Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 31, 2020 S4:E30

In this week’s episode:

Sharing Masks to Prevent Spread of COVID—
We love the stories we’ve been sharing with you for the past 20 weeks – the ones about young people, like Charlotte Oh, who sews masks for medical professionals in her hometown, and stories like the one we shared last week about a large organization—Adventist Health Bakersfield—donating 500 masks for a homeless shelter. Members, local churches, hospitals, schools – everyone is pulling together to make sure masks are available to those who need them.

Couple Delivers Filipino Food to Elderly Sabbath School Members—
The level of food insecurity in our country, particularly now, is off the charts. People are hungry, and church members are stepping in to fill the gap. When we heard about Buddyboy Endok and his wife Dalia from the Central Valley church, it warmed our hearts. He told us that he and his wife were very concerned about the elderly members of their Sabbath School class when stay-at-home orders took effect. So he began cooking – Filipino noodles, and other food – and delivering it to them. Their “meals on wheels” ministry has grown, with help from other members, and they’re now making 20 deliveries twice a week, which takes 6 hours to complete. “The looks on their faces are priceless,” he said. Thank you, Buddyboy, Dalia, and your helpers from Central Valley church!
https://centralvalley.adventistfaith.org/

Orangewood Academy Teacher Named Among Esteemed Educators for 2020 by Mathspace—
Almost 350 teachers from across North America were recently named by Mathspace as Esteemed Educators for 2020. Mathspace recognizes educators for their vision and drive to innovate mathematics education. Included on the list is Herman Eugenio, junior high teacher at Orangewood Academy. “Thank you again for going above and beyond in all that you do for your students,” shared the school on social media. The Esteemed Educator program started in 2018, and according to Mathspace, this year’s winning teachers have shown exceptional determination and innovation in the face of adversity. Congratulations, Mr. Eugenio! Keep up the great work!

La Sierra University Selects New Provost—
La Sierra University recently announced the selection of one of its key leaders to fill the post of provost, a position previously held by current university president Joy Fehr. Dr. April Summitt, who has served as La Sierra’s College of Arts and Sciences dean since 2016, assumed the role of provost effective July 1. “I am excited about Dr. Summitt’s demonstrated commitment to La Sierra University and its mission to seek truth; to know God, ourselves, and the world; and to serve others,” Dr. Fehr said. Continued blessings to the leadership team at La Sierra University. Read the entire article via the link below.
https://lasierra.edu/article/la-sierra-university-selects-college-dean-as-next-provost/

News from Hawaii—
Although the Islands missed a landfall from Hurricane Douglas, the storm was close enough to bring strong surf, heavy rains, and gusty winds to the islands. NASA’s Terra satellite imagery showed the storm’s track as it moved just north of the islands this past weekend. Learn more via the link below. Let’s remember in our prayers all of our students, teachers, and staff in Hawaii as they are the first to open their schools next Monday, August 3, in compliance with state requirements.
Read more about Hurricane Douglas: https://phys.org/news/2020-07-nasa-hurricane-douglas-hawaii.html

~ ~ ~

“But in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3, CSB)

2020-07-29T22:59:58-07:00July 29th, 2020|All Gods People|

Be Still

by Connie Vandeman Jeffery
 
 
As stay-at-home orders have forced many of us to learn to love solitude and become reacquainted with our homes, others are finding the experience lonely and discouraging. For me, I bounce back and forth like a pinball. Sometimes I absolutely love the quiet mornings outside in my back garden, listening to the birds chirp, sipping my cup of tea, taking several minutes to intentionally count my blessings. Then, in the late afternoon, after spending hours at my computer, on Zoom calls, and “zooming” around the kitchen preparing three meals a day for my husband and me, I feel the need to go somewhere. Literally, I have the itch to drive somewhere, anywhere.
 
Do I need groceries? No, I went shopping two days ago and don’t want to make any unnecessary trips to the store. But I do want to go somewhere. Do I need to fill up my tank with gas? No, I’ve been getting two weeks to a gallon lately. A drive to the beach? I could do that—it’s only 14 miles away. But then I’d want to park, run in the sand, and let the waves tickle my toes. That just seems indulgent and unnecessary. Sometimes they close the parking lots. There would be people there and some wouldn’t be wearing masks. So, what seemed like an innocent, fun thing to do just moments before becomes clouded by over-thinking and anxiety. I am happier and safer at home, right? That’s what they tell us—safer-at-home is the way to flatten the curve, reduce the surge, stay well. So, I choose that. The safer approach. But sometimes, I feel discouraged and let myself wallow in that feeling for a few moments—or a few hours.
 
I am leaning into the “loving solitude” part of this. I am by nature a social person. I used to be glued to my cell phone, answering texts and emails within a couple minutes of receiving them. Not anymore. I stay connected for essential things—like work emails, work Zoom calls, work work. I’ve let the friends and family “connections” slide a bit. I don’t respond to every text right away. I’m conserving my energy, letting myself be OK with just staying still—being quiet. With just sitting with my thoughts, my ups and downs, my small joys, my new discoveries—like cooking with whatever ingredients are in my kitchen. I am not living alone like so many people are. I have a husband, and time with him is another blessing. The blessing of being able to take care of him as he battles chronic health challenges, of re-discovering his wonderful British sense of humor, of listening to his stories from the past—spending this kind of quality time with him has been a huge blessing.
 
He is totally isolated in our house. I am the one who ventures out to get groceries and do the “essential” things. But the essential things are starting to look and feel different than they did just a few short months ago. It is not essential to buy any new clothes. I have everything I need and more in my closet. Every trip outside the shelter of my home is weighed for risk. I need to go to the grocery store, but I don’t need to shop at the now-open outlet mall just a few miles away.
 
It is essential to my well-being and health to take excellent care of myself. For me, that means eating more healthfully than I’ve ever eaten before. Preparing healthy food at home has made a difference. I feel better. I’m drinking lots more water, getting a good sleep every night, and exercising every single day. Whether it’s a walk around the block in the morning with my neighbor and her dog Sami (with me walking in the middle of the street and her on the sidewalk), or doing exercises in front of the TV, I feel better when I exercise. It would be nice to run on the hard-packed sand at the beach, but it’s not essential.
 
It is not essential (or advisable) to watch the news 24/7 or even one hour a day. I am happier just glancing at the news on my phone or hearing a quick summary of the day’s events than I was watching every news show every evening, like I was doing back in March. Now, I read books and my husband does crossword and Sudoku puzzles. He can pass many an hour in silence sitting outside and working out his challenging, four-star Sudokus while I work, cook, or read. I’m getting used to the quiet now—to the aloneness of staying “safer-at-home.” And I’m starting to love the solitude part of this. I’m finding that the more “still” I am, in my mind, the more I can hear God’s voice gently saying, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). He is here, reminding me that He’s got this, letting me know who He is and what He’s able to do, while we stay safe in His everlasting arms.
 
Connie Vandeman Jeffery is the host of All God’s People, a weekly short video series highlighting the people and ministries of the Pacific Union Conference, and has had a long career in media.

 
 

2020-07-26T17:10:17-07:00July 27th, 2020|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 24, 2020 S4:E29

In this week’s episode:

Fire Destroys Beach Auditorium on Monterey Bay Academy Campus—
The Central California Conference is saddened to announce that a fire occurred on Saturday, July 18, at approximately 9:45 p.m., on the campus of Monterey Bay Academy (MBA). Beach Auditorium, which has been closed for use since 1987, was lost to the flames. The fire was contained to only this building—all other buildings were spared. Fortunately, there were no injuries and everyone on campus was safe. Before the campus was obtained by the Central California Conference, more than 70 years ago in 1948, it was known as a World War II military site for the California National Guard, named “Camp McQuaide.” MBA Principal Jeff Deming said that the burning of Beach Auditorium “is a sad historical loss to the MBA campus.” Let’s continue to pray for Monterey Bay Academy as they face the clean-up project.
Watch the MBA Report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9H6__lofP4&feature=youtu.be

Adventist Health Bakersfield Donates 500 Masks to Homeless Shelter—
Adventist Health Bakersfield donated 500 masks to the Bakersfield Homeless Center last month. This came on the heels of Governor Gavin Newsom’s requirements for people to wear masks when they are in areas where social distancing is not possible. The masks the hospital provided are reusable and can be washed. The homeless center houses nearly 200 people a day, and when they put out the call looking for donations, Adventist Health Bakersfield answered with 500 masks! Thank you, Adventist Health!
Learn more: https://bakersfieldnow.com/news/local/adventist-health-donates-500-masks-to-bakersfield-homeless-center

Women’s Ministry Gathers for Social Distancing Fellowship Tea—
Unusual times produce unusual adaptations. Instead of mourning the cancellation of their traditional spring fellowship tea, Santa Clarita church’s women’s ministry group had the bright idea to host a social-distancing version. Guests from far away were able to attend, and one presenter from Northern California shared her beautiful watercolor paintings with the group. Read more on page 37 of the June Recorder.
Read more: https://adventistfaith.com/recorder/

Medical Students Write, Publish Illustrated Coronavirus Children’s Book—
Authors Devon Scott and Samantha Harris, two Loma Linda University class of 2021 medical students, created a book to help children understand why their worlds changed dramatically in the last few months and why it’s important to stay home. The book “Why We Stay Home” explores questions about the pandemic with sisters Millie and Suzie, and has been downloaded 35,000 times since its release in April. Samantha and Devon wrote the book, commissioned illustrations, and published it on millieandsuzie.com—all within the span of two weeks. They were surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response to the book and are currently working on translating it into six languages, including American Sign Language.
Download a copy: https://www.millieandsuzie.com/

Summer on the Run Launches Episodes for Kids—
Lots of great things have been planned virtually for our young people this summer. Don’t miss a single episode of Summer on the Run 2020! Since June, Northern California Conference Youth Director Eddie Heinrich and his team have been sheltering in place together, creating a series of fun and thought-provoking videos for kids. Three episodes are posted each week. Watch them on Facebook or on their YouTube channel.
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/summerontherunNCCyouth/
YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeae01ByG6ZqERZvMPxLGQA

~ ~ ~

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
–Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

A beautiful promise for All God’s People.

2020-07-23T20:52:30-07:00July 23rd, 2020|All Gods People|

Buttering the Bread

by Ray Tetz
 
 
This morning I expressed a concern to my wife that we had taught our children incorrectly when it came to how to spread butter or mayonnaise on bread.
 
We always start in the middle and work to the edges, but if we would start at the edges and work towards the middle, then the crusts would be well-buttered and would be more likely to be eaten along with the rest of the slice of bread.
 
To this rather insightful observation she replied that she didn’t teach our kids anything at all about spreading butter on their bread, and that I know good and well that she doesn’t like mayo.
 
I was shocked by the former and admit to the latter. I’ve given up on trying to get her to try mayonnaise on her bread, but I feel a certain obligation to remediate the lost lesson in spreading the butter. Or jam. Or Nutella. Well, maybe not Nutella. If you were to accidentally spread it too far and drop some of it onto the plate, even with a good careful scrape you might lose some of it, and any parent who imparts a lesson to his children that puts the chocolate spread at risk is just not what you hope and expect when you are a kid and there is a limited amount of Nutella to start with.
 
It’s true that we probably didn’t teach our kids much about buttering their bread. The defined rectangle of a slice of bread, combined with soft butter and the dull blade of a butter knife, seemed to be a reasonably safe way for them to explore something about the intersection of food and physics—so they pretty much put whatever they wanted on their bread, however they wanted. (No licking the blade, however.)
 
And frankly, I do not recall that even one of the hundreds of bedtime sessions spent reading books aloud or the diverse and interesting conversations around the kitchen table or in the van on the way to and from school were about buttering your bread.
 
Here’s what I do remember: we talked about kindness. We talked about sharing. We talked about compassion. It seemed like every time we interacted with another family, there were questions asked and young opinions expressed. It wasn’t too long before the ideas that were being taught about fairness and equality were being tested in real life. The stories learned at church (and then school) found their counterpart in life. And somehow, even without a lesson in buttering, they managed to grow up knowing how to do it. More or less.
 
So I take it all back. You can spread the butter however you want as long as you commit yourself to being an honest person. I do think you should give the mayo a chance, but that one is a personal preference; being kind is nonnegotiable. And if you are having the chocolate spread, always be ready to share it.
 
Ray Tetz is the director of communication and community engagement for the Pacific Union Conference.
 
 

2020-07-22T10:43:40-07:00July 22nd, 2020|Living God's Love|

G. Alexander Bryant Named North American Division President

By Kimberly Luste Maran
 
 
On July 9, 2020, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s General Conference Executive Committee met virtually to receive the name of G. Alexander Bryant, the recommendation for division president from both the North American Division’s nominating committee and executive committee. Bryant was confirmed in a vote of 153 to 5.
 
Ted N. C. Wilson, General Conference president and, as policy indicates for the vote of division president, chair of the NAD nominating and executive committees held on July 6 and July 7, said, “I’m looking forward to a renewed focus on the three angels’ messages and I believe that Elder Bryant can help lead in that great adventure, because that is what is entrusted to each of us. [He] is a mission-focused individual. He is someone who is a careful listener to people. He will take [these cares] to the Lord and ask for guidance.… I believe that God can use him in a very, very special way.”
 
Bryant replaces Daniel R. Jackson, who served at the NAD headquarters since his election in June 2010 at the GC Session in Atlanta, Georgia, and reelection in 2015 in San Antonio, Texas, until his retirement on July 1, 2020. The search process for a new executive secretary has begun.
 
Read the full article online at nadadventist.org/news.
 
 
Photo: Elder Bryant and Desiree Bryant at the Golden Gate Bridge during the North American Division and Pacific Union Conference mission tour for GC executive secretaries and guests, hosted June 30 – July 3, 2019.
 
Credit: Enno Müller
 
 

2020-07-20T14:34:43-07:00July 20th, 2020|News|

Pacific Union Executive Committee Acts on Behalf of Conferences, Approves $500K in Aid to Support Adventist Schools

By Faith Hoyt
 
 
The Pacific Union Executive Committee recently voted to provide $500K in stimulus checks to Adventist schools in each of the seven conferences, as well as Holbrook Indian School.
 
In early July, the Executive Committee of the Pacific Union Conference met together virtually to discuss the proposal and approved $500K from Union reserves to be distributed in the form of assistance payments to operational schools and early childhood education centers within the Pacific Union.
 
Approximately 141 early childhood, elementary, and secondary schools in the Pacific Union will receive checks of approximately $3,500 during the month of July. This aid comes in addition to monies that the North American Division has allocated to local conferences, totaling $760K for the whole division.
 
Support for schools has come from multiple sources as they plan for the upcoming academic year. “Back in April, our office provided about $35,000 to assist conferences in purchasing devices to provide to students who didn’t have access,” said Berit von Pohle, director of education for the Pacific Union. This summer, the Office of Education purchased an infrared thermometer for each school. Additionally, the Early Childhood program provided $200 grants for each center to reimburse for necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) expenses. “There are significant costs in assisting schools to open safely—PPE, plexiglass dividers, etc. However, it is also a show of support from the Union that we are all in this together,” said von Pohle.
 
Adventist Community Services is also lending a hand as schools prepare for the upcoming school year. A donation of masks offered to Adventist Community Services will be distributed to all teachers, staff, and pastors at our schools in our Union. Masks were delivered to the conference offices in California, Hawaii, and Nevada-Utah in mid-July.
 
“We hope to help by providing donated cloth face masks to all churches, schools, and community service centers of the Pacific Union through the local conference offices,” said Charlene Sargent, director of Adventist Community Services for the Pacific Union.
 
According to von Pohle, schools and teachers are working hard to meet the needs of the students. “The transition to remote learning happened very suddenly in the spring, and teachers immediately responded with a variety of ways to continue effective instruction,” she said.
 
Schools have spent the summer developing plans for re-opening. This is being done recognizing that there may be a need to begin the school year in a remote learning situation.
 
“We are so grateful for the dedication and commitment demonstrated by teachers,” said von Pohle. “They have worked hard to ensure both physical and emotional safety for students. Graduation celebrations underscored the desire of the schools and educators to acknowledge the accomplishments of the students.”
 
 
Photo: This summer, the Office of Education purchased an infrared thermometer for each school in the Pacific Union.

Credit: Kimberly Stubbert

 
 

2020-07-20T14:20:15-07:00July 20th, 2020|News|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 17, 2020 S4:E28

North American Division Announces G. Alexander Bryant New NAD President

Elder Dan Jackson is retiring, having completed two full terms as president. The new president is Elder G. Alexander Bryant—who comes to the presidency from his role as NAD Executive Secretary. He is also an Associate Secretary of the General Conference.

Elder Bryant came to the North American Division in October of 2008 from the Central States Conference in Kansas City, Kansas, where he served as president for 11 years. He is a graduate of Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) and holds degrees in Theology and Business Administration. In 2011, Bryant earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Last summer Elder Bryant led a delegation of leaders from the GC Secretariat and the world divisions on a whirlwind tour of the North American Division, including our Union. They visited some of the most exciting ministry sites in the Pacific Southwest, including the Vietnamese Evangelism Center, La Sierra University and the La Sierra University church, Loma Linda University Health, Adventist Health Headquarters, Pacific Union College, and the Veg Hub restaurant in Oakland. They concluded their visit with a commitment service at Elmshaven.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to menace our communities and impact our members, our churches, our schools, our hospitals—and our future—we seek God’s protection for His people and His church. We’re thankful for leaders like Elder Bryant and Elder Jackson. We praise God each day for our own leadership here in the Pacific Union and in each of our conferences.

Read the NAD press release: https://www.nadadventist.org/news/g-alexander-bryant-named-north-american-division-president

~ ~ ~

In the spirit of Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (NIV)

Worship happens whenever we lift our hearts to God. The AdventistGiving program enables your worship to include your faithful return of tithes and offerings. It enhances the mission of the church and carries a blessing for you and for your local church.
Learn more (English): https://vimeo.com/413299217
Learn more (Spanish): https://vimeo.com/414106845

2020-07-16T22:07:39-07:00July 16th, 2020|All Gods People|

Hope is Not Cancelled

by Connie Vandeman Jeffery
 

My new wardrobe consists of T-shirts and shorts. It’s summertime, after all, and I’m working from home. For Zoom meetings, I wear my nicest T-shirts—the ones that haven’t been washed a hundred times until they are a tad threadbare. Or on some Monday mornings, I may even put on a blouse, but the shorts stay. No one can see the shorts on Zoom. I make sure the shorts match, my one attempt at putting together an ensemble.
 
I have an eclectic collection of T-shirts. Everything from a navy-blue shirt with the New York skyline complete with the World Trade Center and an American flag with the words “Always Remember” to one of my latest additions, “I Was Social Distancing Before It Was Cool!” I wear “Always Remember” only once a year—on September 11. It has stayed in pristine condition, folded neatly in the bottom of my T-shirt drawer.
 
My “London 2012” black Tee with 24 small colorful boxes depicting Olympic sports is a favorite. It matches my black shorts and adds splashes of color. It’s threadbare from at least 100 washes in the past eight years. I never wear my “Atlanta 1996” sweatshirt— a gift from my late brother Bob. It’s slightly small on me. But I keep it, folded in the drawer, a reminder of my brother, gone too soon.
 
My coronavirus collection of T-shirts includes funny shirts and thought-provoking ones. I wear the “social distancing” one all the time, as well as a royal blue Tee with the words “Non-Essential” in white block letters on the front. I know I’m a “non-essential” worker. I don’t save lives, nor do I provide any services that would put me in the class of an “essential” worker. But every time I wear it, my co-workers who see me on Zoom from the waist up, say, “Of course you’re essential!” I get such a boost every time I wear it. It helps my self-esteem and makes me feel so essential to my team.
 
Not all of time, but most of the time, I feel truly thankful and blessed. These past four months at home have given me a spirit of gratitude I haven’t felt, down deep in my soul, for as long as I can remember. I am blessed that I’m able to do my work from home. I’m so thankful for my “team” of co-workers who make my work and my life so fulfilling. I’m grateful that I am able to care for my husband—who is elderly and has a multitude of serious, underlying health issues—at home, while I work. I stay safe so that he can remain isolated and cared for, and hopefully, not contract the virus. I’ve taken time to appreciate the very small things, as well as the big, giant, in-my-face, blessings. Which is why, when I found the size M, white T-shirt with the words “Thankful & Blessed” in gold letters on a palette of pink on the front, well, I had to buy it! It’s so me! I am thankful and blessed. It is a true statement.
 
Do I get down? Discouraged? Two steps forward, one back; hopeful one day, disheartened the next? Yes, I do. Events have been cancelled. No camp meetings this year. No General Conference session. Vacations have been cancelled. Church is online. I have Zoom fatigue. Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that we can stay connected and still “go” to church. I think of our 2020 graduates of all ages. Were they disappointed that they didn’t have a “real” graduation? You bet they were. But they improvised and had meaningful graduation ceremonies—drive-bys, drive-throughs, virtual graduations. They made it work with a spirit of hope that amazed me. I want to be like them.
 
My favorite T-shirt, the most perfect of all, is dusty blue with the words “Hope is Not Cancelled!” in a cursive style of writing with the British spelling of “cancelled” with two “l’s.” This one says it all—everything for which I’d been trying to find the right words. Yes, I feel “thankful and blessed” most of the time. But I’m hanging on to hope like there’s a bright tomorrow. Because I know this to be true. Hope is not cancelled! It will never be cancelled. Not in 2020. Not in my lifetime or in yours. “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
 
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
 
Connie Vandeman Jeffery is the host of All God’s People, a weekly short video series highlighting the people and ministries of the Pacific Union Conference, and has had a long career in media.
 
 

2020-07-13T09:43:20-07:00July 13th, 2020|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 10, 2020 S4:E27

In this week’s episode:

—Adventist Book Center Hosts Summer Sale Online—
For many Seventh-day Adventist families in our Union, enjoying camp meeting and attending the big Adventist Book Center sale is a summer tradition. This year, while camp meetings have been cancelled, Pacific Press is taking the Adventist Book Center sale online. Mark your calendar! For one week, July 12–19, you’ll have the opportunity to watch short videos and learn all about the summer sale’s featured books. Then, simply order your favorites at amazing discounts. Check out the link below—and visit daily starting on Sunday the 12th to catch all the one-day bonus deals, too. Spirit of Prophecy – Kid’s books – Storybooks – Bibles – Cookbooks and Health books. They’re all there, and each day there will be a special bonus deal. Be sure to check back each day through July 19.
https://adventistbookcenter.com/summersale

From Adventist Book Center—The Earthy Canvas Vegan Cookbook
One exciting cookbook that Adventist Book Center currently offers is “The Earthy Canvas Vegan Cookbook.” Dr. Fay Kazzi finds inspiration for her delicious, healthy recipes from her Middle Eastern heritage, education, and career. Maximum flavor and nutrition via whole, plant-based foods are promised from each recipe.
https://adventistbookcenter.com/the-earthy-canvas-vegan-cookbook.html

—Books and More Available at Local ABC Stores—
Check your local ABC as well. We have 5 ABC stores in our Union—and they are operating and open, but check to see if their hours are different than before. They have summer sales and other discounted prices on books and resources, as well as your favorite veggie foods.
https://adventistbookcenter.com/directory/

—July 2020 Recorder—
The July Recorder should be in your homes soon. This is an issue you won’t want to miss. Be sure to read Ricardo Graham’s editorial “Love in a Hard Spot” and “Justice is Elemental to Life” by Marc Woodson, as well as all the news and inspiration from around our Union.
And the Summer edition of the Spanish Recorder is online, too. You can read the latest issue, and past issues, of the Recorder in English and Spanish via the link below. Lots of great resources for your summer reading pleasure! Resources to encourage, inspire, and share with others.

~ ~ ~

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” —Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

2020-07-10T04:20:31-07:00July 10th, 2020|All Gods People|

Safe at Home

by J. Murdock
 
In the fourth chapter of John, we meet a man who is in desperate need of a miracle. The man’s son is gravely ill and in need of healing. Jesus decides to enact a miracle of healing from afar, telling the man to believe His word and return home, where he will find his child safe and sound. The man does as he is instructed, and his son is saved.
 
Never have I looked at this story as anything other than a testimony to the power of belief. It wasn’t until the stay-at-home order took effect as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that I began to study this section of Scripture differently. Jesus was able to do ministry over a long distance in order to deeply affect the life of someone He couldn’t physically see or touch. When church moved from an in-person experience to a purely digital affair, I thought of this story and wondered if we would be able to do as Jesus did—to bring life to people behind closed doors miles from where we stood each week. For me, as the Associate Pastor for Youth and Young Adults at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, that meant inviting a group of people to meet online, where they are already living out their lives on social media platforms. With the elimination of travel time to and from Boulder, we increased our events by 500% and began offering vesper programs, youth and young adult Bible studies, family fun nights, and Sunday evening hangouts. Adjusting to the restrictions of a pandemic became one of the most fulfilling seasons of our ministry to youth and young adults in those early days.
 
But, as was perhaps said best by Robert Burns, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” Chaos came quicker than expected and more fiercely than we had anticipated. For our group, it came in the form of depression. We began hearing increasingly common reports of students returning to destructive habits such as cutting to cope with the anxiety. Parents began calling, distressed that their otherwise bright and cheery children were now despondent. Teens admitted that thoughts of suicide had been more prevalent for them lately. Then came the news that a young adult had attempted suicide. The long-distance miracle wasn’t working for us.
 
As it turns out, increasing programming, offering more interactivity online, and filling time with dynamic ice breakers, modified games, and devotional thoughts is not enough to counteract the challenges our community faces. All too quickly we encountered teenagers, young adults, and pre-professionals who were overcome by the panic of the news, along with seeing limited resources on supermarket shelves and fearing the deadly virus that was seeking to kill friends and family members. The numbers at each event began to wane and, more often than not, poor attendance was tied to a feeling of despair that Zoom was no longer able to quash. Likely it never had that ability in the first place.
 
At first, I believed the answer was to engineer a plan that would heal people as Jesus did that day in Capernaum. If we could only figure out how Christ was able to reach out into the world and touch people in a meaningful way, then we could then reasonably manufacture the same miracle through a screen. But I was wrong.
 
I have since called off the search to find Christ’s playbook to figure out how He was able to heal that kid from a distance. Jesus had a distinct and divine advantage that I will never have; He wasn’t alone in His activity. Jesus may have been physically standing in Cana, but His Spirit was already in the official’s home with the son. Jesus wasn’t projecting Himself through a screen to work the room—He was already there and was merely telling the man to believe that God was with him. Jesus’ job in that moment was to give the man a reason to see past the obstacle that kept him from seeing the Holy Spirit moving. When faced with death and fear, it is easy to be blinded to other things happening around you. Author and public speaker Jon Acuff says that our goal is to “pivot not panic” in order to see past obstacles that may be blocking us from seeing the Light. It seems that Jesus offers a way to do that.
 
This insight has led to a change in our approach to ministry here in Boulder. We follow Christ, believing we don’t need new plans that seem only to be destined to go astray. Instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel with digital advancements and programatic adjustments that will position us as leaders in the homes of those in our community, our goal is to find as many ways to point people to the Spirit as possible. He is already with them and is far more equipped to help chase out the darkness and re-instill hope in the lives of those overwhelmed by their circumstances than I or any other leader ever can be. Jesus merely told the man to believe, and while it is fun to play games (which we still do from time to time), the greater good requires refocusing the conversation away from the gloom of fear and back to the reality that God is with us through all of this.
 
Whenever we are able to go back to church on a regular basis, this lesson will still be relevant. Our hope is that whenever we are distant from our friends, family, and the church community, whether by choice or by government request, we will live in the truth that we are safe at home knowing that God is with us.
 
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado.

 
 

2020-07-05T17:03:33-07:00July 6th, 2020|Living God's Love|