By Min Lee
I’m accustomed to making changes slowly.
I’m Korean American, and I helped replant and pastor a historic Hispanic church in Los Angeles (LA)—which means, change is slow. So far, this slow change has been deemed wise, and appreciated by the original, mostly older, church members.
But COVID-19 (the new coronavirus) has dramatically changed that slow pace, and we’re now having to make sudden, drastic changes every week.
Last Sunday, we livestreamed our service for the first time, and next week we’ll be 100% online. Last minute changes have been both scary and exciting at the same time.
While our church is adjusting to the change, we’ve also seen how God has used this unsettling season for good. As a church, we want to lovingly care for our neighbors that are also wrestling with a lot fear.
DISCOVERING NEEDS IN OUR CHURCH AND COMMUNITY
Last Sunday, the City of LA announced they would be temporarily closing all restaurants. In the midst of their closing, grocery store shelves were becoming more and more bare.
My wife called one of our church neighbors, a single mother of two, and was informed that she was running out of food. She doesn’t have a car, and as a recent immigrant, she doesn’t have much help with her two young children who are now having to stay home from school.
Her situation isn’t uncommon. Our church is in a low-income, inner-city neighborhood called Boyle Heights, historically known for gangs and crime. We have a very high percentage of single-parent families struggling to make ends meet.
So, what are we to do as Christians in such a situation? The biblical, historical, gospel-centered answer would be to not fear, but to go serve in love.
PERFECT LOVE CASTS OF FEAR
I would be lying if I said that that was my initial reaction. My initial impulse was to think of my own safety and family first (we have three young children) and frantically rush to buy essentials and hunker down.
But, as pastors, God has a funny way of convicting our hearts—through our own sermons. The main premise of my sermon that morning was for the church to “Rise to the Occasion” through Jesus, rather than to give into our fears.
1 John 4:18 kept coming to mind, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
My wife and I had been calling our church members and neighbors for the last few days, and we’ve heard of families with infants who are down to their last can of baby formula, single parents desperate to find food for their kids, elderly men and women with a health conditions and many other desperate situations.
That Sunday evening, we received a surprise offering from a family member—both the husband and wife work in the healthcare industry—asking if we could use that money to alleviate some of the needs for our struggling neighbors. We immediately drove out to go shopping for food and supplies. We also started ordering items online. We spent more than double the offering we received, yet God has continually provided through more “surprise” offerings!
MEETING NEEDS AND CHANGING LIVES
We’ve been able to meet the needs of some of our more desperate neighbors. By simply dropping off food and supplies, we are starting to connect with our neighbors more than ever before!
Our church is now planning creative ways to reach out to families with children at this time. We’ve been giving out children’s ministry arts and crafts materials and sharing with parents about our upcoming online teaching series. We are thinking of ways kids can interactively participate in Bible lessons and win prizes.
The coronavirus has undoubtedly brought about so much fear and panic, but it has also provided us with an opportunity to reach out to our neighbors in love and creativity.
I encourage my fellow church leaders and planters to rise to the occasion, because “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18 ESV).”
Send Relief is providing resource guides to help you and your church respond to the needs in your communities. You can download these free Send Relief response guide here.
Published March 19, 2020