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Messages of Hope Shared during COVID-19

Messages of Hope Shared during COVID-19
Response from a neighbor of one of the mailings that Adventist church members prepared and sent.

This screen shot shows the response from a neighbor of one of the Adventist church members who prepared and mailed a copy of The Desire of Ages.

Bill was at a gas station pumping gas when suddenly he felt a strong impression to give a GLOW tract to a well-dressed woman on the other side of the pump standing near her vehicle. He tried to brush aside the impression, but it remained, and with ever-increasing intensity, the impression persisted as the seconds wore on. After some hesitancy, Bill finally relented, went over, and handed her a few GLOW tracts. The woman inquired as to which church puts these pamphlets out. When she learned, a huge smile spread across her face. She had attended an Adventist church when she was a little girl! That next Sabbath she once again attended the local Adventist church, after quite a stretch of time away, and is now a baptized and active member of that local Adventist church.

We read that the work of printing and sharing literature has been ordained by God and that this ministry will change individual’s lives for eternity (see Ellen G. White's Christian Service, p. 148). And yet, how can we share the message of hope during these uncertain times? What can we do when we are all staying at home and personal contacts with others aren’t as available or encouraged while we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic?

Right before Easter this year a number of members began to mail their family members, friends, and coworkers sharing books such as The Desire of Ages and Story of Hope, along with personal note. One of the book recipients of the The Desire of Ages posted a picture of the book and the attached personal note on social media with the following comment: “The sweetest gift, sent from a loving neighbor. ... truly blessed.”  It is not that complicated to make a difference, even while stuck at home!

So how can we share literature right now?

  1. Read the literature: Rediscover the power and encouragement found in the pages of our Adventist books, tracts, or magazines for yourself.
  2. Pray: Ask God to guide you to the people that need to be encouraged and blessed by our literature at this time.
  3. Share literature by mail: Write a personal note and include it with the book or magazine that you will mail to them.
  4. Share literature digitally: Share the COVID-19 and other GLOW tracts via social media, text, or email.

I pray that God blesses you as you share the written word with others. May we all hear these words one day, “Thank you for sending me that book/for sharing that tract or magazine with me. I found Jesus because of you!”

Resources

Digital GLOW: www.glowonline.org/digital

Mailing books: www.glowonline.org/gift

Signs COVID-19 magazine: www.adventistbookcenter.com

kmaran Wed, 05/06/2020 - 09:32

Pastoral Self-Care in Isolating Times

Pastoral Self-Care in Isolating Times
stock photo of man looking out at water

Photo from iStock

Congregational care during this coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is essential, however, traditional congregational care is, at best, now very strained. Ministry is quite different than it was a few weeks ago. We cannot meet or gather as congregations. Caregiving for bereaving families unable to attend funeral services, members who may not be digitally connected, and those losing employment while working from home are just some examples of how ministry has shifted.         

The uncertainty, anxiety, and the expressed unknown of an odorless, colorless, tasteless, and sightless contagion has caused enormous pressure on health care and stress on economic systems globally and as a result, has brought ministry pressure to the church. Because we are ministering in unprecedented times, it requires a particular ministry.  

Intentional pastoral care to families, which includes seniors who may be more isolated, parents working from home, youth and children home every day out of school, requires more creativity and strategic vision. The congregational need for dedicated pastoral care is self-evident.

In many ways, ministry served out of the pastor's house for days or weeks using technology requires more intentionality, time, and planning. Coaching married couples, planning worship services, verifying congregational news, meeting with ministry leaders, and providing spiritual care can defy the clock and deplete all energy. However, deliberate self-care will yield effectiveness over the long haul of ministry for the pastor.    

To care for others consistently necessitates the need to care for oneself. If a person is not well, it is pretty hard to care for others. Quite frankly, a person cannot give what they do not have.

Airlines figured this out long ago in a depleted oxygen environment, establishing the guidelines for parents to take care of themselves first when donning their oxygen masks before taking care of their children. Self-care is not selfish although, in years past, the mere mention of self-care evoked misunderstanding and the label of not giving all. Early on in pastoral ministry, I remember hearing senior leaders brag about the last time they had a vacation as if it were a badge of honor. But I wonder today how their family's felt about it.         

Self-care is not selfish. It is wise. Even our Lord Jesus encouraged His disciples to get away to a quiet place to rest awhile when the ministry was so busy that they didn't even take time to eat (see Mark 6:31). Self-care is the practical means for ministry staying power, a balanced approach to a vibrant, sustainable ministry. 

Self-care can bring clarity to help nurture a spiritual discipline that establishes a relationship with God. We may feel that we have had so much theology educationally that we do not need to study, pray, or take it seriously anymore. But this goes beyond theology. Intimacy with Christ can only be faked for a season. The secret to any authentic, viable ministry is to know the living Lord personally and intimately.

Self-care can also be experienced by a change of pace, resting, meditating, praying, and taking time out for physical exercise. Self-care is the replenishing of the depleted resources exhausted mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and socially in ministry. Amazingly, these were the exact attributes of our Lord Jesus as He grew into a man (see Luke 2:52). Understanding the complex role of contemporary pastors gives insight into the necessity for spiritual connection, emotional care, and physical awareness. All are essential and important to life balance in the professional journey of Adventist pastors.    

Finally, because of the rise in the need for congregational care during these times, more attention should be given to self-care in pastoral ministry. In fact, "to pastor is to care." Caring is more about who we are as persons, and that caring yields through what we do. Caring through feeding, equipping, leading, and serving are all a part of the biblical role and calling of a pastor. The higher the demand from the congregation and community, the more focus should be given to the question, "How am I doing?"

During the COVID-19 pandemic, faithful, caregiving pastors are needed more than ever. If you fail at self-care, you certainly won't be effective while caring for others. I pray you will take care of yourself along the journey of pastoral ministry, to be the best caregivers, especially during this pandemic.

 — Ivan L. Williams, Sr. is director for the North American Division Ministerial Association. This article is adapted from the original article featured on the NAD Ministerial Association’s website.

 

 

 

kmaran Wed, 04/29/2020 - 14:31

Our Rescue

Our Rescue
After a tornado ripped through their community, Bob and Lou Sauder stand in the rubble that was their house.

After a tornado ripped through their community, Bob and Lou Sauder stand in the rubble that was their house.

On the night of April 12, 2020, my wife Lou and I were getting ready for bed and listening to the weather forecasters announce the tornado watches and warnings. Stormy weather was hitting all across the Southeastern U.S. When they announced that the worst of the storms had passed, I turned the TV off. We changed ino our pajamas and lay on the bed holding hands as we said our prayers together, which is our nightly custom. I prayed that we would be safe from the storms.

We live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a few miles away from Southern Adventist University where my daughter works. The small cottage we rent is perfect for two 83-year-olds. It’s in a peaceful, quiet, and woodsy location only a few miles away from our daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandchildren. My wife had suffered two strokes in the last decade so I care for her, doing the cooking, cleaning, and monitoring her medicine. She is the love of my life, and we have greatly enjoyed our years together, both in sickness and in health. (We married when we were 19 and have celebrated 64 years of wonderful marriage together.)

The screech of metal and loud banging woke me from sleep. It was our tin roof being yanked off the house. An ear-shattering roar, like a massive freight train bearing down on us, filled the air and I called out to Lou, “Get on the floor next to the dresser.” In a few quick seconds, the walls of our bedroom exploded outward, the ceiling caved in, and the dangling ceiling fan struck me on the head. I heard trees snapping close by and one thick tree trunk came crashing into the bedroom inches away from us. Timbers, concrete blocks, and insulation swirled around me and then suddenly I felt a great pulling vacuum — as if the air pressure wanted to lift me. Fearing I would be picked up and hurled into the storm, I hung on to the lumber that had fallen around me. In total blackness, my mouth and eyes filled with scattered bits of insulation and debris. I called out to Lou, but heard nothing.

Suddenly a torrential rain began to fall, and as I opened my mouth to call for Lou again, my mouth seemed to fill with buckets of water. I had never experienced such a downpour. I was completely soaked in an instant. I called for Lou again and heard her respond. She had managed to get herself half off the bed when the chaos descended on us. She still dangled half on and half off, but had cleared her mouth and nose from the debris and called to me faintly.

I reached for her in the darkness and found her feet among the debris on the bed. I tugged on her legs and managed to pull her over to the wooden chest that used to be at the end of our bed. She was shivering from the cold. Because of the debris, I could only manage a semi-kneeling position with her near the chest. But we were together and alive. We pulled pieces of the bedcover around us as the rain continued in the darkness of our bedroom, now exposed completely to Mother Nature.

Photo of Bob and Lou Sauder's bedroom

Photo of Bob and Lou Sauder's bedroom

Help Comes

I’m not sure how long we sat crouched in those uncomfortable positions in the rain and cold. We prayed together again, thanking God for our lives. Then the first angel appeared — it was a neighbor trained in emergency response who was checking each house in the neighborhood. His actions proved that God was guiding him, and I imagined the feathered wings on the angels standing beside him, leading him to us.

He called into the rubble and we responded, and he explained that he would be back with help to get us out. Later he returned with another man, and the two managed to figure out how to carefully extricate us. The angels attending them helped the men find a pair of sneakers for each of us in the rubble so we could walk through the debris. I had difficulty walking after crouching by the bed for so many hours, and my head throbbed from the force of the ceiling fan and the bruised lump on the top of my head. The men supported us as I tried to walk.

It was determined that I needed to go to the hospital, along with our cousins Jack and Libby Mutter in the rubble next to us that had once been a beautiful ranch house. Jack had crushed ribs. The men took Lou to rest at a neighbor’s house that had a basement left intact, although the rest of the home was gone.

On the Road

Getting Jack, Libby, and me to an ambulance was another complicated task the angels helped with. The men loaded us in a pickup truck and went cross country behind houses and through yards, trying to avoid the downed power lines, the uprooted trees, and all the metal, concrete, and lumber scattered about from the destroyed homes. It was slow going, with one man walking ahead of the truck with a flashlight. After a long journey we made it to where a line of ambulances with flashing lights were being loaded.

Meanwhile, my daughter Shelly and her cousin Pat were trying to get to our house to check on us since we hadn’t answered our phones since the tornado hit. They started a prayer chain of relatives and friends across the country in the early morning hours. The police had the neighborhood blocked off, so they walked in for more than a mile through the debris in a frantic effort to get to us. When they arrived at the house, we were not there, heightening their anxiety.

After asking numerous people, they located Lou in that basement, and then discovered I was at the hospital. Shelly couldn’t get Lou out of the neighborhood without a vehicle, and the roads were still impassable. She walked the long way back to her car and drove to see me at Erlanger Medical Center, but could not enter the hospital due to COVID-19 restrictions. Shelly was finally able to connect to the doctors caring for me, and I spent the night there, with a likely concussion.

Rescued and Reunited

My dear wife spent the night in that neighbor’s basement along with several other homeless neighbors. The next day a kind man rode her out of the neighborhood on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), and I was released from the hospital. Now at last we were reunited. We lost two cars, our home, our clothing, our photos, and precious reminders of our past, but we know that God rescued us that night.

The experience has been a revival for Lou and me. God stayed with us, answered our prayers, and sent men and angels. The outpouring of help during the following days was also a powerful indication of God’s love. People from churches all around came to assist, with power saws and excavators, and helped to comb through the rubble for personal belongings. Some walked through the damaged neighborhoods with food in baskets, like the boy in the Bible who helped Jesus feed the multitudes. Union College, where my daughter-in-law Vinita and grandson work, offered to send down a crew to help. Friends in Ohio offered the same. We received calls from pastors and concerned friends from across the country, and we felt God’s love surround us in a remarkable way.

It doesn’t matter if there are wars, disasters, pandemics, divorce, abuse, or any kind of loss — our Savior is coming for us, coming to rescue us. He wipes away every tear, He answers prayer, and He is true to His Word to walk beside us, and be with us as we endure life’s trials. “The Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).

We will trust in those promises as we await His soon coming.

kmaran Wed, 04/22/2020 - 14:52

Follow the Funds: A Simple Explanation of How Tithe Is Allocated

Follow the Funds: A Simple Explanation of How Tithe Is Allocated

While the entire church structure benefits in varying degrees, by far the largest portion of tithes in the North American Division (NAD) reverts back to the local church and school. To keep things simple, let’s follow a $100 portion of tithes to see where the funds go; and then, as an example, how NAD distributes its money. (These breakdown percentages are based on 2018 figures.)

$100 breaks down…

   $66 Local Conference

   $10 Defined Benefit Retirement

   $9 Union Conferences

   $9.15 NAD (see below)

   $5.85 General Conference

The $9.15 NAD portion breaks down…

NAD Follow the Funds graph

 

 

kmaran Wed, 04/15/2020 - 12:46