Finding God Again, Against Pandemic Odds

Nicole’s story of coming back to God.

Adventist Review staff
Finding God Again, Against Pandemic Odds

The last time Nicole had attended church was a long time ago.

Nicole’s Challenge

But now she felt a strong urge to reconnect with her childhood church. “I realized something was missing,” she says. “It was my relationship with God and knowing that I wasn’t completely living life to His plan.”

But doing something about it would be a challenge all its own. Churches in the state of Delaware, where she lived, like churches, businesses, entertainment venues, and other locations of meeting in many other states, were all closed. It was March 2020, the start of a shutdown because of a state-of-emergency order, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Nicole remained undaunted. She remembered the Dover First Seventh-day Adventist Church, where she occasionally attended as a child. She couldn’t visit in person, but maybe she could find an online broadcast.

Meanwhile, at Dover First

The Dover First church leadership team did not let the pandemic shut them down when in-person services had to be halted. Instead, they quickly pivoted to improving their live­streaming capabilities.

“When the pandemic started and everything was shutting down, my first priority was making sure our church stayed connected as a church family,” says Evan Knott, former pastor of Dover First, and now communication director of the Chesapeake Conference. “Even though we couldn’t meet in person, I wanted to make sure I was still in the church every week with our AV team, preaching the gospel online.”

The church purchased new lighting equipment and expanded from a one-camera broadcast to an enhanced three-camera streaming setup. “Streaming went from being a secondary element to being what church was for a while,” says Knott. “We wanted the worship experience to be good quality and feel familiar for our members, but as an added benefit, upgrading our streaming setup made our service more engaging for people who were seeking online.”

A Blessing to Each Other

And that’s how Nicole discovered them, present and alive on Facebook. She began following services each week online. She wanted Dover First because as a child she had always loved the services. But she stayed because of the great sermons and valuable spiritual lessons each week.

She watched throughout the summer, even after the church resumed limited, socially distanced indoor worship services in June 2020.

But then she knew she couldn’t remain anonymous anymore. God was calling her to move out of her comfort zone and take another step. “God does not want us to live in isolation,” she says. “I felt the Holy Spirit’s pull and knew that God had big plans in store for me.” She had no idea how God would use her “Yes” to His call.

The 2020 hurricane season found its way to Dover, Delaware, producing a tornado that damaged both the church and Dover First Christian School, which the church operated.

As Pastor Knott reviewed the destruction the next day, he was, by his own account, extremely discouraged: “First there was the pandemic, and now there was a tornado. It felt like it was just one thing after another, and our church couldn’t catch a break.”

Then he checked his phone. There was a letter there:

Dear Pastor Evan and others @ Dover First,

I wanted to take a minute to introduce myself and to thank you for your livestreaming of church services. I have been watching and listening from home.  I attended Dover First many years ago. I am being called to start my journey with Christ and put Him first again. Or perhaps, for the first time ever. . . .

Sincerely, Nicole J.

For Pastor Knott there could be nothing better than getting an email like that. “Even when it felt like everything was going wrong, God was still working behind the scenes.” He replied to Nicole’s message and invited her to begin taking Bible studies and attend Dover First in person. She decided to visit the church the next Sabbath, and was thrilled from the start: “I remember being greeted at the front door. I was immediately welcomed and offered a quarterly Bible study plan. It was awesome!”

On August 4, an EF-1 tornado touched down in Dover, Delaware, knocking down trees, fencing, as well as an exterior brick wall, exposing underlying structures.

She worked through a set of It Is Written Bible study lessons week by week during a virtual Bible study appointment with the pastor via Zoom. After completing the 25 lessons and asking many questions, she decided to be baptized into the church she had attended as a child decades earlier.

“I enjoy my church family so much!” Nicole says. “From bonfires to lunches and great sermons, I would say the fellowship has been incredibly impactful. My church family is the best!”

Nicole understands that her spiritual journey is only getting started, and that baptism isn’t the end of the road. “The most rewarding part of this journey is knowing that I am not doing it alone,” she says. “I have Jesus, who is always with me; He guides me and understands me. He is my best friend, and His grace is sufficient. I take comfort in knowing that this earth is not my home.”

Adventist Review staff