Pastor says ministering to others still possible – from 6 feet away
(Editor’s Note: Orleans Hub welcomes insights from people in the community on how they are responding to the impact of the coronavirus. We’d like to hear from you. Send a “Pandemic Perspective” to email@example.com.)
By Rev. Randy LeBaron
How upside down does the world that we live in feel right now? Stocks are crashing, people are hoarding, and thanks to the coronavirus we have all had to adopt the new term social distancing as well as adapting to its precepts in our daily lives. Some introverts have likened it to heaven while extroverts tend to see it more as torture.
If your heart is to care for others who are suffering during this crisis though you might simply define social distancing as an obstacle to get around. The good news is that it can be done while both being careful to follow government guidelines as well as showing care and consideration for the others. The only caveat is that you must be willing to get creative.
Think of the four men from Mark 2:-12 who carried their paralyzed friend on a mat in hope that he would be healed by Jesus. Imagine their frustration then as they found the place he was in to be too overcrowded. They didn’t give up though, they got creative. They hoisted their friend onto the roof, dug a hole through it, and then lowered him down in front of Jesus who complemented them on their efforts and sent the man on his way with his sins forgiven and carrying his own mat.
By now you are aware that most churches have closed their doors to the public in compliance with the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order that has been issued. I’m not going to debate the pros and cons or discuss the right or wrongs here, instead I simply want to point out that churches all across our county, state, and country quickly pulled together a few prime people and some tech and VOILA! everyone was live streaming their services via social media, operating their Bible studies out of Google hangouts, and interacting with people over the phone and internet. The fact is that connecting with and caring for others during this crisis IS possible if you focus not on the problems but on solutions. Here are two examples of how I was able minister over the past week in spite of social distancing and because of social media.
The first opportunity came Saturday morning when my buddy Jack Burris called to say that he was still planning on operating his Hands 4 Hope truck outside of The Hoag in Albion that morning but with a limited work force and protective protocols put in place. It would just be him taking people’s information, Kevin Lemcke distributing shares (bags of food), and me praying for, preaching to, and interacting with those who were waiting—all from a distance of at least six feet apart. We set up with just food shares and toiletries, not putting out clothing or other items that could cause cross contamination if people picked through them, and set up orange cones a good distance from the truck as well as from each other.
When people gathered we asked them to please pick a cone to wait by making sure that there were never more than ten gathered at a time. Not only were people pleasantly surprised that we were out but they were all understanding of the new procedures, respectful in keeping their distance, thankful to pray together and to be prayed for, and more generous than many others have shown during this time. Some of them took items out of their shares (including TP) and gave them back saying that they had enough and wanted to make sure someone more needy could get them. It was an awesome morning that I was thankful to be included in.
The second opportunity came about when a pastor from Kisii County in Kenya came across my site GoScatterMinistries.org and started using my “Refill with Randy” videos to help teach those in his church and other leaders in his community (You never know where the gospel seed will take root and bear fruit when you scatter it generously). He finally reached out to ask me about being a mentor and then we started talking and praying together via the WhatApp. It has been encouraging to find out that even halfway around the world where people are just as scared and where even stricter precautions are being enforced that there are those still shining light in dark places and finding creative ways to still minister to the sick, the poor, the orphans, and others that get overlooked.
Since the churches are not allowed to come together publicly, much like here, Pastor Isaac is going around to the homes of people in his church and community to make sure everyone is still OK (starving is a real possibility there) and to offer encouragement and guidance. I am creating some personalized videos for him to share as he visits which he will play while interpreting in their native languages of Ekegusii, Swahili, and Maasai.
One minute I’m feeling isolated and ineffective and the next I’m meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs from the back of a big red truck and sharing about how to find peace in the midst of life’s storms to a people I have never met, through languages I have never spoken, in a land I have never been to. And I was able to do it all from at least six feet away.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Jesus (Acts 1:8)