Thank you to Andrew Nashed for sharing his SPRinG story.
Serve, Pray Respond in God’s Grace
2019. It was the world before Covid and we lead what we thought was a “normal” life. I had recently retired from medical practice, sold the house in Michigan, and moved to a house near Bright’s Grove. I hoped that my retirement would be an expression of love for God and for my neighbors. People in the community seemed to be unaware of God’s love and to give little attention to Him. All of us hope was to see a spiritual revival in Sarnia.
I studied different material about reaching the unsaved, especially the 5-fold ministry model in the Bible. This only reinforced the knowledge of my limitations. I’m not the kind of person who would preach at street corners or in malls. One approach was to associate myself with people who are more extroverted. The people in Sarnia could be thought of as 4 groups: the poor, the affluent, the immigrants, the seniors, and the teen-agers. Each of these groups needs a distinct approach.
Immigrants, especially of Muslim and Hindu backgrounds, are certainly on my heart. In 2019, the number of immigrants in Sarnia was steadily increasing. Pastor Deve kindly recommended me to leadership in the YMCA learning & Career Center. In the summer of 2019, they were looking for a teacher of English as a 2nd language for their beginners class and I volunteered for this. Most students were newcomers from war-torn Syria and did not speak a word of English. Since Arabic is both their native language and mine, I was able to teach that class. And I formed friendships with some students. A Covid epidemic had been reported in China but China was dealing with this and we did not worry very much about it. By February 2020, there were Covid cases in Canada and March 13th was the last day of school. After Friday the 13th, schools were closed.
Cindy and I had attended a gathering at Lakeshore Church in Bright’s Grove on New Year’s Eve 2020.
We happened to be sitting at the same table with Pastor Mike Doupe and his wife. We were introduced and started talking about ministry opportunities. He had been ministering in long-term care facilities and I later joined him in ministering to seniors on occasion. But by the middle of March, Covid had been spreading, especially in long-term care homes and they were closed also.
By mid-March, people were dying of Covid, and everyone stayed home, in social isolation, except for short trips to grocery stores. It was lent time and being quarantined at home, it was an opportunity to resume working on a manuscript about the suffering and resurrection of the Lord that I had started perhaps 10 years earlier. The very first nucleus of that work was a 5 or 6-page summary of Christ’s appearances after his resurrection. Pastor Deve had encouraged me by distributing copies of those pages to people attending a Bible study based on the book “The Story” many years before. The Spring of 2020 was time spent in intense work on the manuscript.
By the end of May or beginning of June, it became clear that the pandemic was not going to kill 2-3% of world population as the Influenza pandemic had done one century earlier. We felt relatively safe going out using masks, social distancing and hoping for a quick introduction of vaccines. At that time, I accepted Pastor Mike’s invitation to help at the Inn of the Good Shepherd. This exemplary ministry provides several kinds of services to the people in Sarnia. I had the opportunity to help with providing lunches for the brothers and sisters of Christ. Indoor dining was not allowed at that time, but we could put lunches in bags and hand them to clients at the door.
My responsibility was simple, fill the bags with a hot meal, a piece of fruit, a dessert, a carton of juice, a plastic fork, and a serviette. It was a good lunch and clients likely appreciated it. It was also a lifesaver for me. I am a person who reads a lot and does not get bored easily in social isolation. But serving at the Inn saved me from self-absorption and introduced me to beautiful people who serve and who are being served. This continued for over a year.
In early 2021, Covid vaccines started to become available. By June, most people, including myself had received the 2nd shot. And in the Fall, the Inn opened its doors again to indoor dining. It also started a spiritual service to clients who are interested. Other wonderful volunteers from local churches prepare and serve the meals. I only serve coffee for about 1-1/2 hours. I’m constantly reminded of that Christmas Day many, many years ago when I had no access to a meal and the local Salvation Army offered me a great meal. Nothing can pay back for this. I serve at the Inn only 2 or 3 times a week. But it is a most rewarding time.