was met by a never-ending source.

 “People often ask, “Aren’t you scared?” and truthfully, I am.

“One time I had to go up a street where five people had just been shot the day before. Parents were keeping their children locked in their yards, and I looked up the street and I thought, “Lord, I don’t want to go alone. I don’t want to do this by myself.” But I had to go. I gathered the children, and we carried on doing ministry that day. I was reminded of Joshua in the Bible when God tells him not to be afraid but to be courageous, because he’s never alone.

“One of the things I remind the people I meet is that God has me here. I show up because of Him. I want them to know that I am not their source, but God is their source.

“This is the frontlines of ministry and it is a battlefield, but this is where God wants me to be. We can’t sit in our churches and be comfortably sing our praise songs declaring “I surrender all” if we cannot surrender our fear and go where God tells us to go.”

Sometimes when we think of ‘unreached people’ we think of those who are in countries that have never heard of the Gospel. But there are so many unreached people right here in Jamaica.

It baffles me, because there are more churches in Jamaica per square mile than any other country in the world, yet nightclubs clutter the streets of Kingston, and violence and crime are normal ways of life in many communities. This dichotomy of living can only be transformed by the Gospel not just being taught, but sinking into hearts and minds and taking root.

I think a lot of this has to do with how we show Jesus to people. We cannot be satisfied with merely talking about Jesus and refusing to live out the life He has called us to.

John 13 v. 35 tells us that people will know who we represent by how we love.

Paul unpacks this idea in Romans 12 v. 9-11: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honouring each other.”

Love means refusing to be okay with what little children are witnessing in Kingston. Love means staring fear in the face and boldly stepping forward. Love means sharing the Gospel with the people God puts in your path, because the best news we can offer to our fellow human is the truth of who He is and what He has done.

Love fearlessly, knowing how abundantly and unconditionally loved you are by the One who made you.

You’ll start smiling too.

Much love,

J x

Take heart

“Perhaps this is the season to take heart and brave the deep, to go out beyond the borders of what is known and what is see” – Morgan Harper Nichols

It’s been 10 days and I miss home like crazy.

I long for my friends and family. I crave my bed. I’m itching for a Maud’s (the best ice cream in the world, for any non-Northern Irish reading this).

Leaving home has made me realise just how dependent I am on comfort. What’s worse, I deem it as a necessity and a right, and I almost feel affronted that I can’t tuck into a fish and chips right now or get a shower for longer than three minutes. Raging.

But this is what I’ve been massively reminded of this week. God never promises us ease. You’re never going to find any guarantees in the Bible for good health, happy bank accounts, or protection from suffering. What you will find, however, are the wonderful tools to persevere through every trail, fight every battle, and endure every pain. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us we will have trouble, but don’t let it scare you, because whatever it is, He has overcome it.

With every ounce of suffering you and I face, He promises His presence. And He is always enough. Even when we don’t immediately see it or feel it, He is pouring out provision and blessing every single day.

God continues to teach me time and time again the meaning of consistent thankfulness, even when it’s hard. Because the truth is, no matter what situation we find ourselves at this moment, we are blessed beyond measure. The very fact that another day has been added to our lives is due to God’s undeserved mercy and active presence. Life, in whatever form we find it today, is a gift coming from the nail-scarred hands of a God who will stop at nothing to show His unfailing love for us. How we respond to our difficulties shows a lot of what we think of our life giver.

When we arrived in Germany last Tuesday, I wanted to run home. That’s saying something for a girl who usually only runs to the fridge and back in her kitchen.

But just a few days later, my grumbling heart was met with a deep conviction.

During one of our evening worship sessions, we sang “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”. The words, “love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all” lit up the screen. In all my complaints, I had forgotten whose presence was with me the entire time. I had failed to remember just how unbelievably blessed I am to be with Him, and doing something He has called me to do.

The privilege of being His, of getting to follow Him, and being used for His glory and Kingdom to see broken people restored to freedom is something that exceeds any difficulty you and I could ever face in this world. It’s this breath-taking, never-ending, awe-inspiring love that compels believers all over the globe to lay down their lives, pick up their crosses and follow Him.

When I ponder on His love, I can’t help but surrender my soul, my life, my all. It’s this love that causes Christians all over the world to risk their lives for their faith. Believers across the globe are counting the cost of following Christ and declaring that no matter what, He is worth it. Always.

One of the beautiful things about joining OM is the chance to learn from people from hundreds of nationalities. In the last week, God has opened my eyes to the remarkable courage and spirited determination that so many of His followers carry in countries where their governments view their faith as worthless, shameful, or even illegal.

For some, practicing a Christian faith involves registering a church and submitting to local authorities. Today thousands of Christians in Asia are currently in state-organised churches. They have liberty to worship, but within strict limits. But while this limited freedom may seem harsh to us, it is a dream for others.

In other countries in the Middle East, believers must dive to survive, meeting in secret underground churches. Some have even resorted to fleeing their country, leaving everything behind. And yet for others, the only option they have is to lay down their lives to the point of death. In the world’s most hostile country against Christianity, this is a reality for many.

One believer there, reported by Open Doors, was found in possession of a bible and taken to prison. According to his friend, “When he came to faith, he made the decision that one day he would die for Christ. Every Christian in this country has made that choice.” That hit my heart hard.

Imagine following Jesus faithfully every day knowing one day you would die for it.

For those of us who live in Western societies where religious freedom to worship whoever, wherever and whenever we wish is granted, that thought may seem uncomfortable, or even disturbing. And yet, it’s the attitude Jesus calls us to take. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” Matthew 16:24 (ESV).

I think often when we read this verse our luxury-craving selves like to shape into something that sits a bit more comfortably for us. We may imagine that denying our selves simply means giving up a little of something we hold dear, maybe embracing a little bit of pain we can bear, or giving up something we enjoy so we can be a little less distracted in serving Him. But there’s nothing little about this verse.

In Philippians 1:29 Paul says: “For you have been given the privilege for the Messiah’s sake not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for Him” (ISV). If any follower of Christ has the authority to talk about denying himself and suffering for the Messiah, it’s Paul. Multiple beatings, a dose of blindness and a shipwreck later, you would think Paul would have thrown in the towel on this Matthew 16:24 idea. But instead, he calls it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ. Why? Because Christ is worth it. Always.

There is not one ounce of suffering that you and I could go through that would come close to a fraction of what He has gone through for us. It’s this love that compels us time and time again to see Matthew 16:24 become a reality everyday of our lives, whether that’s dealing with homesickness, an unexpected illness, or even facing death for His name’s sake.

But in all of this, suffering and even death don’t get the final word. Jesus does. That’s why John 16:33 is a promise to look upon with determined hope. He has won the victory over anything this world can throw at us, and we get the honour of partnering with Him in that.

Psalm 34: 2 -3 confirms this incredible hope we have. “Let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt His name together. I prayed to the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be covered in shame”.

There’s not one promise in those verses above about health, wealth or ease. Rather it’s full of God’s reliable presence. He listens, He cares, He answers. He will never put you or I to shame as we press into Him through every trial, and will be the lifter of your head in all situations, whether you’re dealing with a lost earplug or a pain that seems too deep to bear.

Look to Him and trust Him. He’ll trade your achy heart with a thankful one.

Much love

J x

I’m going on a boat

“How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none” – A.W. Tozer

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been posting about fundraising for OM, Logos Hope, but haven’t really said much about what I’m actually doing and why. So here it is.

Firstly, please know this blog isn’t about asking for your money. Left, right and centre, people are telling you to buy, purchase, subscribe, contribute, donate, give, give, give.


Being treated like an ATM can be a little exhausting, and in fact, massively unfair.  

But you’re not an ATM, so I really hope this blog doesn’t make you feel like one.

That’s not what this is about at all.

I hope that as you read this you feel zero pressure to reach into your wallet, but rather complete liberation to do whatever you can to make a difference, whatever that may be. 

I hope that by reading this you feel uplifted, inspired, and encouraged in the fact that every small act of kindness is important, from a simple prayer, to an act of service.

It’s because the onus isn’t simply on us, but on the One who created us, and enables us to give in the first place.

Every single one of us can make a difference with whatever is in our hands, whether that’s your time, your talents, and of course, your finances too.

I hope, that by the end of this blog, you feel less like an ATM, and more like the invaluable, influential, potential-filled treasured human that you are. Your creator wants to use you in ways you never thought possible, on adventures you never dreamed imaginable, if you’ll let Him.

For me, my next adventure involves a boat.

I used to not be a very big fan of boats. Seasickness isn’t really my thing.

Being confided to a floating home for an extended period of time doesn’t really appeal to a lot of people. It’s not as if you can just scoot down the street to the chippy, or nip to the shop.

But there’s a reason I’m using past tense there. 

A few months ago I signed up to volunteer for 1-2 years on board the Logos Hope ship as a journalist, to share the Gospel with the people I meet on and off board, and document what God is doing in different communities across the globe. I’m a wee bit excited.

I first came across Logos Hope when I was 15 through a guy called George Verwer. George came to my Church at that time to share how he had found a way to make a difference in the lives of thousands of people every single day.

From his first few sentences, George’s love for Jesus was evident. His eyes lit up when he was talking about how broken lives were being restored, mended, and transformed through the good news of the Gospel, and was grinning ear to ear when he shared how God was using him as an instrument through a ministry he founded called Operation Mobilisation.

In 1953, 16-year-old George gave his life to Jesus at a meeting with Billy Graham at Madison Square Garden in New York. 

Fervent, passionate, and zealous for the Christian faith, George had a growing conviction to evangelize on foreign soil. After graduating Moody Bible Institute, George headed to Spain, and started smuggling Bibles all over Europe. Once while taking Bibles into the USSR, George was arrested and accused of being a spy. He was then deported and brought back to Spain. 

At this point in the story, I think a fair amount of people would have thrown in the towel, but not George. Instead of this experience and trial dampening his spirits, it gave birth to a dream.

Through a significant time in prayer after returning home, the vision for a global Christian ministry with the aim to make the name of Jesus known in every nation was born. It’s called Operation Mobilisation (OM).

Today, OM has 6,800 people working in 118 countries around the world, seeking to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached. 

OM’s core values are knowing and glorifying God, living in submission to God’s Word, being people of grace & integrity, serving sacrificially, loving & valuing people, evangelizing the world, reflecting the diversity of the body of Christ, global intercession, and esteeming the church. They accomplish these core values through church planting, evangelism, relief and development, justice, and mentoring and discipleship.

One of the key ways OM attempts to do this is through ship ministry.

Running for nearly 50 years, the OM’s ships have visited over 480 different ports in more than 150 countries and territories, and welcomed over 47 million visitors on board.

The current ship, Logos Hope, visits each port for several weeks each welcoming hundreds and sometimes thousands of visitors each day. On average, around one million visitors have been welcomed on board every year.

The goal of Logos Hope is to share knowledge, give help and bring hope. By supplying vital literature resources, encouraging cross-cultural understanding, training young people for more effective life and service, providing needed relief, and sharing a message of hope in God wherever there is opportunity, the work of Logos Hope is making a difference in thousands of lives everyday.

Now this is a boat I can get on board with.

The crew on board contains every profession you can imagine. From engineers, to teachers, doctors, chefs, librarians, and yes, even journalists. We work together in our areas of expertise to keep this incredible ministry running.

There’s so much happening on board everyday, there needs to be story teller to keep track of everything that’s going on.

That’s where I come in.

My job will be to listen, write, and share the incredible stories of growth, healing and impact that’s happening on board and off board through Logos Hope. A job that I am massively thankful for.

But there’s a lot of text to wade through here, and I don’t just want you to take my word for it. Here’s a couple of videos from previous storytellers to show you more of a visual idea of what I’m rambling on about. 

Little tour:

Little intro:

Only got 60 seconds? Watch this:

As you can tell, this is a massive operation. An operation that can only function with prayer, support, and finances. 

Every volunteer on board the ship has chosen to give up a year, or two, or even more to offer skills, talents and abilities to serve the lost, discouraged and hopeless in some of the most broken pockets in the world. 

Every one of us has our own fears to overcome to step on board, prayers to pray, and financial targets to reach. As a community of volunteers, the money doesn’t only go towards our board, but also to all the services the ship offers. 

The money we raise as individuals goes into a collective fundraising pot that keeps every area of ministry on the ship running. So the money I am personally raising isn’t just going towards my writing resources, but also the supplies for the medical centre, the books at the stall, the activities for the kids, the equipment for the engineers to keep the ship afloat, and so much more. 

That’s why I believe in raising support for this cause so deeply. Hope and restoration is being brought to the lost and needy all over the globe and it’s only as a result of the generosity of the people like you giving, praying, and encouraging that enables us to do this. 

I used to not be a massive fan of boats, but I kind of love this one.

Despite the inevitable sea sickness, confided space, or the knowledge that that trip to the chippy will have to wait a while, I am overwhelmed by the sheer honour of this opportunity, and the excitement to see God move in people’s lives like never before.

But I don’t want to do this on my own, I want to take you with me. (Obviously not physically. That would be fun, but not sure how pleased the captain would be if I showed up with all my Norn Iron mates).

I want to share the stories of how God is changing hearts and lives all over the globe to spur you on in your own faith. I want to raise awareness of what the Church is doing in various pockets around the world so you can get alongside your brothers and sisters and pray. I want to tell tales of how we’ve messed up and things have gone wrong, but how God has been faithful the entire time and brought us through, so you can be encouraged that He is always able to use our broken, messy hands and feet for His glory.

I want to share stories that will remind you that you have monumental potential to make a difference, whoever you are, whatever you have. 

Our limitations, not matter how many or big they are, are no match for his incredible strength, might and ability to carry out what He has called us to do.

I think Paul nailed it when he said: “Nothing compares to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord. Everything else on this earth pales into insignificance compared to knowing Jesus”  (Philippians 3:8). 

That is essentially why I am doing this. I believe God has opened the door for me to do this with Him, and if that means that I get to know Him better, then every moment of seasick or homesickness will be worth it. 

Please come with me on this, and fill me in on your adventures too.

If you want to see/hear some stories, follow me on this blog or head to my Insta page (@judyroseshaw). If you want to give financially, fire me a message and I’ll fill you in how. If you want to know how you can pray, send me your email address and I’ll add you to my prayer newsletter.

I am very thankful for all you non-ATMs. Your support means the world and all I want to do is encourage you along this journey too so that Phillipians 3:8 becomes a daily reality for all of us.

Big love for you.

J x