Mar 30, 2020
In uncertain times, it’s important to remember the power of hope in the midst of mass anxiety. Tune into Faith>Fear every Monday and Wednesday to learn how people with all kinds of perspectives are coping through quarantine, social distancing, and COVID-19, and beyond.
Behind the Scene International (BTS) is a title that captures the skills of its organization very well. While they are a video production company, they also look beyond the surface of content for opportunities of multiplication—spreading the gospel and using media to do so. “We feel media has been a really great tool [to take] the gospel out of the four walls of the church,” says BTS founder Hatem.
This eye for spiritual and strategic depth is illustrated well by their partnership with GNPI. First, they recorded The Global Gospel in several languages. To adapt it for children, they then created “Jesus Story,” a 13-episode program that presented the life of Christ through The Global Gospel and energetic hosts. Now during COVID-19, they’ve taken one step further by producing a livestream program that teaches families to use “Jesus Story” for home Bible studies.
It’s efforts like these that Hatem believes is opening up the Middle Eastern church in a new way. “...A lot of people don’t know each other in their neighborhoods because the garage door opens, they go in, they close it, they don’t see each other. So the church in the Middle East [generally has] the same mentality.” Now the garage is open and neighbors can talk - even about Jesus.
On Thursday, come back to hear the powerful testimony of Yassir and learn how this pandemic is an opportunity for the church to identify with our persecuted brothers and sisters.
When unknowns abound, we find ourselves clinging to anything that we can control. Jordan Howerton identifies with that as the worship leader of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona, but he thinks there’s a better posture to take - an open palm rather than grasping fist. “There’s a lot out of my control that I have to just honestly submit to the authority of the providence of God,” Jordan admits.
Far too often, we become controlled by the things that we try to steer and manipulate. “I think that busyness and urgency are really lonely companions. And I think that we’ve befriended them too often.” Instead, it seems best to prioritize rest and Sabbath to Jordan, asking God to use him more in six days rather than seven.
Beyond rest, Jordan believes strongly that worship also helps us fight that sense of isolation caused by busyness and feelings of insignificance in the face of monumental forces like COVID-19. Through worship, we’re reminded of God’s goodness to us and the body of Christ that sings, prays, and grows with us. “I don’t have the strength,” says Jordan, “but God has given me the strength through the community of people that are around me.”
Next week, Faith>Fear discusses how media is reaching into the homes of Middle Eastern families to meet the spiritual needs of both parents and children as they shelter in place.
The reality of COVID-19 may have come in waves for you. At first, it seemed like a disaster limited to one part of the world, but then the threat of a spread became more realistic. Later, the virus’ effects seemed limited, but then they grew significantly as your city locked down. If that rings true to you, you would probably identify with Abi Flores’ experience living in her home country of Mexico.
The people of Mexico also experienced many of the same challenges that you might have—anxiety, social distancing, and an economic downturn. If you were like Abi, you may have even lost some work, adding personal financial pressures on top of everything else. Yet, maybe you felt a touch that pulled you through like she did: “Even when I don’t see... money or whatever, I feel like the hands of God is always in my hope.”
Regardless of what our experiences have been during this pandemic, Abi helps us realize that we can still contribute during this time like she has through encouraging videos and radio broadcasts. Yet, she acknowledges that this contribution wasn't of her own doing, but God's. “[If only one person is] encouraged with my message, I feel good because... it’s the hands of God doing these things, using me…”
Come back on Thursday as worship minister Jordan Howerton shares his perspective about how COVID-19 might just help church leaders reach their people in a deeper way.
“I’m amazed at the people that God brings across my path when I’m out walking,” says Dean Trune. He thought he was trying to stay active in the middle of a pandemic, but God showed him otherwise, as if saying, ‘You’re not walking for exercise. You’re walking to engage people with me.’
While physical walking is important, God also uses Dean to spiritually walk with many individuals as a mentor and coach, especially church leaders. The challenges of social distancing have made him a better coach, but it’s created a difficult environment for those he walks alongside. “It’s really put a new pressure on church staff and elders that this emotional battle that’s taking place is directly impacting their ability to minister to people with the light of love.”
While Dean will continue walking with those he finds on both street corners and in online video conferences, there’s another walk that comes first. It’s so vital that it’s part of his email signature: “My most important responsibility today is to spend quality time with God.” Though we are often troubled by things over which we have no control, we can control the use of our time. What better way to spend it?
Next week, Faith>Fear travels over borders once again to hear from Abi Flores who works in Mexican media ministry through radio, film, and social media.
If we’re being honest, some of us have seen more blessing than hardship during the past months. Christian Development Fund Capital Foundation’s David Duncan would put himself in that boat. Yet with those blessings come a responsibility from God. “[God] has in essence made himself financially insolvent because he has entrusted the management of all of his resources to people like you and me, Christian stewards,” shares David.
Some blessings are borne of difficulty. If you’ve been stressed during this time, David suggests that you see this period as an opportunity to reduce debt and set up an emergency fund. Other blessings look like a surplus. To multiply that abundance, David has a question: “As an investor in eternity, what are the five... ministries that are my highest priority?” By keeping that list short, David says we effectively narrow our focus to deepen our influence through generosity.
When we take the blessings we receive and share them with others, God often orchestrates our generosity to meet a precise moment of need. “I call those stories the serendipitous blessings of God’s holy spirit…” While COVID-19 has caused much hardship, God has also used it to distribute his grace at just the right time.
Come back on Wednesday to hear how mentor and coach Dean Trune suggests that we get a CLUE as we continue to face a rapidly changing world together.
Who’s your church going to call when it has a God-sized financial need? The answer just might be Matt Brock, a regional vice president at Christian Financial Resources (CFR). His organization lends funds to churches to make building projects, renovations, or land purchases happen. As Matt says, they are “just another little piece of the puzzle when it comes to God’s kingdom working together to make things go.”
Of course, the past few months have been a financially challenging time for some churches, and Matt has been in a great position to pass along lessons. “Each church, just like each person, is an individual body, right? And so what works for one may not work for another…” In intentionally keeping up with many church leaders, however, CFR has been able to share a variety of approaches to monetary or technological struggles.
Matt readily recognizes that though faith in Christ is powerful, believers and churches don’t always feel free of fear. So to those still wading and waiting through the strife of the times, he has a word. “It’s OK to be not OK right now, but… God can help you even through the greatest of trials.”
During a time when connection has been strained, Timothy Jai Kumar, professor at Lakeview Bible College and Seminary in Chennai, India, has found fertile ground for a return to our creator. “We are supposed to be connected with God,” says Timothy Jai Kumar, “...and because we have lost that connection, things in our life are messed up.”
Fixing a lost connection can happen in various ways, and a primary tool that Timothy and his students use is media. Through videos and social media strategy, they seek to answer the tough and often neglected questions that people are asking during a national lockdown. “In India, ...it is not easy to go out and talk to someone about Jesus, but now our counselors are sitting at home, and these young people are coming to us on their own!” Some connections still need to happen face to face, like the distribution of food to the poor and hungry, which Lakeview is also involved in.
Timothy believes that God is providing the means, whether digitally or physically, for people to return to him. “The only thing [that you need to do is] help them to find that reconnection, …and they will be able to do it because that’s the way we are created.”
Three words could be the bridge over a chasm of argument, debate, and hate. Just three words could be the best response when someone shares a point of view that doesn’t sit well. “When you say ‘tell me more,’ it really brings down the walls,” says Ozark Christian College Director of Diversity Matthew McBirth.
In truth, though, Matthew believes that a true reconciliation in the USA will only be answered through a longer process. Listening is good, but one party of a broken relationship must take the steps of apology, repentance, and Spirit-led repayment. Finally, the other party must also offer the healing of forgiveness. “That's where we can say, ‘I no longer look at you as your past wrongs. I look at you as a brother. I look at you as a sister in Christ.’”
We often think that the great hurdle to this process of reconciliation is hate, but Matthew reminded us, with the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., that the true opposite of love is simply not caring. “Let’s not choose indifference. Let’s not choose apathy. Let’s choose to actively love our neighbors in this moment.” It’s now our part to take the action of love that God has placed before us today.
Throughout her career as a missionary at Mid-India Christian Mission (MICM), Dr. Sheela Lall has filled needs in many different spaces. She first assisted her husband in media, writing scripts and designing sets, but today she is more involved with MICM’s educational efforts and mercy ministries for children. “I’m thankful to God that during this time we can show God’s compassion and love to people, and nurture them, and mentor them...” says Sheela, speaking with the heart of a true mother.
While India has been under a national lockdown, that heart has not waned. When the media team needed to put together a broadcast in less than 24 hours, she stepped up to the plate to write and deliver a message. “During this emergency time, these kids still come running to me like, you know, anyone would come to mom... to solve the problem.” And leave it to a mom to turn COVID-19 safety instruction into a rap song that has been viewed over 200,000 times.
Sheela knows, however, that she can never be the ultimate caretaker. That space is reserved for God. “We need to reexamine ourselves, and we need to readjust our ways of life according to the word of God. So I think if you have faith in God, you don’t fear.”
“I think one of our biggest daily tasks as followers of Jesus is just to have open ears to hear his leading,” says Jason Casey, owner of Hodell Window Covering, Inc. in New Braunfels, Texas. Jason makes that observation from experience, demonstrating that skill of spiritual listening in several ways since this COVID-19 struck.
First, he read the signs of the times and was ready for big changes during the pandemic, finding ways to keep everyone on the payroll and working from home. That proactive stance has benefited them with a new wave of business as things open up again. “I think clients are looking for companies that weren’t shaken, who were coming out of this confident and in a position to continue business as normal…”
Beyond that, listening to God’s leading has also led him give his ear to others in his life, including old friends and contacts, married couples he’s coaching, and even his employees. As we listen and act in obedience, Jason sees that people are more open to talk about life and faith and that years-old prayers are being answered. Now, as we find a new normal, it seems more important than ever to make sure we have ears to hear.
The country of Uganda’s exposure to COVID-19 has perhaps come some weeks later than in many other countries, and the advance warning of the virus has been helpful. Veteran minister Dennis Okoth reports, “..There has not been any recorded death in Uganda just because of that quick action that the government of Uganda took to close the borders from any person accessing and coming in.” The only cases that have been confirmed seem to be from the essential drivers bringing food and supplies into the nation.
However, the lack of infection has not staved the spread of fear. “People are not dying, yet... you can hear people talk about, ‘Maybe next month people will start dying...’ And so that postponement has given a lot of people anxiety.” This fear has also been somewhat exacerbated by the stress of entire families living under the same roof at all times.
Though these experiences are difficult, Dennis sees that people are learning new ways of strengthening their ministries and their faith because of restrictions and limitations. “People are no longer looking at God as someone who is just out there in the church building. God has been brought home.”
Christ’s Church of the Valley in the Phoenix area of Arizona is a congregation that its teaching pastor Mark Moore describes as “stupid large.” Last year, it saw over 34,000 attend its eleven different campuses. As you can imagine, a global pandemic presents a church of this size with significant challenges but also great opportunities. “When the world is at its worst,” says Mark, “the church is at its best. We have to be the calm in the storm.”
Being the calm has looked pretty remarkable for CCV - they’ve provided Phoenix with the area’s largest drive-through testing site, and they’ve arranged for ten blood drives in two days’ time. “We discovered that the church, who’s better connected to local needs, is a better source for social compassion than government. So instead of bashing our government, we should be creating relationships… to make sure that we provide our expertise in a time of need…”
As things reopen in Phoenix, CCV is looking for a sensitive way to welcome people back into its doors. Mark foresees that the opportunity of corporate worship will fill church buildings on the first Sunday back. “I believe that when churches start reopening carefully, the worship of God is going to be like a balm on an open wound.”
With about 200 new cases a day, the Philippines has a long way yet to go during this COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, Pastor Caloy Diño in Manila thinks his people are well-equipped to cope. “There’s something about the temperament of Filipinos,” he ponders. “We try to lighten, you know, even the most tragic of events in our lives.”
Along with that temperament also comes a desire to help their community as a whole. While the poor are not receiving needed relief and financial assistance from the government, the people are coming together to help provide this. “...It’s bringing out the best of the Filipinos... This is something we need to uphold because this kind of desire to help can only come from God.”
Pastor Diño notes that Filipinos are a very religious people, so this goodwill also comes from a place of trust in God even while things seem tragic. “We know and we understand that things will never be the same, but we have the assurance that if we call to God, we know that everything is going to be all right.” It’s obvious when looking at the Philippines that if a positive attitude is rooted in foundations set by God, great things can happen.
“One of the problems of the Mexican culture is that we’re really independent,” observes Bob Gurwell, international consultant at GNPI-Mexico and dual citizen of that country and the US. There’s a lot of civil disobedience at this point.” Like numerous other countries, the curve has not yet flattened in Mexico.
Still, GNPI’s team in Piedras Negras is doing its best to meet people’s needs in the current situation. All of the staff is working from home, but they have actually significantly increased their rate of output and audience by making more yet simpler videos of encouragement. One feature that Bob is working on in particular is a video series on important Greek words from the Scripture. One suitably centers on the word “corona,” Spanish for “crown.”
Yet, one word that perhaps makes the most impact today is the Greek term for fellowship or communion with God, koinonia. “It doesn’t depend on you being present. It depends on what Jesus did on the cross, God’s decree, and the Holy Spirit in us,” says Bob. “And so we still have communion... with each other, regardless as to whether or not we’re together within a room or within a building.” Even while socially distant, we remain spiritually near.
Ukraine finds the concept of social distancing odd. “You see, you have the public distance even when you squeeze in the same elevator or the same shuttle bus,” says Dr. Sergei Golovin regional director of GNPI Eurasia, “and people just... pretend the other people don’t exist.”
This sort of attitude is partly due to the way the country has become accustomed to dramatic changes out of their control. In 2014, Sergei fled Crimea, his place of ministry upon a Russian invasion. “We were sure we were leaving for two weeks only. So we are still here in Kiev for six years now.” This massive life shift split their team miles and even countries apart.
However, another change also took place. They had lost their production facilities and moved to working from their homes in a “cloud office.” At first, this felt like a loss, but Sergei’s team realized that it was actually an opportunity for growth. Sergei sees that COVID-19 is offering a similar chance for Christ’s body and its message to go further. “This is just a great reminder that church is not where we are going to,” he reminds us. “Church is who we are.”
As the national response to the pandemic shifts, so is Faith>Fear. Moving forward, we’ll be hearing from the international community to see how the virus has impacted them differently, but we’ll also keep an eye out for changes to our own economic situation here in the US. And as always, we’ll keep learning about how we can overcome the present challenges with trust in God.
If the harvest is plentiful, where are the fields? Where are the seekers? Missionary Jon Ralls believed Luke 10:2 when he read it, but these questions remained. That all changed when Jon became involved in something called Media-to-Movements (M2M).
Jon now owns a company called Kavanah Media which helps missionaries and churches identify seekers through digital and social media marketing strategies. They were working in about fifty countries until COVID-19 hit and they added about 20 more. “So far, in every location that I have worked in, we’re finding seekers,” says Jon. Not only that, but he estimates that an average of ten to twenty thousand people hear about Jesus daily through the work he’s been involved in and about which he’s become so passionate
This shift in career from missionary to digital strategist partially came from a very unexpected and difficult place - a diagnosis of an incurable form of cancer. This devastating news actually helped him prioritize his precious time down to essentials. “If you ask my wife, she would tell you she thinks the Lord is keeping the cancer away… because there’s a job to do.” And that job goes back to Luke - revealing that plentiful harvest of seekers and connecting them with workers.
Though it may feel like the world is on pause, COVID-19 has not slowed God down. Andrew Jit, Global Missions Pastor at Owensboro Christian Church, sees no reason why the church can’t be swept up with him. “The world is kind of shut down right now. We physically can’t get there,” says Andrew, speaking about physical churches or ministry, “but… we can still be heavily engaged with what God is doing.”
This is true both for the US church and for the work of missionaries all over the world. Andrew sees the emphasis on technology now educating the church about how to connect with new people in less intimidating ways or to better care for the international workers they support. “He’s given us the technology, and I think it’s almost that the church has gone, ‘Oh, here’s a great tool that maybe we haven’t wrapped our arms around as much.’”
Yet, with the many voices clamoring for our attention, he knows these lessons and others could be easy to miss. “...Ensure in this time that you are carving out time to intentionally and deliberately walk with the Lord and allow his voice to be the strongest voice.” What voice has your attention?
Global pandemics seem to put life on pause. However, many life challenges continue amidst the additional problems that the current outbreak has caused. Choices Medical Services’ executive director and RN Karolyn Schrage sees that illustrated every day in her work. Unplanned pregnancies still occur, infections and diseases are still contracted, and their clients still need “Gospel whisperers” in their lives. “We have to be there to provide that calm in the middle of the chaos to be that compassionate response that knows that in our country there are choices,” says Karolyn, “but we want people to really understand that they’re making an informed choice.”
In continuing to operate during these weeks of quarantine, Choices is taking on cases that other healthcare facilities and services cannot at this time. They are also reimagining many of their work procedures as they rotate workers, take school presentations online, and put their mobile care unit to extensive use. “I think our team has the mindset that we’ve been called into battle every single day to be that justice response for the voiceless victim that is in the womb or that voiceless victim of sex trafficking.” In a time when it’s so easy to be a worrier, Karolyn is leading her staff to be warriors instead.
“People come to me a lot of times, and they get worried,” says Randee Kaiser, “...As the sheriff, you know, that’s my role.” Yes, Randee is sheriff of Jasper County in Missouri, and he meets people where they are, in anxiety, frustration, and pain. During this time, those duties have extended. Even his six year-old grandson has called and asked why he can’t have a sleepover with his friend.
In truth, law enforcement officials have been impacted in almost every aspect of their work. When asked how we can help, Randee responds, “Just being patient with us and being attentive to the possibility that we might be doing things differently than what you expect.” Home visits may need to be phone calls, and forms may need to be sent by email.
Randee reassures us that his staff is still hard at work, but he also admits that he feels anxiety and worry at times himself. Still, he rests on God’s promise in Philippians 4:6-7, a promise that we might misunderstand sometimes. “...What the promise is is that,” Randee notes, “...our attitude towards the problem will be changed when we pray and when we give it up to God.”
“When we got back, we were just stunned by all the news,” recounts Ozark Christian College student Timothy Vaipan. He had spent his spring break backpacking with friends and had left his phone behind. They returned to discover that Ozark had gone online, the dorms were closed as well as churches, and that he should be in groups of no more than ten people. Yet, that was only one struggle of a difficult chapter. Within a few days, he found out that his grandfather in California had passed away. On top of all that, his family decided it was best for him to stay in Missouri until travel was safer.
This got Timothy reflecting on a concept that had troubled him for some time. “Joy is something I never really understood, and many times I’ve asked people what it is.” They would talk all around the idea, but never truly identify it, so Timothy took the opportunity to do so himself: “I define joy as hopeful contentment in a situation due to faith in and love for God as who he is.” And finding that joy through tough times has led to growth. “It’s really been an invitation from God to lean into him and his strength and to stop trusting myself.”
“In life, we get so busy,” says Greg Fish, “and you’re almost like, ‘Man, I wish I could get sick so I could have a nice break.’” As GNPI Joplin’s Creative Media Designer, worship leader, and father, Greg’s desire for a break is understandable. But ask him after he got the flu during the pandemic - the illness and worry isn’t worth the time off.
Now that there are some moments to spare, however, Greg wants to make sure his family is spending the time well. They’ve created a schedule of learning opportunities, limited screen time, and prioritized getting out in nature. Yet, there’s one other opportunity that Greg thinks this period affords.
“You know, the virus is terrible,” Greg admits, “...but the worst disease of all is alienation from God and sin.” So what’s the answer? “...Let God do some spiritual surgery on our hearts during this time and change the things that need to be removed.” Greg has created a video which guides you through a spiritual surgery tool that might help you see things a bit more clearly. Going under the spiritual knife takes a lot of self-examination and honesty, but it’s also essential to the health of the soul.
“We are doing what I call ‘crisis schooling,’” shares mom of three Kathryn Tucker. “It’s not really homeschool or public school but a mix of both.” And while “crisis schooling” may sound dire, Kathryn has made it a fun and memorable experience for her kids. It does include schoolwork but also letter writing, outdoor activities, and meals that are shared with the entire family. “We have tried to really pick one thing each day that we can kind of have as our highlight, so to speak,” says Kathryn. They’ve ended up overshooting their goal: “...The kids now, they say, ‘Oh, the whole day was a high!’”
One reason that Kathryn is excelling in her approach to teaching at home is that she’s Early Childhood Director at her church in Northwest Arkansas. Working with kids and getting parents helpful information during this pandemic has been helpful. However, she isn’t just giving her kids an experience - they are also learning some important lessons. “Another thing is really trying to see God’s perspective in all of the uncertainties right now…” They do this through worship, studying the word, and showing love to their community at a distance. Through that, they’ve found more contentment and gratitude than they ever expected.
Though the physical campus of Ozark Christian College sees little activity these days, a lot is happening in the homes of students, professors, and staff members. President Matt Proctor describes the college’s position when the pandemic hit: “Our two biggest questions were 1) how can we keep our campus community and our larger community safe? And 2) how can we best fulfill our educational mission?” These questions were answered with online classes that keep students plugging away, Zoom meetings and devos that keep workers connected with one another, and online chapel that brings them all together.
However, President Proctor has also looked at these questions of health and mission as a pastor and shepherd by reading II Timothy, in which Paul writes from a kind of quarantine in a Roman prison. Paul counteracted his solitude with a few Rs - Remembering God’s faithfulness, Reaching out to others, and Reading. Proctor also adds the R of running to make his alliteration that much more holistic. “I find that if I’m taking care of my body, I’m taking care of my mind, I’m taking care of my soul and my spirit, then I’m able to live well…” So even under restrictions, God provides these ways for us to see real (and even complete) growth.
Were you to have a dental emergency during this pandemic, Dr. C. J. Hayes could help you out. You might not recognize him behind an N-95 mask, a facemask, and a face shield, but he could make sure that your health needs were met. It’s only the emergencies that his office is servicing, however, as national guidelines for dental clinics recommend. Dr. Hayes also believes that dentists are playing a special role at this time: “Not only are we trying to be here to treat our patients, but we’re also trying to keep the dental emergencies out of the hospitals.”
But he finds another role to be of even higher priority. “I think for me this has been a good step back,” he says, “...This is really important to spend this quality time with our family at home and to make sure that I’m fulfilling the roles that I need to at home.” He understands that opportunities like this are few, especially when thinking from a new perspective that he shared with us off-camera. When you count the summers you have left with your kids, it seems all the more important to use the time you have.
Keeping three restaurants and an insurance agency up and running under a stay-at-home order is no small feat, but Robb Good has managed just that. The key is leadership. “My response to this will directly affect everybody that works for me because, you know, my approach is contagious,” Robb shares.
It didn’t take long for Robb to realize that fear can paralyze and must be countered by decision-making. “All I have control over is right now, so I’m going to plan for tomorrow… I’m going to ask myself, ‘What does God want me to do today?’” That mentality helps him set goals for his staff so that they can focus not on fear but action.
The other thing that inspires that drive to continue working and planning is God’s faithfulness. “...Look for how God is working, not if God is working,” Robb emphasizes. Even though we are surrounded by bad news, God is working lots of good too.
And Robb asks for one little favor: “If you can, if you’re not putting your own health at risk… go to those places that you would normally frequent because at a time like this for small business, every sale matters.”
In some ways, life for Curtis and Rachel Thompson hasn’t changed much since social distancing guidelines have been put in place. They homeschool their three young boys and their videography business allows them to work from home. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has required them to make several very intentional decisions.
First, it’s been crucial to find flexibility. “We’re not super scheduled people, but we are very task-oriented,” says Rachel. They keep their sons learning, active, and engaged in God’s Word through tools like YouVersion, The Bible Project, and Orange.
Second, they’re adding value to others. Many of their clients have had to step away, so the Thompsons are offering their services to some free of charge. “We’re just trying to use… the skills we have to keep the educators and ministry leaders [rolling]. We find them very essential. Even if their buildings aren’t open, we find them very important.”
Finally, they are embracing this chapter as a special time. “I hate the word ‘busy,’” says Curtis. “…Now that we can step away from what people consider to be a ‘busy’ life, just embrace the time that you have with your spouse… My hope and prayer is for families to get tighter and closer together in this time.” Amen to that.
December 7, 1941 - Pearl Harbor is bombed. The US declares war. Five year-old Ziden Nutt and other students are dismissed from school. There was no panic but only new work to be done. Children gathered milk pods that were taken to create parachutes for the war effort. “We were all in this war together. And today, we’re in this war together,” says Ziden. Of course, the current war against a microscopic virus and widespread panic is very different.
“...There are many ways of coping with this. There’s no need for panic - it’s a matter of trusting God and just taking it a day at a time.” When you’ve experienced food rationing during war, other outbreaks like the measles, and remote missionary work in Africa, another period of restriction and limitation is put into healthy perspective.
This isn’t to say that some precautions aren’t necessary, but perhaps even those inconveniences will bring blessing. “Without what’s going on in the world today, would we be caring for each other as much as we do?” Ziden asks. “God uses everything, I think, to make better things come. And He’ll make good out of this situation as long as we keep focusing on him...”
If it seems difficult to redeem the experience of anxiety and fear, author Ruthann J. Weece has a word for you. Having experienced the loss of her parents, the cancer diagnosis of Joe (her husband of 31 years), and now this pandemic, she has felt her fair share of worry. In fact, having gone through social distancing with her husband during chemo, she finds today’s pandemic triggering.
Still, how do you counteract worry? “I think the first thing we need to acknowledge is [worry] is not a sin,” she shares. However, Ruthann also notes that worry does nothing for our interaction with God. Instead, there’s a great replacement for worry that we need to practice - worship. When you worship in prayer, gratitude, or song, “you can’t be anxious at the same time… Your brain can’t do it.”
These truths don’t completely extinguish all worry, and Ruthann admits that she hasn’t found all the answers. Instead, she has a new perspective on fear and anxiety. “It’s not that it feels good when we’re in it. It’s that he’s not going to waste our pain.” She believes God is using it to call us back to him even now.
You can check out more of Ruthann’s thoughts at https://ruthannweece.com/ or on Facebook and Instagram.
“Before all this started when the market was making all-time highs… I said, ‘..This can all just go away just as fast as it came,’” Max Allison told us. It turns out that thought was prophetic. Max is a financial advisor, working with people to help them meet their financial goals. It’s admittedly a very challenging time for that field. “The virus - there’ve been many other viruses just like it… but this one was so severe that it’s pretty much caused a bear market.”
Max doesn’t know how long it will take the country to recover financially, but he’s not concerned. Why? “Free markets work, at least they have all this time, but I don’t put my faith in them… If things don’t work out, I know that God’s there and He’ll provide.”
For now, Max sees more families enjoying the good Phoenix weather and thinks that's the right way to spend this time. “The investments? They’ll take care of themselves…” Keep the right focus because, in the end, financial capital has no comparison with eternal capital.
Mindy Snell is a new member of the GNPI team, joining us as VP of Development just this January. She has already been an energetic and encouraging shot in the arm for the ministry, but she admits to being someone who experiences what she calls “the Squirrel Phenomenon,” drawing a comparison to the distracted dogs of the Disney Pixar film Up. “My brain is constantly going… It’s a challenge for me to sit and pray for any certain length of time without notes or something of that nature.”
So now that she’s working at home and finds herself with a little more downtime, what does she do to connect with God? Enter the Prayer Wheel, a prayer system that guides an hour of prayer through twelve five-minute stages of praise, intercession, song, thanksgiving, and other forms of prayer. “I like to refer to it as interval prayer training,” says Mindy, explaining that it’s like a variety of exercises for our prayer muscles.
Beyond using this “life-changing” tool, Mindy also believes that prayer makes for a much less stressful environment at home. “When you turn your hearts to worship, it’s hard to stay mad at people, right?” And she finds hearing the heart of her children in prayer is also an inspiring reminder to keep it up as she prays for the world during a difficult time.
Chris DeWelt, Director of Intercultural Studies at Ozark Christian College, shares the new rhythm that his family has found while social distancing. It includes sleeping just a little bit later, teaching students remotely, taking walks with his “Fitbit nut” wife Carol, and watching old movies. But he recognizes that this is a time for clarity.
“I think this whole situation is causing us to focus on things that really matter… Or it can go the other direction, where we just while away the time and waste it.” For him, this focus comes through lifting up ACTS prayers (Adoration - Confession - Thanksgiving - Supplication) and listening for names that the Holy Spirit puts on his mind.
And finally, it’s a time to rest in the peace of Jesus. Chris reminds us of John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you… Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” These were Jesus' words when preparing His disciples for a time when he would no longer be with them in body. We’re experiencing a similar separation from one another, but God’s incomparable peace still reigns.
GNPI president Mike Schrage introduces “Faith>Fear,” an interview series that will help us create personal connection even at a time of social distance. Join us twice weekly to learn from everyday individuals about how they are learning and living in an uncertain world.
As Faith>Fear returns next week, we journey to India again and discuss the role of media in the worlds of education and ministry with Timothy Jai Kumar at Lakeview Bible College and Seminary.
Faith>Fear is also available in podcast form at https://anchor.fm/gn-pi!