My husband and I started meeting with another two couples for a fellowship group every other week. We had only met twice before the coronavirus changed the rules. One fellow is deeply disturbed that the governor of our state can forbid the church from gathering. He asked that we discuss it.
As we compared the ban under which we live and the outright persecution of countries such as China, we could easily see that while totalitarian states ban the proliferation of unwelcome ideas, this ban just seeks to stop a virus. And thanks to digital technology, we can meet in one another’s home via video. We can dial into the teaching of knowledgeable and compassionate pastors through their live, at-home broadcasts. We can keep informed of our church family’s needs.
But then we talked about how frustrating it is not to be able to help people in person. Social distancing leaves many people vulnerable, as they can’t get to the store, or deal with a fallen tree, or provide for their child while they have to work. This dynamic young man felt frustrated by his forced inactivity.
And something interesting happened: we discovered little services we each were providing that work within the limitations but bridge the moat to other families. The pastor in our group streams live on Facebook and is reaching people who would never go into a church. They deliver food boxes from schools to families that can use them. The hard-working fellow stuck at home is doing errands for his neighbors who can’t get out. Robbo helped a neighbor with a shed roofing issue. I write a daily blog. (Does this count?)
On Saturday when I take a walk I’ll be delivering a letter to my neighbors. We live on a gravel road outside of town and have six or seven houses on a three-quarter mile stretch. It is embarrassing to admit, but we have had very little contact with any of them over the last twenty years. It is time to break the silence.
Knowing they won’t be comfortable with a visit to the door, I am affixing the letter to the mailbox with a magnet. (Did you know the space in a mailbox belongs to the U.S. Government and it may not be used for personal deliveries?) It offers my email and suggests I collect theirs into one group so we can communicate safely about day-to-day issues. I would like to know that they each have everything they need and that there is a way of keeping current. Most are alone at home. What if one gets sick? Who makes sure they get the intervention they need? These are the questions I have when I walk by their silent homes in the early morning.
Reader, have opportunities for service opened up to you? Have any ideas you can share in the comments?
Northerners, can you imagine how dreadful this isolation would be if it were November? We’d be falling into the cold, dark winter with nothing to look forward to but months of hardship. What kind of Christmas would we look forward to? No shopping, no traveling, no concerts. But here we are in April–every day is a little longer, the light a little stronger, and daffodils are pushing up from the thawing ground.
So many blessings in all this. These are terrible circumstances, and our real suffering may be ahead of us, but I can’t ignore the light beams punching through the dark clouds.
It reminds me of the third and fourth verses of this hymn. It begins with a widely ridiculed first line but those who are intimately acquainted with God’s ways and character have experienced the truth of it.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.