Reed Skinner rarely blinks at the seas crossed, the gravel roads traversed, or the steep trails ascended in his service to the gospel. He’s as likely to be found in the Middle East, establishing a foothold for new missionaries, as he is in Honduras, sitting cross-legged on a mountain’s edge, praying with a fellow believer. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began to sprawl across the globe, Skinner was forced into missional quarantine in his hometown of Gainesville, Georgia.
For a dozen years Reed, his wife Kim, and their three children resided in Honduras, where Skinner nurtured a church in the mountains among the isolated Tolpan people. Now he was cut off from them. Yet he kept his spirits up, encouraged by the fruit produced in the tribe.
“This did not take God by surprise,” said Skinner. In fact, a few years earlier the ministry was challenged in every way by an antagonistic tribal council that removed the village pastor. But the Tolpan have since replaced the council with godly members and installed a new pastor who is discipling believers and equipping leaders.
Still, with COVID-19 raging, there could be no church meetings, particularly because of the high tuberculosis rates, respiratory illnesses, and asthma among the Tolpan. “None of us have ever been in a pandemic before,” said Skinner. “In Touch Messengers have sustained and grown people when there was no other way.” For years Skinner hiked hours each week to reach the ridges dotted with simple homes and, when he could, leave two In Touch audio Bibles for each household—one device for the husband farming coffee, corn, and beans; the other for his wife at home with the children.
While grounded, Skinner connected via video chat with 10 partner churches throughout Honduras. He did his best to encourage congregation leaders, who were crushed by requests from their people but ill-equipped to resolve difficulties related to the pandemic.
He also kept in touch with two Honduran men stranded in Argentina for months, their training interrupted by world events. They had been preparing to be missionaries in the Middle East, where they believed the need was greatest. For three years Skinner’s ministry has been forging partnerships to support this mission, and God has brought dozens of Muslims to Christ. But the price for these conversions is high, and many new believers have lost family. Some have lost their life. The need for outside help continues to be significant.
As he waited for the pandemic to subside and the all-clear to permit his return to Honduras, Skinner was focused on being attentive to the time and the season. “We have this arrogance as Americans who can travel anywhere,” he said. “And it’s humbling when we are not allowed into these countries.” But through watchfulness and prayer, Skinner attuned himself to an active quarantine of rest in the perfect will of God. After all, the Lord is always on the scene—even when we’re not.
Photographs by Ben Rollins