How do you love your neighbor from six feet away? That's a question churches across America are rallying to answer. This is a time for congregations to think and act outside the box -- or, in this case, the four walls of the church building.
From Colorado to San Jose, an army of Christian volunteers is rising -- each one determined that if they can't stop the virus, they can at least meet the need. For 22 years, Paul Berteau has hauled 40-pound pallets across the warehouse of the Food Bank of the Rockies -- and he's not going to let this crisis stop him. Like a lot of places, the group is struggling to find workers. At 68, Paul knows the risk but think the community is worth it. "There will be people who are apprehensive about coming to volunteer because of admonitions not to go where there are large groups of people," he admits. "I'm aware of it, but I'm not worried about it right now... [A]s long as I can help, as long as I'm allowed to help, I'll be here to help."
In Washington State, where the locals have been hit hard, Pastor Cole Meckle's Gather Church refuses to stop ministering. It hasn't been easy keeping its clothing bank operational, but with a committed congregation behind him, the church is finding out: nothing is impossible. "Between everyone, I think we are going to be able to come up with some really great means to provide for the additional needs in our community," he insists. So instead of shutting down, like so many area resources, Gather Church is adapting. If hungry people can't come for their meals, Pastor Meckle's team will take the meals to them. He's started packaging up the dinners he has in to-go containers and delivering them around town.
Miles away in Virginia, Rev. Charles Cheek has been laser-focused on the homeless. You can't self-quarantine if you don't have a home, he points out. "They're out on the streets and they're vulnerable. Even though we have this coronavirus going around, we're telling people to shelter in place." With the help of the Peninsula Baptist Association, he's leading a community donation drive. By Monday, Rev. Cheek says the area had already donated 10 carloads of supplies, "and they're still coming." Another community center is opening their doors so that people can shower, do laundry, and log on to a computer.
But there are other ways the church can help too. With the country's blood supply "in danger of collapse," places like the Red Cross say they've had 18,000 fewer donations -- just in the last few days. What a lot of people may not realize, the organization's Chris Hrouda explains, is that blood is perishable after 42 days. So the need is critical. If your congregation can organize a blood drive, or even if you can donate yourself, consider it.
If you can't get out, give. As one church volunteer said, "Financial gifts stretch farther than food." If you can get out, try one of these 10 practical ways to be a blessing -- everything from ordering someone a pizza to calling your elderly friends. Mow someone's law, put a note in your neighbors' mailbox. Thank a postman, delivery guy, or grocery bagger. "We must, one by one," Ginger McPherson urges, "be the light -- to reach out and to truly love those around us with the deep, deep love of Jesus." It's not just how we survive -- it's how we thrive. This is our opportunity. Don't waste it.