The fortunate and the struggling

Photo: Katerina Holmes, Pexels. Photo: Katerina Holmes, Pexels.

A couple of months ago, I was asked to reflect on how I am experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is some of what I said.

At first, the thought of not going to church crippled me. I draw strength from fellowshiping with my Christian sisters and brothers. I enjoy a Holy Ghost party!

As a teacher, I had to transition to remote learning — and boy, that was different. It came with many challenges: modifying my lesson plans, holding the attention of my young audience.

Most parents of the children I teach do not have electronic devices to connect online. Others have to work and cannot assist their children with an online class.

We teachers had to undergo months of training on virtual teaching and remote learning, which was stressful.

But through it all, trust and hope in God’s promises kept us going.

Like the school, the church began an online fellowship, which was extremely helpful. Strangely enough — comfortingly enough — church attendance grew. People logged on to Zoom from across the country and even outside the country.

A book that’s helped me during the pandemic is Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief and Uncertainty by Walter Brueggemann (Cascade 2020).
I was intrigued by a question Brueggemann asks: Is our relationship with God transactional?
In a transactional relationship, we reap what we sow. A covenant with God is transactional: Humans obey or disobey, followed by consequences: blessings or curses. This is a way that Christians traditionally have looked at the world and our relationship with God.

But Brueggemann advises that in what he calls times of wonderment — like the coronavirus pandemic — we should step outside the transactional narrative and look to the Creator and creation for a revelation that can bring transformation.

I agree with Brueggemann that what we need first is the fear, wisdom and knowledge of God to help us navigate a season of wonderment.

I draw hope from Scripture: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). This fear is the reverential fear of God (which comes with peace). It activates faith in God and in the Word of promise (divine life insurance or protection described in Psalm 91).

A time of tragedy is a coming-­together time, a time of biblical fulfillment when we are called to be our brother’s keeper and not his accuser.

another question: In what way do you think the pandemic and its impact are a peace and justice issue?

I will offer a couple of answers based on my experience.

Some fortunate (often wealthier) parents can work from home and stay with their children as they study online. Others must go to work and have no one to stay with the children. Many worry about sending their children to school, where they might contract the virus. This hinders the learning and success of the less privileged kids.

There is injustice in our health-care system and insurance. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the homeless and immigrant minority. Testing and treatment are readily available to those better off financially, while not enough attention is paid to the minority.

Where there is division, segregation and injustice, peace and justice are not served. Peace is justice.

I would like to hear from you. How have you experienced the pandemic and its impact?

Or, in what way do you think the pandemic and its impact are a peace and justice issue?

Write to me at anthoniaonye@gmail.com, and I might share your story on this page.

Anthonia Onye

Anthonia Onye

Anthonia Onye is regional minister for Southern California for Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference. Read More

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