I wanted to give you an update on how I am doing and what Living Word is doing about COVID-19 spreading in our community. I also want to give a preview of Cardboard Testimony Sunday, a “Yay, God!” shoutout, a Thanksgiving meal update, and a word from God to help us in the days ahead.
It was a wild and crazy 2 weeks of COVID-19. Actually, it was a deathly boring, monotonous, lethargic, listless, “where did the last 2 weeks go?” kind of time. I’ve had pneumonia, the flu, and bronchitis. I have had horrible “bugs” in overseas travel when I thought I was going to die. But the last 2 weeks were right up there for as miserable as anything I’ve had. And as difficult as it was, my breathing remained sufficiently strong that I never had to go for more intense treatment. I don’t have my strength or stamina back yet. I had such severe coughing for a number of days that my throat is still sore and my voice is raspy. Talking is still a chore, but I am certainly in recovery and I am grateful for your ongoing prayers and thoughts.
I am very grateful for how the staff leadership team adjusted and picked up the slack with my “missing in action” status. We have a lot of cross-skill training on our team and in times like this it really makes a difference. Plus, a number of the staff who were jumping in to do more had some illnesses as well. Everyone now isolates and/or gets tested, especially if there are symptoms. As of Monday, November 16, the team seems to be pretty healthy.
COVID-19 Is Hitting Hard This Time of the Year
York County, like so many places in the United States, has seen a real uptick in positive tests and people with symptoms. I have a number of pastoral colleagues who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and a few who have been hospitalized. We have dear friends at Living Word who are struggling with symptoms of COVID-19.
As the staff and board looked at the data and considered what the health experts were saying, we believed it was a spiritually wise choice to up our social distancing protocols for the upcoming weeks.
Since we reopened in June, we have had two primary values that guided us. One value was to give our church family as many options as we could about social distancing. People who are central to our church had different beliefs about and preferences for social distancing. As best we could, we sought to provide options.
The second, and more important value, was to be spiritually and morally responsible for the health of our church family. I pray that is a core value for you, too. I believe it is for the vast majority of our people. It is an application of “loving your neighbor” and “considering the needs and interests of others as more important than your own” (Philippians 2:1-5). In Galatians, Paul talks about the great freedom we have in Christ and then immediately says not to use our freedom for demanding our personal agenda. Instead, “Serve one another humbly in love” (see Galatians 5:6, 13-16).
And the more we can do this, the faster we can knock down the COVID-19 spread and get back to the options we want you to have.
You are going to love it. The stories of God’s grace, love, faith, and strength as it meets our hurts, struggles, brokenness, and messy lives—those are stories worth hearing. Yeah, have tissues ready. There will be tears of joy and gratitude, but there will be tears.
We had to make major changes to how we did our Cardboard Testimony Sunday because of the social distancing needs. At first we wondered what it would be like. Well, it turned out great. You are really going to love it.
By the way, for all of us, whether we watch online or come onsite, invite friends and others to join ONLINE. Checking out a church online is now a primary way of helping people connect with what Living Word is all about. You can simply direct them to the website and tell them to click the link a few minutes before the service. They can sign in if they want, or they can watch anonymously.
Living Word, you came through again. Last year we had well over 3,000 different adults who made their way through the building and the shoeboxes disappeared. We had serious doubts that we would go through the shoeboxes this year. It turns out we had underestimated your commitment to helping kids around the world. Thank you to everyone who made the effort to get here, get a box, fill it up, and get it back.
You guys are rocking the Kingdom of God. Thanks for all you are doing and for what you will continue to do as we move into Christmas Seasons of Service. We will all have many chances to reach out and help those in need have a little bit of a better Christmas.
Thanksgiving Meal Served at Living Word
For many years, Jay Englar and a dedicated team have made it possible for many people to have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal at Living Word. So many people who would have been alone on Thanksgiving Day have enjoyed being a part of a large community gathering, enjoying excellent food, and, in most cases, taking home a generous serving for the day after Thanksgiving.
This year, due to COVID-19, we can’t gather people onsite, but Jay and his team are still preparing food and we are taking orders for people who will drive by and pick up our prepared meal(s) for them.
Living Word family, if you know of anyone who will have a better Thanksgiving Day by being a part of this, have them call the church office and just say they would like to sign up for a Thanksgiving Meal.
I believe there is. I see a theme in all of this. The words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9, 16 can be directly applied to COVID-19:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed but not in despair,
persecuted but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.
Therefore, we do not lose heart.
May none of us lose heart in these days when Christ is at work, building his church, giving us the strength to do all things (Philippians 4:13).
Blessings and grace to each of you.
Pastor Brian Rice