GOD IN THE MIDST OF OUR FEARS – 1st SUNDAY SERVICE AFTER LOCKDOWN

When the lockdown was lifted and people were allowed to go back to face-to-face worshipping, churches started making preparations and most were not really certain how it will work out.  Due to the long gap of staying at home and not attending service physically for over 18 months, some people are still scared to attend; some had gotten used to joining on-line via Zoom and other means and so, are comfortable to carry on that way.  However, for those attending physically, it is great joy to see fellow brothers and sisters again, alive and well.  I must confess that after such a long time of not dressing up to go to church, it was a bit difficult to get back to the routine again.

Face-to-face worship commenced on 26th September 2021 at Christ Believers Fellowship.  Before that day, we had been praying and making lots of preparations as we wanted to make sure that those who have been joining us via Zoom from different parts of the country/abroad (who are not able to attend physically) do not miss out. 

Before the pandemic, setting up for Service was a bit tedious – there were lots of gadgets (wires, cables, microphones, keyboard and speakers etc.) to be brought out and connected to get the Service started.  So, I thought it was going to be more difficult after the lockdown to set up. A strong Mobile internet Router was bought that will allow us access the internet faster; a special camera and stand were all set in place.  Then fear, panic and anxiety started to creep in with different negative thoughts on how this will be possible.  Pastor and two of the brothers went to church twice during that week to see how the set up will be done especially now that we will also be using Zoom during the Service.  

When we went for the set up rehearsal on Saturday before the Sunday Service, I noticed that all the usual gadgets named above were not brought out.  I vividly remember asking why we are not bringing them out and was told they are no longer needed.   I was so happy to hear that, especially when the two teenagers who usually assist in setting up have now gone to the University.   God who sees the future has timed everything so well for our good – what an amazing God we serve!  I could not believe my eyes when the setting up took less than 20 minutes.   Suddenly, I remembered the   maxim that says “God works in mysterious way, His wonders to perform”.  All our fears and panic began to fade away when we realised how easy it has been.   Then , the verse below quickly cameto mind.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding:  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3: 5 – 6).

As humans, we are always very fast to start planning and calculating what to do when we are faced with daunting tasks or challenges.  We have sleepless nights, become stressed and weary because for a split second, we have forgotten who is in control of everything.   In Psalms 32: 8 God says

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. 

Surely, it was God that guided us throughout this whole process.  Then, I asked myself this question.  “Why do we worry so much when God knows what we need?”  He even used the pandemic to work all things better for our good. 

When we got to church on Sunday, everything was so easy and better than we anticipated.    It was so nice to see Brothers and s

Sisters face-to-face again after such a long time.  More wonderful was the fact that we were able to sing and praise God together.   

The hymn we sang was “Redeemed, How I Long To Proclaim It”.  Yes indeed, we have been redeemed from the pandemic that took away so many lives, not because we are better but for the grace and mercy of God.    David was so confident of God’s unwavering protection that he was bold enough to declare “… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; … For Thou art with me …. (Psalms 23:4 NKJV)   The pandemic is not over yet but I am confident that God who has kept us this far will continue to keep us safe no matter how threatening the situation might be in the future.   Clearing up at the end of the Service was so easy that we had enough time chat, have tea together and recapitulate on past events.  The lesson I have learnt from this challenge is that God is always in the midst of our fears even when we do not realise it.  It confirms a verse we love so much in Zephaniah 3: 17 – “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. My prayer is that God will continue to help us remember this and trust Him at all times.

Eunice

Positives of the COVID-19 Pandemic – My Personal Experiences (Part 1)

The pandemic took everyone by surprise as no one visualised the outcome will be that devastating.  The whole world was at a standstill, frightened and confused – not even the Scientists, Doctors or Professors in viral medicine could help or find a solution to this terrible virus known as “the unseen killer” took the lives of millions of people all over the world.  The media made the situation worse in the sense that bad and discouraging news were being transmitted 24 hours of the day.  No one could leave their houses to visit friends and families; schools, universities, churches, restaurants, gyms etc. were all locked down.  As the people of the world had no one or anywhere to turn to for refuge, this lead to an alarming rate of mental health problems across all ages.

To say I was not afraid would be an understatement but one thing that kept me going at the beginning of it all was the precious word of God.  Waking up each morning with an awareness of God’s presence around me and getting assurances of protection from Him, gave me the strength to face the day.    Working as a Medical Secretary in the Respiratory Department of a hospital made me realise that God is the only One that has the solution to all problems.  The doctors and nurses in my department (God bless them for their hard work) were worried, scarred and always looked exhausted coming from the intensive care units and wards.   You can imagine getting to work each day to hear of the number of people that have died from this virus – it was very scary.  Hugging became a taboo; wearing of mask, social distancing and proper cleaning of office desk became compulsory.  The constant washing of hands was something everyone learnt quickly as no one wanted to die from this horrible virus. Food shopping became very boring and tedious as all the items have to be cleaned individually before being stored away. 

On 31st December 2019, at the Watch Night Service (Christ Believers Fellowship) – entering into the year 2020, below were the verses given:-

Isaiah 40: 26       Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing. (NKJV)

Isaiah 26: 3 – 4.  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusted in thee.  Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength: (KJV).

The last word of warning from our Pastor was “DON’T PANIC!!” As we all know, most people are always anxious about what the New Year would bring so we were cautioned to absolutely trust in the Lord as we get into the year 2020.

I vividly remember the first sermon of 2020 titled Trust and Believe where we read:   

Proverbs 3: 5 – 6:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. 

A case study was done on Jacob who was so frightened of meeting his brother Esau that he had sleepless nights worrying, making plans and thinking of the worse only to be embraced and kissed by his brother when they met (Genesis 32: 4).  The lesson learnt here was that no matter what is happening in our lives, we should stop speculating and trust God to handle all situations according to His will, for our good.   

The second case study was on Asa (2 Chronicles 16: 1-9).  Asa devised his own plan which he thought would work but backfired.  He relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord who had been his Helper from the beginning.   We were encouraged to trust in the Lord devoid of what the media or circumstances around us might predict.    

Finally, we were given the promise for 2020 – Exodus 23: 25 – 26.  And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.  There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in your land: the number of thy days I will fulfil (NKJV).  These verses were truly God sent as they have sustained us throughout the lockdown up until now.

The reason why I have given all those verses above is to emphasise the fact that God, who sees the end from the beginning knew what was going to happen and got us ready even before the lockdown – how amazing is that!   Each day of the pandemic lockdown was different from the previous as there were lots of uncertainties. The only certainty was the assurances received from reading and meditating on the word of God each morning. 

The Positives

Due to the lockdown, lots of people started working from home.  Church activities – Sunday services, bible study, prayer meetings etc. were held via Zoom, Microsoft team and other virtual means.  The positive thing that came out of this was that those who were previously unable to join the bible study or prayer meeting could now join in from the comfort of their homes.  The Sunday Service and bible study group also began to increase with Brothers and Sisters in Christ joining in from different parts of the country and from various fellowships.

Looking back now has made me realise that the book of Ecclesiastes is really true “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1).  I truly believe that this pandemic has brought lots of people closer to God than ever before.   There were testimonies from Christian Brothers and Sisters of how they have started spending time reading the bible and having a closer relationship with the Lord, thus getting to know Him better.    

As stated previously, waking up each morning with the awareness of God’s presence and knowing that God is in control of every situation took away the aspect of fear and uncertainties.  It is easy to get promises/assurances from the Bible each morning but if you don’t believe or act on it, fear and anxiety can easily creep in throughout the day.   Therefore, I always try to make sure my mind does not wonder away from Christ for too long during the day especially when at work.  We were so busy at work that I always get so exhausted by the time I get home.  Once at home, the first thing I always do is to thank God for His continuous protection over us all confident that He will do it again the next day. 

The business of life before the pandemic made it impossible for families to spend time together but the lockdown created that avenue.  The removal of daily demands improved the quality of life for some as families were able to spend time together, pray, attend virtual services and do other things they wouldn’t have been able to do before the pandemic.  Lots of people became creative.  

Normally before the pandemic, my Husband and I will usually have at least two people visiting us especially at week-ends so, preparations had to be made to entertain our guests. However, because of the lockdown, we had lots of time to spend together and we really enjoyed it. There was enough time (especially at week-ends) after our prayers in the morning, to just lie down on the bed listening to gospel music and later go downstairs to have a very delicious breakfast.  Throughout the day, we made it a duty not to entertain any bad news from the media -“See no evil, hear no evil”.   

Constant and spontaneous praying became the norm. I have not prayed as much as I did during the pandemic – It then became very clear to me what it means to pray without ceasing throughout the day.  I usually go to bed praying for family and friends, meditating on Bible verses and waking up doing the same thing all over again.  It was so nice to see and hear everyone praying for each other even those who do not believe in God were happy to be prayed for.  The pandemic made me realise that we really do care for the wellbeing of each other – checking up on friends and families just to make sure everyone is safe and alive.  People who do not believe in God started noticing the significance of praying as none of them wanted to die. 

Zoom became the most popular means of chatting as you can virtually see those you are talking to. This became a means of relief for us as we were not able to see our Children, Niece and Son-in-law at all in 2020 as they all usually come down for our Family Christmas celebration.  The positive side of this was that both the young and old (including Grand-Dads and Grandmas) started learning how to use Zoom

Lots of people started realising the importance of belonging to a family unit which they have been taking for granted for a long time.   Neighbourhood spirit increased especially with regards to checking on and shopping for elderly neighbours who were vulnerable at that time. 

During the lockdown, there were few cars on the roads, the price of petrol decreased and air pollution became less.  Lots of people suffering from asthma felt better health- wise due to this. 

To be continued …..

Eunice