No one in our Vineyard Columbus family, indeed in our country, has gone unaffected by the recent pandemic. Like virtually every other church in our country, we have been unable to meet in person for worship, prayer, teaching, communion or baptisms since mid-March. Most of our small groups have been meeting online. Our Community Center and our Early Childhood Center have been shut down.
For some of us, sheltering in place has been a relatively minor inconvenience. On the one hand, we miss connecting with friends and loved ones and being able to attend movies or sporting events. On the other hand, time with family has drawn us closer together. And our salaries have continued unabated as we work from home.
For many of us, however, the pandemic has been profoundly disruptive and has radically impacted our lives.
Many Asian-Americans have experienced an increasing number of racist and xenophobic incidents and comments.
A reporter for the PBS News Hour, Jeff Yang, reported shopping at a local grocery store. A woman spotted him, the only Asian, in line at the store. She started shouting profanities at Jeff. Then she took her mask down, deliberately coughed on him and walked away.
Civil Rights organizations report a definite rise in attacks upon Asians as a result of the pandemic. Nurses have been spit on. A family of three Asians were stabbed in Texas – an assault that’s being investigated as a hate crime. Asian-Americans report experiencing tremendous emotional strain while they have to be hyper vigilant, especially when out in public with children. There’s been a rise of cyber-bullying. The stress that Asian Americans face has been exacerbated by some politicians who have racialized the virus.
African-Americans have experienced a disproportionate number of deaths from COVID-19.
13% of the population in America are African-American. African-Americans have suffered 27% of COVID deaths where the deceased’s ethnicity is known. Johns Hopkins Medical School reported a number of possible reasons for the disproportionate number of African-American deaths that include African Americans:
• Living in crowded housing conditions.
• Working in essential fields such as food services, transportation and home health care – jobs which cannot be done from home.
• Experiencing inconsistent access to health care due to a lack of insurance or underinsurance.
• Suffering from chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease more often than Caucasians.
• Being referred to testing less often than Caucasians who display similar symptoms.
All of these conditions point to persistent issues of racial disparity that existed before COVID.
How can Christians help support brothers and sisters of color?
• Speak up when you hear people making racist jokes or comments.
• Talk to friends and give them space to share with you their fears and anxieties.
• Believe them when they share their experiences or their fears.
• Don’t discount stories that a friend shares even if that’s not your experience.
• Pray for your friends.
Frontline workers have been disproportionately affected.
We often think of “frontline workers” as infectious disease doctors who wear hazmat suits or police officers who know their job is risky. COVID-19 has forced us to add occupations as diverse as hog farm employees, bus drivers who collect fares, grocery workers, mental health counselors, office cleaners, and prison guards to the list of frontline workers. Many of these workers are not paid well. Most never thought that they were putting their lives on the line when they were hired for their jobs.
Single parents have been stressed by the pandemic.
Many single parents have felt overwhelmed by homeschooling and the blizzard of learning apps, video meetups, and email assignments as they shoulder the weight of responsibility for their child.
Parents with kids with special needs have been especially stressed during the pandemic.
• In school, special needs kids often get lots of individualized attention which may include speech therapy, behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, etc. Parents are simply not trained to be psychologists, special ed. teachers – they are just trying to be a Mom or a Dad. None of the individualized, adaptive special educational services are present at home.
• Many special needs kids have experienced tremendous stress because of the disruption to their routine.
The pandemic has particularly impacted those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
• The normal grieving process has been interrupted by social distancing. Many Americans have found themselves dying or grieving alone.
• Funerals have been done by Zoom. Those grieving have missed the comfort of hugs and embraces and being with other people.
Graduating high school and college students have experienced loss.
• While not amounting to the loss of a loved one, high school and college students have experienced loss over not having in-person graduation ceremonies. Graduates have not been able to celebrate with friends. There have been no parties. They have not received hugs from teachers, principals or extended family members.
• Proms have been cancelled as have scholar banquets, awards ceremonies and spring sports. For many student athletes, the last time they will ever play in an organized sports league was their senior year of school. This experience was taken from them.
How does Christian faith provide us with resources to deal with stress or grief?
• We can receive the comfort of the Triune God. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all agents of comfort. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
In the gospels, we often find Jesus to be a comforter. We read this in Matthew 14:14:
14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
And, of course, the Holy Spirit is a comforter. Here’s what we read in John 14:16:
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforter to help you and be with you forever—
• We can refuse to self-medicate. When you are stressed, be aware of the unhealthy things you do to deal with stress. Are you drinking more than you should? Are you spending too much time in front of a television or watching things online? Don’t self-medicate!
• Spend time in worship and prayer. Philippians 4:6-7 says this:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
• We can welcome the comfort of our Christian brothers and sisters. God uses Christian brothers and sisters to bring us comfort. God uses the prayers of others. God uses the words of others. God uses the finances and help of others to support us. We dare not, because of pride, refuse the lifeline God throws to us through his people.
COVID-19 has affected all of us, but some of us have borne a disproportionate amount of weight from the pandemic. My prayer is that we would be there for each other – comforting one another in our grief and supporting each other in our stress.