Spotlight on the Good: Churches See Signs of Hope Amid Compounding Crises
By Carl Stagner
The coronavirus, racial injustice, political tension, and a devastating hurricane—the compounding of crises over most of the year has left division and death in its wake. Such headaches and heartaches have certainly not left the church unscathed; pastors and lay leaders struggle to this day to reach their communities for Christ in the face of new paradigms, while some struggle even to keep their lights on. As prayers ascend to the throne of God, as hands and feet move to make a difference, and as resources are donated generously to fund both disaster relief and community transformation, signs of hope never cease to emerge among Church of God congregations, from coast to coast.
Hope begins with God, and Shartel Church of God, in Oklahoma City, recognizes this foundational principle. Moved to cry out to the Lord, several members recently joined other churches and participants from across the area at a local YMCA for community-wide prayer. Burdened for the variety of crises plaguing the world today, especially the COVID-19 outbreak, these believers pleaded earnestly with the Lord to intervene in the pandemic, as well as comfort family members of lost loved ones.
Prayer is also on the hearts and minds of our Church of God congregation in Las Vegas, Nevada. But when they recently hosted a “Distance Learning Online Open Forum,” the purpose was not only to pray for a successful schoolyear in the face of unprecedented challenges, it was also to provide answers to the tough questions about e-learning. Instead of simply reacting to the felt needs of their community, they proactively provided the space and time, along with local school representation, to “talk about distance-learning expectations and how this school year [would] be structured” and “answer any questions/concerns,” that parents may be asking, such as, “How is this gonna work?” and “What if I can’t…?” First Church of God, led by Pastor Chris and Lady Leah Conedy, explained, “Most of all, we want to be a support to one another and, with God’s strength, make it through this schoolyear together!”
In the Midwest, two Church of God congregations are among many finding ways to communicate hope in the face of many struggles. Avenue Church in Ontario, Ohio, engaged this summer in what they called “21 Days of Kindness.” Publishing a list of daily service opportunities, volunteers opted to partner with local charities, check in via phone calls with quarantined persons, do yard work for neighbors, collect litter along roadways, send greeting cards, and more. Citing the need to curb the spread of despair, the church encouraged members to “increase love and hope for your heart and someone else’s.” Also disseminating hope, in the neighboring state of Indiana, the Westfield church known as NSpire followed through in a tangible way with their commitment to care for their community. The response to their blood drive was so great the local blood center staff had to extend the event for an additional hour!
Back on the other side of the country, great things continue to happen in the life of New Beginnings Church of God of Albuquerque. The New Mexico congregation continues to reach out to their neighbors through various projects, even as they open the pages of a very exciting new chapter. CHOGnews eagerly anticipates telling the developing story of their need for more space! Stay tuned.
There is hope. Don’t stop looking for it!
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.