Faith in a Pandemic

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I know how anxious and stressed a lot of people are. I know how disappointed you are right now with life in general. This virus has caused us to make a lot of short-term changes that seem…painful. It’s not just a viral pandemic but in this country and community it’s a pandemic of human disappointment. Things that folks have planned for, worked toward, got excited about are postponed or worse, cancelled. I feel awful for the students who couldn’t do planned trips to Europe or compete in state tournaments. I’m sad for my daughter who was in the middle of her last semester at Centre College and now feels abruptly pushed out of her community of friends who are all having to leave campus. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to see a classic University of Kentucky vs. Michigan State Spartans championship basketball game!

But seriously all that pain is real for a lot of folks. Those cancellations brought the viral pandemic to reality for a lot of people. So more than ever, we need to show grace to each other. I’m sure anxiety and fear are much higher today than a week ago.

I don’t speak as an expert on science. I don’t know exactly where this is going. But I’ll try to speak into it from a faith perspective, while also mindful of what health experts are telling me.

I’m not going to make any long term and permanent decisions today. I’ve found in times of crisis and panic it’s best not to project out into the future. It’s always best to make wise decisions based on what we know today.

As disciples of Jesus, the filter that forms our decisions is different. Why? We are not of this world! We are not to be conformed to this world! Do not live like those who have no hope!

There are 3 ways we are not like this world. #1, We live by faith, not fear. God’s not sitting in heaven thinking, “I didn’t see this coming.” Our God is faithful—He’s in control. Our God is good—He has a plan. Our God won’t leave us or forsake us. He’s working in all things. Do you belioeve it?

We live by fear, not faith. #2, we are sacrificial, not selfish. The Christians of the early church faced extreme persecution, even losing their lives for their faith. The first century Christians didn’t hoard their goods! They weren’t rushing the Jerusalem Mega-Mart to grab emergency supplies. We are the body of Christ—We put others ahead of ourselves.

We live by faith, not fear. We are sacrificial, not selfish. #3 We shine the light, we do not hide it. During this time, people are afraid, unsettled, anxious, looking for hope. We are the world’s hope dealers. We are the light shiners. We are the love givers. This virus may be highly contagious. I’m praying for some Christians to be more contagious. Spread hope. Spread love. Spread life in Christ. I’m believing that the love and hope of Jesus spreads faster than any virus.

In many ways, I think there’s a good chance that some will look back at this time in history and call it the “lost” months of our lives. I hope that’s not true. Because Christians from the very beginning of the early church have sought the opportunities in the most difficult times, and made them into Kingdom building opportunities.

Listen to God’s word, which is just as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago. The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 4:2-6, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains [or maybe in our day we might say, “Pray for us that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in social distancing.” He continues,] Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversatation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” 

I know we’re disappointed to say the least to cancel Spring Break vacations. I know that pain is real. I also know that there are a lot of people who have had to deal with the real health complications of this disease. We pray for them. And because we value the health of the most vulnerable in our community, I support the decision to limit our meeting together. But this does not mean that we hole up in our houses, under our blankets or tucked in our backyards. No, we’re called to be the peo. who love their neighbors. Now is the time to check on those people in your cul-de-sac or apartment bldg. This is an opportunity, not just a burden.

The church isn’t a gathering on Sunday morning. I’ve been saying that for years! Let’s prove we are the church by how we respond outside one hour a week with how we manage this issue. WE are the church, you and me, the body of Christ in the world. How do we show this world what it’s like to follow Jesus? Is it by showing up for that hour to try to prove the experts wrong? No, it’s being a good citizen. We practice keeping distance in order to love our neighbor. But distance isn’t separating ourselves completely from others. It’s checking on each other & helping each other get things from the store or pharmacy or wherever. It’s checking on our neighbors & seeing how we can help them.

It’s also important during this time, especially for those of us with children, to continue as many of our routines as we had before or create new ones. There is a comfort in routines

When I went to Haiti two summers ago with a group from my church along with my then 16 year old son Micah, we got stuck in Port au Prince. Our plane arrived at the moment that the government made an announcement that effected the livelihood of every Haitian. It was a silly and even ridiculous announcement to make and so the people got angry and began protesting on the streets immediately. And when I say protest, that’s putting it mildly. There were some looting and closing of streets. And here we are, Americans far from home and far from the safety of the Mission in northwest Haiti.

Now, we were being well cared for at a hotel in PAP but we couldn’t safely leave the hotel for several days. During that time we could hear gunshots and smell the smoldering remains of burnt tires.

Now, I can put on a pretty brave face for a group of people amd I did. I needed to. But I’m not going to lie to you now…I was a little scared. Just a little. But I was more disappointed because we were basically quarantined from our mission. I mean I hadn’t seen my daughter in two months, and she was already in NW Haiti serving and I’m in the country and unable to see her. I was disappointed because we couldn’t get to NW Haiti to break bread and serve with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the small village of Mayette. Those Haitian Christians depend on us for encouragement. I was devasted a little more each day we were delayed.

It also gave me a lot of time to pray and read the Scriptures and think. Every morning I would wake up to the sound of this older employee of the hotel who was sweeping the walk ways. Sweep, sweep, sweep. And there was a comfort in hearing that noise. Sweep, sweep, sweep. It meant that the sun had risen and that he had gotten out of bed much earlier than me despite the economic conditons of that impoverished country. And he went to work. Sweep, sweep, sweep.

And about the third day I heard that sweeping, it would make me smile. On the fifth day I heard that sweeping, it made me cry. Because I knew God was good. He is faithful as the sun rises each morn. And was the routine of that man, who has overcome much more than I have in my life, it was his daily faithfulness, that brought ME hope.

We will get through this, but it will be much easier together. Remember. we can’t do life alone. We need each other…more than ever, but for now let’s keep six feet apart.

Haiti Mission Trip 2018 Report

Thank you for your prayers and financial support to send me and 5 other members to Haiti to work with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission (NHCM) and our church partner in Mayette.

This was far different than the previous three trips I’ve taken there. As you may have heard, on the day we arrived in Port Au Prince (PAP), the government announced a 35% hike to gas prices, eliminating a subsidy that had benefited all Haitians. As you can imagine, an increase that high to a people whose average income is $2/day would be crippling. So the people took to the streets to protest. Some blocked roads to shut off traffic and a few others got violent and destructive. After a few days of this there was one policeman and two protestors dead. I can certainly sympathize with the protestors but not at all with looters or those who took up violence. During that time of unrest, our team was safely within the walls of the grounds of the Coconut Villa Hotel. It’s a gated area with armed security. We never felt personally threatened nor were any Americans targeted during that time. But we were extremely disappointed. We came to Haiti for a reason. That reason was not to sit in PAP doing nothing. Why would God allow this after we had spent money and time to venture this far. It simply wasn’t safe to try to venture out and go north to the mission until Tuesday. Safety first! So finally we were able to go to NWHCM, but our lost time meant that we could NOT go to spend time with our partner church in Mayette. Again, we were disappointed and we’re still not entirely sure of the reasons but we trust that God was preventing us for a specific reason. Maybe it was so that we could love on the hotel staff. Maybe it was so that one of us wouldn’t befall an illness. We will never know. Because of the extra time at the hotel I got to be an advocate for Haiti and mission by doing a national radio interview and through the use of Twitter I got to share my faith with others.

The good news is that we did make it to the mission finally. The whole group flew north using Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) 5 seater and 10 seater planes. I did get to see my daughter, Reagan, who was safe the whole time at NWHCM. In fact, there were not protests at all in that community the whole time. We did get to spend time leading a soccer tournament for community youth, praying with the teams before each game and inviting them to the mission for movie night on Friday. We did get to spend time serving and ministering to the seniors in the Gran Moun, to the children in the Miriam Center (special needs orphanage), to the boys and girls in the mission’s regular orphanage. We did get the opportunity to conduct a half day VBS for children at a church on the other side of St. Louis du Nord. We did get to visit the House of Hope (a nutrition center and orphanage in nearby LaPointe). Several members helped with the mission’s nutrition program, vaccination program and birthing center. Melody Gilpin got to help with the birth of a baby.

And on Thursday, Royce, Micah, and I got to meet Pastor Daniel and his son, Watson, from Mayette for lunch in Port de Paix. It was good to see him again and he got to share what was happening in his community. For several years (with a short hiatus last year), Journey and FCC have been funding the church and school there. Right now there are about 175 in worship and 25 baptisms this past year. Their school is huge! They have 225 primary students and they just started a secondary school with 130 students. Unfortunately the money we send does not pay all the teachers. There’s not enough to go around. The water system we paid for has been installed but 2 of the 4 cisterns are broken and need replacement. Pastor Daniel also shared a need for Creole Bibles for his congregation. I had the money on me (and with the help of Journey Church) to pay for 40 new Bibles while we were there. The other needs will need to be addressed at some point. Also Pastor Daniel shared the sad news that 5 of the men we helped marry had died since we had been there three years ago.

Our combined FCC/Journey team was marvelous. Our youngest members shined as usual. We took encouragement from the mission staff when they said, “Working with you all is strange because I thought you came from two different churches and I can’t figure out who goes where.”

Please pray that God will lead us to what steps we need to take next.

By the way, Reagan has been doing great and doesn’t want to come home. Who would imagine that when she went as a 12 year old she might be considering giving her life to the mission field. That’s not a given at this point but God is certainly working on her in a number of incredible ways. I’m so proud to be her father and am grateful that you all have had such an impact on her spiritual growth over the years.

Mayette, Haiti 2015

Thank you for your prayers and financial support to send me and eight other members to Haiti to work with our church partner in Mayette. It was a physically and spiritually challenging trip.

It was physically challenging because the heat was oppressive. At one point I was drinking 20 oz. of water an hour and still not maintaining proper hydration. One of our team members was forced to travel back to the mission for an IV and several of us had “bad days” trying to keep or get strength.

It was spiritually challenging because Mayette, a community we’ve loved and seen grown since our partnership began in 2011, had been devastated by drought and illness. Over one-third of the people had moved or died in the last year. Half of the couples we married two years ago had at least one partner die since the wedding.

The church and Pastor Daniel were still prevailing through the strength of the Holy Spirit. There had been ten new confessions/baptisms in the last year. They were not wavering but asked us to pray for rain. About an hour after worshiping with them the skies opened up with an inch of rain. But it’s not enough…not nearly.

Our combined FCC/WCCC team was marvelous. Our youngest members shined as usual. We took encouragement from the mission staff when they said, “Working with you all is strange because I thought you came from two different churches and I can’t figure out who goes where.”

As for next steps?

  1. Please pray for the people of Mayette, specifically for rain and health. Join me every Thursday where ever you are and pray at noon for them. Ask God to bless Pastor Daniel and the church leadership. Ask God to help the children in the school they run thanks to our benevolence.
  2. We are exploring a few different options to help them with their water situation. Pray that one or more options are feasible and affordable.
  3. We also hope to provide them with Bibles. Very few of them have Creole Bibles and the Word of God is the Bread of life.
  4. There will be a future trip but it is undetermined when but won’t be for another year or two.