Editor’s note: Welcome to a special edition of our new web column “Faith & family: Growing together,” which complements our “Faith & family” department.

Focal verse

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7).

Reflection

At the end of January, my brother living in South Korea began texting me about his self-imposed quarantine due to the coronavirus outbreak. From across the ocean, I lifted up prayers for his safety and health, both physical and mental, and occasionally checked the news for updates. I’d check in with him throughout the week and see the pictures he sent of empty streets, deserted neighborhoods and bare store shelves. Still, the magnitude of what was happening seemed far away.

Then last week I drove two hours to a dental appointment in a large city where one coronavirus case had been confirmed. I obsessively made sure my family washed their hands, and we kept a distance from others. Yet, my life carried on as usual.

Now one week later there’s a different feel throughout the world, and much of the United States is encouraged to stay home to stop the virus’ spread. In my rural Missouri town, schools are closed, as well as some churches. My daily check of the news has increased to almost hourly. Since the weekend, the kids and I have not left the house other than for walks.

To say that life is unsettled is an understatement.

My kids, 5 and 2, don’t understand all that’s swirling in the world right now. My daughter asks before every nap and bedtime, “What’s after this nap, Mama?” Depending on the day, I tell her we’re going to preschool, speech therapy, the grocery store or a playdate with friends.

Today I have a different answer. As I rub her back, I offer a smile and say, “Remember I said we’ll be staying in for a while. There’s a lot of sickness going around and we want to stay healthy and not get others sick.”

“We stay home,” she says, with her brown eyes open wide. I sigh at the magnitude of this reality.

Yes, life is unsettled for our family. My husband, a pastor, is navigating new territory while moving worship and faith formation to platforms other than in-person gatherings. Our community is wondering how to feed our children and care for health care workers, janitors and food service providers.

But life is also still full of beauty and hope. The kids and I are reading more books together, we’re soaking in any fresh air we can, we’re calling our friends and family, we’re making cards for nursing home residents, we’re praying for the world. And most importantly, we’re trusting that we aren’t alone. The media keeps hurling new information and guidelines by the hour, but the good news remains: God’s love is with us. Christ’s presence surrounds us and offers us light. The light is still shining—here’s to being that light for a world in need.

Practice

Many congregations across the ELCA are offering worship via livestream, YouTube or Facebook Live. Find a service and gather your family on the couch to watch. Let the kids play with their toys, refill your coffee cup, and hear the words of Scripture and song float through your home connecting us in the body of Christ.

Prayers

We pray for health care providers, and others who provide essential services.
We pray for those struggling financially.
We pray for those whose plans have been canceled or altered due to closings and distancing.
We pray for church communities who will struggle financially by not meeting in person.
We give thanks for technology and staying connected across the world.
We give thanks for thoughtful leadership in challenging times.
We give thanks for teachers and leaders.
Remind us of your healing love, O God.
Amen.

Service opportunity

Brainstorm with your children creative ways to share love from afar. Write letters to nursing home residents, donate food to the local pantries or chalk encouraging Bible verses on your neighborhood sidewalks while practicing social distancing. If you’re able, consider making donations to organizations on the front lines of the outbreak, buying gift certificates from businesses impacted by closing or supporting service workers and artists impacted by this crisis.

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

Read more about: