During times of crisis, it is quite easy to look at the difficulties and become discouraged. However, when we pause and look for the blessings, we often find more than expected. The following is a reflection from Pastor Samuel Garbi who serves the Richland Center District in Wisconsin.
What hidden blessings in this crisis! Specifically, to see our need for God’s presence and for community in this time of uncertainty and of self-imposed physical isolation. I was able to visit each of our three Southwestern Wisconsin churches last Sabbath (March 21, 2020). Our people did not want to leave the sanctuary, respectfully and lovingly lingering with one another for as long as they could, perhaps sensing what was going to happen the following week when our churches eventually had to temporarily closed.
For some of our faithful but older members in this remote part of the state, computer, internet, Facebook, or YouTube technology was less practical than using the good old phone. So at the moment, we’ve left everyone with their Bibles and the 3ABN or other Adventist media that they are used to, as well as made them aware of available local online offerings, and we contented ourselves with trying, new-to-us, phone conferencing. At first, this was a bit of a frustrating and discouraging challenge to master. But after some work and prayer, we then got the hang of it and were finally able to have one successful conference call phone prayer meeting and Sabbath meeting for each of our three churches–midweek, at the beginning of the Sabbath on Friday, and this morning (March 21), with one-on-one phone calls encouraged to reach out to all connected to the church. Isolation is God’s opportunity for community and outreach.
Friday (March 20), several Lancaster church members observed the beginning of the Sabbath together on the phone. After planting her seed potatoes and onions early last week, even one hearing-impaired, 90 year-old joined this (March 21) morning’s Prairie du Chien Sabbath meeting on the phone, thankful for “this wonderful new technology”. She joined together with Prairie du Chien head elder and family from across the River in Iowa, and an older member back home from the nursing home with his wife, who said this would be the highlight of their Sabbath day. We had members in NY state and Kentucky, all able to participate.
Wanting a double blessing, this same elder and family later again joined in the Richland Center church call, with my wife Connie and daughter Rebecca, the Richland Center head elder and several others. They were praying all at various distances from the church throughout the region, from Viola, Mt Sterling in the Northwest of the district down to my location in the Southeast.
We shared a song, a Sabbath School summary, a short text and a memorable sermon outline, we each offered short specific prayers, praying for protection and a soon return to normal. But even more importantly, besides having thankfulness in our hearts for this Sabbath sunshine, the Lord and each other on the phone, we prayed and thanked God for added Sabbath blessings and for a soon return of Jesus.
Samuel Garbi, Richland Center District Pastor