Throughout history, when crises have hit, followers of Jesus have been there to serve, showing the love of Christ through caring for those in need. In fact, in his book The Triumph of Christianity, Rodney Stark posits that the way Christians cared for the sick during the two major plagues that ravaged Rome during the first-fourth centuries was one of the biggest factors in the spread of Christianity. As Christians, we’re called to love our neighbors and show God’s love through our actions, but how can we respond during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Around the world, many of us are under stay-at-home orders. Those that aren’t are under other mitigation mandates, such as social distancing. So how can you serve those who are suffering from the pandemic if you can’t meet them face to face? We discussed that during a recent Indigitous PULSE episode.
Prayer and compassion
One of the easiest and most impactful things that any Christian can do is to pray. As the author of The Kneeling Christian wrote, “Let us never forget that the greatest thing we can do for God or for man is to pray. For we can accomplish far more by our prayers than by our work. Prayer is omnipotent; it can do anything that God can do!”
Miheret Tilahun, a digital strategist with Cru, has seen a growing interest from the church in being part of a prayer movement. “That is opening up opportunities for what we can do in compassion work,” Miheret says. Praying for others also opens up opportunities to serve them in other ways. “If your heart is connected to God, you will always show compassion.”
A family in Miheret’s own church saw personal tragedy strike during the pandemic in the form of a house fire, with all of their material possessions being burned to the ground. “It was so interesting to see how all of us in the church were moved to contribute, to help … the couple that was suffering because of this incident,” he says.
Acts of service
Summit Church in Orlando, Florida regularly holds a service event called niceSERVE, where the entire congregation is encouraged to go out, show the community that they matter, and act as the hands and feet of God. “Making our city better and serving our city is an important thing,” says pastor Zach Van Dyke. “Our city should be sad if we go away. We should have made an impact.”
While under lockdown, it was important for the church to not go away and to continue to make an impact, so they decided to hold niceSERVE in a different way, with members of the church doing what they can to offer support and encouragement from a distance. For some, it was creating encouraging chalk art on the sidewalks; for others, it was cooking and delivering meals for those who were hurting financially or providing care packages for high school seniors who didn’t get to have a traditional graduation ceremony. For some, it was writing letters of encouragement to healthcare workers.
Though the pandemic was new to Summit Church, disasters are not. Located in central Florida, Summit endures Hurricane Season every summer and those who call that church home have made it a priority to serve during those disasters. Prior to the storm hitting, the church helps by shopping for supplies, helping neighbors put away things that could become projectiles, or providing whatever help is needed. Then in the aftermath, people of the church go around and figure out where they can provide not just material things, but emotional and spiritual encouragement as well.
“It’s really important for the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to show compassion, to show that we have a God who weeps when we weep, that even though we live in this broken world where hurricanes happen, that doesn’t mean that God has turned his back on us. In fact, He calls us in those times to love even more sacrificially,” Zach says.
Miheret agrees, saying, “It’s time to come together and set aside our differences, not only within the church but also in the body of Christ. We should come together and show love, spread love, and show compassion.”
How to serve
Wherever you are, people around you are hurting because of the pandemic. People are sick or caring for the sick, people are out of work and not sure how to put food on the table. Many business owners have lost their livelihood. Around the world, watching the virus spread, the businesses close, and the negative affects of prolonged isolation, people are scared. As a follower of Christ, there are many ways you can help. Here are just a few examples.
- Pray for and with others.
- Offer encouragement to those around you.
- Offer to cook and deliver meals for those who need them.
- Support a local food bank.
- Volunteer with or donate to a relevant charity.
- Purchase gift cards from businesses that are struggling.
- Call or set up a Zoom chat with someone who is isolated.
- Use Voke Groups or something similar for online discipleship.
- Ask those around you how you can help.
- Show compassion. Weep with those who weep. (But weep while social distancing).
- Share the hope of Christ with those who need hope.