Seeing people’s faces raises moral and lowers stress.
As Local Outreach Pastor during the COVID19 pandemic, the church is faced with new challenges when it comes to connecting and serving people. While most folks know how to use social media and communications platforms like its second nature, we must consider those who may not know how to use technology to connect.
Think about the elderly widow who is isolated but she has a smart phone. She may not be aware of the capabilities at her fingertips. The objective is to help you help others connect face to face using technology.
Below are some simple videos and instructions you can share with others. Help those feeling isolated and lonely connect. Be their buddy and the face that brings them hope and comfort.
Let’s help our neighbors connect during quarantine during this COVID19 situation. Let’s keep relationships and loving our neighbors at the forefront of our minds while we exercise proper precautions like social-distancing and self-quarantining.
As Local Outreach pastor leading community outreach at a large church in Fort Worth with two multi-sites, a lot of people ask me how they can help others. At a time when social distancing and self-quarantine are necessary to protect our neighbors from COVID19 (corona virus), we must be creative and careful in how we help.
One of the best ways EVERYONE can help is the old-fashioned, time-tested ‘Call Tree.’ I recommend everyone create call trees in their own neighborhoods.
This is a simple, safe and highly effective way for out people to engage with their neighbors. It’s also ‘low-tech’ relational.
Definition: A call tree is a simple communication model used to notify friends and neighbors of an emergency or need. The idea comes from crisis management protocols. A call tree is also known as a phone tree, call list, phone chain or text chain.
One person gathers contact information for a group. In the event of an emergency or urgent need, someone from the group can text/call the Point of Contact (POC) who will send out a group text to ask for help – meeting the need or dealing with the emergency.
Simple Steps to creating a call tree:
Step 1: You invite 8-10 neighbors to join a neighborhood call tree for emergencies or urgent needs.
Step 2: You offer your cell number to neighbors. Ask for the participating neighbor to text their name back to you to be included in the call tree. (This ensures the contact information is accurate).
Step 3: After gathering all willing neighbors’ contact info, you can loop in everyone in the group with a group ‘welcome’ text.
Step 4: Move quickly when an emergency need arises.
1. Give First by offering your cell number to neighbors. Always “invite” your neighbor to join the group. If they decline, just offer them your cell phone number and let them know to contact you if they need anything.
2. Be clear on the outset that this is a neighborhood call tree for emergencies and urgent needs only (medical emergency such as illness, food/water, grocery run, prescription pick-up, job loss, elderly neighbor welfare check-in).
3, Inform your neighbors that you will NOT share their contact info with anyone outside the neighborhood call tree.
4. Place a time limit of 30 days on the call tree. On the outset, inform your neighbors that the call tree will be active for 30 days. If we’re still dealing with COVID-19 in 30 days, ask each neighbor if they want to remain on the call tree. Then run it for another 30 days (repeat if necessary)
5. SOCIAL DISTANCING: Due to the current environment, we recommend writing a note and putting on their doorstep in the event you don’t see them often – inviting them to the neighborhood call tree – make sure write your cell number, full name and address in the note.
If you already know your neighbors and have their contact, encourage them to reach out to others you may not know. Be available by sharing your contact info and willingness to help.
Make note of any first responders or medical personnel in your neighborhood. Write them a thank you note – invite them to join the neighborhood call tree.
Contact your neighborhood patrol officer and let him/her know you have a neighborhood call tree and invite them to join – or ask if you can contact them if a need arises.
If anyone in your area becomes ill with COVID-19 (or any other illness), find ways to serve them and their family using the call tree.
There you have it! A call tree is simple, low-tech way to build relationships and meet needs in your community at a time when we are forced to limit our human contact due to social distancing.
Read previous post: Alone Together
If you like what you read here, please subscribe – sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.
“Alone Together.” Is there any better way to describe this moment in history?
As the wave of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic spreads across the globe, we are seeing whole societies and nations shut down and shut off human face-to-face interaction. In America, the jokes and funny memes have given way to a seriousness. Every hour more people are coming to the realization that everything has changed.
Three months ago, the conversations were completely different than they are today. I look back and recall having discussions about the pervasiveness of screen addiction and the challenge of too much social media and technology in our lives. I admit, I had a problem with screens, scrolling and such.
Today, my paradigm has shifted. My perspective has been stood on its head. Because of a tiny virus, we are experiencing what it means to be ‘Alone Together’.
Rather than focusing on fear and chaos, I’m looking for lessons and opportunities. I’m looking for new ways to ‘do life’ together in forced isolation.
How can we engage with this new reality without losing our minds? Or worse … How do we keep from losing our humanity?
“Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. And as it turns out, we are very vulnerable indeed. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.”
– Sherry Turkle
I’d add that for millions of people, the spurious glitter of our technological goddess has answered our collective prayer. She says, “You want real isolation with your screens and social media? Your wish is my command!” And here we are, alone together with the goddess of our own making. But, we’re left wanting and empty.
The New Reality
Due to the current state of the world, the illusions and fog blocking our view of reality is quickly evaporating. More and more people are realizing that human contact is more important than we thought. The status quo has been upended in a matter of weeks. As a good friend of mine said yesterday, “The gods of western culture like sports, media, corporate greed and entertainment have all bowed to the spirit of fear.” Entire nations are being brought to their knees. People are around the world are coming to grips with a new reality. Many are fearful of what it all means.
In this very moment, we all have a choice to make. We are alone together on this island, the boats have been burned. There is no way off. What shall we make of this? We cannot build boats out of ashes or memories. We must build here and now. What you do right now will shape the culture in the age to come. We can be selfish and ‘me-centered’ or we can engage in sometimes messy relationships with others.
When you strip all of the stuff away, what do you have left? A better questions is, WHO do you have left?
The Bible says, that we are individually significant and we have intrinsic value. In spite of what modern social constructionists and social engineers tell us how different we are, we are of one race – the human race. We must see what is good, true and beautiful held in both our unity and diversity as human beings. We were not created to be isolated. We were created for community. We are hardwired for relationship … as hard and painful as relationships can be at times. A life pursuing pleasures is empty and meaningless. Think about it. The good stuff is found in knowing and being known by others. Loving people over stuff that can’t love you back.
You have a choice today. How are you living? Take an entire day to consider what your life will look like a year from now or 5 years from now. Try to see yourself from a future perspective. Who do you want to be? Who do you want to invite into your life? Who needs you to step into their life today? Are you lonely? Isolated? I’m here. There are a bunch of us here. We have been waiting for you. We could use your help, your talents and gifts.
Action Steps … you don’t have anything better to do
Take the coming days and weeks to consider who is most important in your life… I promise, its not you! Reach out to that old friend you haven’t seen or spoken to since college or high school. I guarantee they will be overjoyed to hear from you. If they don’t answer the phone, leave them a voicemail letting them know you were thinking of them. And, God forbid we tell our friends and family we love them! Write a letter to someone you love or a ‘thank you’ note to someone who impacted your life.
We were never meant to be ‘alone together’.
“The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.””(Genesis 2:18)
If you need prayer or have a comment, please reach out to me.
Remember, God loves you in spite of yourself (John 3:16).
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” continues to be relevant in our cultural moment. His words challenge the church to embrace it’s full purpose. The extent to which the Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed and integrated into the life of the church is the extent to which the church is relevant and effective in society.
The quiescent church is the gateway to injustice, brokenness and disorder. The witness of the church should be felt throughout the culture as the Gospel message empowers believers to pursue justice and reconciliation, serve the needy, create beauty and restore what is broken. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin transforms the believer. This Gospel, rightly lived out will teach, sanctify and transform the society in which believers dwell. It will be distinctly ‘sacrificial’, restorative and bold in its expression.
Martin Luther King Jr. operated from a distinctly Christian worldview. It informed his purpose, his view of reality and drove his behavior. This nation has benefited from his worldview and his actions. His challenge to the church echoes today. Dr. King knew what he was about. Do you know what you are about?
We know what our salvation saved us from (eternal separation from God’s presence, goodness and joy).
But a better question is;
What is our salvation for?
[Put another way, what is the purpose of our salvation?]
Below is a letter that I sent to President Donald Trump today regarding the recall of US troops from Syria. There is trouble in Syria, Turkey and Northern Iraq. This is the home of the Kurdish people. I’m calling for this administration to take immediate action to protect this region from those groups and nations that would cause them harm. ISIS 2.0 is ramping up in the region and Turkey (while in NATO) is no friend to the US or the Kurds.
The Kurds stood for us. Let’s stand for them.
Politics must be set aside in order to unite to do good. I encourage you to engage as well. We live in a country where citizens are free and safe to voice their dissent and opinions against actions or policies of our government. You have a voice, use it. Be wise and respectful when you do.
President Donald Trump 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I am writing you in regard to your announcement to recall U.S. troops from Syria.
I am a pastor in Fort Worth, Texas. In 2018, I visited Northern Iraq (Kurdistan) with an NGO assisting the rescue and recovery of Yazidi women and children from ISIS terrorists in the region. They are also providing trauma care for those victims in the refugee camps around Duhok. I have seen first hand what ISIS has done to families and communities. It is impossible to describe the horrors they have experienced.
While in Kurdistan, I had the privilege of meeting Kurdish people from all over the region. Many of whom had fought ISIS and lost family members. Every Kurd I met was warm, kind and loving toward our great nation, the United States. The hospitality extended me while in-country can only be credited to the hard work of Americans over the last several years. I could not have been more proud to be an American.
The Kurdish region is the hidden gem of the Middle East. The Kurdish people are an international treasure – made up of Christians, Yazidi and Muslims. With vision and U.S. partnership, the region can become the epicenter of human flourishing, freedom and economic growth. No other nation on the face of the earth has the foresight and fortitude to stand for the Kurdish people like we do. ISIS or other terror groups will fill the security vacuum. We must protect the vulnerable and stand in the gap for our friends. We are their only hope.
In conclusion, Kurdish children have hopes and dreams – just like my children and your children. I’m humbly asking leadership to consider the unintended consequences of our actions. Please stand for the Kurdish people. We have an opportunity to make history and save lives. I hope to visit my Kurdish friends again one day and know that my nation stood in the gap for them. I ask myself the haunting questions, “What if that was my family? Who would help us?”
May God continue to grant you favor, vision and wisdom in your service to our nation. Thank you for giving me a hearing.
My alarm goes off at 4:45am. I get up and get moving toward the coffee source. I gather my gear and head to swim practice with the local US Masters team that kicks off at 5:30am. I do this two to three times per week. It keeps me in shape and typically brings me a good deal of pleasure.
The swim team is a great group of folks of various ages, ethnicities and skill levels. There are some very talented swimmers in the pool every day.
Over the last year, I have been struggling with my swim and a cloud of frustration seemed to lay over me. I didn’t notice how bad it had gotten until a couple days ago. I mean, swimming is my favorite sport. I really enjoy it. Or do I? The thought of ‘hanging it up’ had crossed my mind a couple times over the last couple months. That has never happened before.
Every morning when I show up to practice, this hotshot college swimmer jumps into my lane. He seems to only show up to practice when I’m there. Sometimes, I’m warming up in a lane alone and he jumps into my lane. He is way faster than me and he lets me know it.
Boy does this cocky punk get under my skin. Everyday I’m in the pool, he’s there talking smack to me. I get pissed off and begin swimming harder and harder – not concentrating on my stroke. I’m just pounding the water and feel like I’m treading water or (worse) swimming backwards! He just laughs and blazes right passed me, leaving me in his wake. He steals my enjoyment with every lap.
After Tuesday’s practice, I had a conversation with a guy who’s about my age and swims on the team as well. He’s a solid swimmer and continues to swim competitively. I was complaining about my swimming and shared my frustration. You see, I swam competitively in high school and college. I wasn’t always the fastest swimmer but I was a good and I could hold my own. I was sprinter. Short races were my specialty. However, at 44 years old, I was frustrated and I expressed that to my teammate.
He said, “I’m not as fast as I was when I was younger. But that’s okay – I focus on the future.” We parted ways and I went home not thinking much of it.
A couple hours later it hit me! I admitted to myself that the hotshot college punk swimmer in my lane everyday was ME. I was trying to compete with a 20 year old me. There is no way I can do that at 44 years old. Do you know what? That is just fine. There are a ton of things I can do at 44 that I could not even dream of doing at 20.
When I jumped into my lane this morning, the college punk didn’t show up. I focused on swimming into the future. It was one of the most enjoyable swims I’ve had in a long time. I stopped my teammate after practice and thanked him for his encouraging words. He said, “We just need to keep reminding each other to focus on the future.”
It’s interesting how we let our self-talk influence our mindset. How past experiences, both positive and negative affect our lives today. Sometimes it takes a few words from someone else to open our eyes and change our outlook.
Do not let the younger you criticize you today. Past mistakes, failings, triumphs and victories do not define you today. Focus on the future. As your physical strength quotient declines, your wisdom and experience quotient increases. There is more joy to be had in the future than in the past.
Focus on the future, Encourage someone else today and NEVER EVER QUIT!
“Your own performance is either improved or diminished by the other people in your scenario.”
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.