Emily Milburn, a traveling nurse from the Kansas City area who often works in the aftermath of disasters, recently volunteered to work at a hospital in New York City to take care of COVID-19 patients. You can read a report about her experiences here. She worked 12-14 hour shifts with few days off. The experience changed her perspective on the disease. She is one of many who have shouldered a heavier load in the past four months as people around the world, not just in the United States, have had their lives turned upside down either by the disease itself or by their community’s attempts to slow down its spread. Some of the medical workers have contracted the disease themselves, as did the sister of a friend of mine. While working as a nurse with sufferers from the virus, she tested positive for it and after being sent home from the hospital after days in intensive care, had to return for more time as a patient when her virus symptoms surged again. Friends of mine who are nurses have given so much even as they tried to adjust their responsibilities as parents in this time. Hospital chaplains have searched for ways to listen and care under new constraints that did not allow them to touch or be in the same room as the patient. Medical personnel have been quite essential, but others have performed critical roles as well, working to manufacture masks, ventilators, and other personal protective equipment. Educators, parents, and students have adapted to new venues and methods. Preachers and churches have sought new ways to communicate, worship, and care for one another. Churches and other religious groups have, along with service organizations, restaurants owners (some who were at risk of losing their businesses), and the government provided food banks or pantries as well as other services that have been more needed than ever as millions have found themselves unemployed unexpectedly.
When I saw an update on Nurse Milburn’s story the other day, I had just read a passage from 2 Corinthians that struck me as applicable to her and the many others who have stepped up at great personal risk to serve during this time of crisis. In its original context, the Apostle Paul wrote these words to encourage Christians who had volunteered to send financial aid to churches in famine stricken Judea:
“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hears will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you” (2 Corinthians 9:12-14).
While many who perform these essential roles may not yet confess faith in Christ, their service reflects his vision for his followers and (this is where the relevance comes in) their sacrificial efforts are causing those who benefit from their care to thank God for them and their generous work on the behalf of others. God has used them to bless those who desperately need their skills and training. Not all those have the virus. This past week, I took my wife to an emergency room. Although I had to remain outside in the parking lot, I was quite thankful that a doctor was able to diagnose her quickly (I was glad that it was neither the virus nor a heart attack) and prescribe a course of treatment that seems to be working.
If you are a doctor, nurse, or other worker in a medical facility (to include custodial workers), thank you so very much for what you are doing! If you are another “essential worker,” thank you! May God bless you for what you are doing to help others.
I encourage all of us to take time each day to pause and pray a prayer of deep gratitude for all these people who working harder, and in some cases, in different roles than usual, performing tasks that improve the health and safety of our communities.
- Quotations from the Bible are from the New International Version, 2011.
O God of comfort and compassion, we have seen the evidence of your love and your grace in the sacrificial works of doctors, nurses, and so many others who have given so much their time and energy in recent weeks. Their patience and their skill have impressed us; they have kept us going. In some cases, they have become victims themselves. We pray that you will comfort those who grieve over the deaths of those who died as a consequence of serving others. We pray that you will heal those who still suffer from the virus. In the midst of our personal changes and inconveniences, their work have brought light into our haze and darkness. Their sacrifices have reminded us of your son who gave his own life that we all might live. Bless them and bring healing to our world. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.