COVID-19 UPDATES  —  

Pioneer now welcomes worshipers to its 9:00 AM and 11:45 AM services. Both services will continue to be available livestreamed on our website and Facebook Live. Sabbath Schools remain meeting digitally or in smaller off-site groups. For details regarding prevention measures in place and the COVID-19 Pioneer response click here.

 
Thursday, July 30, 2020 - 22:38

The Fourth Watch

By Pastor Dwight K. Nelson

Aug
5
August 5, 2020

Our granddaughters Ella and Izzy dropped off their favorite dog Kora Jean for us to dog-sit a few weeks ago. Kora is a Shepherd-BlackLab mix, and she’s a sweetheart—menacing in outward appearance (her ears straight-up pointed, her shiny black coat with gray betraying her age)—but she’s a charmer inside. Every morning first thing I take her on a two-mile walk. And she loves greeting the others we meet.

But Kora has also discovered the flock of wild turkeys that tramps all over our neighborhood. The other day she didn’t have her leash on in the backyard—and I’ve never seen those grumpy Turkeys rocket into the sky so fast! But it’s the deer I’m concerned about, fearing that if she spots one of them she’ll chase it until she collapses (and trust me—you can’t outrun the deer around here).

So I tried to find an inexpensive halogen flashlight yesterday (still looking)—because for our night jaunts I need to make sure we aren’t walking into a herd of those deer. The piercing halogen will hopefully spot their yellow-green reflective eyes staring back at us from the field behind our house. Gotta keep Kora from that chase.

In many ways, the ancient apocalyptic prophecies serve as halogen flashlights peering into the dark uncharted future. And given everything we’ve been going through the past seven months on this planet and across this nation, more and more people are wondering aloud about the connect there might between current events and Scripture.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been pouring over those apocalyptic snapshots of uneasy weirdness and terrible implication. Is there an interface between what we are living through on the cusp of a new school year and those dusty, long-forgotten, symbolic portrayals? Do they speak with decipherable messages? Does the light of the Word of God expose the dark mastermind behind what we endure right now? From them can we know with greater clarity the direction today’s stunning trends are headed?

Rhetorical questions, all four of them. This is why I must invite you (and the friends and family you have) to join us Sabbath mornings, beginning August 22, the eve of a new school year on all three of our campuses. Join us, join me as we seek to shine the halogen of prophetic light on what lies ahead. “American Apocalypse: ‘What Is Past Is Prologue’”—because if Shakespeare is right and the past is but prologue, then we have every somber need to be armed with Holy Scripture at this critical time. Period.

And if we can decipher the beauty of God’s character and the face of our Lord Jesus in these ancient words—and if it is true that “when we as a people understand what this book [Revelation] means to us, there will be seen among us a great revival” (TM 113)—then can you think of a more essential, opportune moment in history to discover or rediscover all God has embedded in these ancients words for His endgame friends?

Jul
8
July 8, 2020

When I was a boy, I remember my dad telling this story on himself to a group of my friends: “I was the toughest kid in my neighborhood—whenever the boys saw me coming, they started running—but they could never catch me!” And I recall feeling so upset because his story made him look like a weakling. Every child likes to think the authority figures in his or her life are invincible.

That’s why it is so confusing for the American public to decipher who of our many authorities are the ones we should believe, trust, obey. Look at all the debates we’re having, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic: (1) over face masks and social distancing; (2) over whether schools across the country should open or remain closed; (3) over the safety or lack of it for air travel; (4) over whether churches should open or not. Confusion over authority, confusion among authorities—how do you decide?

Take the decision of our Pioneer church board and board of elders, augmented by the protocol recommendations of our reentry taskforce—to open up our sanctuary this coming Sabbath, July 11. Talking about trusted authorities, here was a Zoom screen full of them, volunteer leaders of our congregation with a very much vested interest in Pioneer getting it right. So did they make the right decision?

I believe they did. But the more important question is—the right decision for whom? 

The Centers for Disease Control and the President’s coronavirus taskforce all are agreed—COVID-19’s greatest threat is to individuals 65 and older as well as those who have preexisting medical conditions. Does that mean everyone over 65 and/or with preexisting health conditions will contract COVID-19? Hardly. But it does mean individuals with these risk factors do well to evaluate the outside-the-house environment they choose to occupy, even on a Sabbath morning.

Here is the CDC’s counsel (irrespective of your age or health condition):

  • “In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.
  • “If you decide to engage in public activities, continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions [wash your hands often, cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when others are around, clean and disinfect et al].
  • “Keep these items on hand and use them when venturing out: a cloth face covering, tissues, and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if possible.
  • “If possible, avoid others who are not wearing cloth face coverings or ask others around you to wear cloth face coverings.” 
  • (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- ncov/need-extra-precautions/older-adults.html)

In accordance with this counsel, our Pioneer reentry taskforce is taking these actions: 

  • Providing hand sanitizer for every worshiper entering the church;
  • Requiring face masks for all worshipers age two and above (if you forget yours, we’ll give you one);
  • Designating physical distancing in the sanctuary by limiting the number of worshipers in each pew (by maintaining six feet between families and/or individual worshipers, and keeping every other pew vacant); 
  • Disinfecting the pews, door handles, and restrooms between first and second service;
  • Dismissing worshipers by rows at the end of the service (in the back) through the south narthex exit, (in the front) through the canopy exit.

Why all this protocol? First, because your life and health are what matters most to your Pioneer Family. We not only want you to be safe—we want you to feel safe. Second, because being Christlike means considering the needs and safety of others, irrespective of our personal decisions (hence the required face masks). I believe our task force has made every safety provision so we may gather to worship our Creator and Savior in peace and confidence.

Does that mean we all show up this Sabbath? I doubt that will happen. Every worshiper must determine when is the right time to go back to church. Which means nobody needs to feel guilty about not worshiping in person. You’ll know when the time is right. And you will still enjoy a full live-streaming experience (9:00 AM/11:45 AM ET) where you live.

But for those of us who will venture into this “brave new world” this coming Sabbath, I say we celebrate our return with the words of David: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). 

Jul
1
July 1, 2020

Whenever our circuit through the year comes to July 4, I pause to thank God for this country. And as I do, I recall two inspired realities that are part and parcel of America in my mind.

First are these words I have scribbled at the top of a page in the Apocalypse, the Revelation of Jesus: “The Lord has done more for the United States than for any other country upon which the sun shines” (Ms 17, 1907).

From that hallowed day in Philadelphia, July 4, 1776—when the Declaration of Independence was formally inked into existence with our founding fathers’ signatures—until now, I believe it is true that the sunshine of God’s grace has beneficently shined down upon this land. We even sing it, don’t we? “America, America, God shed His grace on thee—and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

The historian Jon Meacham, in his book The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, writes: “. . . America has been defined by its exceptionalism—an understanding of destiny that has also been tempered by an appreciation of the tragic nature of life. . . . We try; we fail; but we must try again, and again, and again, for only in trial is progress possible” (10).

Thus every year when we arrive on the birthday day of America, I thank God for the exceptionalism of this country. But I remember two inspired realities that are tightly woven into my thoughts of this homeland.

The second inspired reality is the dramatic pause between two phrases on the page where that scribbled quotation resides. Describing the lamb-like beast he witnessed in vision emerging as it were out of the barren wilderness of earth, John the Revelator penned these words: “It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11).

It may be one of the most pregnant pauses in Scripture—that rest or respite between the two phrases “two horns like a lamb” and “spoke like a dragon.” For in that literarily brief pause between those two lines is packed a slice of prophetic history, at this point 244 years of the American story. 

Many have described the two lamb-like horns of this global power as civil and religious liberty, and who would challenge the precedent and model this nation has provided to the world of freedom of conscience, of liberty of worship. Others have described the two horns as symbols of Republicanism (the form of government that embraces those twin liberties) and Protestantism (the form of Christianity that does the same). 

And for 244 years this birthday, America has prided herself in these twin ideals toward which she has striven—though her efforts have not been without great pain and shame at times. Lamblike, like Christ? Who would challenge the place this nation has held amongst those countries that still consider their societal values essentially Christian?

Happy birthday, indeed. But the dramatic segue from this pause after the first phrase to the foreboding “but it spoke like a dragon” is enough to give every earnest student of history and prophecy startled pause. A lamblike power, championing civil and religious liberty, predicted, even divinely prophesied, to undergo so quick and desperate a reversal, it ends up speaking for the dreaded dragon of the Apocalypse (the fallen rebel himself)? How can that be!

Be that as it may, every Fourth of July I pause to remember God’s bountiful goodness showered upon this land we call home, for which I praise Him. And I brood over the stunning reversal America will suffer when earth’s civilization collapses into God’s endgame. How could they be one and the same, lamblike America and the dragon-breathing United States? But even more troubling than the question is the somber realization now you can get there from here.

This is why this holiday I invite you to pray two prayers with me: “God, bless America for as long as You can” and “God, reach America as quickly as You can.” Oh, and “please use me, use us anyway You can to save this land we love.” Amen. 

Jun
24
June 24, 2020

Talking about “a brave new world,” look at America’s summertime pastime now! After weeks of haggling and whining (pardon a pejorative participle), Major League Baseball owners and the Player’s Association have come to grumbling agreement—sixty games played in 66 days, thus it shall be in the pandemic shortened season of the Summer of 2020. 

But there’s more: “The season's success probably depends on MLB's ability to contain coronavirus spread, an issue the [newly ​released] health and safety protocol covers in immense detail. Addressing everything from travel to social distancing to a ban on spitting, the manual is a strict guide for a potential 2020 season and illustrates the difficulty of pulling off such an endeavor” (www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/29354014/sources-mlbpa-agrees-report-july-1-discussing-health-safety-protocols). What! No more spitting! How can this be baseball?

But there’s still more. Take a look at ESPN’s summary of this “brave new” season. Warning—if you could care less about baseball, this will be really boring (I have a hard time deciphering it myself):

 • Teams will play their four divisional opponents 10 times and each of the five interleague opponents in the same geographical area four games apiece [e.g. Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox].

 • The National League will use a designated hitter [substitute batter for pitchers previously utilized only in the American League]. 

 • In extra innings, teams will begin with a runner on second base [unbelievable—but a savvy pandemic-way to shorten extra-inning games]. 

 • Teams will have a taxi squad that allows them to have as many as 60 players available to play in major league games [former rosters were 40 players].

 • There will be a COVID-19 injured list with no minimum or maximum length of time spent on it, while standard injured list stints will be for 10 days and the typical 60-day stint will instead be for 45 days (ibid).

And who’ll be singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” for the seventh-inning stretch? Nobody. You mean no “Buy me some peanuts and ​C​racker ​J​ack—I don’t care if I ​never get back”? Nope. The stadiums will be empty. The Boys of Summer will be playing to the television cameras—a concession to the pandemic’s brave new world of sports.

Crazy, isn’t it? Multiply all of this by basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, NASCAR racing, the Olympics, cricket, rugby, and ping pong, et al—the footprint of this pandemic is stomped large across a global sports market once expected to grow “to nearly $614.1 billion by 2022” (www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190514005472/en/Sports---614-Billion-Global-Market-Opportunities). And now?

And yet juxtapose all of this beside Heaven’s urgent 24/7 mission to save the human race while there is still time—why it seems ludicrous to even mention the two in the same breath—the business of sports and the enterprise of salvation—doesn’t it?

Especially when we remember that for one lost sheep the very Good Shepherd of Heaven hurried into the raging night. Who will ever forget His post-Calvary cry to the universe: “Rejoice with Me—I have found My lost sheep” (Luke 15:6)! To risk all of Heaven for one lost sheep? “If there have been but one lost soul, Christ would have died for that one” (Christ’s Object Lessons 187 emphasis supplied). Are we worth that much, too?

So as the summer before us wobbles and wanes—and the pandemic refuses to part—be assured it is very OK for us to ask our Savior for a gift in this season of the pandemic—a softer heart for lost people who live a lot closer to us than the nearest ball field. I’d rather be singing—“Rejoice with me—I have found His lost sheep”—wouldn’t you?

Jun
17
June 17, 2020

The COVID-19 factoids continue to spill into our consciousness and news feeds. The Wall Street Journal ran a startling piece on how large households with extended families under the same roof have faced the coronavirus contagion in ways other households have not. "The Journal analyzed all 1,487 U.S. counties with at least 50 Covid-19 cases, as of June 7. The 10% with the highest rates of [household] crowding accounted for 28% of the coronavirus cases among those 1,487 counties, according to census and Johns Hopkins University data" (WSJ June 8, 2020, A-10).

For example, the Navajo Nation—"roughly 175,000 people scattered across a three-state swath" and "among the highest rates [of single dwelling density] in the U.S."—has experienced one of the nation's worst outbreaks. As of June 5, their "virus death rate topped New York state's." This large-families- that-live-together-suffer-together maxim has led Asian countries (including Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and South Korea) to now require away-from-home isolation for infected family members.

Speaking of statistics, just this morning came the coronavirus report: "At least 19 states have seen new cases go up in the last two weeks and six states on Tuesday reported record increases [Florida, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Oregon, Nevada]" (www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-cases-rise-records-states-reopen/). Such is life in this pandemic—roller coaster stats up and then down day after day.

But it's the statistic for compassion that gives me hope. "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). Catch that stat? "His compassions [plural]"—i.e., God's acts and actions born out of his heart of great love for humanity—do not fail. The numbers aren't dropping! In fact "they [His acts of compassion] are new every morning." No matter conditions on the ground or headlines in the news, God's compassionate heart keeps intervening, interjecting, interrupting the bad news cycle of life on this planet with fresh, new manifestations of His faithful love for us. Praise Him!

I'm not sure what anxieties you face today. Health concerns, financial worries, there are more than enough of those to go around these days, have you noticed? 

Then again perhaps it is the anxious concerns our school administrators and teachers face—will the students come back, will our safety protocol work, will our income hold, will the pandemic recede or surge? I'm convinced our educational leaders face the most daunting statistics of all across this nation and right here at home. We would do them a blessed favor to intercede for divine wisdom on their behalf. By name. "Great is your faithfulness."

"If you give yourself to God's service, He who has all power in heaven and earth will provide for your needs" (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing 99). Plain and simple. No matter the statistics of our needs, they are outmatched by the provisions of His compassion. "Great is your faithfulness." Plain and simple.

Jun
3
June 3, 2020

I must confess I hardly know what to write. It is my Wednesday routine to sit at this laptop and compose another entry for my Fourth Watch blog. But today's headlines are the visceral recitation of our nation's ugliest truth. Racism. 

We sat in a Zoom circle a few days ago—and listened as our colleague and friend, Taurus Montgomery (African American pastor of our Harbor of Hope campus in Benton Harbor), described the shock of being yelled out of his car. A teen at the time, Taurus had been impatiently waiting for his sister to emerge from the house—when a white police officer in an unmarked car screeched to a halt and with a revolver pointed at Taurus and his brother, yelled: "Get out—with your hands up!" The stunned young men obeyed immediately. A split second later the officer's radio goes off in the background, "Suspect has been apprehended." Without a word, let alone an apology ("Sorry, fellas"), the officer holsters his gun, jumps in his car and speeds away. End of story. 

End of story for you and me, perhaps. But for a black kid growing up with racism, how do a story and an adrenalin memory like that ever end? Sitting in that Zoom circle it was more than obvious the PTSD sort of stress every black man must experience when another killing—three of them in a row recently in this land of the free—strikes. Another black life snuffed out by raw power. End of story? Are you kidding!

I listened today to another colleague of mine, African American Adventist pastor of the Brinklo Emmanuel church, Anthony Medley. Visceral pain from vented anger over racism's chokehold, bondage not even the church (not to mention society) has been able to break, let alone heal.

The video images now of George Floyd dying are seared on the collective conscience of us all. Ever notice the soldiers played a game of craps as the Man on the cross was dying? "Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get" (Mark 15:24). The nonchalance over a man dying at their hands—how do you forget that picture?

But if that's all we remember, how can that chain be broken? My friend, Nick Miller, attorney for the Lake Union Conference, last Sabbath afternoon on a Facebook Live panel discussion (thank you, Debbie Michel, host), shared three provocative Ellen White admonitions worth brooding over:

  • “The desire to show their masterly authority over the blacks is still burning in the hearts of many who claim to be Christians, but whose lives declare that they are standing under the black banner of the great apostate. When the whites commit crimes, they are often allowed to go uncondemned, while for the same transgressions the blacks . . . are treated worse than the brutes. . . . Will not God judge for these things? As surely as the whites have brought their inhuman cruelty to bear upon the negroes, so surely will God’s vengeance fall upon them” (14LtMs, Lt 99, 1899).

"Whew! Not my problem." Keep reading.

  • "There is a cause for the moral paralysis upon society. Our laws sustain an evil which is sapping their very foundations. Many deplore the wrongs which they know exist, but consider themselves free from all responsibility in the matter. This cannot be. Every individual exerts an influence in society. In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue?" (RH November 8, 1881).

"Whew! That one's about temperance and not racism." You missed the word "virtue."

  • "While we will endeavor to keep the 'unity of the Spirit' in the bonds of peace, we will not with pen or voice cease to protest against bigotry" (16MR 216).

"Protest against bigotry." The time has come for white Adventists to step out of the shadows and "with pen or voice" do just that, "protest against bigotry." 

This Sabbath in both Livestream worship services your Pioneer pastors and Andrews chaplains will read a statement on camera describing where we can go from here. Next steps. Because as history has taught us, if we don't begin somewhere, we won't be going anywhere. With Jesus.

May
27
May 27, 2020

Did I hear that right? WBBM News Radio from Chicago ran a piece this morning on COVID-19's fall out in the Windy City. Turns out that with so many bars and restaurants empty during this lockout, the rodents used to feeding off the garbage in the back alley have hit the road in search of new food sources, such as residential domiciles. We're talking rats! Says Robert Villamil, owner of Crow Pest Control: "'Rats are wild and are looking for food and trying to survive'" (abc7chicago.com/amp/coronavirus-rats-chicago-rat-warning-cdc/6213457). Turns out the Centers for Disease Control is warning now of "'unusual or aggressive rodent behavior'" from rats starved out of their usual haunts in big cities (ibid). Moral of the story–like rats, sin feeds on garbage kept "out back"–get rid of the garbage if you don't want the rat feasting off of you! 

And did you hear about the new app developed by Apple and Google? Twenty-two countries and some US states have requested the use of their new technology. The Swiss COVID app enables "automated contact tracing ... using smartphones to detect when two people are close enough to each other for long enough that there is significant risk of contagion, so that one can be warned if the other is later diagnosed with having the disease" (bbc.com). Moral of the story–your mother was right, "birds of a feather flock together," so beware of who it is you're getting close to⁠–they may be wearing more than enticing perfume!

And finally, this afternoon, if all goes according to schedule, a towering SpaceX rocket will lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida–destination: the International Space Station. Strapped inside the command module will be NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, both repeat visitors to outer space. This "will mark the first time in history that a commercial aerospace company has carried humans into Earth's orbit" (amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/05/26/tech/spacex-nasa-launch-may-27-scn/index.html). And after a decade, this also "will usher in the return of human spaceflight to US soil" (ibid). Turns out the astronauts out there will be in a healthier domain than their Earth home, now contaminated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Moral of the story–you may never become an astronaut, but the day is coming when humans will blast off from this Earth on a fiery cloud to a pure and uncontaminated atmosphere and land called Heaven–they are taking reservations as we speak!

Three simple stories–one connecting truth–all about Jesus. Having willingly sacrificed His life (forever) to love you and me back to Him, He is the one Being who is (1) a Master at both moral pest and garbage control (with our permission, of course); (2) a Specialist at protective social distancing when the contagion is sin and not a virus; and (3) the Agent in charge of all one-way traffic to Paradise, reservations required. What a Savior, what a Friend.

Reminds me of a song we sing. Why don't you hum along as we read the words together: "Hallelujah! what a Savior! Hallelujah! what a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end" ("Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners"  No. 187 Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal).

May
20
May 20, 2020

That’s the question on all our minds as we await the governor’s new pronouncement. Can you believe we’ve been locked down together for eleven weeks now? So with the rest of the nation slowly opening back up, when will Michigan be unlocked and we can go back to church?

That will be the question on the minds of your church leaders—the Pioneer board and the board of elders—this next Tuesday evening. When are we going to open? And how should we open? Shall we open all at once for Sabbath services? Or should we open gradually, a progressive opening from a single service to Sabbath Schools to a second service?

The good news is Andrews University has announced plans to reopen this campus to the students for face-to-face instruction beginning on Monday, August 24. And as the campus church, we have the privilege of crafting our Pioneer calendar so as to be ready for that highly anticipated new beginning.

Our leaders this Tuesday will consider not only a time table for Pioneer's reopening but will also put in motion very important safety protocols (as recommended by our Safety Committee) for social distancing, face masks, sanitizing, et al. Coming to our renovated sanctuary last August may have seemed a bit complicated—but given what needs to be in place coming back this time certainly takes complication to a new level!

And so we are asking our members and friends of our congregation to join us in earnestly seeking God’s wisdom and providential guidance regarding the decisions that must be made. He quickly and skillfully guided us out of our sanctuary and Sabbath School rooms for this emergency—and we can be confident He will safely and successfully guide us back into the sacred spaces so dear to our hearts. “Lo, I am with you always—even to the end of the world,” Jesus has promised us. With His presence, we will be walking into the best new year we have ever had. With Him, how could it be otherwise?

May
13
May 13, 2020

I pulled a book out of my library last week by one of a handful of authors I return to, Philip Yancey. Where Is God When It Hurts still is a powerful treatment of the painful subject of human suffering. I went back through it, this time taking notes, given the front and center place the pandemic has bestowed suffering.

Yancey quotes the novelist Peter De Vries, who “called the problem of pain ‘the question mark turned like a fishhook in the human heart’” (20). The snagging fishhook of Why?

In response to suffering, Christ Himself side-stepped that question mark. He did with Job. Did it with the disciples. Did it with the reporters regarding the bloody massacre by Pilate. Did it with the two heart-broken sisters of Lazarus. Why? Because there is no quick-fix quip to Why?

Because C. S. Lewis may be right: “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (The Problem of Pain in Yancey). 

Besides, could it be the How? is more critical than the Why?

Last Sabbath afternoon many celebrated with Lowell Hamel and his family over his brush with Covid-19 death (see www.facebook.com/lakeunionherald/videos/242742926827740/). Had the interview ended with the Doxology, we would all have stood in gratitude to God. But later that very night another member of our Congregation was rushed to the hospital with life-threatening complications. His text three days later simply testified, “I’m ready either way, now or later.”

Neither the now healed doctor nor the still suffering member can answer the Why? But both may testify to the How? of suffering—how, no matter what the outcome may turn out to be, we can know One who suffers beside us. Because “love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4). And “God is love” (1 John 4:8). This means no matter how long we suffer through this pandemic, there is One who is pinned to our sides in our suffering. “Like a fishhook.” And He shall yet have the last word—which will not end with a question mark. Ever again.

May
6
May 6, 2020

Last week the leaders of the Greater New York and the North-Eastern conferences invited me to a Zoom conversation. (Will there be Zoom in heaven?—I am praying not—it’s not that I’m ungrateful for the technology—but oh boy, after a while it sure loses its shine!) In conversation with these church leaders in the Big Apple, I learned that this COVID-19 pandemic has not only turned New York City into the nation’s epicenter for this coronavirus. It has ravaged the Seventh-day Adventist community—to the place we have 400 of our brothers and sisters now infected with the deadly disease, and another 100 members have already died at its hands.

I listened as they described strategies they have already implemented within their communities—food pantries, health seminars, counseling programs, and other crisis intervention efforts. “We realize that to complete our efforts and represent the gospel in its totality,” one of them emailed me, “we need to give more direct attention to presenting Jesus as the ultimate solution to all our concerns in this crisis—bringing hope and healing to New York.” So, they asked, would I be willing to preach an eight evening series they’re calling “Healing Hope: Renewing Faith for New York.” 

The plan is to live stream (truly live) each evening (7:00) from May 16 - 23, from our living room to their web and social media platforms. The eight messages, I’m already planning, will revolve around two theme texts—“Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4) and “An enemy has done this” (Matthew 13:28)—twin explanations for the ravaging cosmic warfare over this planet that unleashes such untold human suffering.

I tell you all of this for one reason—New York City and its churches and your pastor very much need your intercessory prayers over the next ten days until the series begins, and then the eight days the series continues. How God’s heart aches for the plight of the citizens of New York City, as well as the rest of the world. God is no respecter of persons—His love and compassion stretch out in every direction to draw near to those who suffer. “If not one [sparrow] will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care,” Jesus assured us, “. . . you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-30).

In 1902 Ellen White was moved on behalf of the Big Apple: “New York is ready to be worked. In that great city, the message of truth will be given with the power of God. The Lord calls for workmen. He calls upon those who have gained experience in the cause to take up and carry forward in His fear the work to be done in New York and other large cities of America. He calls also for means to be used in this work” (Evangelism 384). In 1910 came these words that stun me every time I read them: “It is time to wake up the watchmen. I have expended my strength in giving the messages the Lord has given me. The burden of the needs of our cities has rested so heavily upon me that it has sometimes seemed that I should die. May the Lord give wisdom to our brethren, that they may know how to carry forward the work in harmony with the will of the Lord” (ibid 34 emphasis supplied). Has my heart ever been so burdened for any city at all?

Pray for New York City, and please pray for me “that whenever I speak, words may be given me to that I will fearlessly [and compassionately] make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). You’ll be in good hands here—God has three gifted preachers who will deliver His Word the next three Sabbaths. So please, pray for us all—that this pandemic may open up a “great door for effective work” for all of us, for Jesus and His mission on earth.