Of our six or seven emotions that we can experience, for many, fear is the most controlling and debilitating of all. Fear can cause one to do the unimaginable or inhibit us from doing what must be done. Fear can manipulate whole nations in a direction otherwise thought impossible. Prolonged fear and anxiety has the potential to damage us beyond repair.
In response to many of you folks who have asked about the effects of the pandemic in our part of Brazil, I will share a few of our challenges. Brazil presently is not doing well with harnessing public fears and other effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Like some of you in the States: quarantine, masks, alcohol, and a commerce that is allowed to open one week then ordered to close the following week has been a part of our lives for five months. We are bombarded daily with a mix of realistic and unrealistic solutions aired every day by media outlets as well as solutions given by our confused neighbors.
Of the many ridiculous examples I could share, here are two.
The mayor of the town where we planted our first church, in a recent recorded public meeting, said that his administration was doing everything to keep the covid pandemic under control. He then proceeded to lay out what he has done to help keep everyone healthy. In his list he stated that he had authorized to have the local cemetery increased by adding another four hundred plots!
Our Family Retreat Center continues under construction. Four and sometimes five days a week I drive the 120 mile round trip hauling construction material and spend the day working and overseeing the project. This trek takes me through two towns that are battling epidemic fear. At the two entrances into town, vehicle check points with health workers have been set up. They check your temperature, see if you are wearing a mask, note your name and phone number on a clip board, then your car is sprayed with a smelly disinfectant. The tires always get an extra dose. Imagine a virus hanging on to a hot Michelin tire at 100 km/h.
Some of what we are dealing with though is not ridiculous. In our seven area fellowship of churches, all have folks who have tested positive for covid-19 and several are presently in local hospitals.
Sabastiana was a member in the second church we help start. She was not feeling well and taken to a nearby hospital where she tested positive for corona virus. Help was too late, she and her baby died together that night. She left behind, her 2 year old son Brian and husband Vando. (names and picture used with permission)
Our local churches continue to meet almost exclusively online. Attendance and financial giving has been stable. Several of the families, now in financial need, are being helped by those who continue to have financial income. Our area pastors and church leaders are working through the dynamics of how and when we will return to our places of meetings.
We are realizing that our previous service formats will no longer be the same. This may be a great time for innovation. I ask you to pray for wisdom as we must make changes.
The Scriptures talk a lot about fear and anxiety, more than 500 times. This last month, I have been teaching about, healthy fears vs. unhealthy fears, and some of the ways to detect the difference.
By the way, whether your fears are healthy or unhealthy, rational or irrational… if they move you toward Christ’s teaching, then that is really good news. Your fears can develop into trust. (Mark 4:40)