By Mickey Mallory–Denver, Colorado … While some things have been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ministry for our RMC pastors continues, albeit, done differently. Below are some examples of the innovation of our pastors during this trying time.
Mark Monreal from the Riverton District in Wyoming says that to stay connected with his members, he calls them, sends text messages, and invites them to connect through Facebook. He posts live worship services online and he and his family can be seen leading out in song. One of their biggest challenges, he says, is helping the elderly members who need support and supplies. To care for them, he calls to ask what help he can provide and then coordinates with members who are able to help them. Several of his members are attending to the needs of people in their community. They raised funds to provide food supplies for members in the Philippines, which included nearly 40 families and 25 students.
When asked what encouraging words he has for his fellow brothers and sisters living in RMC, he said, “This crisis may have caused social distancing, but it has also brought us closer to other people around the world and it gives us an opportunity to spread more of God’s Word.”
Juan Estrada from the Colorado Springs Hispanic District shared that he calls his members, sends them messages of hope, and prays for them. He records sermons for online viewing for Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. In addition, he organizes a prayer conference on Wednesdays and Sundays. The biggest challenge facing his members right now is keeping the faith and not losing hope. He encourages them to hang in there because he believes with much encouragement, and lots of faith and hope that the pandemic will soon end, and they will be able to worship together again. His Colorado Springs Church is involved in a plan to provide help to the homeless through their food bank. They are currently providing food on the first Saturday of each month to a group of 200 people in a shelter in Colorado Springs.
Wilmer Martinez from the Pagosa Springs Hispanic District in Colorado calls his members to see how they’re doing and if they need anything. He lets them know he is there for them in these uncertain times. Despite wanting to see them in person, he reminds them often of the importance of staying home. One of his biggest challenges is in the area of communication. Since not all of his members are familiar with technology, he does meetings using both Zoom and phone call, so both groups’ needs can be met. He encourages his members to check on their neighbors.
When asked what encouraging words he has for his fellow brothers and sisters living in RMC, he says, “Jesus is coming soon and this all should pass, and soon we will be home with Him for eternity.”
Lester Bentley from the Sheridan District in Wyoming said that to stay connected with his members, he is talking with his elders three or four times a week and calling his members throughout the day. So far, among his five churches, he has probably talked to 70 per cent of his members, including a few who have not attended church in quite some time. Using his computer, he has started a midweek video devotional and a Friday night devotional which he calls Friday Sundown Worship.
One of his challenges is not having all of his members on Facebook. In order to help those who are not Facebook people, he set up a YouTube channel called Mountain View Sermons. He uses this to teach Sabbath School each week. In order to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the communities he serves, his churches have helped members that need assistance buying or getting food and other necessary items. They have either supplied money or picked up the needed items and delivered them. Gillette has helped several individuals from the community. Sheridan and all five churches will be participating in the It Is Written online evangelistic series that is starting April 17.
His words of encouragement for RMC members are, “Perhaps what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps it will be the catalyst for sweeping changes in the world. Some for good and probably more that are not so good. But God has promised, “Lo I am with you always even until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). This promise is just as relevant for us today.”
Bob McAlpine from the Alamosa District in Colorado says he maintains connection with his members through social media and increased phone conversations. One of the challenges that he has experienced is keeping his church members together during the crisis. Video conferencing, phone calls, and email all help, but can’t replace physical presence. On top of that, some of his older members do not have the internet, which makes it harder to stay in touch. Fortunately, his elders have stepped up to reach out to the older or more vulnerable members as well as keeping in touch with one another and the rest of the congregation. In order to help those struggling in the community, he shared that members are supporting the local homeless shelter while others are actively participating in the public health response.
His message to RMC members is, “Even if this crisis took us by surprise, it has not caught God off guard. Our confidence does not come from health and prosperity in this life, but from the hope that we will share eternity with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when Jesus returns and puts an end to sickness, sin, and death. Whether we are facing anxiety about health issues, financial issues, or political issues, let’s look to Jesus for peace and reassurance.”
Wayne Nazarenus from the Colorado Springs South Church District in Colorado shared that he makes a point to call and check on his members. On Sabbath, March 20, he called every church family in his two churches and read a Scripture and prayed with them by phone and they responded very positively. On top of this, his head elder in Trinidad set up a phone conference call for the worship service. He had 28 people call in and other family members were most likely listening on the speaker phone. This is almost twice the number of people who come to church on a Sabbath morning. A number of people called who are not able to attend church because of health and age.
About a week ago, he and his wife were walking in their neighborhood and noticed many cars around one of their elderly neighbor’s home. He talked with two of the young sons who were standing outside and found out that their mother had died. They are Catholic but appreciated him stopping and sharing his concern. They were trying to figure out how they could have a proper funeral. We have also visited outside with several other neighbors on our walks in the neighborhood.
These stories have a common thread – the pastors and church members are working together for ministry to continue during this difficult time.
While we wait for the glorious coming of Jesus Christ, may we all find ways to work together in our local church to advance His message of love and healing to a hurting world.
—Mickey Mallory, RMC ministerial director; photo by Rajmund Dabrowski