Christian Healthcare Providers During a Pandemic: “We Draw Near”

Students at Hope Africa

Reverend Dr. Stephen Ko

What is the role of Christian healthcare providers during a global pandemic?

Reverend Dr. Stephen Ko, Senior Pastor of New York Chinese Alliance Church, recently spoke at the MedSend / CMDA Global Healthcare Missions Leadership Summit.

During his opening devotional, he shared his answer to this question.

“We Draw Near”

During this current crisis – the coronavirus pandemic – Ko believes that Christian healthcare providers have a unique calling to fulfill. “We should be the first to volunteer to take the shifts of older, more immunocompromised colleagues. We should be the first to offer our access to PPE. And, we should be among those who are the least afraid to come in close contact with infected patients daily. Even as we call for communities to practice social distancing, we draw near. Why? Because we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.”

Ko referred to COVID-19 as a devastating, highly transmissible disease, capable of overwhelming healthcare systems and community hospitals. He acknowledged the lack of natural immunities, a vaccine, sufficient medications, and ventilators. And he noted the additional risks to the elderly and those with co-morbidities. In areas where PPE shortages exist and doctors are re-using N95 masks ( if at all), there is a significant risk for infection. Ko says we must look to Jesus as our example in these situations.

Referencing Luke 14:25-27, Ko said, “When others practiced social distancing, Jesus reached out to touch the leper. And Jesus calls out to each of us to lose our life for his sake. To pick up our cross and follow him and to define love by giving our lives for others.”

Christians and Caring for the Ill

The current pandemic is not the first time in history that Christians have been called to minister to the sick. While there have been many such times, Ko mentioned the plague epidemics of 165 and 251 in ancient Rome. Now regarded as potentially smallpox or measles, the outbreaks were causing thousands of deaths daily. And Christians were on the front lines, caring for and ministering to plague-infected non-Christians.

Christians, Ko said, demonstrated charity and love. Their efforts had an impact for the Kingdom: Christianity went on to become the dominant religion in Rome. “Christians,” said Ko, “cared for the ill and abandoned far better than other pagan religions.”

“As Christians,” Ko said, “we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, by embracing the ministry Jesus modeled.”

The times have changed, but the call remains the same.

The Faith to Embrace Your Calling

“And we know that to those that love God, all things work together for good, to those that are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 

What good could possibly come from a pandemic?

Ko thinks it can be a wake-up call.

“God uses chaotic conditions such as pandemics to shake Christians in their faith and awaken non-Christians to the faith,” he said. “Plagues, pandemics, and pestilence… force us to see overwhelming needs around us. They expose inequalities that often go unnoticed in the typical rhythms of life. They provide opportunities for Communion with God and a deeper felt need for God.”

As if we didn’t have the motivation before, the pandemic can give us the motivation we need to reach out to our neighbors. As Christians, we have unique responsibilities in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Individually and collectively, our choices will have repercussions for generations,” he said.

Ko closed by saying,”Whatever the Holy Spirit is convicting you to do in this pandemic,  may you have the faith to embrace it.”

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