Last week we did our eighth round of food distribution, and as always, we took some time to pray beforehand about what message we would share with the families when they came into to receive their food bags.
We strive to take advantage of every opportunity to plant God's Word in the hearts and lives of those we serve. We endeavor to share hope and bring a greater understanding of who God is to the children and families enrolled in our programs.
After six months of pandemic, quarantine, and shutdowns, we had seen how the weight of the situation had affected so many people around us. Fear, worry, and despair had crept into many people's lives and impacted how they engage, act, and deal with situations.
As Christians, we know that "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)
In some ways, Covid-19 is nothing new.
The world has always had and will always have trouble, turmoil, and tribulation.
As believers, we are called to place our faith, hope, and trust in a God who works above the brokenness that we see around us in this world.
Proverbs 10:11 tells us that "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life."
Paul reminds in Colossians 3:15 "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful."
And Jesus himself said, in John 11:25-26 "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
We took these truths and wrapped them into a message titled "Faith or Fear, What Are You Spreading? A virus is contagious, but so is Faith and Hope. Speak Life!
During our talk with the parents, we shared how pandemic has changed the way we interact with others.
Everywhere we go, we are bombarded through the news, TV, and social media with a message of fear.
Fear of this pandemic, fear of catching the virus, and fear of death.
Latin cultures are known for being warm and welcoming. Yet now, many people are afraid to engage with those around them.
They don't greet people, shake their hands, or give hugs and kisses.
In order to avoid this virus, physical contact is removed, people interact less with one another, and everyone is filled with fear and insecurity.
We wanted to impart the message that whether you have the virus or not, everyone is spreading something.
We posed the question, "What are you spreading to those around you?" to the parents.
We asked everyone to greet the person next to them and speak words of blessing, encouragement, and hope, even if they did not know each other.
Our teachers led by example, and then we went around with everyone taking a turn.
It ended up being a special time for everyone!
Not only did the parents speak words of hope, faith, love, and encouragement to each other, but they surprised us thanking our teachers and staff for the help, support, and encouragement we had given them during this time.
Besides the regular food bags that enabled them to feed their children, they truly appreciated the regular devotionals our staff prepares for the parents. Many of them commented on how much it means to them that our team takes time to talk and pray with them when they come in to pick up their children's educational material.
It was very touching to hear the words of comfort, encouragement, motivation, concern, and blessings to each other.
Things like, "I wish you the best!" "Stay in God's word!" "Keep your eyes on God!" or "May your home be filled with peace!"
These words filled a void. An emptiness had been growing in people from a lack of interaction with others since this pandemic started.
Giving them a chance to both give and receive words of life and blessings, feel that others care, and show others that they care had an almost magical, supernatural effect on everyone, and everyone's spirits were visibly lifted.
We followed this exercise with a message encouraging them to continue to spread faith, hope, and encouragement to others as they go about their day.
It was amazing to see that when we asked how many people had experienced moments of fear during this pandemic, almost everyone would raise their hands.
Fear is a normal, natural reaction when faced with challenging situations, but we are not to be controlled or live our lives beset by a spirit of fear.
Just because we have to wear a mask and maintain our distance from people, it doesn't mean we can't great people, say hi to our neighbor, or talk to those we meet. We can and should be spreaders of life, hope, and encouragement to the many people going through tough times of loneliness, despair, or darkness.
The truth is, while we might wear masks and take necessary safety precautions, we don't place our faith, our hope, or our confidence in any of those things. We place our hope in a God who saves.
And that message of hope is what we need to live out and share with others, looking for opportunities to speak words of life to them.
Before closing and giving everyone their food bags, we had them open their Bible and read a scripture for themselves so that they could personalize God's promises to them.
They left knowing:
That God is the same yesterday, today, and forever
That they can take comfort in the fact that we belong to Him, that He loves us, and nothing will happen to us that is not for our good.
That His perfect love casts out fear.
That they can be an instrument used by God to spread life, speak truth, and bring hope to those around them.
At the end, the room was filled with peace and joy. Everyone left with smiles on their faces, thankful not only for the food received but also for the word that was shared and the encouragement that filled their hearts.
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