By Verónica Martínez-Gallegos
It is hard to believe that approximately eight months ago COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. Suddenly our daily lives were greatly affected. Everything appears to indicate that we are close to having a vaccine that will help us gradually return to a normal life or a new normal. Undeniably, it has been a year of many changes and challenges. Most of us have stepped out of our comfort zone. Daily, the news shows cases of how communities in solidarity are helping people who are suffering from this pandemic.
Now, this is not the first time that humanity has faced a pandemic. In 1918 people experienced a worldwide pandemic called the Spanish influenza that took the lives of millions of people.
What have we learned from these global crises as a community of faith?
As Latina Christian leaders we are essential partners in providing a ministry of emotional and spiritual support to our communities, and to the family of faith. The Apostle Paul speaks of this when he says: For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
(1 Corinthians. 3:9 NIV).
A ministry of solidarity must begin with awareness and compassion to minister to others in their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Essential partners ministering to physical needs
As Christians and community leaders we are called to educate ourselves and become aware of the problem we face. Without a doubt, now we know more about how to protect ourselves from the corona virus. We have learned to wear masks, and to practice social distance. We have also learned to use technology in creative ways.
On the other hand, fear and stress make their presence known. The toll of this crisis continues to impact our lives in different ways. Nevertheless, compassion for the suffering of others is vitally important. Today more than ever, God calls us out of our status quo to have empathy with people who are living in pain and suffering. The biblical narrative of the Good Samaritan provides a great example of this (Luke 10: 25-37).
At our local church, from June to August we offered drive thru dinners. It was a way of meeting a physical need in the community. We joined God, where God was already working, as we ministered to the lives of seventy-two families in our community.
We are approaching the end of this year that has stricken us with terrible physical and economic crises. How can you join God and care for other people in their physical needs?
Essential partners ministering to emotional and spiritual needs
A caring, mindful, and compassionate ministry also cares for the emotional and spiritual needs of others. In the ministry that I offer as a chaplain, clinical pastoral care takes on several spiritual dimensions. Spirituality and religion are important factors. When people are in crisis, they look for an existential meaning amid the chaos. Some people seek spiritual support and others are at least open to the possibility of alleviating some of their emotional stress through spiritual care.
In my role as a chaplain serving a community at the hospital, and in a pastoral role, ministering alongside my husband, we are essential partners who are providing care to those who suffer from illness, face life crises, and/or experience major loss.
Essential partners called to minister
As Latina Christian leaders we are essential partners called to minister to others. The Apostle Paul said: “Such is the confidence we have toward God through Christ. Not that we are adequate in ourselves so as to consider anything as having come from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant…” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6a).
Therefore, as we near the end of 2020 in the midst of this ongoing pandemic, there is still much to do, much to learn, and reasons to be grateful.
If you look around, you can perceive the vulnerability of people. With the same comfort you have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:4), minister to others in their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
If you are the one who needs that care, look for refuge in God, in your church, and in other spiritual support leaders. Today, more than ever, we need to remember that we, the Church, are essential for change in this global crisis.
Be encouraged, God is on our side!
Rev. Verónica Martínez-Gallegos, M.Div., BCC and ACPE is a Certified Pastoral Care Educator Candidate in Charlotte, North Carolina. She also serves with her husband who is the senior pastor of La Voz de La Esperanza Baptist Church in the same city. Additionally, she serves as the coordinator of CLLI in North Carolina and is part of our CLLI faculty.