Our Latest Newsletter: "Excited to See How God Uses This"
"Just got laid off."
That's a text I received this morning.
Another lost job. Another household now wondering how to make ends meet.
It's not the only thing this brother said; I'll get back to the rest of his message at the end of this article. But it was still another gut punch. And what's worse is that this wasn't the first this week. Or even the second. No, since Monday I've been grieved to be told by no fewer than four Grace Church men that they have lost their jobs. That's in addition to another man laid off only two weeks ago. Not to mention an elderly lady who no longer works at all.
In a church as small as ours, any job lost would represent a challenge. Now--and mostly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that is locking down communities and spreading panic across the globe--of the thirteen households that make up Grace Church, six now lack a primary source of income. That's almost half our congregation. And even among those who still have work, salaries are being reduced, businesses are finding their orders and customers dwindling, and uncertainty is increasing.
All that is only compounded by the obvious medical concerns. Even before this pandemic impacted our lives, many families in our church were struggling with health afflictions ranging from pre-eclampsia to an emergency C-section to shingles. Then came the virus. Almost a dozen of our people, my own family included, have already had to enter self-isolation due to travel or to flu-like symptoms. Several of us have undergone or will shortly take a text for COVID-19. We have elderly folks in our congregation; we have younger folks with underlying medical problems. We're concerned for them, for what they may be exposed to in the days ahead, for what they may have already encountered without knowing it.
Like most churches, we've had to suspend our regular public services. The Province of Alberta has prohibited gatherings of over 50 people, a number that our Sunday services often come close to now, or even surpass sometimes. We fully expect that, as in other jurisdictions, this threshold is going to drop further as provincial health authorities continue trying to inhibit the spread of the virus. Families are coping with the sudden end of school and closures of recreation centres and sports leagues. Now, our meeting place, the Frank Wills Memorial Hall, is closed to the public.
This is a time of trial and testing. We're afraid, like everyone else. So how are we responding?
The Word Continues To Go Forth
Unable to meet in person, last Sunday we opted to "meet" digitally by way of videoconferencing, through Google's Meet platform.
Families gathered around computers, tablets, and smartphones for worship--"absent in body, yet...with [one another] in spirit" (Col. 2:5).
We greeted one another. We sang together. We shared needs and prayed together. And we heard the Word together.
Our sermon text was Isaiah 6:1-4 (click the image above to listen!) and we were given a glimpse of God's glory which, like it did for the prophet Isaiah, gave us hope for the difficult task ahead.
Bearing One Another's Burdens
When our brothers and sisters in Christ here in Cochrane, both at Grace and elsewhere, learned that my family was self-isolated, our phones lit up right away with offers to help, whether it was to get groceries, to pick up items left at school, or anything else we needed! And in addition to our needs, we've been gifted or loaned games, activities, and books. Now our oldest is eagerly devouring Nabeel Qureshi's "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" thanks to a kind sister in our fellowship, while our young twins are beating the rest of us at "Apples to Apples: Bible Edition," which we received from a dear friend from another church.
Our own next-door (and non-Christian) neighbors have watched the steady stream of folks dropping items at our door and (from a safe "social distance," of course!) remarked to me on how well-supported we've been. It's a fantastic illustration in real-time of what Jesus taught, that "by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In that light, we've adapted a card being used by other churches around the world and begun sharing it on social media and printing it to hand out, making Cochrane aware that our folks will help in any way they can. (Click the image above for a full-size version!)
Do Not Be Afraid
As Christian believers have found again and again throughout the centuries in the face of fear, uncertainty, or disaster, there is nothing that compares to a settled and sure confidence in God's sovereignty. Knowing that all the days God has formed for us "were written, all of them" before time began is a great comfort. Whatever may come to pass, we know it is for God's glory and for our good.
Because the Gospel of Jesus is the greatest and only final answer to fear of any kind, including the fear that is gripping our community, we want to share that hope with our friends and neighbors. One way we're doing that is through this tract that we have prepared (again, click on the image for a full-sized version).
"Excited to see how God uses this"
This crisis seems only to be at its beginning. None of what I've written is intended to minimize the challenges ahead, or dismiss the very real concerns and pain that many of us are already feeling.
Which made this morning's text message conversation all the more powerful. Even as I was searching for words to respond to the news that he had lost his job this brother wrote these two texts, two messages that I commend as an example for us all, as we face the turbulent times ahead:
"Excited to see how God uses this to make me more like Christ.
"Excited to see how God uses this for the good of others and how He uses this for His glory."
Amen. And with brothers and sisters who think like that, I am too.