Home May 2020 Churches, ministries adapt to a surreal world

Churches, ministries adapt to a surreal world

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The Coronavirus pandemic continues

By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher

It’s several weeks now into the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and life still seems strange, surreal — definitely different in every way.  “Normal” is out the window and it seems like everyday life will never be the same.

Whether it’s vacant business districts, no activity at schools and churches, streets almost deserted, or masks dominating faces of those who venture to the few stores still open, the images of the pandemic are all striking.

With just about all public gatherings currently prohibited, the evangelical Christian community in this part of the Northwest has had to quickly adapt so as to continue effective ministry in some form. Reliance on the Internet for virtual worship services and interactive video chat meetings has become a staple for countless churches and ministries throughout the region.

Here are a variety of examples of how the evangelical community is responding:

Helping the Homebound

The Vancouver, Wash.-based relief agency Forward Edge Inter-national found itself suddenly unable to send out mission teams and also had to cancel three fundraising events. Still desiring to reach out to others, Forward Edge sent out an email calling for volunteers willing to help other homebound citizens in the Portland-Vancouver area with errands.  According to President Joe Anfuso, a “small army” stepped forward to help pick up groceries and prescriptions or meet other needs. `

In an online video, Anfuso termed it “serendestiny” — responding with faith and obedience to God-ordained, unexpected circumstances. “Take advantage of the unique opportunities available to us right now to be the Body of Christ,” Anfuso said.

Filling Food Banks

Students of Christian Culinary Academy, a small school in Cannon Beach,  have found ways to bless their North Coast community during the pandemic.

“These amazing students have been baking bread from scratch and donating the loaves to the South Clatsop Food Bank in Seaside and the Cannon Beach Food Pantry,” said Ira Krizo,  the academy’s director and president of Christian Chefs International.  “Since the pandemic started, this week (as of late April) will mark the students’ 1000th loaf of bread baked for the community.  They have also been baking cookies, which have been served to the homeless by the Astoria Rescue Mission and Warrenton Rescue Mission. Our students’ newest opportunity to help is by making whole meals for at-risk lock-ins here in Cannon Beach.”

Krizo said donations and words of encouragement have allowed the students to perform this outreach.

Virtual Concert Hosted

Sunnyside Adventist Church hosted international violinist Jamie Jorge in a virtual concert April 17.  The Adventists’ Oregon Conference also announced that its annual campmeeting in Gladstone will still happen in July, featuring speaker José Rojas, but in an online format only.

Dental Emergencies Answered

For 30 years, Tigard-based Medical Teams International has partnered with local dental professionals to provide urgent dental care to people who lack access to care in Oregon and Washington. But during the pandemic, when dentists are unable to provide routine services, Medical Teams has created a pool of dentists in the Salem area to see people with dental emergencies at the agency’s dental care van just north of the downtown area.  This was to be offered only as long as dentists are unable to give routine care in their own offices.

Special Easter Outreach

For Easter, famed Portland-based evangelist Luis Palau offered a special digital experience sharing a message of hope in the midst of his cancer and these trying times. His evangelistic message, in both English and Spanish, was made available free of charge at EasterHope.org as a resource for churches, media outlets, and individuals.  The massive online effort was a direct response to the needs of churches nationwide struggling to keep up with the constant demand for solid digital content amid the outbreak, and the millions of people needing hope and peace during this time of uncertainty. Along with offering the message free to churches to use on Easter Sunday, Palau’s message aired worldwide through television, radio, churches, and on social media through the Palau Association’s 19 million followers on its “Hope with God” online community. The message also marked more than two years of Palau’s ongoing battle with Stage IV lung cancer. Palau has beaten the odds since doctors gave him only months to live at his diagnosis in December 2017. For access to the Easter message in both Spanish and English, and for more resources from the Palau team, visit EasterHope.org

Hope with God Promoted

Palau’s team also is offering resources and the opportunity to join a community of nearly 20 million believers through social media during the COVID-19 outbreak. at covid.hopewithgod.com. Palau’s “Hope with God” platform includes evangelistic videos, articles, and resources from Andrew Palau, his wife Wendy, and other evangelists. The content is meant to encourage people to use this time of heightened spiritual interest and need to share the Good News with their friends and family. With the Palau team’s vigorous international travel on hold, the team is channeling much of their resources and experience to multi-media platforms, specifically reaching Italy, Spain, Portugal, and other regions especially affected by the current pandemic.

Drive-in Worship Services Held

Drive-in services were briefly held in the parking lot at Livng Hope Church in Vancouver but were not continued out of sensitivity to the stay-at-home mandate issued by Washington’s governor. However, Oregon has had several such services. Calvary Chapel Salem on March 22 launched drive-in Sunday worship at both 8:45 and 11 a.m.   Attenders stay in their vehicles during worship to comply with social distancing, and the message is shared over an FM radio signal, or  they can roll down their windows and listen to it through speakers.  Among others hosting drive-in services have been Grace Church in Molalla, Creation Church in Bend, Holley Christian Church near Sweet Home, New Song Church in Medford, Bible Missionary Church in Salem, Peoples Church in Salem, City of Destiny Church in Springfield, Ruch Community Church in Jacksonville and Hope City Church in White City.

Backyard Campouts Urged

Trail Life USA, the nationwide Christ-centered scouting program for boys, invited America’s families to take a break from their preoccupation with the COVID-19 crisis and have a camping adventure in their own backyards April 17. “Our resourceful troops have held their meetings online for the past few weeks during self-isolating,” said Mark Hancock, CEO of Trail Life USA, which has more than 30,000 members in 830-plus troops across all 50 states. “But this is a time when cabin fever sets in  — and boys especially need to get outdoors in a safe environment … Anything we can do as parents to help re-cast this tense time is good for our kids.”

Online Theater Classes

Journey Theater Arts Group has offered theater classes to Portland-Vancouver youth since 2002, but for now  has switched to online classes to meet the needs of students at home.  Classes include beginning courses in dance, drama and voice for new students as well as acting, tap, playwriting, puppetry and auditioning for experienced students. Classes began in early April and meet two or more times week for eight weeks.  Families new to Journey Theater received a discount off their registration.

Course Format Changes

Under normal conditions, the worldwide Alpha program, an evangelistic course that introduces the basics of the Christian faith, meets in churches, homes, workplaces, prisons, universities and a wide variety of other locations. But with the arrival of the pandemic, a recent Alpha series in this part of the Northwest finished instead through online meetings, and additional new online meetings started in recent weeks. Sponsoring the new meetings are Westside: A Jesus Church in Portland, Central Christian School in Redmond, Horizon Community Church in Tualatin and Riviera Baptist Church in the south Willamette Valley, according to Kirk Petersen, Alpha’s regional director.Help for Marriages Readied MarriageTeam, based in Vancouver, Wash., announced an immediate launch to online training for marriage coaching couples. “MarriageTeam is looking to increase couples training to handle demand,” said Al Ray, executive director.  “This is a tremendously stressful time for marriages and families who are under even more pressure from the pandemic.” The training began April 25.

New Believers Encouraged

Compassion to Action, a Clark County, Wash.-based outreach headed by evangelist Chris Overstreet, launched a free online discipleship course for any new believer who committed their life to Christ in 2019 or 2020. The four-week course was offered during April. “During this season, we feel God calling us all to deepen our connection with Him, and He has put it on our hearts to offer this free course to encourage all new believers in their faith,” a promotional email stated.

New Volunteers Fill a Big Gap

Portland Adventist Community Services (PACS) relies regularly on volunteers to provide its various services, but the pandemic forced the agency to ask all of its volunteers in high-risk health categories to stay home. “Some of our volunteers asked, ‘How are you going to do this without us?’ And they were right,” said Executive Director Laura Pascoe. “It’s been really hard without them. Some things have been impossible and we’ve had to stop, but it’s been the right thing to do.”  But because of the need, PACS put out a call seeking help delivering food boxes, and people have shown up and consistently done so each day, said Pascoe.  “We’ve taught them how to do it with no contact, how to be socially responsible — not sharing more than food,” she said.  “But people’s willingness to come out and do this in a safe way has been so encouraging. People have helped pack food boxes. Kids coming back from college have shown up to help restock shelves. Drivers out of work in their normal jobs have come in to do pickups from grocery stores. The people who have come in to try to fill the ranks behind those who have had to stay home have made all the difference.” Potential volunteers can contact her at laura.pascoe@pacsonline.org