It has been a year since we were deeply impacted by the dreadful coronavirus pandemic. Each of us can recall what it felt like as we watched, in almost stunned disbelief, the country shut down — offices closed down, churches closed, restaurants closed, professional sports canceled, children sent home indefinitely from school, citizens required to stay home, grocery stores running out of basic items, hand sanitizer in short supply, and toilet paper being fought over in the aisles. The pandemic has brought an economic downturn, with food insecurity reaching a level not seen since the Great Depression. We have witnessed an unparalleled reaction to social injustice and inequality. During the past few months we have witnessed an historic political schism that has threatened the fabric of our democracy as we know it.
What sense have you made of it as a Seventh-day Adventist? Is God concerned about this world? Is God speaking? If so, what is He saying to us? What message have you received from all of this?
These are the pertinent questions we should be asking. God is using these events to speak to His church and to His people. He has given us a message that is crafted for our time. It is a message of “hope and wholeness.” This is exactly what people are searching for in this uncertain season. A message of hope and wholeness and hands that will meet the felt needs and provide relief is what people are desperately craving.
This was never so clear to me as it was a few days ago when my wife and I met a homeless woman named Danielle. She needed money to pay for a night’s stay at a Travelodge hotel. If she didn’t have the money by 11 a.m., the hotel would place her things outside on the parking lot. I asked her what she would do the next day if we paid for one night, and she said, “I will come out and ask again.” She told me her story of a lost job and a series of unfortunate circumstances that led to her current sad situation. But then she abruptly cried out, “I am a human being,” and again, “I am a human being,” as she tried unsuccessfully to hold back what would become a cascade of tears rolling down her cheeks. She was trying to convince herself of her worth and value as a human being. She was trying to beat back the looks of pity, and even some looks of disgust, as she watched people look down their nose at her. And some would not even look her way at all.
My wife and I paid a week for her at the motel as she waited for space to open up at a shelter. I will probably never see Danielle again: however, she made an indelible impression on me. I have helped before, but the cry “I am a human being” still rings in my soul. It spoke so forcefully to the destitute of humanity.
There are so many feeling hopeless and helpless on a level that is rare in this country. God has given us a message for Danielle and the countless millions of others who are looking for hope. Perhaps in this moment, with so much unrest in so many quarters, God has gotten the world’s attention, and people are open to listening and being touched in ways they have not been before. God has positioned the church for the right time and given us the right message for this time — now we must go and give it and live it! Now is the time to live out our theme “Together in Mission”! We are called for this moment.
— G. Alexander Bryant is president of the North American Division; this article was also published in the May 2021 Adventist Journey magazine.