March 22, 2020
Some thoughts for these challenging days…
Greetings to the Central Region faithful,
I have a wall hanging in my office with my life verse attractively displayed. The verse is Deuteronomy 8:2, “Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.” At many different points along the way these past 25 years, this verse has been my close companion. These words, and the truth behind them, have been a helpful reminder that life is often a wilderness experience and we wish we’d quickly get out of the wilderness, but God is doing some important work in us through the process of wilderness. This is an important wilderness time for us all. Recent days may seem like they are lasting 40 years. 40 years of seclusion and quarantine, 40 years until we get our next supply of toilet paper, and 40 years until we get a chance to worship again in person makes all of this seem like a very long time. Let us be faithful together and trust that God is doing good work among us despite the challenges we face. We don’t have to rush through the wilderness. In fact, when we do rush, we often miss the most important things God has for us. We are not alone. We have the I AM with us. You all are in my prayers.
Here is some additional information that may be helpful during our wilderness experience:
- Online Giving – Many churches are setting up online giving in recent weeks. There are a lot of companies out there and during this time, many of them are waiving fees associated with online giving. If you have experience with a particular company, I’d love to hear about it. You can email me by clicking here. A number of pastors in the region are using Tithe.ly. Jessica Henks, a pastor in the ABCCR, is familiar with their product and if you’d like to chat with her about her experience, click here. She’s also created a short description of the process that you can access by clicking here.
- Online Worship – Many Central Region Churches are figuring out how to do online worship for the very first time. Some find the process very intimidating. If you’d like some coaching about the process, Joel Schroeder is offering his experience and knowledge to get you started. Feel free to email him for tips and advice. Each Friday or Saturday we’ll be sending out an updated list of Central Region churches that are providing an online worship experience. If your church is not on the list, please email me your information and we’d love to add it to the list.
- Central Baptist Theological Seminary in partnership with Pinnacle Leadership Associates is preparing to launch a 5-year Thriving Congregations Initiative sponsored by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. As part of this effort, there is going to be a free webinar series “Emerging Church Practices” arising out of the coronavirus pandemic. Pinnacle is producing these weekly LIVE webinars to address various topics over the next 2 months to equip and empower churches and leaders during this time of crisis. This will happen every Tuesday at 10 am CDT. Click here for more details.
- American Baptist Leaders Issue Call to Prayer – On March 20, 2020, the Regional Executive Ministers Council and National Executive Council issued a call to prayer: During this time of concern and uncertainty, the members of the National Executive Council and the members of the Regional Executive Ministers Council are calling American Baptists to a time of prayer for 21 days beginning on March 21, 2020, and ending on April 11, 2020. During this time we are asking for American Baptists to pray for the recovery and healing of persons effected by COVID-19. Click here for more details.
- Prayer for Central Region institutions – Please remember to include in your prayers our Kansas Plan partners (Ottawa University, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Bacone College, Murrow Indian Children’s Home, Prairie Homestead, Homestead Health Center, and Sunset Home). In addition to our Kansas Plan recipients, the Bethel Neighborhood Center is one of our ministry partners and is also greatly affected by the COVID 19 outbreak. We also have a number of other groups and connections throughout the Region that need our prayers during this challenging time. When you think of one of our institutions or groups, stop and pray for them.
- Cross Wind – The Cross Wind Board of Directors met by zoom on March 20th to discuss measures we need to take that have impacted the ministry of the facility. Not surprisingly, some groups have canceled their reservations, and we will also be notifying other groups that we are canceling their reservation to do our part in preventing the spread of COVID 19. Please note that the Senior Adult Retreat which was going to be April 28-30 has been canceled. Also, the AB Men’s Conference, May 8-9, is also canceled. The Board also decided to shut down the facility in April and May to help minimize costs. We are still actively marketing the property for the purpose of selling it. The COVID 19 challenges have not helped our financial situation for the facility. Please keep this in your prayers.
That all seems like a lot of wilderness doesn’t it? God didn’t abandon the wilderness community. I don’t believe God has abandoned us either. There are important things we are learning right now that wouldn’t have come about if we weren’t facing the wilderness of COVID 19. So, let’s seize these opportunities to be faithful, and let others see the God we serve through our faithfulness!
Finally, you may not have read all of the recent emails I have been sending. I’ll admit, there have been a lot of them. So, at the end of these updates, I’ll summarize some key points from previous emails that may be helpful for you.
- Information from the State Departments of Health can be found by clicking on each state’s name: Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
- ABCCR Disaster Relief application for COVID 19 (click here). Email it back to me (email@example.com) when completed.
- Current statistics on COVID 19, click here.
- Center for Disease Control (click here)
Thank you for the privilege of serving among you,
Gregg L.J. Hemmen
American Baptist Churches of the Central Region