On Monday morning, Maryan and I, with our two dogs and a lot of healthy snack foods, hit the road. It wasn’t quite the Midnight Train to Georgia (For those younger persons, that was a 1973 song by Gladys Knight and the Pips), but it was the 8 am car ride to Atlanta. We decided to drive because it also gave Maryan chances to visit colleges so on the way we saw seven (7) colleges. We made it safely to Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, and we are with the family getting ready for Maryan’s sister’s funeral on Saturday.
The advantage of a car ride is that it gives you time to think and reflect; I had the quiet, except for the rhythmic tire noises and musical pitch of the passing wind, allowing my mind to focus on things I usually do not have time for to spend thinking about. One of the things I was thinking about was how society would handle the diminishing pandemic. It seems that while the restrictions are loosening, the virus is still around, and the danger is not over. I can understand the desire to live in a society without fearing one another or not wanting to feel so vulnerable that we do not venture anywhere we may encounter another person.
I know many who are behind on their rents and mortgage payments, and their credit cards maxed out. Many are living in fear of becoming homeless. Returning to the way it was will not be possible for millions because their jobs no longer exist; they look at the uncertain future with trepidation and fear. They don’t know how they will pay their rent once the moratorium on eviction ends. Return to “normal” is not something they are looking forward to.
Restoration of lives must be the new focus of the Church, not self-preservation. Our focus will be on how to improve the lives of the people in our community by engaging them in conversations. That means we will start by starting programs that will help us connect with them. Then at the gathering, we will get to know them and hope to earn their trust so they will share with us their lives. One idea I had was to restart our movie nights, and we will be purchasing a new outdoor projector and a giant movie screen to make it happen in the parking lot.
The purpose of these programs is not to run a program but for us to meet our neighbors. We want them to feel safe around us and give us an opportunity to earn their trust so we can walk with them as they restore their lives. We want to be walking with people as they address their fears about their future or may be looking for a new way to forge a new future for themselves.
Our work of restoration is not back to the past but is helping people look toward the future. Let us walk with those afraid of what they may face in the post-pandemic world with humility and joy.