Christian Healthcare Professionals and Coronavirus: A Global Ministry During a Global Pandemic
April 20, 2020
by Michael Kee-Ming Shu, MD
Since the start of 2020, our world has seen a viral pandemic sweep through and ravage countries and nations. COVID-19 and its medical sequelae has uprooted and deeply impacted mankind, regardless of the assembly of the human race—the young and the elderly, the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor. Many are speaking out and also searching for answers amidst what some people fear as God’s judgment on His people.
Healthcare professionals and frontline healthcare workers are currently treating confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 as well as those persons under investigation. Physicians have first-hand accounts on how hospitals are caring for at-risk populations, seemingly waging war against an invisible enemy from the emergency department to the intensive care unit. During this unprecedented season of life, a special opportunity has arisen for those involved in healthcare to be a witness and a testimony at “ground zero.”
How do we respond to the great calamity of 2020 as healthcare professionals and as Christ-followers? To think that man cannot yet develop a potential vaccine/cure, how much more do we fall short in understanding and appreciating God’s unfathomable purpose (Isaiah 55:8-9), His mercy (Micah 7:18) and His grace (2 Corinthians 12:9) in this time? We look to Scripture for guidance and words to speak when patients and the world come knocking at our doors for answers and hope.
How can we respond biblically to seeing others who do not exercise their responsibility for social distancing?
Various advertisements on social media, as well as on televisions and billboards, have shared hashtags such as #StayHome, #FlattenTheCurve and #WeCameToWorkForYouPleaseStayAtHomeForUs. Physicians, nurses and allied healthcare professionals who are at the front lines of the horrors in real-time medical-surgical wards in epicenters such as New York City are practicing social distancing in attempts to prevent the exponential rise in cases that may overwhelm the U.S. healthcare system as evidenced by other countries, most notably Italy, Spain and China. As a result, outrage and disdain is typically heard from the lips of frontline workers when the public does not heed desperate pleas to control and contain a lethal pandemic.
God’s word teaches us to be slow in anger and speech (Proverbs 14:29, James 1:19-20). From our lips should flow Scripture and ceaseless praise as well (Psalm 34:1). Christ asks that we forgive trespasses against ourselves (Matthew 6:12) as we bear fruit by exercising forbearance (Galatians 5:22). We show contempt for God’s kindness (Romans 2:4) when we in fact dwell on our brothers’ and sisters’ offenses (Matthew 7:5). Conversely, our responses should serve as tangible witness (John 13:35) of His mercy, while at the same time showcasing His love for the broken (Romans 5:8). We, similarly, ought to lead by example (Titus 2:7), being clothed with compassion (Colossians 3:12) and approach mindfully with our grievances (Proverbs 14:29), lest we shame the gospel and cause others to stumble (Romans 14:21) with our testimony.
How do we respond biblically with a growing realization of staff and supply limitations to fight COVID-19?
Due to recent surges of COVID-19 within the developed world, current testing data has revealed that the United States is the leading country with positive cases as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the time this article was written, the numbers currently display America to be in excess of a quarter million infected citizens. Companies from medical, bioengineering and even automotive industries have joined together to mass produce face masks, face shields and ventilators that are predicted to be in deficit supply. Hospitals, especially those in New York City, are in desperate need of personal protective equipment, so much so that local, state and federal agencies have even recommended rerouting medical equipment to help with relief efforts. This has stirred the hearts of many in the healthcare field, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently sent letters begging healthcare professionals around the country, those both active and retired, to join the relief efforts as well. Many are hesitant to release their grip on limited supplies and personnel as they are funneled towards the U.S.’s “hot zone” of COVID-19.
We as Christ-followers are all given very special and specific gifts (Ephesians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 12). We were created, most importantly, with a mission to worship (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whether it’s making equipment or serving on the frontlines (Romans 12:6-8), we bring God glory by our offering (Colossians 3:23-24). We let our faith outweigh our fears of joining the critically sick (Isaiah 41:13). We are exhorted to sustain the medically in-need and mirror our Father as father of the poor and needy (Psalms 68:5), defender of widows and orphans (James 1:27). We hear the call, and when we reflect on the blessings of our vocation, mission and ministry, we see the valley (Psalms 23:4) and answer confidently, “Here I am! Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).
How may we biblically counsel patients and families currently suffering with COVID-19?
I sat beside a close brother-in-Christ of mine when he found out his family had been afflicted by COVID-19. At the time, the U.S. had just begun to see positive cases in Washington State. As we prayed together, over the next several weeks I received progressively worsening news concerning his family’s condition. His grandfather, who was a practicing pastor in New Jersey, succumbed and joined the Lord. His mother and father, as home caretakers of his grandfather, also tested positive for COVID-19. Currently at the time of writing a draft for this article, his father has recovered and has secluded himself in self-quarantine. However, his mother is still fighting in the ICU; she is intubated, sedated and undergoing dialysis for overwhelming conditions of the lungs and kidneys as result of COVID-19.
To the afflicted, we are reminded that infection and disease of this magnitude, albeit a new experience to us, is certainly not a new instrument of God’s (Exodus 9-11). COVID-19 is a reminder of how weak and frail our bodies are even amongst modern medicine and the 21st century. It reminds us that the Lord is God, YAHWEH Elohim (Exodus 20:2). It reminds us that He is Lord over us, Adonai (2 Chronicles 2:6). It reminds us He is the all-powerful God Most High, El Elyon (Psalms 46:1, Isaiah 9:6). COVID-19 reminds us that God is the Great Physician (Jeremiah 17:14, Isaiah 41:10).
To the survivors, we are reminded that disease, even unto death, serves as His purposes for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). As patients and families experience sorrow, we along with them should grieve and cling to God’s Word (Matthew 11:28). We are called to obedience (John 14:23) as well as faithfulness (John 16:33). Instead of the pain of suffering, COVID-19 by God’s grace allows us the ability to highlight the process, the progress, the product and the perfection of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2, Romans 8:18).
To COVID-19, we as Christian healthcare professionals proclaim in unison, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39, NIV 1984).”