Written by Rev Dr Ner Dah of Westgate Karen Baptist Community Church
In Psalm 103:1-2, the psalmist David pens, “Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me”.
During the prolonged lockdown period, many of us experienced a myriad of challenges and difficulties whether that’s financially, mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually. Our Westgate Karen Baptist Community Church was no exception. However, God continues to be faithful in all that He does and we want to share with you five good things He has done for our church during this time.
Enjoying a new way of online Worship & Communion
All our church members are from a refugee background and and the majority can only speak and understand the Karen language. Coupled with the challenges of technology like using Zoom, it was initially a very difficult process for our some of our church members to tune in to our online service.
Despite this, everyone stepped up to help one another to navigate these challenges and soon (within a week of starting!), we were able to have all of our members online.
With much prayer and an open discussion with our pastoral team and leaders, we were able to agree on hosting communion online. All in all, this was a great achievement for our Church.
Learning new COVIDSafe skills
With COVID safe rules and regulations updated regularly, our leaders learnt to adapt.
Initially, it was very difficult for our leaders to make sense of the rules, let alone implement them when we held our first COVID safe onsite service, but we are thankful for BUV Support Hub’s Rev Dr Marc Chan and Rev Meewon Yang for their help in getting us through. They provided samples of plans and procedures implemented by other churches and with their recommendation, we were able to invite Pastor Jon Coombs from Rowville Baptist Church who helped us create a hybrid onsite and online service that catered to all members of our church.
Equipping leaders and members for Spiritual Growth
Our church has since grown not only in the number of attendees but also in our fellowship and spiritual walk with God.
Our online services have hosted times of fellowship after the main service with congregation members connecting with each other through prayer, encouragement and reflections.
“Church members (including children) also have the opportunity not only to read the Bible together but also to understand the background information and the essence of each individual chapter. [Because of this, we are] more equipped for spiritual growth during difficult times.”
Networking with other Churches
Young people tend to prefer face-to-face interaction as opposed to online, and our youth group numbers have dropped since the online transition. When our youth pastor noticed the situation, one of the effective ways he was able to keep their attention was through regularly organised combined services with youth groups from other churches. This can be youth groups within Victoria or even interstate.
These combined services are now a regular feature of our church. It gives the opportunity for our youth group to fellowship with others but also allow the opportunity to improve their relationship with God without certain costs and hindrances of face-to-face fellowship.
Receiving COVID Vaccine
With rumours of the “evils” of the vaccine becoming widespread in our church, some members became reluctant to receive theirs.
Many people including our church members received a lot of misinformation about the COVID vaccines from social media. They heard rumours that the COVID vaccines were evil. Because of these rumours and misinformation, some members were reluctant to receive the COVID vaccines.
With much prayer and discussion, the church leadership team invited Dr Lester, a trusted family doctor of many Karen families, to speak to the congregation online and to organise a mass vaccination for our church members. This proved very helpful to many of our members who couldn’t organise their own vaccination appointments due to the language barrier.
“We thank God for providing us with wonderful people such as our Rev Neville Taylor, leaders and members of the Westgate Baptist Community to use the church for mass vaccination. We are also thankful for Dr Lester, a medical professional from DHSS and his medical team as well as our secretary and other volunteers from our church who helped make this mass vaccination day happen.
God is good!
The good things I have highlighted above are just some of the many ways that God was with us throughout such difficult times.
“The virus outbreaks and the prolonged lockdowns will continue to impact us all in different ways. However, remember that we are not alone. There are many people around us who are more than willing to help whether they be pastors, leaders or members from our own church; people from other churches; leaders from the BUV; medical professionals and many others. Try to be connected and find out ways to get help and advice. But more importantly, try to be connected with God and ask His protection and help. Finding all the good things that God has done to us will help us see how good God truly is in our lives.”