Greetings from St. Francis Chapel, Makerere University, Kampala, and Praise the Lord!
My name is Onesimus Asiimwe (Rev’d) and I am the Chaplain of St. Francis Chapel – Makerere University. Christ Church and St. Francis Chapel have an important mission partnership focused on reaching youth in Northern Uganda. The Lord has enabled us to do amazing ministry together that neither one of us could do alone.
Our partnership, however, is not just about things we do together. It is also about praying for one another. Now, more than ever, the Lord is calling us to be a people of prayer. Like you, Ugandans are thinking about little else these days except the coronavirus and what it all means. I am not a public health specialist, and I am not an economist. So, I don’t actually know what it all means.
I am a Pastor.
I can’t control the decisions of governments to close down schools and shut borders. I can’t understand what the economic and financial implications will be for the disrupted global supply chain and distribution of goods and food. I can’t predict how big the pandemic will be or how many people will get sick or how many people may lose their jobs.
What I can control is the response of my heart.
What the world is going through right now is a deeply spiritual issue and we shouldn’t miss this opportunity for the sake of our own souls – as well as the souls of our families, friends, and neighbors.
Think of Jesus in the boat with His disciples on the Sea of Galilee when a storm suddenly came up. The disciples all cried out, “Lord, don’t you care if we perish?” Where was Jesus? He was asleep! That’s how much at peace He was. He had everything under control, even if it didn’t look that way. That’s what faith is – believing God is still in control, even when it doesn’t look that way. That’s the meaning of Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.”
In Uganda, we are three to four weeks behind you in terms of the spread of the coronavirus, but in January we were also attacked with the plague of locusts … in Biblical proportions. So, we are getting two big attacks in a short period of time – a literal plague of locusts, and a plague of sickness. I believe God is trying to get our attention, and that’s why I believe this season is a deeply spiritual matter. I don’t know exactly what God is trying to say to us, but I do know these three things:
- Whenever there are plagues and the shaking of our foundations, it is time to repent. That’s a strong Lenten theme. Perhaps there is corporate repentance and we should pray for the discernment to know what that is. However, until we have clarity about that, I am convinced there are always areas of our lives for which we need to repent, and you can only seize that opportunity when you turn off the news long enough to examine your own heart and surrender it to the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The human responses we are seeing of fear, panic, and anxiety are all natural, but they are not from God. That’s why this season is a deeply spiritual opportunity. Fear, panic, and anxiety are not emotions that we can just decide to turn off, as if they are the tap on the kitchen sink. We cannot use the force of our will to make them go away. The way they go away depends on what you focus on. If you focus only on the news and all the things that are being cancelled and the rapid spread of the virus, you are feeding fear, panic, and anxiety. Stop. Stop feeding them. How do you do that? Focus on the Lord – focus on repentance and faith. When you do that, fear, panic, and anxiety flee. You will starve them, and they will die. This spiritual principle appears throughout the Bible.
Listen to these words of Scripture.
- Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4.18)
- In Hebrews 3, the writer says, “Fix your thoughts on Jesus.” (Heb 3.1)
- To the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Whatever is true…whatever is lovely…whatever is commendable…think about these things.” (Phil 4.8)
- When the long-serving King of Israel, King Uzziah, died, there was panic and uncertainty everywhere. God gave Isaiah a vision – something to fix his eyes on – and it was a vision of the Lord, high and lifted up. This means that our God is above all chaos; He is above the coronavirus; He is above all the disruptions of our daily life. He is the sovereign Lord and he is in control. (Isaiah 6.1ff)
3. While Easter hasn’t yet come, we look to it in hope. For many of us, the virus may “peak” around Easter. During this season of confusion, I want to encourage God’s people to sing … or, “make a joyful noise.” The Italians have figured out the importance of singing right now. And, as secular as they have become, that instinct to sing comes from generations of faith before them. Singing is deeply Biblical. There is an African proverb that says, “When an African sings, he prays twice.”
There are two traditional Christian songs that are grounding me.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” This is repentance. Turn away from the news. Stop doing what you’re doing that is feeding your panic. Turn towards Jesus. Fix your eyes on him.
And, now faith. Faith is at the heart of this Easter hymn: “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Because he lives, all fear is gone. Because I know…he holds the future. And life is worth the living just because he lives.”
So, my friends, our partners, our dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
- “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and lifted up and his train filled the temple.
- In the year that coronavirus hit our community, I saw the Lord…
- In the year that I lost my job, I saw the Lord…
- In the year that my business failed, I saw the Lord…
- In the year I learned to home-school my children, I saw the Lord…
- In the year we couldn’t gather for Sunday worship, I saw the Lord…
I. Saw. The. Lord – alive, risen, and reigning. I do not know what tomorrow holds but I know the One who holds tomorrow, and, because He lives, I can face tomorrow … and, so can you.
We love you and we are praying for you. Please, also, pray for us!