A round-up of encouraging news stories from the UK and overseas during the coronavirus pandemic
‘How can you stay so positive in the middle of all this?’ This was a question put to one of the Caring For Life (CFL) staff by a gentleman he has been supporting remotely during lockdown.
What a wonderful question! The staff member was able to explain that his confidence in his Saviour is what gives him hope and positivity regardless of life’s circumstances. The gentleman, who would have previously described himself as quite an enthusiastic atheist, then went on to ask more about this Saviour and the Bible.
This is one of many examples from recent weeks of God touching the hearts of vulnerable and isolated individuals with the reality of His presence in these most frightening and difficult of days.
Many of the folk who CFL care for exist without the support of family or friends. Some have people around them who are unhelpful. Many others have those that cause them great distress. Some simply have no-one. At CFL they have the great privilege of becoming friends and family to those they support. One of their beneficiaries expressed this beautifully when he said: ‘I didn’t have real love parents. Caring For Life is my first real love family.’
Gayle Pennant said: ‘We are thankful to God for the many opportunities we have had to share Jesus’ love with the people in our care at this very tough time. We’ve had people ask for prayer who have never asked before. We’ve had some tell us that they are praying for the first time in their lives. A number of our beneficiaries, both those who are and those who aren’t Christians, have been enjoying reading through the book of John and using specially designed, accessible Bible reading notes, and have been chatting enthusiastically about this to their support workers.
‘One lady who can’t go out told us that she spends ten minutes every day sitting on a chair at her back door looking at the sky and the clouds and reminding herself that we have a great big God who loves us and is with us.’
A gentleman who only very recently began receiving support and is very glad to have friends around him at the minute. He summarised the situation beautifully, saying: ‘We will get through this and we will get through it together but, more importantly, we will get through it with God.’
Caring for Life
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Just four weeks ago Deniz, an OM worker in London, had approximately 50 people from the Turkish community attending a church he leads, but this rose to over 1,600 once the church had to close. With so many people tuning into the live streaming of their service, he described this lockdown as ‘one of the biggest opportunities we have to reach unreached people with the gospel’.
Deniz continued: ‘I have never been busier, with telephone calls, new social media, writing and recording online sessions.’ New situations are arising all the time and Deniz knows he needs God’s wisdom as he adapts and responds quickly.
Some people in the Turkish community are afraid. The family of one person who caught Covid-19 were panicking. The long-term effects on the congregation could be that people don’t want to meet up again once restrictions are over. Fearful of the consequences of gathering together, ‘this would be a huge struggle for the church’, Deniz commented.
But Deniz sees this as an opportunity to be a voice of peace, hope and reassurance; now more than ever, with so many of the Turkish community listening to the services his church is streaming online. Many in the Turkish community where Deniz serves have unexpected time on their hands. ‘Over 80% of the church are barbers,’ he said. ‘Most have hung up their clippers for the next few months.’ Although it means a lack of income, Deniz notices that many are remaining positive and embracing this opportunity to rest, spend time with their families and engage with God.
‘I cannot express the hunger people have for God’s word at the moment’, Deniz says with great joy, referring to the Bible studies he is hosting over video call. ‘We have new people joining every day.’ Deniz is confident that God is at work, taking a challenging situation and shaping it for His glory.
Ugandan children: more!
Emmauel Mukeshimana, a Langham scholar, wrote about the way his children have responded positively to having to worship at home as a family.
‘This last Sunday was the first day of family service due to the ban of public gathering. Our service went on very well in which we did a duplication of what we do at church where all members of the family participated. What amazed me is that the young ones enjoyed it so much to the extent that every morning they are knocking on our bedroom door asking whether we are having our church service again!’
Canada: silver linings
A Canadian hospital network claims it is ‘heartbroken’ after it took the decision to no longer administer euthanasia during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hamilton Health Sciences, which owns ten medical sites, and the Champlain Regional Medical Assistance in Dying Network have stopped their services during the current crisis.
The Christian Institute
Almost 5,000 people feeling anxiety or despair due to the coronavirus pandemic have turned to a new website which is offering hope for those affected by the lockdown.
Lookforhope.org is a website set up to help people connect with the Christian faith and find hope during this difficult time. Just ten days after the new website was launched, it has already had over 13,000 individual page views from almost 5,000 visitors.
The Revd Tim Dennis, curate in the parish of Winklebury and Worting in Basingstoke, recognised the need for the website when he posted a blog on social media which reflected on his own experience during the lockdown. Tim was taken aback by the response he had to his blog, and realised that people were crying out for messages of hope relevant to their own experience. And so, with no budget, he taught himself web design and set up the lookforhope.org website in a matter of days.
Visitors to the website have access to an array of thought-provoking articles and videos about life in lockdown. Written by a mix of Christian ministers and lay people from different backgrounds, the blogs reflect on the experience of contending with the challenges presented by coronavirus, and offer a message of hope despite the pandemic.
Across the country people are facing difficult and uncertain times, many are suffering and thousands have lost loved ones. While lives have been drastically changed in the short-term, there is likely to be a much longer-term impact too.
As well as blogs and videos, the website has a contact function so that people looking for support can be put in touch with their local Christian community.
Community in a Crisis was set up in response to Covid-19 and a need from churches to help them move online during the time that church buildings are closed.
It has been offering multi-platform online training to get churches online. The training includes: live streaming, Facebook Live, Zoom, pre-recorded videos or any combination.
Over 350 churches have received training and accessed materials so far. For churches that need more help there have been drop-in tech sessions each week, one specifically for Zoom. Another has been in partnership with Church Service Planner – a new website that helps someone easily create online services.
Accessing cash support
Community workers across the UK are receiving training to help vulnerable people access Covid-19 financial support, in response to fears that millions could be plunged into crisis because they can’t use the Internet to find crucial help.
The COVID Cash Course has been set up by the Just Finance Foundation (JFF) – part of the Church Urban Fund – to help the most marginalised people in the country negotiate the maze of new rules, regulations and benefits as a result of the pandemic.
While there is a lot of information available online, more than a million people don’t use the Internet (Exploring the UK’s Digital Divide, ONS, 2018). The JFF says there are many more who can get online, but lack the skills needed to find the support available to them.
Just Finance Foundation