March 31, 2020

Caring for Community Even in Lockdown

Victor Hulbert, Trans-European Division 

Adventist churches and institutions across the Trans-European Division (TED) are working to support members, students, and communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

Online support includes church, Sabbath School, and prayer meetings; specially developed video clips; and opportunities for a listening ear or prayer. Additional resources for family worship, homeschooling, and college classes are also being provided.

On the ground, members are volunteering to help those in crisis in their neighborhoods and towns, working in line with government regulations.

The Trans-European Division (TED) has provided a simple guide for coping with quarantine and isolation and is connecting with members through a weekly podcast, “Words of Hope.”

Connecting in a Double Crisis

Even before the Zagreb earthquake on Sunday, March 22, 2020, Adventist leaders in Croatia formed an emergency board to coordinate work and relief initiatives. Activities include coordinating with local churches, including providing support for those shut in by illness or quarantine.

Media has taken on a major role with live programming not just for Saturday (Sabbath) worship but also providing practical spiritual and social support each evening. The program “There Is Hope” is led by pastor Dario Kovačević, supported by a large team of volunteers. It airs on the internet every evening via Studio Glas nade and its YouTube channel. The program has continued even during the many aftershocks that continue to affect the city.

Church Schools During the Pandemic

With most schools and colleges shut, education is now a significant challenge. Newbold College of Continuing Education extended its spring break by one week. The school will now teach its theology degree fully online, and it has canceled the English Language Centre courses for the rest of the semester. Most students have now returned home. International visits and groups have been canceled.

The ADRA Kindergarten in Albania had to close along with all other schools and colleges. Activities, crafts, and homework are provided to the parents via WhatsApp groups, so the children can continue to follow their school curriculum. The kindergarten teacher returned to the United States before the travel ban was imposed, so leaders are now searching for an alternative teacher.

Adventist Volunteer Services (AVS) supports a number of schools across the TED, including Vejlefjord Junior College, Denmark. In an online time of prayer and sharing a few days ago, volunteers expressed their hope and joy even in a time when the school is temporarily shut. Staff members said they are hopeful that it will reopen shortly, and they send regular messages of fun and encouragement to students to share how much they are being missed.

Even Pathfinders, a youth activity and Bible-based service of the Adventist Church, has been forced to go online. The British Union Pathfinder Bible Experience national finals were rapidly transformed from a physical to an online experience when the intended venue for gathering some 1,000 Pathfinders was forced to close.

Reports on social media note many Adventist teachers, who are now restricted at home, are using their skills to help parents and students.

Online Responses

The online response has increased. From Estonia and Norway down to Cyprus, both local churches and church headquarters are putting on programs trying to assist worship. Facebook and Youtube are platforms for continued connection as Adventists share a message of hope. Conferencing platforms such as Zoom are making a difference for interactive worship.

The church’s Polish Media Center in Warsaw has stepped up production with a video message each day, some of which are shared with government officials in the Health Department as well as a wider audience across Poland. One of the videos, featuring union president Ryszard Jankowski, was later republished on a popular Polish religious news service site. The site shared extensive information about the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Poland and its reaction to the pandemic.

TED offices are closed, but life continues at an increasingly hectic pace for employees during the pandemic. Morning worship brings staff together from their homes in a video conference, then various committees and consultations follow. All board meetings and committees now happen via video conference, with departmental consultations and support happening on a regular basis.

Community Care

When it comes to sharing ideas, there is no need to reinvent the wheel, TED Family Ministries director Karen Holford points out. She is inviting people to check live:kind resources, which shows many ideas that can be used even in a time of lockdown.

In Hungary, Gabor Mihalec, a pastor and couples therapist, is now running Facebook live nightly to address the tendency for domestic violence and divorce to increase in isolation and lockdown. Sharon Platt-MacDonald, British Union Health Ministries director, is also re-purposing material and currently highlighting her enhancing health program on boosting immunity.

Also, many members are volunteering with neighborhood groups, hospitals, and care centers to ensure that, even in this pandemic, Adventists can, indeed, live kind.

The original version of this story was posted on the Trans-European Division news site.