What have CoG7 congregations been doing during this COVID-19 time? Though shut in, they have not been shut out of ministry! As church doors have closed, other avenues have opened. Read the exciting things God has been doing during this pandemic.
The Saginaw church has been sharing sermons through Facebook Live to reach the congregation on Sabbath. During April, members participated by performing solos, group songs, poems, and testimonies before the sermon. This is keeping everyone connected with a sense of a church service.
We call ourselves Familias Vibrantes, which means “Vibrant Families” (referencing our theme of becoming the vibrant church). We have approximately fourteen families on our roster of consistent attendees.
From the very first weekend Maryland received stay-at-home orders, our church services were cancelled. Immediately our team began connecting through social media, Zoom meetings, check-up calls, food delivery, and good old fashioned texting.
In our first Zoom meeting, we asked questions like “How are you?” “How’s everyone feeling?” “Is everyone still working?” “How are the kids adapting to change?” At the end of the meeting, we gave pastor Vega a report on everyone’s wellbeing.
Soon after, we added experts to our Zoom meetings for added support on pressing issues. Our first special guest was sister Candy Arevalo, a newly graduated Artios counselor, who shared “Ways to help prevent loneliness while you’re social distancing.” We have also invited our own church member Blanca Valle, an elementary school teacher in Maryland, to share tips on “How to help our kids easily transition into a new homeschool routine.”
Our last guest was an elementary school counselor, Carmen Esposito, who shared “Simple tips that can help you deal with the emotions your children may be experiencing as they adapt to this new normal.”
We had a special day of fasting and prayer, “Finding Hope in Quarantine,” where each member shared a piece of good news, a Bible verse that brought them hope, or a prayer request.
Zoom meetings have been key in knowing how to meet the needs of our church family. We noticed the level of stress rising in families due to homeschooling adjustments, where maybe one parent had to leave their job to take care of kids at home all day, and now the family income has been cut by half.
The leadership team decided to use 90 percent of the group’s savings to purchase groceries and deliver them to everyone’s front door. All fourteen families also received a beautifully hand-made card from the group’s secretary and her family along with the food.
We believe in a holistic approach when it comes to taking care of each other. Prayers, counseling, advice, and food — all are intentional ways to bring hope and encouragement in times of crisis. We will make it together.
What do we have planned next? A virtual marriage seminar with a professional family and marriage counselor. Lots of couples are spending twenty-four hours with their spouse seven days a week. Some are being pushed to their relationship limits with COVID-19 stay-at-home demands. As the Vibrant Family Ministries, we want to do everything we can to keep couples and marriages thriving and coming out stronger than they were before, once all of this is over. Praise God for His renewed strength every day. He is faithful, and we trust in Him through this process.
— Blanca Vega
Family Ministries Leader, Lanham
Women’s Ministry is doing much in our church as we face these difficult times.
- Each of our thirteen board members oversees a group of between five and eight sisters. The board members encourage them to connect with us in our virtual meeting every Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.
- If someone is not able to connect, one of our board members is in charge of reaching out to them and doing a weekly devotional.
- In our virtual meeting we separate time to greet each other and ask how they are doing. We also do prayers and petitions if they have any.
- Our sister Patricia Marroquin (Visiting Department) is also sending weekly messages of encouragement.
— Ada Joya
Women’s Ministry Secretary, Lanham
Normally, our prayer group meets every Saturday morning. Now we hold prayer every day at 7:00 p.m. From home each family begs our God for the needs of all.
Every Friday afternoon we send updates by email of the particular petitions of our congregation, thanksgivings for answered prayer for our local church and others in the US and abroad. Our church is very diverse, with members coming from different countries of Central and South America. They have relatives in those countries, so they also need prayers for their loved ones.
I constantly communicate with each brother and sister who submits a petition. I exhort and remind them that we are crying out for their needs by all possible means, (calls, texts, emails, WhatsApp, video, etc.).
Everything we do in our prayer ministry is for the honor and glory of God.
— Tomás Cedillo González
Prayer Group Leader, Lanham
In Jovenes (youth group, ages 19-25), we have been doing our best to guide our youth through these times of uncertainty. About 18 Jovenes consistently attend our group. We have been contacting them through text and social media, like our private Facebook page, and we are holding our youth group Sabbath Bible study meetings on Zoom.
We have also invited familiar faces from our own church here in Lanham, like Anthony Gallardo, to speak to us about faith. Miguel and even other Jovenes to speak at times.
We are always trying to check up on everyone and asking our youth to check on one another. During this time, a few of our Jovenes have been affected directly from this pandemic. They have had family members close by and living in nearby cities who have been infected, and have even lost a loved one. We have been praying and communicating with these Jovenes specifically a bit more.
Looking forward, we’re thinking and planning for different ways to support these young adults. We want to grow closer as a family in Christ both during this pandemic and when we can meet again and fellowship.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
We believe these words and praise God through this storm for His faithfulness!
— Miguel Murillo, Jovenes Leader
Bryant Valle, Jovenes Co-leader
The preteens meet via Zoom every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. They rotate to bring a small Bible study, and they’ve used Google docs/slides for their presentations. After their presentation, they play Kahoot! to review the lesson. They also rotate to pray for each other. There are 28 kids in this group.
I am grateful to serve as leader of Adolescents B in Lanham, MD. These past two years have allowed me to serve alongside the youth as we go deeper and draw closer to God.
After having many activities (sleepovers, movie nights, field day, etc.) during the past two years, it has been challenging to keep the group together for the past several weeks. But I thank God for technology that we are taking advantage of. Here is what we have been doing:
- Group class every Saturday afternoon on Zoom.
- Devotionals with leader and co-leader. These consist of a verse and a small reflection via text. The boys and girls are encouraged to comment if they wish.
- Devotionals with our Junior Committee (young adults, 20-25 years old), who can relate with the day-to-day life that adolescents face. The committee members are creating a bond with them by doing devotionals together Mondays through Fridays via text and occasionally Zoom. They also help them with schoolwork if needed (sort of a big brother/sister program). These devotionals follow up with the topic from class on Saturday. I provide this material for them.
- Girls Bible study. We have been doing this for the past three years and continue on Zoom. We are inviting more girls to join us, like their school friends. This is a judge-free zone where they can express how their week is going and/or if they feel something is not OK. Sometimes one of the girls will take the opportunity to do the reflection. To keep them away from all news that are going on through TV and social media about the pandemic, I have been doing #countyourblessings, #what’syourfavoritesong, #10minutesdevotional challenges. We are currently doing the #classichymns challenge through BAND APP, where they share their videos.
- Boys Bible study. Brandon Giron (co-leader) is conducting this.
Even though it’s been hard because we have not physically been together, we have been in contact with most of our adolescents. God has been good to His children; most of them are home. We will continue to pray for this pandemic to end soon and continue to reach out to our youth through any circumstance.
— Ada Joya
Adolescent B Leader, Lanham
Our Children’s Ministry is divided among the following groups:
- Preschool (3-5 years)
- Primary (6-8 years)
- Intermediate (9-10 years)
The past few weeks have been challenging for everybody, and although we’re continuing to do virtual services with our church, we also thought that it was necessary to continue having classes with all three groups of kids. We’ve created Zoom meetings so that the kids, with the help of their parents, get connected and are able to greet each other. (It is so touching to see their excited reaction when they see each other).
Our music teacher, brother Amado, sings with them and they enjoy it so much! They also say prayers and ask for prayers with our sister Jasmine. We have our five minutes of Bible study, and they have their own time to say the memory verse. Attached are a few photos of our virtual gatherings.
Facebook has also been a useful resource. There the team shares with the parents the educational material and photos of activities that their children can work on.
I am employed at a retirement community where, due to COVID-19, many residents have not been able to leave their homes or see their loved ones. With the support of another ministry from our church, the children’s ministry made spiritual encouragement letters for the residents. I collected around 40 handmade cards and notes from the children that were delivered to the residents.
Through these troubled times, God always provides a way for us to connect and share His Word with others. We are grateful to Him for allowing us to have the technological resources that allow us to congregate and spread cheer. We continue to pray for this pandemic to end soon, for the safety of our families, and that one day, we can be together again.
— Candi Arevalo
Children’s Ministry Leader, Lanham