Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
How time flies when you stop to think about all that has happened in a relatively short time. I note that the weekly encouragements have been going for two years already. By Tuesday or Wednesday, if I do not have an outline in my head, I begin to get nervous about what to write about that will encourage others. Then God reminds me to relax and rely on his inspiration. This week, I found myself on a mental "empty tank" because of the busyness of the past week and the next two weeks looking pretty much the same.
The weekly encouragements started as I provided pulpit supply to a local congregation until their pastor arrived the following year. I thought it was a good idea to help church members be encouraged by God's word and observations of all that he has done and provided. Then I remembered that this was by no means a new or novel idea but rather had been instilled at a very young age. My grandparents ensured that my siblings and I attended church, and not just on Sunday morning. There was Sunday morning, and Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening, and also special youth activities. It took years to realize that Wednesday night prayer meetings and youth activities were a mid-week refresher for the soul. The anticipated refreshments at the youth meetings were an added bonus. Some of the fondest memories of childhood are associated with youth outings and adventures. At these activities, I learned to swim, took trips to the Hershey, Pennsylvania, amusement park. I also got to ride to the meetings in a really cool car – a 1968 AMC Javelin. You have to look it up on Google to appreciate it. There was also a 1970 Plymouth Duster and a 1968 Mustang. But what also stands out is that we were encouraged as youth by messages of
hope during a dark time in our country's history. While you’re on Google, check out the social and political happenings in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
It is 2020, and the weekly encouragements are provided to over 50 friends and acquaintances around the country. They are also now shared weekly on the local community radio station on Friday mornings. The hope and prayer are that those who read or hear these small messages will be encouraged to reflect on how good God is to us. So it is that as an encourager and exhorter, I take pause to reflect on how so many of you and others have encouraged Cathy and me – for which we are sincerely grateful. Lake County has allowed both of us to serve as volunteers for different activities and organizations. As the pandemic increased in its effect within the local community, there was a request to consider being trained as COVID-19 case investigators and contact tracers for Lake County. Cathy, another volunteer-Katie, and I are the three principal interviewers for the county. We have all interviewed dozens of local residents who have unfortunately tested positive for the virus. There is a prepared script from the Minnesota Department of Health that we read and a computer program with pre-formatted questions where we record the answers. Seems rather sterile until you factor in the human element. These are neighbors, friends, and colleagues that we are interviewing, and that's what makes each and every call so unique.
The calls typically last about 20 minutes or so, and we try to be as friendly as circumstances permit. The results have been nothing less than phenomenal. One of the mandatory questions is: "Are you pregnant?" Now, in its infinite wisdom, the state of Minnesota makes no distinction as to age or gender. Imagine the response from an 80-year-old man, who says that is the best laugh he has had for the day. A 90-year-old woman replied, no, but could she volunteer? I can honestly state that I have not had one person complain about their test result or their own circumstances. I have repeatedly heard the strength and resolve that this pandemic will pass and that things will only get better. The most significant concern is for the children and for visiting older family members. Thus, these interviews and people's resolve to continue moving forward have encouraged Cathy and me. I feel like I have made so many new friends that I have never met. Now, I am encouraged that when the pandemic has passed, I will be able to actually meet my new friends.
Our encouragement verse for this week is:
Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)
“ And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
May you be blessed by God’s word.