Kalamazoo Members Lend A Hand
Meeting the needs of our communities during the pandemic is critical, but church members are also facing crisis with layoffs, furloughs, & diminishing resources. Here's what the Kalamazoo church is doing to assist their members.
April 30, 2020 | Moise Ratsara
While COVID-19 is a global pandemic, its direct and indirect effects are experienced by individuals in very personal ways. We can never underestimate the role a local church can play in alleviating the crisis like the one we’re facing today. The Kalamazoo Seventh-day Adventist Church is no exception.
During the last several weeks, the pandemic has exposed fault lines for many Seventh-day Adventists. Several of our members were laid off with no medical insurance and little in savings. An Adventist family of six also relocated to Kalamazoo after living in refugee camps in Rwanda for more than twenty years. They arrived in Michigan at a time when businesses were shutting down, and stay-at-home orders were in effect. The family was in urgent need of sponsorship for their day-to-day living needs.
On a personal note, my wife and I could not find baby wipes or diapers anywhere for our newborn son. While experiencing the challenges of having a newborn during the pandemic, one of our longtime members died from the virus. Our congregation faced multiple tragedies, frustrations, inconveniences, and setbacks. But in each of these instances, local members rallied and helped weather the crisis. Jesus was truly manifested through our members.
The Bible says of the early church, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. . . Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:42, 44,45). In these verses, we find principles for how a church can help during difficult times.
First, the connection between growth in the Word and selflessness is crucial. A caring church is a biblically sound church. There is nothing that increases selfless love like the Word of God, for God is love (1 John 4:8), and Jesus is the Word. The more we abide in the Word of God, the more we will perceive the needs of others and lose sight of ourselves.
One would think it not easy to rally a team at a moment of national crisis when basic necessities are scant. But, we needed to care for and welcome this new refugee family in Kalamazoo. We had never seen our new members, and we did not speak the same language. But we are linked together by the blood of Christ. Members signed up to donate, shop and even surrendered their possessions to make the family feel at home in the United States. They received the blessing; we experienced the joy. True love begins in the Word of God.
These are values that our church has embraced. We understand that a church that cares is a church that is prepared to help. Anticipating crisis requires intentionality and financial sacrifice prior to any emergency or crisis. The Kalamazoo church made the decision months ago to establish an emergency fund.
Every quarter after communion service, a free-will offering is collected and added to the fund to assist members in times of critical need. But money is not always what is needed. In many cases, the best way to help is by connecting people to resources that provide long-term solutions.
In late February, we saw the approaching crisis and decided to take things further. We assessed the needs of our church community and set up teams that could assist during times of crisis. We established a phone number where local church members could call in for help. We also signed up for a phone service that enabled us to contact all of our members at once with crucial information should the need arise.
An 85-year-old member attending our church was visiting in Florida during the pandemic and was confined to her living space. Due to her restricted mobility, she was unable to obtain her basic needs. She called the number, and one of our members was able to connect her with a local church that was able to assist her. Several laid-off members also received needed help—some through anonymous donations from members.
The man who died of this dreadful virus died in the Lord, and we praise God for that. He died an Adventist as a result of faithful church members that supported him during a very difficult period as an orphan. The church provided a place for him until he was an adult, and he stayed with the church until the end. He passed away recently after living 70-plus years.
Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this, all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” God’s end-time church will be a caring church. We will face even greater challenges as we draw closer to the end of time.
We can weather the storm if we do so together with Christ at the helm of our ship.