1. Give me a brief description of your 2020 highs and lows. What went really well and what were some of the challenges you faced?
I would have to say that the biggest low during the February 2020 thru mid-June lockdown was the isolation. My wife was trapped in Greece with my kids and new Grandson. I’ve often thought of the old song from 1965 that played in my head during that time, written by Simon & Garfunkel (The Sound of Silence). The only difference was that I was able to call on the name of Jesus during the times when there seemed to be no end. Another low was trying to talk with people in our church via phone and video calls and trying to keep their spirits up, all the while struggling myself.
The positives from this: I emerged stronger spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. When we finally returned to service in late June, the excitement was more than I ever anticipated. International Churches already demonstrate more love for one another than most traditional churches, but there was something deeper. The rest is still yet to be known, since we are well into our third hard lockdown and spending our 2nd Easter with online service only. God will cause us to emerge bigger and better. It’s not my job to figure it all out, only trust Him and encourage the flock.
2. How much of the year did you and your church/city spend in lockdown vs. free to have church?
Since the initial lockdown from end of February 2020 to mid-June; beginning services end of June 2020 with restrictions in place at half capacity until December 13th; And another lockdown through the holiday and continued until the end of January 2021. Our services went back to in person for 4 weeks and then again February 1, 2021 until ongoing May 1, 2021 we are in red zone lockdown with online only. We have basically been in lockdown half the time in one year, but now ongoing into another year. Calgon take me away!
3. What are some of the good things you witnessed over this past year?
God has miraculously sustained our church financially, much of which due to hard decisions made in 2019. We didn’t know, but God did.
4. What are some of the difficult things you and your church experienced?
Watching most all of our ministries stop and particularly our University Ministry that was thriving as of January 2020. When the first wave hit, the University became a ghost town. Our international students returned home and little could be done. We tried to connect in various ways, but it was not sustained. Another difficult things was seeing the ones who only had a surface relationship with the Lord. When the trials came, it was like the seed on the rocks, scorched by the sun.
5. How do you think this year has affected your church?
The effects are yet to be fully seen. However, I choose to believe that God will allow our church at ICF Padova, Italy to rise from the ashes like a phoenix and the Lord Jesus will receive worship and praise. He promises us, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail.”
6. Almost one year on, what has God taught you through this unprecedented experience?
The biggest thing is that people cannot look to a church program to sustain them in a crisis. It must be a deep, and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that will take us through. I also must constantly remind myself that it is not my church, I am only the messenger. I am consoled in that I am not alone.