In April we asked the alumni to share what you are doing to serve your congregations, ministries, workplaces, or communities in response to COVID-19 – and so many of you did! Thank you! We are proud of the ways in which you have adapted and have continued to faithfully shine God’s light during this time.
Not surprisingly, nearly everyone who responded has moved worship services, Bible studies and small groups, classes, counseling sessions, etc. online via Facebook Live, Zoom or other platforms, or are recording them ahead and posting them online. Many have also set up systems to reach out to individual members of their church via phone or email.
Many others have begun, or stepped up, services around food, including setting up food pantries or making and delivering meals to the elderly and others in need. Others are working collaboratively in new or unprecedented ways with fellow churches, local governments, and other businesses and organizations to meet practical needs—like food, medicine, and masks—for the most vulnerable in their communities.
Below we have highlighted twelve alumni who represent a variety of the responses. You can “read more” by clicking the link below each photo. To see all of the responses, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
Casey Shutt Pastor & Church Planter MACH ’05, MAR ’05
“We began to realize a global pandemic is a fantastic time to start a church.”
Casey was planting a new church, King’s Cross Church in Oklahoma City, when the Coronavirus hit. Despite COVID-19, the new church plant forged ahead with its initial launch date for March 29th after much prayer and discussion.
Casey shared, “We began to realize a global pandemic is a fantastic time to start a church. After all, a quick survey of church history suggests the Church does some of its best work amidst crisis.”
Since the launch, King’s Cross Church has transitioned to live Sunday services via YouTube Live, developed a video series called “Little Church” to target homes as sites of worship and spiritual formation, meets with the youth twice a week via Zoom, conducts weekly prayer meetings via Zoom, is sending Care Kits to families in the congregation as well as helping neighbors with grocery trips and errands, has assigned eight families to remain in weekly contact with other members of the congregation, and has paired up families together for Zoom dinners to connect and establish community.
Casey notes how King’s Cross Church has been connecting with other churches online as well, some of which are led by other Gordon-Conwell alums. Casey looks forward to witnessing how God works in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Isabel JeeHyun Park runs HealinGrace Counseling as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Virginia and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Massachusetts who works with adults who suffer from depression, anxiety, professional challenges, marital conflicts and PTSD through EMDR therapy, spiritual direction and life coaching. As phone and video sessions have been a consistent aspect of Isabel’s practice for clients from a distance, Isabel recalled the transition since the pandemic to have been relatively smooth.
She noted, “working with people of diverse ethnicities and walks of life, I notice committed prayer, devotion, and fellowship is what sustains people through the ups and downs of life,” and found this to be true for individuals, couples, lay people and ministers alike.
It has been Isabel’s prayer that the Christian body be doers of the Word rather than mere hearers of the Word. “As we lose many things in life due to the spreading virus, what is truly precious is becoming crystal clear,” she reflected. She signed off with an encouragement to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ through this time and to come forth more precious than the refined gold.
Marcus is Teaching Pastor at Providence Bible Church in Denver, CO. In this compelling Denver news story, he is interviewed about the work his church is doing, in partnership with six other churches, to serve their neighbors in need during the COVID-19 crisis. This group of churches, under the name Love Northeast Denver, provides masks, grocery and prescription pickup and delivery, child-care, counseling, and rent assistance. They also make up COVID care packages with essential supplies for those who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and need help. Volunteers deliver the care package, pray with the individual, and follow-up every two days until the person has recovered. Since the time of the news story in March, the project has grown to nearly 200 volunteers serving hundreds of people all over Denver. You can learn more about it on the project website.
Ted Martin, Senior Pastor of Hampton Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania, wrote in about his experience with COVID-19: “We recognized that this was a very unique opportunity to advance the gospel utilizing a form of worship that would be inviting to the viewer.” Ted reflects on the great fun of working collaboratively with his staff in assembling virtual worship services while social distancing.
Hampton Presbyterian has retooled their sermon presentation to be an interactive and discussion-based activity. “We didn’t want this to be a passive activity with a one-camera-angle presentation,” Ted noted. He acknowledged both the enjoyable and stressful elements of what has become known as “Production Day.”
With an hour-long Sunday service each week in addition to being on broadcast TV three days a week, Ted asks for prayer in perseverance as he and his team increasingly recognize the value of corporate worship while longing to be together in person again. “We have much to learn,” he observed, “and I hope all the good that has come out of this will be retained.”
To learn more about what Hampton Presbyterian is working on, you may visit their YouTube channel.
In 2019 Sungjoo Park moved from South Korea to Puebla, Mexico to direct a small seminary named ITP (Instituto Teologico de Puebla). Since COVID-19 hit Mexico in March, the greatest threat has been the lack of food. He recounts one opportunity he had in providing food for sixty-one families in early May. “Some people have to eat just one meal per day,” Sungjoo recounted.
To assist further, he intentionally focused on the needs of one small town near him in Mexico, San Francisco, occupied by one hundred families. He shared how “we thought that we could provide some cheap food for them for three weeks.” Yet when COVID-19 stretched beyond the three-week mark, Sungjoo’s church and friends back in South Korea jumped in to support his efforts. He has also been serving the people by providing food packages that include tiny cards with Bible verses hoping for opportunities to evangelize and engage with the people about Christianity.
As Sungjoo shares his experience, he asks for prayer for protection against the virus and that the people of Mexico would turn their hearts toward God and be saved.
For a glimpse of Sungjoo’s ministry in action, click HERE.
Mary is a chaplain, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Licensed Professional Counselor working with the FQHC organization, Healthcare for the Homeless-Houston. “I work with an amazing organization,” she said as she described how it provides free medical care for homeless men and women.
When COVID-19 hit, it presented numerous challenges for Mary and those she worked with in assisting the homeless. They faced the extra challenge of obtaining food and other necessities, as well as responding to the increased anxiety of their clients concerned about their own health and feelings of heightened vulnerability. “There are restrictions [the homeless] have not had to respond to in the past,” Mary explained.
The organization continues to serve the homeless who come to the clinic and have also partnered with the City of Houston in conducting tests. “Like so many in my profession, regardless of which hat I wear, I am having to engage by phone,” she shared. Mary continues to keep appointments this way while her office phone is forwarded to a temporary cell. She also calls clients without appointments to periodically check in on them. Mary is grateful for the support she receives from The Alliance of Baptists who endorse her work as a chaplain in this time. She reflects, “As I want my clients to know they are not alone, The Alliance helps me know that I am not alone.”
Mary asks for prayer for all the Healthcare for the Homeless clinics across the country, as they serve an often-ignored population, as well as prayer for the front-line workers. While Mary works from home, she feels deeply for the doctors and medical staff who engage daily with whoever walks through the organization’s door.
Dan Fisher, Lead Pastor for Sunrise Ministries in Michigan recalls the church’s decision on March 16th to transform their building: “we decided to turn our church into a food and self-care pantry.” Dan described their process of serving three days’ worth of food to families twice a week. The rest of the weekdays comprise of receiving food and monetary donations with particular help from Dunkin Donuts, Pepperidge Farm, Aldi, Walmart, Perrigo, Love INC, and local churches and local farmers. “In collaborating together,” he shared, “we’ve raised $21,000 and served over 3,000 families out of our church building.” Dan and Sunrise Ministries has also helped other churches provide meals to senior citizens and in supplying volunteers to deliver food to those unable to drive.
Jeff Winters shared that First Presbyterian church where he pastors near Disney World began offering Drive-In worship services on the church back lawn since Coronavirus shut down public worship services. The first five Sundays recorded an average of two hundred cars per service. Jeff described how they set up sound equipment on flatbeds and also made the service available to listen in via an FM channel. “‘Honk if you Love Jesus’ has taken on a whole new meaning,” Jeff noted. All services have also been live streamed.
In addition to Drive-In and live stream services, the church has an active Food Pantry, handing out fifty bags of food per week. With COVID-19, that number has jumped to 200 bags per week. Jeff shared that “before people receive the food we pray for them and ask they if they have a relationship with Jesus.”
Tuesday evenings are designated for an online musical worship service for forty-five minutes. The church’s musicians and soloists are featured, and a short message is given.
Seth Kim Lead Pastor & Global Leader D.Min. ’15
“We are united in this effort to be a blessing to our city.”
Judy Heath has been working as a linguist with Wycliff Bible Translators in N’Djamena, Chad. She wrote in describing how a number of language teams are using translation expertise to create COVID-19 information flyers and videos into several of Chad’s 132 local languages. “The team I work with has created materials in Chadian Arabic,” she tells. Judy writes these materials in Roman script (the French alphabet) and in Arabic script to “reach the maximum number of people.”
Judy has shared an example of the work she’s been doing with Wycliff Bible Translators in making COVID-19 information videos HERE.
Stephen Hiemstra wrote in about his response to the coronavirus as an author and publisher. He shared, “as a Christian author, my primary response to the crisis since March 25 has been to write a weekly commentary on the corona life, gave a related bilingual review, and has been tabulating coronavirus statistics upon request. In addition, Stephen’s new book, Living in Christ (April 2020) incorporates COVID-19 as well.
Stephen observes that the majority of his interactions with others increasingly move toward online and telephone methods and that he has been engaging with connection differently since COVID-19. As an example, he shared: “On Easter Sunday, I took my laptop over to my parents place. We watched their church online, ordered pizza, and held a family Zoom conference–all three things were a first for my parents.”
Stephen Hiemstra Author & Publisher M.Div. ’13
“…As a Christian author, my primary response…has been to write a weekly commentary…”
Jan Mullis has worked for the past four years with Friend to Friend, a shelter for abused women and men in developing and implementing an educational campaign to prevent human trafficking. Jan noted that this campaign gained interest and traction from the faith community, community-at-large and schools. As a result, Jan spent a majority of her time speaking and educating.
Prior to COVID-19, Jan was asked to expand her campaign to reach the hospitality industry. Her initial no due to lack of time to develop a program turned into a yes with the unexpected extra time on her hands. “The hotel industry is a key link in the chain of prevention and what started out to seem to be a disruption in the fight against this horrible crime has turned out to be a huge step toward the eradication of it. Praise the Lord.”, she shared. She also noted that several pastors in her county have agreed that this human trafficking issue is the issue of the church in our time.
In light of COVID-19, Jan asks for prayer for wisdom and guidance in writing and development in her role as educator.
For Seth Kim, the Lead Pastor for Harvest Mission Community Church – Hong Kong and Global Leader for Harvest Mission International, COVID-19 takes place in line after a pro-democracy protest in June 2019 and university shut-downs in November 2019. As COVID-19 hit China and spread across Asia, Seth has attempted to settle into a new normal. “In the midst of everything that is going on, we have been able to listen to the Spirit’s leading,” he shared.
He explains the challenge of thinking outside the box in finding new ways to bless the city of Hong Kong and its people. In response, the church has partnered with other ministries to pass out masks to the under-privileged in various communities. International churches in Hong Kong have come together on a city-wide level on Sundays, where the different international pastors collaborate together in a video as they record a reading of the Psalms to remind the congregations that we are united in this effort to be a blessing to our city. Seth has observed an increase in prayer movements throughout the church and the city since COVID-19 began as well.
Seth asks to be kept in prayer and ends with encouragement for us all: “God is still good!”
Daniel Hayner, Director of Life Groups and Discipleship at Antioch Community Church in Beverley, Massachusetts. Since COVID-19, Daniel has been part of a team dedicated to grocery shopping for Hamilton-Wenham residents. Daniel describes that this service targets the elderly and vulnerable, currently serving between ten to fifteen individuals.
“Our prayer,” Daniel shared, “is that as the people of God step up to serve practical needs, this will result in open doors to prayer, share the Gospel, and create curiosity about the church as a compassionate resource.”
“We decided to turn our church into a food and self-care pantry.”
As pastor of Greater Framingham Community Church, Rev. Dr. Lloyd has led his congregation and staff through lots of changes during COVID-19:
All services are live streamed on Sunday mornings. Adult Sunday school gathers by Google Suite and adult Christian Education continues via Zoom with Children’s Sunday school teachers mailing out material to parents. There are intercessory prayer conference calls and Bible studies over Zoom. A Young Adult “chat” occurs online, as well as Men’s and Women’s Bible studies via Zoom.
Church members are volunteering at a local food pantry and support families in emergency, food insecurity and utilities crises. Deacon care groups have prayer lines throughout the week, marriage counseling and wedding sessions continue over Zoom, and weekly conference calls occur with state and local elected leaders and clergy groups to conduct update assessments.
These changes are in addition to the various ministries holding their monthly ministry sessions over Zoom. Other ministries starting to take shape include: youth fellowship rap sessions over Zoom, a food distribution website for food delivery services to local families, upgrading the live stream system, the AV ministry, and transitioning content to YouTube.
All Alumni Responses
Select a button to read all of the alumni responses in each area of service or ministry.
Leon (M.Div. ’08) and Rebecca (MAR ’09) Stevenson
Executive Pastor (Leon)
Music Minister and Bible Study Leader (Rebecca)
After graduating from Gordon-Conwell, Leon and Rebecca Stevenson, along with several other GCTS alumni, planted Mack Avenue Community Church (MACC) in an inner-city neighborhood of Detroit. In addition to a thriving church, they also founded MACC Development, a community development non-profit that offers children’s sports and tutoring programs, housing and blight reduction, and economic development in the 48214 zip code – the neighborhood surrounding the church.
When the COVID-19 crisis hit, all of the regular programs of both the church and MACC Development had to be either temporarily stopped or moved online. Church services, Bible studies, leadership meetings, etc. were moved to livestream or Zoom. The Elder team, Deacons and small group leaders reach out to each member or regular attender to check in and offer practical help with anything that is needed. One church member also set up a video-chat group for the whole church using the Marco Polo app, so that members could share needs or joys with each other throughout the week in a short video message and other members could offer support or praise in reply.
At MACC Development, they created an online hub of resources for the neighborhood, including food, clothing, and housing or rent help. Neighbors in any kind of need can request assistance, and other individuals can volunteer to help or to donate money. You can learn more about this at https://www.maccdevelopment.com/ and https://48214care.com/
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