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Serving in a Pandemic: Needing God, Even in Times of Rest

April 30, 2020

Photo illustrating people studying the BibleBy Dr. B, serving in Central Asia

While the number of deaths in the US related to Covid-19 continues to climb, the numbers in our country here in Central Asia has been relatively small: 656 confirmed cases with only 8 deaths.

My colleagues and I are beginning to hope that perhaps we will not experience the global pandemic to the same extent that has been seen in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, the local government remains cautious. Restriction of movement of the country’s citizens will likely be extended into May.

While we are grateful to have been spared the disease morbidity and mortality that we have been reading about in the news from Europe and North America, it also means that life is running at a slower pace for us these days. After frantic efforts to prepare for emergency home visits and to accompany our patients to the hospital, it appears that these services will not be needed. After making careful arrangements for transportation of our family medicine residents and staff to get to work through police checkpoints, we are only seeing 5-10 patients per day.

This has allowed time to catch up with reading and writing medical lectures. We have had more time to engage with our staff and our doctors in training. And we have had time to simply relax and reflect.

And so why is it that anxiety seems to be a bigger problem than ever? We don’t have jobs to rush off to in the morning. We can finally spend that quality time with family that we have always longed for. And at long last, we can read that book (or three) that we had always wanted to read. So why are we stressed? It has certainly been a revelation for me during these unusual times to see that we don’t just need God to help us during our busy times. In fact, we need Him all the time. We cannot even rest without depending on Him to give us peace!

During this quieter period, I have been spending more time just talking with the residents about life and God’s calling on our lives. The primary focus of our ministry is actually on the local residents we spend time with. We are trying to develop them professionally as doctors that practice evidence-based medicine, but we also want them to have an impact spiritually, in terms of the whole person. We want to develop them as leaders in their community. Most of the residents who come to us are non-believers, but we invest in their lives.

Which is why I was surprised when one of them asked, “Can we have a Bible study?” This has, in fact, been an item for prayer for my wife and I ever since we’ve arrived in this majority Muslim country. And now, some of the residents have simply come right out and asked for it!

I asked them whether they understood what it meant to study the Bible. “God’s Word,” I said, “is not just a history book of events that happened thousands of years ago. It is, in fact, God speaking to us today. And if we study His Word, He will expect us to not only hear it, but to listen to it. He will expect us to live our lives differently because of what we have read.”

“Yes,” they said. “That’s what we want!” And thus, begins the tradition of a weekly Bible study at our clinic for any and all residents in training who wish to attend.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
- Matthew 11:28 (NIV)