COVID-19: Deacons Mobilized in Response (As seen in May 2020 Issue of New Horizons)

by David Nakhla

The coronavirus pandemic may be the biggest call to action for OPC deacons in most of our lifetimes. This pandemic is certainly a disaster! But, it’s a special kind of disaster in several ways: it is characterized more by an invisible wave of fear and sickness than by a visible fire, rain, or earthquake; it is local, regional, national, and even global; the impact of this disaster is physical (sickness, even to the point of death), spiritual (fear of the unknown, especially the fear of death), and financial (lost jobs and incomes).

Ministry of Mercy

What better time for an active, even proactive, ministry of mercy? In one of the most comfortable nations in the world, deacons in our churches are rarely on the front lines of disaster. Until now! The ministry to “shut-ins” has gone from a ministry to a few individuals to a ministry to the whole church in just a few weeks. Deacons in most churches are actively seeking to assist the elderly and most vulnerable with groceries, enabling them to shelter in place without risking exposure to this virus that is so threatening to their health and well- being. Deacons are also making preparations for caring for those who may contract COVID-19 and need to receive care without infecting others. Deacons are planning for the impact of lost income on their families and looking for ways to bring financial assistance.

Further, many deacons have been called to action to assist with the logistics of online worship services and the collecting and receipting of the gifts of God’s people.

Work of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries

The Committee on Diaconal Ministries of the OPC (CDM) serves to encourage local deacons in their service locally. CDM has sought to facilitate discussion and idea-sharing amongst the deacons, particularly via the OPC Deacons closed-group Facebook page and the Mercy Minute, our quarterly e-newsletter sent out to church officers. CDM has also opened the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Fund, to which churches and individuals can contribute above and beyond the giving to their local and regional diaconates. These funds will enable CDM to participate in significant diaconal needs presented in our churches as well as to minister to sister denominations around the world, many of whom might find themselves suffering in ways far beyond what we are experiencing.

Of course, travel has been significantly curtailed by COVID-19. This may affect short-term mission trips this summer and has already prevented CDM from meeting face to face at the end of March. Planned speaking engagements and visits to fields have had to be postponed. And there are short-term visitors to fields who are having significant difficulties returning home.

The Lord Is at Work

While it is easy for us to focus on how the coronavirus may negatively impact our daily lives, we must continually remind ourselves that the Lord is at work in this. As Beaver in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia whispered, “Aslan is on the move!” The Lord is mobilizing our deacons to lead well in our churches and communities in active mercy ministry and drawing our families into an intense period of togetherness, something for which we have longed in recent years. Further, in this time of crisis and fear, true and everlasting hope that is only found in Jesus is the best ministry we can offer friends, family, and neighbors. This is not a time for despair but for looking to the Lord for strength and guidance as we seek to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for [us]” (1 Thess. 5:18). May we steward this unique season well!

 


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COVID-19 Local Resources–POAH

Helpful Resources
POAH, (Preservation of Affordable Housing) is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve, create, and sustain affordable, healthy homes that support economic security and access to opportunity for all. POAH Communities is responding actively to mitigate the threat that the COVID-19 virus poses to our residents, our staff, and the communities we serve. Read more…

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Tornados in the South

We are keeping in touch with the churches in the south where they experienced another round of tornadoes last week. Deacon Dan Zuldema from Cornerstone OPC in Chattanooga sent us this note:

Greetings from Cornerstone OPC in Chattanooga! We wanted to send this note of update to you in the wake of the storms that swept through the Chattanooga area last night. While there were areas of the city that were devastated, we are praising the Lord that everyone in our church is unharmed, and our church building is intact. One of our members was in a rental house that was completely destroyed, but by God’s grace, she was not home at the time. She is currently staying with her brother, who lives in town. (Update: She has since moved with help from the deacons at Cornerstone into a rental unit and will work with the deacons to develop a support plan.)
We would ask that you be praying for the body of Christ at Cornerstone in these ways:
  • That the Lord would be giving us all opportunities to share the reason for the hope we have with neighbors who have experienced loss, are afraid, and feeling helpless and hopeless.
  • That we would be bold in seizing opportunities to bless each other (within the church) and our neighbors (outside of the church) in their times of need and thereby bring glory to our God.
  • That the Lord would provide for Theresa in terms of a new rental arrangement and in regard to the materials that she can’t recover from her house.
As we are currently without a pastor, we have been joining Harvest OPC (in Michigan) via live stream every week. We have derived much comfort, encouragement, and support from the Presbytery of the Southeast and the broader denomination over the years, and we are extremely grateful. As a representative example, just this morning, bright and early we received a text from Mike Cloy, checking in on us to see if we were okay and if we had needs. We praise the Lord for the love and support of our sister churches in the denomination!
In a time when we don’t have a pastor, in a time when we can’t physically be together due to the COVID-19 restrictions, and in a time that our city has been ravaged by storms, we can truly say with Job that the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord! He has blessed us beyond measure—and like Job, we celebrate, even while we mourn, because our Redeemer lives! In times like these, make no mistake about it, the church of God is under attack. But by the grace of our risen Savior, as we draw near to the throne of grace, and draw together, we pray that we will emerge from these trials a stronger, purer church.
Sincerely,
Dan (for the session)
Dr. Daniel R. Zuidema

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