Blessings in the Time of COVID
Anne Gregory serves with the Church of Christ in Thailand.
Galatians 6:11, 14-18
Look how big these letters are when I write to you with my own hand! —Galatians 6:11
What will I say about the COVID years? Like most human beings, my first thoughts are negative. But there have been many blessings, too.
One is that every time I write something that resembles a letter, I find myself thinking about the Apostle Paul. Even though his eyesight was failing him, and some of his letters were written in prison, he always wrote words of blessing and hope, reminding his recipients that he prayed for them.
I have spent far too much time feeling sorry for myself and being afraid—COVID or no COVID. These days I try to think more readily about my blessings. For example, I used to dream about being the preaching pastor of a big church—no worries about building maintenance, budgets, or petty church politics. Just good old preaching, teaching, praying, and counseling. It has crept up on me that my work today is exactly that. As Co-Pastor for English-Language Ministries here at Wattana Church in Bangkok, I escape many ministerial headaches. After all, not much point in bringing complaints to the pastor of a language that many do not speak—she doesn’t have the power to alter church policy. The three main complaints that come to pastors anywhere in the world, simply do not come to me.
What are those three most common complaints? 1. Your sermons are too long, too short, too complex, or too elementary. 2. You don’t visit enough, or you don’t visit the right people, or you visit too much and are never in the office. 3. Your vacations are too long, too often, or inappropriate. 4. (I did say there are only three, but there is another one that crops up here and there…) You never choose the right music.
There is also the matter of being a fully-ordained, native English speaker who speaks and writes Thai and understands a good deal about Thai culture. It is becoming clear to me that those who participate in our English-Language worship services, Bible studies, Care Groups, or service projects, are just so grateful that something like this ministry exists and is not limited to one foreign ethnic group or another. There are many English-speaking churches in Bangkok, but few that minister officially in both Thai and English.
Once again, as I think about the Apostle Paul, I also marvel at how little he seemed to feel sorry for himself, in spite of all his arrests, beatings, shipwrecks, snakebites, and illnesses. My health was a question mark to me seven years ago when I began this journey as a Mission Co-Worker, and then a Mission Service Worker, here in Thailand. It is a bigger question mark now. That should come as no surprise, as many of my pastoral colleagues around the world struggle with health issues. Many of those health issues are stress-related. Some people might argue that, if we were really faithful followers of Jesus, we would be able to resolve our health problems through faith alone. But I am fairly sure all of us are simply flawed human beings, like every disciple who took up with Jesus.
Masks are still the law here, except in restaurants while you are eating. People are clamoring for their third COVID shot, and traffic is back to some of the most congested in the world.
But. I am alive, I have my dream job, and even though complaining is one of my favorite hobbies, I am still learning that every day I have reasons to give thanks.
All of you remain in my prayers.
Anne Gregory serves with the Church of Christ in Thailand. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.