There is a story in the Old Testament about the tribes of Israel coming to David before he was made king. Each tribe was described by their skill set. The skill set of the smallest tribe stands out most to me: the sons of Issachar, who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”
This pandemic of both virus and fear needs us to be sons of Issachar—understanding the times—knowing what to do.
It is not enough to rely on our training, because none of us were trained for this. Crises like this tend to expose our weaknesses. My instinct is to try to cover up my weaknesses, to bluff my way through. (Ask me how well that has worked over the years!) The truth is that understanding comes from humility and seeking.
Confident leadership comes from a place of faith and peace. We cannot lead through chaos unless we come from a place of peace. Humility embraces our weaknesses and acknowledges that we have something to learn—that we need help from God and from those he has placed in our lives. That must be our starting point.
I got a call this morning from someone who was conflicted about how to handle a situation in their clinic related to the pandemic. We talked a bit, but then we prayed. We acknowledged that too much of our thought was influenced by frustration, emotion, and partial information. We asked God for wisdom to help us discern between wisdom and fear. And we asked for the courage to do what is right. When we finished, I think we both found peace and had a better understanding and knowledge to do what needed to be done.
This pandemic is affecting CCHF clinics (Christian Community Health Fellowship). Some are committed to maintaining their role as primary care providers. Others see their roles shifting toward patient education during this season. Some are leading testing stations, while others are reallocating resources to support local hospitals. Most are finding that the ability to provide spiritual ministry through prayer is a great asset during this crisis.
According to the New York Times, New York state has roughly 5% of coronavirus cases worldwide, and New York City has over 25% of all COVID-19 patients in the US. It is hard to imagine the city that never sleeps with near empty streets in the middle of the day; but the city has closed all non-essential businesses and gatherings, and most folks now seem to be taking it seriously. But there has been conflicting messaging from local, state, and federal sources about the virus, and it has created an atmosphere of fear and confusion.
Beacon Christian Community Health Center, located on Staten Island, is living up to its name. Beacon is a Christ-centered, long-time member of the CCHF community. Its founders, Drs. David and Janet Kim, were tailor-made for a situation like this. David is a med/peds doc with training in emergency preparedness, and Janet, also a med/peds doc, is trained in epidemiology. After Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, the Kims played a significant role in setting up emergency medical care for Staten Island. They consulted other CCHF clinics after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and have offered workshops on emergency preparedness. It is almost like they were born for this.
“God has called us to be a beacon during this crisis. There is so much fear and misinformation out there. A big part of our role is to help people respect this virus, but not fear it,” David said. “Our numbers are down. Everyone’s numbers are down. But our phones are ringing off the wall with people who are terrified and panicking. It’s like everything they built their lives around is crumbling. I can’t tell you how powerful it is to share with them that God is still in control, and that He cares about them.”
David shared that during this crisis, there were really three main roles they felt they were to fulfill. First, they were to be a beacon to the people of New York—to be a visible pillar of truth and peace, helping them understand the facts in a way that empowers them and dispels fear. Second, they were to keep showing up, taking care of all of the things that people can’t go to the hospital for now. They are still providing full scope primary care, and making sure their patients have continuity of care. And third, they are deeply involved at the state and local level with the health departments and hospitals, facilitating reliable exchange of information and coordinated care.
I asked David about some specific ways they are walking out their role, and about how the pandemic has impacted their work:
The team at Beacon has always strived to love people well, and to respectfully and boldly share the hope we have in Christ. As we talked today, I was reminded that we help our patients and neighbors find inexplicable and unshakable peace when we direct them to take their anxieties to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). That goes for us, too.