It was Monday morning, as I walked into the ICU at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Watts where I serve as Coordinator for Spiritual Care. ICU rounds hadn’t yet started so I went to the North side of the unit to check on some of my patients and see how they were doing, I hated Monday mornings because it’s when I would find out that some of my patients had died over the weekend. As I tried to sneak over really quick, I heard my name being called, so I turned around and saw the doctor, one of the intensivists, telling me about a patient not going to make it, and asked if I’d be around in the next hour or so because the family was on their way to say their good-byes. One more family that I’d pray with as their loved one was getting ready to transition from this life to the next.
I can’t tell you how many end-of- life conversations, Gospel presentations, hands held, foreheads stroked, and prayers given for patients and their families… all because of some stupid bug that I hate, COVID-19. I know we aren’t to hate things, but this virus, I do hate. I know that God is sovereign, I know that “leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty all come to us not by chance… but by God’s fatherly hand” (Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 10, Question 27). But because I know and trust in God’s sovereign hand doesn’t mean that I can’t hate evil or lament… it’s actually Biblical to lament, right?
If church planting and pastoring wasn’t hard enough, if having to help start a business to create a consistent stream of revenue to help fund ministry wasn’t difficult, if studying for a doctorate degree and helping to grow one church plant and help plant 3 other churches during a pandemic wasn’t difficult enough… how about dealing with death almost on a daily basis, and not being calloused to death in the midst of it all. I wish I could say that it hasn’t yet happened to me, but it has… don’t get me wrong, I still feel… I still cry… I still sigh and yet still believe in Christ the Risen Savior… but it’s hard ya’ll… really, really hard. This isn’t a complaint, at all… I love my life, love my ministry, and love the various opportunities that God has given me to help further His kingdom, to help teach others about the King of King, to help folks know the Jesus of the Bible for there are far too many bootleg versions of Him going around.
But this is just one part of my life as a church planter… I wish we’d had as much support as other church planters, where we could solely focus on ministry, and not have to be bi-vocational or even tri-vocational… but that’s not the case. When you plant a church in a hard place, these are the types of things you can expect, but I love every moment of being used by God for His glory. Some folks don’t really understand how I have to have 2 jobs in order to do my main one, my 24/7 church planter/ pastor calling. What would you do if you had to work a separate job just to do the one you really love? Would you? Probably not, it’s not even the norm in ministry, but it is a very real thing.
I haven’t blogged in quite some time, I hadn’t recorded a podcast/ vlog in quite some time until recently, I was thinking about what to write, and this morning as I was walking into the ICU for work and heard my name called and the doctor gave me the rundown on one our patients, it all just kind of came to mind and I knew I had to write about this. I see first-hand how all of our front-line workers give so much of themselves, caring for people who are critical, at end of life situations, working over-time because they’re short on staff, and over worked because people will just not stop getting admitted, there is no more ICU space, and more room was added to another floor just to help accommodate the ICU patients that had nowhere to be placed or housed. And I see how we all risk our own health by going into COVID rooms every day, to care for our patients… and yet I’ve got friends who think this is all fake, I’ve got people I love dearly that say this is some kind of hoax, some kind of government tactic for control so they refuse to wear a mask, “Governor can’t make me do $#!+” I get it… but at the same time I don’t. Real people with real families, are dying and leaving behind kids… young kids. One of my patients might not be there tomorrow morning when I get to work… and she has a 4 year old son!
I can be honest and say that after the initial COVID surge had flattened out, I got a lil lax on my care, I wasn’t as careful as I could’ve been. ICU space was opened up at the hospital, very few COVID cases and then BAM!!! My daughter got sick, and all kinds of people we know started getting it, getting really sick, and then dying. In less than 7 days I heard about a good friend who Pastored a church in the SFV died… then a few days later I found out a childhood friend had also died… Pastors and their families were also contracting it, many had to cancel church service, go back to online, and have guest preachers fill in. Yet for some reason, there are still folks who will refuse to wear a mask, refuse to believe that this is really happening. I really don’t understand.
My hope is that by way of my recent posts and this blog, folks who know me, know that I’m not a Trump supporter, nor am I a Democrat… I see evil on both sides, so I’ve got no bone in this fight. I’m no politician, no political favorites or connections… just a very deep and profound love of the Lord Jesus and His people… so I embrace the opportunity to minister to folks, especially those at end of life situations, I have one last shot at sharing the Gospel with them, and pray that they’d repent and believe. If you’re reading this, you could make my job and that of my coworkers so much easier by just wearing a mask… by avoiding close contact with folks outside of your home… by washing or sanitizing your hands often… some people have tested + for COVID and barely even knew they were sick, while others that had no other medical issues have died… folks younger than me, thinner than me… dying… that die? I’ll be ok, because I know Jesus… but my family won’t. Eventually they’ll be ok, but it’s gonna hurt like hell.
Sorry if this sounds morbid, although not as morbid as my friend Johanna who even has her funeral playlist ready, but this is real life. This is a very real thing for me, something I do on a daily basis, in dealing with death, hoping and praying for the opportunity to share about the one death that an actually bring life… by simply believing… by trusting in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, that His shed blood would pay for our crimes committed against a Holy God. Do you believe? Do you possess faith in Christ as Lord? Or do you just profess it with no faith? Are you a part of a local church? Do you give to it? Do you serve in it? Are you involved in discipleship? Are you submitted to the elders of that local church? If you answered no to any of those questions, you might wanna consider your standing with Christ… because those are things that Christians must do… not in order to get saved, but as proof that they are saved.
So if you’re not a part of a church, you might consider supporting a church plant by becoming a member, giving financially, serving, growing, and helping it by advancing their Gospel proclamation and mission to engage it’s community. You can’t say you’re a Christian and not belong to a church… real spit! When someone asks you what church you go to, respond by saying, “I’m a part of __________ church!” Help your pastors not have to be bi or tri-vocational. I’m blessed in that my church supports my working at MLK Community Hospital and helping build a bridge into our community. This opportunity was clearly laid out by God and so grateful to be on a team of amazing folks who love what they do, have a passion to serve our community of South L.A. and give so much of themselves to do so. Please keep my team and I in prayer. Please keep my church and I in prayer. Please keep our leaders and future church planters in prayer… we’re so thankful for your friendship and partnership in the Gospel.