New words and phrases have entered the American vocabulary at a faster rate than I can remember. The Merriam-Webster dictionary adds new additions every year, and this year’s additions seem to have come at lightning speed. In our lifetime we will never forget the word Covid-19, or the phrases, “social distancing,” “abundance of caution,” or the newest for me, “neck gaiter.” The one that possibly most deserves our attention is “essential workers.” Although not entirely new, the essential worker in times past has often been thought of as the farmer. In a matter of months, the term has become cemented in the American psyche as we have been reminded in many ways to be grateful for many others who do the most difficult tasks among us, most without hazard pay. Some have paid the ultimate price for their willingness to still drive a bus so people could reach the hospital or take temperatures as personnel have entered food facilities so we could be fed.
As a result of the pandemic, we now have a better appreciation for the supply chain that extends from the farm to the grocery store shelve stocker and checker, not to mention all points in between, such as truckers who have carried on while many of us sheltered in place. Occasionally while shopping, I have stopped to thank these individuals (while maintaining a safe social distance as possible) to let them know how much I appreciate them. I’m also most grateful for our first responders, utility workers, repair and maintenance people, and governmental leaders.
And who would ever forget the many healthcare professionals who have showed up day after day to take care of those most impacted by the novel coronavirus? Some neighborhoods have sung, clapped, delivered food and cards for these modern-day heroes. Certainly, there are too many essential workers to enumerate here. Suffice it to say, I am grateful for each link in the chain that has helped to supply our collective needs.
The church has essential workers, too. Even as we appreciate food for our tables, we also are grateful for food for our souls. Paul said of Titus in 2 Corinthians 12:18 (ESV): I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?
Pastors, teachers, elders, school professors, and, yes, the support teams in offices that see to their payroll operations and benefits are often overlooked. Those who provide lifelong training and development of our church leaders are to be commended for the outstanding job they have done to keep the soul food served up for each of us every Sabbath.
Many walking in Paul’s steps have reported they are working harder than ever. Moreover, there are many teachers whose jobs required marathon-like stamina before the current crisis, who now find their jobs to be exceedingly much more complex during the pandemic.
On many Sabbaths our local elders also bring thoughtfully prepared messages via video conferencing platforms. I like what Paul said when he expressed, …we do all things, beloved, for your edification” (2 Cor. 12:19).
The local church too has enjoyed the support of volunteer essential workers for whom we also should be grateful as they give without remuneration enormous amounts of time to keep the church services coming our way during the pandemic. I know of one individual who is producer, director and technician (jobs typically overseen by multiple people in large churches or by our media ministries), all because of their love for the Lord and their love for God’s people. The program begins with a countdown with beautiful nature scenes and music, all a result of melding together three separate computer programs to help the saints find their church’s program edifying. Text sweep in from the side of the screen as the pastor preaches.
I know of another who handles the audio for their church’s program, setting up, running and tearing down public address equipment on the church’s parking lots for outdoor services, sometimes in scorching heat. Both individuals volunteer multiple hours having weekly meetings to address logistics and do dry runs with those who will be up front or before the camera. What a blessing! Where would the church be with missionary volunteers? And the dream of many of these spiritual essential workers is that they will reach not just their own community, but that the polished professional productions they produce will beam the Three Angels’ messages around the world. Like their pastors, they are working harder than ever.
In this issue of the Herald, we will highlight our Lake Union Conference essential workers. As I interacted with our local conference Education superintendents, one said, “We are very grateful for our Union Education superintendent, Linda Fuchs and her staff. They have helped us navigate very difficult decisions regarding school reopening.”
Please look within these pages and you will see people, many of whom are working harder than ever to keep the work advancing. To each and every one of them, be it at the local church, the conference, the union conference, the division or General Conference, our schools of higher learning and our hospitals, with whom I have had many full day meetings — sometimes late into the evening to prayerfully plan for ways to keep the work of all of these institutions alive and well, we owe a great debt of gratitude. Not to mention at one point for several months, almost daily meetings with the officers of this office to grapple with maintaining our own region’s vitality, developing multi-phase strategies to support all of the above so that when any institution called, we had already crafted a response months in advance of how we would respond to their need.
Thank you, essential workers within and without the church. To God be the glory for your dedicated service, as while one plants and another waters, it is God who gives the increase. Know you, too, are an essential worker. Reaching the world for Jesus is the essential calling we all accepted when we gave our lives to Him. If you feel discouraged for the long hours of toil, don’t forget, Jesus was the essential worker of heaven who volunteered to “Go” per His Father’s request to represent God’s love for fallen man. He labored in our midst for 33 years to give us a future and a hope. And He still labors in heaven to make intercession for us!
I close with a special note of appreciation for our essential givers. I want to personally thank you as a constituent of Lake Union Conference for your faithful tithe to the Lord. When the pandemic began, projections were for a 20 to 30 percent decrease. Thus far, as of the writing of this article, we are pleased to see that those who give a tenth back to the Lord as well as offerings are committed individuals who do so regardless of a pandemic. And while some have lost jobs, do know you are in our prayers.
In keeping with Pastors’ Appreciation Month, special thanks are in order to our pastors for providing great leadership in this regard, some driving from home to home while socially distancing to pick up the tithe of the faithful. Moreover, special recognition is appropriate to our conference officials who have encouraged faithful giving through various online means such as Adventist Giving. Prayers for all and blessings to all!