Blog from Kristy Engel….

I would like to start today’s newsletter with a thank you. Thank you for supporting me during my recent sabbatical. Thank you for checking in on me over the last year to make sure things were going ok as I dealt with the pandemic living alone. Thank you for your prayers, surprise gifts and wonderful notes of encouragement. I feel blessed to call Parkway my home.

This year has not been easy for anyone. We have all seen the numbers associated with the pandemic: deaths, infections, joblessness and financial crisis. These issues are not unique to the United States of America.

Although I recognize that the current pandemic has made many people more closed off or “blind” to what is happening around the world, I would like to remind you of how COVID-19 is affecting our global family. And with that reminder, a request to pray earnestly for those who do not live with the advantages of those living in the USA.

Bolivia has been overwhelmed with the current crisis, but most news sources are not reporting on the incredible disaster in that country. There is not one single bed available for COVID-19 patients within the public health sector – and the public health system is what the majority of Bolivians use for their healthcare needs. Bodies of the deceased are now laid at the curb like rubbish because there is no space in morgues, mortuaries or hospitals. Of those I have talked to who work in Bolivia, there is no plan for country-wide vaccinations although the Russia vaccine, Sputnik-V, is being tested on the population. Unfortunately, the efficacy of this vaccine is fairly unknown to the global community because Russia has not published any of their trial data. Almost everyone I have spoken with has lost a family member. Most are not working. My healthcare colleagues are saying their institutions are either boycotting work because of lack of protective gear or they are being forced to work in unsafe conditions. Bolivia needs our prayers.

India, especially Northeast India where I’ve worked many times, is a mixed bag of hope and desperation. Early on in the pandemic, hospitals had their doors chained shut if there was a positive case inside. Staff, patients and their families were not allowed outside until a 2-week quarantine had passed in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. This meant that parents could not go home to their children; they couldn’t shop for food; they could not work. Although I believe chaining doors closed has stopped, India is in a unique position of producing vaccines for global pharmaceutical companies (and even developing their own vaccines) yet the rural populations and marginalized communities are likely not to get vaccinated until the end of this year, mostly because vaccines are being shipped to other wealthier countries. In spite of this, the church has been a beacon of hope. Churches and denominations that previously did not collaborate are now working together to provide food and supplies to the most needy. They have risked their own health to help their neighbors. A new Baptist coalition has formed throughout India that publishes a weekly newsletter sharing stories of impact as well as needs throughout the country. Early on, the Baptist leaders realized that they must come together to make a positive difference, instead of only focusing on their own problems. This has broken down walls and built bridges throughout the Baptist churches in India.

Bolivia and India are just two examples of countries struggling. I could share many more stories, but my point is that we cannot turn inwards and only think of others after our life gets easier. Our brothers and sisters around the world need our help today! They need our encouragement, and they need hope that they are not forgotten.

When Jesus was asked, what is the most important commandment, he replied, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” As a whole, we really have not been great at loving our neighbors over the last year. I recognize that life has been hard for everyone but that does not preclude the commandment to love our neighbor. And loving our neighbor (whether here in the USA or abroad) means that we make sure they are ok…not just after WE are ok…we love them even if we are struggling.

I would like to challenge each one reading this today to begin a time of prayer for those around the world, unknown to you, but known by God. Those who don’t have the luxury of driving to their county health department or pharmacy and receiving a vaccine. Those who struggle to put food on their table or honor those they’ve lost. When it is difficult to go and be supportive, we do have a powerful tool for change: prayer. Let us not be complacent and only inwardly focused but rather, let us do what we’ve been asked to do: Love our neighbors.