Dear Mid-America Church Family,
It is amazing how our lives have changed so dramatically in the past weeks. Who could have predicted we couldn’t come together weekly to worship, fellowship, pray and serve together as church families?
Your local church and conference have had to quickly adapt to do their part to help minimize risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus. For the most part, our churches and schools are functioning in a virtual environment. It is truly a blessing to be able to do so, but how I miss, as Heb. 10:25 puts it, “the assembling of ourselves together.”
As with your church and conference, the Mid-America Union has adopted a rotating work schedule that allows us to remain open and available during this crisis. A few of us are working in the office each day while the rest work from home to minimize the spread of the virus here. Our office staff thinks of and prays for you daily and hopes that you are doing well in these extraordinary times.
Not Fun and Games
One of the wisest advisors I have in my life told me long ago one doesn’t accomplish anything unless they are willing to move toward the pain. So, for a minute, I want to talk with you about the painful reality we find ourselves in.
Some of our members have had or are dealing with the COVID-19 virus. This is a mean, exacting virus none of us want to endure. Let’s pray for those battling it and those who are at high-risk to have life-threatening challenges with the virus. The virus does not discriminate between race or age, so we all should remain vigilant. We need to do what we can to keep our friends and loved ones safe! Please be thoughtful, and take care of yourself and others.
Many members have lost or are in the midst of losing their livelihood as our economy has come to a virtual standstill. This breaks my heart. We need to keep our arms around each other, care for one another, and support one another as never before.
And as you know, our communities are being devastated as well. We need to put much creative energy into how we can be part of the solution to ensure people in our communities are cared for in this time of crisis.
Other ways this outbreak has or will affect all of us is that a number of graduations, camp meetings and even constituency sessions have been postponed or cancelled. The truth is, none of us know how long this crisis will continue. The good news, however, is that the Lord knows the journey before us, and He will never leave us.
I also want to say a few words about our pastors and educators. They are simply the best, and we need to pray for them daily. On a recent Sabbath my wife, Diane, and I virtually joined our home church for worship…thank you Pastor Harold Alomia and the audio/video team! We have also checked out a few other churches in our union who are live-streaming their services.
In addition, we are also seeing mid-week prayer meetings, young adult gatherings, family worships and more online. The work our pastors and many church members are doing to be sure we can still communicate and encourage one another virtually during this time of isolation is nothing short of a miracle.
Likewise, our educators are doing a herculean task to finish the school year, many totally online. I am amazed at the work going on with our schools from elementary through college. To put so much of the classwork online, in a short amount of time, is another miracle for which we can praise the Lord. Parents, too, are adapting to their increased roll in their children’s education at home.
There is another group that ministers every day in our union: our conference presidents. I know they won’t like me singling them out because they are all about keeping the focus on those who are on the front lines at our local churches and schools. But the truth is, God has called them to manage and lead during a very difficult time.
If this crisis lingers for a number of months, our conferences will be faced with financial challenges never before seen—not because we don’t have faithful church members who give with a joyful heart. It will simply be because some members will no longer have an “increase” on which to return tithes and offerings. This means the conference presidents could be faced with difficult decisions. I am asking that you pray for them and support them like never before. The devil’s main goal is to splinter us because he knows if we are united in Christ, he has no chance.
It is also astounding how our AdventHealth hospitals are responding to this crisis. You have great reason to be proud of them. They have organized and prepared for this and are in the forefront of healthcare in our territory. Let’s lift them up, and all the healthcare workers who are on the frontlines of this COVID-19 war.
God is With Us
But let us not center our focus on the pain we are experiencing, pain that might yet increase at least in the short term. Instead, let me reassure you the Lord is with us and has a plan to care for us. Psalms 139 says,
“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thoughts from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways” (Ps. 139:1-3).
This speaks of a very personal God who knows each one of us and the challenges we face. The psalm goes on to encourage us that even in the darkest times the Lord is not at a loss; He holds the reins of our lives and is constantly with us and thinking about us. Verse 18 says, “When I awake, I am still with you.” This means we can sleep peacefully knowing God is with us throughout the night.
In our isolation because of social distancing, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to draw closer together as a family, and especially draw closer to our Savior. In the end, despite all the challenges, this unexpected detour could be one of the great blessings in our lives. I don’t know how the Lord is going to do this exactly, but I do believe Rom. 8:28:“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
I believe this applies to our Mid-America church family because I know you love the Lord, and I know you have been “called according to His purpose.”
So, here is my best advice for you during this time of uncertainty:
- Listen to experts and follow your local government guidelines for your area. Take to heart social distancing and vigilant hand washing.
- Practice the eight laws of health we have grown to love and trust. Make sure your immune system is in the best shape possible.
- Think of others and reach out to them.
- Make a phone call to the elderly to see how they are doing.
- Offer to deliver medicines to those who are at high risk.
- If you know people who are out of work, look for ways to help them get through this tough spot in the road.
- Spend time in the Word of God. Don’t let social media and other home entertainment rob all your time. Take advantage of any extra time you have to tuck away God’s Word in your heart.
- Let’s be known as a people of prayer. I invite you to join Roger Wade and our team in praying through Psalms 91 (details at outlookmag.org-pray-91).
I leave you with a verse from the beautiful hymn “It is Well With My Soul” that goes like this, “Though Satan should buffet and trials come our way, let this blest assurance control, that God hath regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul.”
May God bless you and keep you during these uncertain times. Our Savior is in the battle and He will prevail. Church family, please, be of good courage.