We’ve officially been in a global pandemic for a year. So today, I thought I would share a few thoughts and reflections as I think back to this last year.

[Disclaimer: Some countries were experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic before we were in the United States, meaning they have been enduring this for well over a year at this point.]

When all this went down here in the US, I was away at a personal retreat. I was given access to a cabin in the mountains, and I went there to spend a 3-day period with God. However, I started getting a migraine from stress and not eating (I was attempting to fast). When I went into town to get some medicine, my phone suddenly got a signal again, and it started blowing up with texts and voicemails from other church staff with updates and questions about canceling services and student programming. If it wasn’t for my headache, I would have completely been in the dark about this whole thing starting!

And now, it’s hard to believe it has been an entire year! But in another way, it feel like it has lasted longer than a year. I’ve talked with others over this year, and we all have found ourselves thinking the same thing. How can we feel like it just started yesterday and three years ago? It’s weird how our brains can think like that and be tricked into thinking both are real. I’m sure there is a deeper thought there if I let my mind wonder a bit more, but I’ll save that for another blog post.

Like many others, I was guilty of not realizing how serious this was. I knew it was a thing, of course, but really? A global pandemic? No, this is going to be over in a couple weeks! But over time, more and more people I knew contracted COVID-19. Some of them barely had any symptoms, but others had incredibly difficult struggles. And some did not make it. My heart breaks for all those who have lost friends and family during this time!

In the beginning, our student ministry moved to online small groups, which worked well for a few weeks. And then the students got tired of being online. Eventually, we were able to start meeting in person again, outdoors at a local park, and momentum quickly started to build. In fact, I’ve been really pleased with how this year of student ministry has gone, and I’m really excited about the future!

My wife and I were consistently praying for our students to get more “yeses” to their invitations early last year. At the time, we had no clue that God was going to use a pandemic to bring those prayer to fruition, but that’s exactly what He did. We have seen more new students this school year than the previous three years combined. Maybe it is because students are thinking more about spiritual things due to the pandemic? Maybe they have nothing else to do and they are ready to get out of the house? Whatever it might be, our students are hearing yes when they invite their friends to church and youth group, and we are thrilled that God is increasing our reach into our community.

I also think a lot of Christians have been gaining perspective through all of this. Actually, I think everyone has. But specifically, I think a lot of us in the church world have been able to clearly see what is really important. We have done many good things over the years, but those things have often distracted from the better/best things. I know that has been the case for our church, and I’ve heard similar things from other church leaders across the country. This pandemic has allowed us to refocus, and I really hope we can continue that as we move forward.

In connection with that, one of the areas we’ve stepped forward into is community service. Our church has done so many things for local healthcare workers and others on the front lines of this pandemic. We have provided meals, cards, gifts, and more. We have even thanked them in person with clapping and honking from the parking lot. Our students served several local nonprofits over the summer, and we continue to have regular service projects throughout the year. A big byproduct of this last year has been our attention to those around us, especially those in need.

Thanks to actor John Krasinski, we saw how that mindset affected the entire world. His YouTube show, Some Good News, showed off the amazing things people were doing all around the world throughout this pandemic. If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favor and watch it right after you finish reading this blog. But make sure you have some tissues handy!

In the middle of all the great things, we have also seen some absolutely horrible things. On top of the many deaths from COVID-19, we’ve also seen many things that have tore our country apart. Racism has always been a thing, but it hit a huge spike last year. And I don’t know if the political scene has ever been more divided. We’ve also seen people, more than ever, struggle with anxiety issues and suicidal ideation. The number of people who have taken their lives over this last year is staggering. I’m still processing how the church should respond to all of this, but I know we have to do something. And until we figure out a plan, let’s continue to step up and do what we can.

I don’t know when this will be over, or if it will ever actually go away. The sociological side of my brain is really wondering what this will do to our culture. What changes will stick? What will revert to how it was before? How will our mindsets change? How will God use all this? And will we ever see a day when COVID-19 isn’t a thing anymore? I don’t know the answers, and I don’t know how long it will be until I do (or if I ever will). But that side of my brain has definitely been pinging a lot over this past year. This is the stuff that will be in history, sociology, and psychology books in the future. I never expected to live through something that people would eventually be studying. But there are at least a few things now that fall into that category: Columbine, 9-11, and this pandemic.

One thing I am assured of is that God can use this for good. He already has in so many ways! In the middle of the chaos, I want to urge you to look for God. Recognize what He is doing. See where you can jump in and join Him. And be sure to regularly practice gratitude for what you have.

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