Yesterday we recorded the 400th, 401st and 402nd Beyond Today television programs before a capacity audience in our media studio. The titles were “Making Your Life Work,” “Eat Clean” and “Was Jesus a Socialist or Capitalist?”
Also this week we were able to make four podcasts in our radio studio. Today’s release about the coronavirus was recorded this past Tuesday and has up-to-date commentary about the COVID-19 virus.
Bev and I visited Fargo, North Dakota, last weekend where we attended the funeral of pastor Herb Teitgen. He died while actively serving in the ministry and brethren from near and far gathered to reflect on his life. We also spent time with the new pastor, Ken Skorseth, and his wife, Dianne, and discussed how best to serve the congregations in Bismarck, Minot and Fargo, North Dakota, as well as Winnipeg, Manitoba. We were able to reconnect with many people whom we have known for decades. We stayed with deacon and deaconess Gary and JoAnn Wendt in Moorhead, Minnesota, during this time of grieving, reflection and moving forward.
On Sunday, we were notified about the death of Diana Marx in the United Kingdom, wife of longtime elder and pastor Gerhard Marx. I have asked Gerhard to write a separate tribute for her. He and his wife were wonderful people who truly served with their whole hearts in Bricket Wood and pastored various churches in the United Kingdom. He was an Ambassador College faculty member as well as author of many articles for church publications. As a student at Bricket Wood, I remember them well as being so hospitable to us young students who were far from home.
A tornado ripped through Nashville, Tennessee, two days ago and as of today we know that at least 25 people are dead. Gary Petty, who lives nearby, was driving a few hours later to the home office to present his Beyond Today program. None of our brethren have been injured.
COVID-19—and a Rapidly Changing World
How fast things can change! When Bev and I were in Hong Kong two months ago, none of us suspected that a deadly viral global threat was quietly mutating in the city of Wuhan, China, (population 9 million) north of us. Bev’s and my recent experiences in India, Angola, Malawi and Zambia personally underscored for us just how vulnerable and fragile this world is. Since that short time ago, much of the world has been thrown into disruptive chaos from the emerging coronavirus.
Whether or not the worst-case scenario occurs, this coronavirus situation represents a real crisis. As this column goes to be distributed, California—the state with the most known cases of COVID-19—now functions under a formal state of emergency. Depending on how the virus spreads in the United States, more dramatic measures may be taken in the coming weeks and months, including school shutdowns and companies having employees work from home, like what has occurred in other countries.
We should be praying fervently for God’s supernatural protection and guidance for all, and especially for all in the Church of God fellowship. This includes praying that God’s will be done, and prayers for favor and grace as matters unfold. Now is the time to watch and pray (Matthew 26:41 Matthew 26:41Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
American King James Version×) and to make physical preparations and changes. We are preparing up-to-the minute podcasts, new BT Daily productions and other lines of communication to keep our members up to speed.
The Wall Street Journal estimates that more than $3.6 trillion has been lost in manufacturing, air travel, retail sales and more. More than 70 major airlines have canceled flights to China. Many top-level major meetings, from cybersecurity to technology to others, are being canceled, limiting participation, or taking other measures for previously scheduled events.
With all of this uncertainty, we thank the Almighty that we in the Church have the sure knowledge that God is aware of all these developments! God is in control and God has a purpose for each of us. Some areas of the United States, especially in California, have shown signs of emotional strain and panic. We have God as our Rock, our Fortress and our Refuge. We have no need to panic.
Rest assured that we are monitoring public health conditions at or near all of our Feast sites. The Feast of Tabernacles is still more than seven months away, and many things could happen between now and then, including a resolution of this global situation.
From a prophetic perspective, some have asked, does this global epidemic herald the beginning of the prophesied Pale Horse of Revelation? The present answer is no. But now IS the time for sober reflection, thought and preparation!
What should we be doing at this time? As officials are still researching the virus, many specific risk factors for the disease remain unknown.
However, from 80,000 cases in China and the more than 50 countries where the virus has spread, the virus appears at the moment to be the most troublesome and potentially deadly to people who are age 60 and older, especially those with certain chronic medical conditions. Several medical professionals have speculated that many people will be infected with the virus; but, for most, the symptoms may be mild and similar to having a cold. Many people may experience no symptoms at all. There are still many unknowns.
We should realize that the virus already impacts church members. Mary Ong, a member living in Hong Kong who recently hosted the McNeelys and us on our recent trip, said that she is managing to continue her education work. As she emailed me: “It does affect my teaching, but God is good. I am grateful that I am able to teach my students online through Skype, Zoom and FB messenger.”
From a physical preparation perspective, here are some steps that each of us should be considering:
- Now is the time for all of us in the church to draw closer. We should all be reaching out to each other, particularly to older members of our congregations. We should all ensure that open lines of communication exist. Everyone should have a personal contact list of who to call in case of an emergency. As reasonably possible, we should all stay in touch by phone, email and online.
- The virus can be transmitted from human-to-human contact, so we should be practicing simple hygienic measures like thoroughly washing our hands. We should be disinfecting surfaces and areas where people have frequent contact.
- If someone is sick, or feels sick, they should stay at home.
- COVID-19 testing kits in the United States are in rapid production and are expected to be more widely available.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer sound advice at this web page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/get-your-household-ready-for-COVID-19.html. I recommend that you read it and take action to prepare. We will be providing updates regularly of this coronavirus situation to all of our members online.
Is this a sign of things to come? As Jesus clearly stated, many things must first take place before end time events ensue, but He emphasized that we all should be preparing ourselves, as “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 Matthew 24:44Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes.
American King James Version×, English Standard Version).
We have confidence in our biblical understanding of major global prophesied events, which are expressed well in our Bible Study Guide The Horsemen of Revelation. On the coming Day of the Lord four sequential global events will take place. (And I might mention that if you haven’t recently reviewed our literature on end-time events, now would be a good time to begin such a study.)
These events are biblically pictured as four horsemen. They picture the world being deceived and engulfed in a false religion (a White Horse), followed by global conflict (pictured by a Red Horse of war), terrible starvation (pictured by the Black Horse of famine), and global epidemics (pictured by the Pale Horse of pestilence). While the current situation may grow worse, it is not yet on the dramatic level of these prophesied events.
We do need to understand and appreciate that the spread of coronavirus may get bad in the United States and elsewhere with thousands of deaths and economic upheaval, or we may be blessed with a smaller, less impactful outcome. At the time of writing, the number of cases appears to be easing in China. That’s a hopeful trend.
I put together first-hand accounts from our members in Hong Kong who are near the crisis. These can be found in a separate post here: ucg.org/members/news/the-coronavirus-crisis-first-hand-reports-from-china
In the meantime, prepare now—especially spiritually! And pray fervently now more than ever, “Thy Kingdom come!”