As I have continued to reflect on this question for myself and our community, here is what I would recommend we each prayerfully consider within the RZIM Connect community.
As of today, the World Health Organization has classified this as a pandemic. Therefore, I imagine that this will increasingly become a topic of conversation and affect many decisions in your community and personal life. Let’s be prepared to offer clear, responsible examples and leadership.
I look forward to learning from your replies and guidance as well.
Of course, as I state below, please be careful to vet each post for truthfulness and love.
The first consideration we have as Christians is the spiritual perspective. When we experience fear, anxiety, or even panic, this is a time for us to rely on our heavenly Father.
Psalm 23 is a classic for a reason. As it reads in verse 4:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
As we steady our hearts with faith in Christ, we can respond to others in love, not fear.
Please do share your favorite Bible passages, hymns, or songs that remind you of God’s sovereignty and goodness in times of fear.
Nathan Betts, a speaker with RZIM, has written beautifully on this topic here:
Tell the truth
Another commitment we have during this crisis is to tell the truth. We each need to take responsibility to avoid sharing fake news, misinformation, or (certainly) outright scams.
Some responsible sources of information include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Vet and validate information from other contexts with the most reliable sources of information.
For instance, we need to know how the coronavirus spreads.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
In addition, when people are scared (or even when they are not!), sometimes we resort to blaming others for this problem, even on the basis of race or nationality.
Speak up for the dignity and value of all human beings. If or when you see jokes or comments that denigrate people on the basis of their race or nationality, take courage to challenge those remarks. Racism and xenophobia will not help us during this challenge.
Additional resources for becoming informed:
We should also take steps to protect ourselves from getting COVID-19. If we ourselves become sick, we will not be able to help others and may create an additional load for the healthcare system.
Some common sense steps include:
- Washing our hands with soap and water thoroughly and often
- Avoiding close contact with others
- Stay home if you are sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Wear a face mask if you are sick
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
These recommendations come from the CDC:
Further, as the World Health Organization advises:
Every effort to contain the virus and slow the spread saves lives. These efforts give health systems and all of society much needed time to prepare, and researchers more time to identify effective treatments and develop vaccines.
Allowing uncontrolled spread should not be a choice of any government, as it will harm not only the citizens of that country but affect other countries as well.
We must stop, contain, control, delay and reduce the impact of this virus at every opportunity. Every person has the capacity to contribute, to protect themselves, to protect others, whether in the home, the community, the healthcare system, the workplace or the transport system.
As we ourselves find peace in God’s presence and promises, I believe we will also find the strength to consider the needs of our neighbors.
Here are some practical steps you can take:
- As others retreat into fear or panic, speak about the peace of Christ
- If you notice someone spreading misinformation, correct it and let others know where to find more accurate details
- Reach out to your neighbors and see if they need help getting groceries or medicine
- Consider cancelling or avoiding large public gatherings
- Be prepared to take care of yourself and/or your roommates or family if asked to self-quarantine for a period of time
The primary recommendation I am seeing, from multiple public health authorities and epidemiologists, is the advice to practice social distancing. That is, if you can work from home (and not everyone can), then it is advisable to do so.
For instance, here’s a message I shared with my neighborhood’s Facebook group:
Hi friends, as the coronavirus continues to spread, I wanted to suggest that we each be prepared to stay in our homes for a period of up to two weeks. Also, if there are any needs in the neighborhood (for instance, delivering groceries), please speak up so we can work together to provide assistance during this time.
Let’s come together to get through this uncertain period in the best way.
A simple message like this can activate a prepared but neighborly response to this virus.
Let’s avoid panicking. Rather, this is a time to trust in the Lord, be responsible, and as we have the opportunity, to do good to others.