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Dear Friends,

A COVID-19 message of hope and prayer.

Dear Friends,
God has given Rose and me a grand and full life on his earth, with all kinds of adventures and experiences that have taken us to many nations, new cultures. We’ve eaten lots of different foods, endured unpredictable dangers and suffered tropical illnesses. Yet never have we seen reports of illness invading entire nations and communities within weeks as we have with this corona virus. Just last week I was in the Dominican Republic visiting missionaries and attending their spiritual retreat outside Santo Domingo. Before I left home, we all followed then-current protocols, which did not discourage meeting in large groups. By the second day of the five-day retreat, things started changing rapidly. By the fourth day my supervisor in Grand Rapids urged me to return to Canada as soon as possible. Our logistics staff incredibly booked my returns flights for two days earlier than planned. I entered the door of our home at 1 AM Sunday morning, having flown from the DR to JFK to Buffalo, where I picked up my car and crossed at Fort Erie.

Since then Rose and I have self-quarantined, venturing out for solitary walks, cleaning out flower beds, living easily off the goods she warehoused in the days before my return. As well, since we are also officially in the highly vulnerable age over 70, we have been blessed by neighbours and younger church members who have offered to pick up anything we need from Metro or Family Foods. So, it’s easy for us privileged seniors to re-imagine this time as an enforced holiday in a comfortable place – our home. A large backyard and a garage and basement full of projects challenge me to really get to work with unplanned free time. What couple who love each other wouldn’t want a two-week holiday?

You are in our prayers
But for millions of others, that’s impossible, and not a few of you are among those people. Your spouse may be unable to work from home, or is laid off a job without pay or certain return date. You or your children might have the sniffles or a cough, which you legitimately fear might be something scarily different from a cold. I promise no simplistic clichés. I do want you to know that you are all in our prayers here – prayers for relief from anxiety, for continuing health or recovery from those sniffles and cough, for care for each other and yourselves physically and spiritually. With that I offer you a few suggestions from my very wise supervisor at Resonate Global Mission, Nalini Suganandam Vanden Bosch. She suggests that we all respond thoughtfully to the following questions for self-care:

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?
  • What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
  • Am I getting outside and moving my body today?

To these I add:

  • How can I relieve my children’s, my aging parents’ fears and anxieties?
  • What Bible stories or passages reminding us of God’s sovereignty and care will bless me and my circle of family, friends, co-workers?

I’ll conclude by noting what our own immediate family of three daughters, two sons-in-law and five grandchildren, scattered from St. Catharines, to Grand Rapids, to Ottawa, to Washington, D.C., were led to during a Zoom conversation last Wednesday afternoon. Erika, our eldest, a chaplain at Blodgett Hospital in GR, noted that she and husband Tim are stressed with the demands of work and having teenage children home all day, every day. Then she said, “You know, when we were kids, you read to us every night before bedtime. How about reading to your grandkids every day to give us a break and to deepen your relationships with the grands?” So, at 1 PM EST yesterday we linked on Zoom with the whole outfit. I read two stories from Stuart Maclean’s Stories from the Vinyl Café – requested by one granddaughter. After a half hour, we sat and chatted among us: What did you do when you went outside? How’s your homework going? Have you clobbered each other yet? (No…. but…) Maybe you want to engage your kids’ grandparents similarly? Everybody will love it, I’d bet a whack.

Tomorrow I’ll read a couple of chapters from James Herriot’s The Lord God Made Them All and we’ll take it from there, one day at a time in God’s world, in our new normal, trusting God will lead and always love. May God bless you to find ways to do good things too, protecting yourselves and others by staying away, by calling, praying – and always washing your hands.

With prayers for Wisdom and blessings from unexpected sources, I am

Yours in Christ,
Jim Dekker,
Chair of Christian Courier Board

  • Jim is a semi-retired Christian Reformed pastor and missionary who now works for Resonate Global Mission ten hours a week as "Member Care Coordinator," which means "Pastor to Missionaries," because where lots of our missionaries work it's inadvisable to use pastor or missionary publicly. That cool job puts a framework to his week, keeps him in contact with hundreds of even cooler servants of Jesus all over the world, compels him to travel to visit them once in a while, though he connects with them via email and Zoom most of the time. The rest of the time Jim reads books--lots of free ones that he "pays for" with reviews. He was acclaimed President of Christian Courier Board of Directors while on his way to that meeting from a long ophthalmologist appointment. As long as God gives his wife Rose and him health, they ride a tandem bike around Niagara and other places in the bikeable months, paddle canoes and kayaks, visit children and grandchildren in the distant places they live because their parents provided them poor role models for stability of residence.

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