Three months ago our house was overflowing with joyful expectation. It was Christmas Eve and the house was full: me, my wife, our children, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, three grandchildren, and my mother-in-law. We were preparing to eat our family’s traditional dinner of beef stew and homemade dinner rolls (my son-in-law bakes well). The grandkids could barely restrain themselves as they impatiently waited to unwrap the generous array of packages under the Christmas tree.
Who knew that the Christmas Eve service at Hope Church in Everett, Washington would follow with a message of great hope? The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). Everyone rejoiced in the good news that the Savior had been born and went home with holiday joy.
Who knew, that in the next few days, news reports would break of a new virus causing pneumonia in a place called Wuhan, China? Living in the Pacific Northwest, news from China is a normal thing. We have a large Asian population and our area is economically influenced greatly by trade and shipping with countries west of us, across the Pacific Ocean. But Wuhan seemed so distant, so non-threatening.
Who knew, within the month, the United States would have its first confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus? The patient was from a town, minutes from where I live and the church I serve. LITERALLY, just minutes away! Wuhan was now on our doorstep. The patient was being treated at Providence Medical Center in Everett, WA. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have been to that hospital to visit patients over the years. Thankfully, the virus patient recovered and was released from the hospital. Crisis averted, or so it seemed.
Who knew the celebration of the patient’s recovery would be so short lived? For on February 29, 2020—yes, it was LEAP DAY—the United States would have its first fatality from this dreaded virus. It was so unfair—undiagnosed, unsuspecting, an aged nursing home resident in Kirkland, WA had somehow contracted the virus and passed away from respiratory failure. This news began a cascade of panic and fear. Apprehension and uncertainty became the norm. Every day there were new reports, more changes, unprecedented closures! And the brutal statistics continued to project a dismal outcome. As of March 30, Washington has had 4,896 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 200 deaths. The great majority of these have been in King County and a significant number in Snohomish county. The CLB has seven congregations here: Rock of Ages in Seattle, Regeneration Church in Sammamish, Maple Park in Lynnwood, Hope Church in Everett, Grace in Edmonds, Anchor of Hope in Stanwood, and Word of Life in Marysville.
Who knew how fast the chaos would spread to the rest of the United States and the rest of the world? Who knew the impact on homes, families, churches, schools, vocations and communities? Who knew the frustrations, the adjustments, the toilet paper shortage, the cancellations, the chaos, the suffering, and the deaths?
Who knew? God knew and God knows! Please read all of Psalm 139, but treasure verse 5, “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” This COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing any of us have ever seen. It has changed our world. But the world belongs to our heavenly Father. He knew and he knows exactly what we need. God loves us, God cares for us, God is with us, God is for us, and God will save us. An angel announced it to shepherds long ago. That Word is still good news for today!
Rev. Marty Valder is Pastor of Hope Church at Silver Lake in Everett, Washington.