By Kenneth James Maputol
Pastor of First Davao City Church
As a measure to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the entire nation under “Community Quarantine”. The national mandate should be strictly implemented in every Local Government Unit (LGU) and Davao City is not exempt from the order. The word “social distancing” began to take power as it has stopped all kinds of gatherings including church worship. Churches have no choice but to submit to the guidelines instructed by the government.
It was on March 15, 2020 that we from First Davao City General Baptist Church held our last corporate worship because of this pandemic. Our ministries inside the church and in our neighboring communities took a break as people are advised to stay int heir houses.
As a Pastor, its very unusual to be placed in this kind of situation. We were trained in the Bible College to be people oriented and my life has always been surrounded with great individuals but suddenly the church is empty and no one is around. There are lots of questions and uncertainties arising like how long will this situation be? When will we be able to start gathering in our church again? With all the cancelled church activities, what else could the church do? How could I minister and comfort my brothers and sisters in Christ in this challenging time? These are the questions that I keep on asking myself.
It is quite sad that we don’t have big gatherings of people in our churches today but it is truly comforting how the church has shifted to house churches. Most of our members have family devotions and Bible readings in their houses. They continue their worship with family on Sundays, encouraging, praying for one another and watching their Pastor preach online.
As a Facebook user, I see this social network site as a platform that can be useful in delivering God’s word to His people in this community quarantine. Many of my church mates use it and I noticed that at least one member in every family in our church has a Facebook account. Whit this, I began preaching online, posting it on our church FB page and my personal account, delivering God’s word in an unexpected way. I know that I am not alone in this, many of my co-Pastors started doing their online preaching jut to sustain the spiritual needs of the church. Hopefully, we can go back to what is normal as soon as possible. Though we still have members in the church who were not reached by this medium, on the other hand, we have touched other people who don’t go to church who are desperately in need of God’s love and comfort of Jesus this time.
We also launched a prayer request online in our church were people can just type their prayer concerns and the church will pray for them. Likewise, phone calls and comforting text messages provided deeper sense of value this time. We believe that the church should be the voice of moderation in these uncertain times and the one reminding Christians not to panic.
One of the most challenging moments that I faced in the ministry today is to provide spiritual care personally to our members. My heart is breaking that I can’t even go to the hospitals and pray for the sick. For this time, Pastors here are just allowed only to minister and do committal service. Personally, I also felt that one of the roles of the church should assist the poorest of the poor by providing food and supplying their needs but sad to say because of strict implementations of the government to travel even here in Davao City, we could not do that.
As the government is doing their best to provide relief goods or cash assistance to every Filipino family, there are still thousands of Filipinos who have not received help form the government, and one of the sectors in the community that has not received help from the government are our pastors. Please pray for the General Baptist Pastors here in the Philippines. As all of us know that many of our churches are not financially able to support our Pastor as most of us receive support from a Sunday to Sunday basis. As the church closed, many of our Pastors and their respective families, are in hunger and in a difficult situation right now. Please, include us in your prayers.
We are in the middle of this COVID-19 right now, my prayer is that God will deliver us from this pandemic and draw us closer to His presence. Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”