It was almost dusk when they pulled into the hospital parking lot, flashers on. For Midland, it had been a sobering few days. Like other parts of Texas, the first wave of virus patients hit this week -- leaving doctors and nurses alone to face the grim realities. Knowing their health care workers were probably exhausted and now isolated from their families, the tight-knit community had an idea: a car prayer chain, outside Midland Memorial Hospital.
Local churches had put out the word for people to drive to the parking lot across the road to pray. The sight -- dozens of cars with their lights blinking -- was meant to be a sign for everyone inside that the community of Midland was standing with them, interceding for them. The powerful image was caught on video by a local reporter, who was moved as he panned across cars where families were burning candles on their hoods or just sitting inside with their heads bowed. Across the front of the hospital, one Midlander had stretched a huge banner that said, "Heroes work here!"
For the faces pressed to the glass, looking out across the sunset scene, it was a poignant moment. It's the kind of support, hospital CEO Russell Meyers said, that his team desperately needs. Like medical workers across the country, he knows the kind of risks his employees are taking just by "coming to work and doing their jobs" right now. "Keeping up people's morale and expressing our appreciation to them is a vital part of the effort."
Local restaurants are also pitching in, delivering free meals for staff. "There are a lot of folks out there -- our first responders, teachers, nurses, police officers -- who are working around the clock to prevent us from having a catastrophic situation happen here. [They] may not have time to spend an hour in line at the grocery store for their families or for themselves," he said. We're trying to feed them."
It's a mission Calvary Chapel Chino Hills Pastor Jack Hibbs knows well. His California congregation has been rallying to meet the demands pouring in from the community and local law enforcement. Thursday morning, the area police chief sent in a request for more water and food. By 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, an enormous truck had been loaded with stacks of soda, water, boxes of snacks, and fruit and sent off to the families in need. The police department was completely overwhelmed at how quickly the congregation had responded. "He asked me to personally thank you all," one of the Calvary Chapel staffers posted on Facebook.
These are just some ways that the church is ministering to the enormous need -- without putting their congregations at risk. You can too! Take a page out of Midland and host a drive-in prayer chain. In a lot of places, where hospital visitors aren't allowed, there are probably extra parking spaces nearby or across the street. For more urban areas, even a caravan of cars driving around the block with their flashers on would be an encouragement. Think about ways that you, as a church family, can show your appreciation and support for health care workers. From my conversations with those working in our hospitals I know this is a very difficult time, they need our support.
In places like New York, where hospitals are overrun, nurses talk about not being able to sleep when the chance comes because their minds are so filled with the horrors they've seen. "I cried in the bathroom on my break," one said haltingly. "I cried the whole way home." She sees their faces of fear when she closes her eyes. "I cry for the ones who passed away. I cry for my coworkers because we know it will get worse, and we are already at our breaking point. I cry for the parents, children, siblings, spouses, who cannot be with their loved ones who may be dying."
There is so much hurt and suffering grabbing hold of our country. At the very least, pray. But then think about the ways you can reach out, as a church, and touch that pain with hope. Every crisis is an open door. Walk through it and love the people around you. For ideas, check out our special website, FRC.org/church.