by Jeremy Bell, NABF General Secretary
A pandemic is upon us of such proportions the world has probably not experienced since the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. As of today, worldwide there are more than 375,00 cases. And while more than 100,000 of those victims have recovered, more than 16,000 deaths have occurred. There are over 2,000 cases in Canada with 24 deaths, and in the United States over 43,000 are infected and 553 have died.
While certain groups are more vulnerable to this highly-contagious virus, there are at present no exceptions nor are those in positions of influence and power insulated from harm. That people are recovering is encouraging, but we are told by every responsible health authority that there is much to come. As in so many pandemics in the past, it is the Christian church that has played such a major role in serving the vulnerable.
The North American Baptist Fellowship represents unions in Canada and the United States that number almost 19.8 million people and over 55,000 churches. We are to be in this season and time the Lord’s servants and agents for the support of all those in need.
We shall know of the Lords work amongst us by sharing with one another the work of our denominations and the thousands of stories that will come from our churches from the literally millions of stories that will come from our members. We are called by Jesus himself to serve, and we are prompted by the Holy Spirit each and every day to respond to the needs around us. Please send your stories of service and the nature of your resources to us at this address.
A letter has gone out today to the denominational leaders to ask for the contact person who is leading the way each denomination is dealing with this pandemic. We will be seeking from denomination leaders some representatives for a pandemic task force amongst the NABF membership.
We are asking each of the denominational leaders to share with us the resources that they are activating in response to the coronavirus outbreak. These resources are NOT for display purposes only; they are, in fact, to be used cross-referenced and shared amongst all of us and in the communities where we are present.
Each and every day we will seek and share stories from our churches, our youth, our mission groups, and the Academy, to name just a few of those who are actively involved in and pursuing the challenge that we collectively face.
We will regularly share prayer concerns with one another as certain parts of North America are particularly hard hit. For example, New York has 5% of the total infections in the world.
In the area of prayer, we begin today as many of us of already initiated, to pray for the following:
• First responders.
• The particularly vulnerable.
• Churches and church communities, that they may be able to meet and be in communion with one another.
• Those in essential industries.
• Those who are in essential services, in retail particular grocery stores who are compelled to work but feeling particularly vulnerable.
• Pastors and church leaders as they make decisions.
• Not-for-profit organizations within our network and family in the NABF.
• Please pray for those leaders amongst us that will encourage us, provoke us, and initiate ways of ministry that to this point in our ministry we could never have imagined!
I want to begin our story and resource sharing narrative by speaking of my own church: Kits Church, a Canadian Baptists of Western Canada church in Vancouver, British Columbia. As many of you also have the opportunity to experience, my church put their service on Zoom. At the conclusion of the service, we took a five-minute coffee and bathroom break in our own homes and reconvened, first to share with one another and then to hear from a panel of three doctors and a public health nurse who each took a turn to present and then took extensive questions from the online congregation. It was a fascinating, encouraging, and informative experience where we felt not only closer to our Lord but also to one another.
This is a very critical time in the life of both the United States and Canada. I urge you to cooperate with the instructions of your local health officials.
I also ask that we pray for one another, and share ideas and resources that will be a benefit to all of the days and weeks ahead.
May the peace grace and strength of the Lord be your portion this day forever more.