It was 3:23 p.m. on a Friday in May when the phone rang. I paused before answering. After a particularly grueling week helping World Renew spread the news about the latest COVID crisis in India that had claimed so many lives, I wasn’t sure I had anything left to give. “Hello, this is Katy Johnson with World Renew.”
The woman on the other end of the line, Jan, was both kind and passionate. An elder from a small Christian Reformed church in West Michigan, Jan had just read the news about the situation in India and had called to request more information about World Renew’s response so she could share it with her church and inspire action.
What proceeded was a brief but moving conversation. Like many CRC elders, Jan described a heartfelt desire to help spread Christ’s love in what we both agreed was a challenging cultural moment.
As we spoke, Jan acknowledged that she had witnessed heated discussions in her faith community about COVID: Masks or no masks? Vaccines or no vaccines? Virtual or in-person church gatherings? Respect for the government? Freedom of expression? What should Christ-followers prioritize, and how?
“I read about India and I feel a deep conviction,” Jan said. “Here, folks have the privilege of refusing masks or rejecting the vaccine. But in India, people would give anything for the chance to be vaccinated or to have safe, clean masks. So how do we love our Indian neighbors?”
Jan wondered how she could share the story of India with her congregation in a way that transcended differences. Was there a way for people with varying opinions to advocate together for equal global access to the vaccine, or to give together to provide hospitals in India with enough oxygen for all the COVID patients who need it? Could Christians feel exasperated with the politics surrounding COVID yet also stand on the front lines of the crisis and respond with compassion?
It was a big ask, but Jan felt determined: “I believe in the power of Jesus Christ, so I don’t feel hopeless.”
The impact of COVID-19 around the world has erased the illusion of easy answers. From the health crisis to the ensuing economic fallout, people are suffering. But that day in May, Jan reminded me that Jesus embraces all who feel powerless, forgotten, and hopeless, be they Romans, Zealots, tax collectors, Samaritans, Pharisees, adulterers, or fishermen, not because of their ideology or faith expression, but because Jesus is love. May we experience and share that same embrace.