Reflections
 

By Sharon van Arneman
 

View it as

God's love

to nudge us
 

September 25, 2020

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What if we all decided to view the coronavirus as a love nudge from God to us; as His gentle reminder that we ready ourselves for His coming? You would think that with the death and devastation this virus has unleashed and continues to unleash globally, the minds of people everywhere would naturally turn to the coming of Christ. Surprisingly, though, what I have observed is that so few give any thought to the imminent return of Christ. But we all know that in life, it is often when we least expect that things happen.

You graduate from high school, full of hope and promise and big dreams, praying that you’ll be the recipient of a college scholarship, but the funds you need to pursue your studies never come. Instead, you watch as many of your friends get the opportunity to fulfill your dream. With a heavy heart, you do the only thing left for you to do – you take a job. Then one day when you least expect, the doors to college swing wide open, and you realize that the prayers you thought had gone unanswered were now being realized beyond your wildest dreams.

You get married and can hardly wait to start a family, but for some unfathomable reason, every pregnancy test comes out negative. In desperation, you try one method after another, but nothing works. The longing to have a baby seems to consume your whole existence – you cry, you pine, you whine, you grieve, then you decide it’s not going to happen so you might as well adopt. So you adopt first one kid and then another; then out of the blue when you least expect, you discover you’re pregnant. I believe it will be the same way with the return of Christ.

“Be ready,” Jesus warned, “because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” And although no one knows for sure just when He will return, what we do know is that He will come back. We don’t have to wait around for some compelling new prophecy, because the truth of the matter is that prophecies are being fulfilled in such quick succession we can hardly keep up. And because everything we need to know is already revealed to us in God’s word, we know not to be troubled or perplexed at the current state of affairs, with the coronavirus and everything else that’s happening in our world today.

We can rest in God and place our confidence and trust in the words of Jesus Himself who said: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” That is why we can decide to view the coronavirus as a love nudge from God to us – His gentle reminder that we ready ourselves for His coming, because whether we expect it or not, the very next moment could herald His return.


On the other side of

COVID-19 Part 2
 

September 18, 2020

Life on the other side of COVID-19! I know I speak for everyone when I say that it can’t come fast enough. But while we can hardly wait to be on the other side of COVID-19, how will such a time find us? Who will we have helped? Whose journey will we have made easier? Will we find that we are better prepared for eternity? Our COVID-19 experience has definitely impacted our lives for better or for worse – both collectively and personally. That’s why we need to pause and check in with ourselves every so often, to make sure of how we’re doing. Even now, are you finding that your experiences and all the stuff you’ve witnessed have made you a better person; more compassionate; more mindful of others; more caring? How have you changed? How have you grown? Will the other side of COVID-19 find you wiser, better, stronger for what you’ve been through?

If you are finding yourself struggling in your faith as you continue to navigate the very real consequences of this pandemic, know that you are not alone. Sometimes, the hearts of even the most courageous of us can grow faint when we take our eyes off of God and focus instead on life’s troubles about us. But when we are confronted with life’s toughest situations and there is no way out; and all we can do is turn to God and entrust everything to Him – as we watch Him come through for us, it reminds us that He truly is present with us. And because He is with us, that means that all the stuff we’re going through is right there before Him. Our troubles are not buried under piles of files on His desk as we nervously wait, wondering when He’ll finally get around to our case. No. No. No. The God of Heaven is present with us today – at this very moment – and while it is true that COVID-19 can keep us apart from people, it is powerless to separate us from the presence of God. That’s why I can confidently encourage anyone who’s been impacted by this pandemic to draw near to God; He is our refuge and strength and He always stands ready to help in times of trouble.

When we grasp the significance of what it means to always have God’s presence with us in any and every circumstance, our outlook on life immediately changes. And as we adapt to this new normal in these uncertain times, we realize that whether we contract the coronavirus or not, God is present with us. Whether we lose our job or not, God is present with us. Whether the economy crashes or not, God is present with us. Whether we get a vaccine soon or not, God is present with us. Whether our company flourishes or not, God is present with us. He is present with us on our jobs; He is present with us on our bed of affliction; He is present with us on the frontlines of this pandemic; He is present with us as we follow protocol and do all that we know to do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. So however we come out on the other side of COVID-19, it’s all good because God is already there; and as long as He’s our hope and trust, there’s no reason to fear what lies ahead.


On the other side of

COVID-19
 

September 11, 2020

As I write today, I am locked away in my own thoughts, wondering what life will be like on the other side of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Back in March when our island was abuzz with all kinds of suggestions of what we as a community could do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, who’d have thought that come September, we’d still be grappling with this virus and, more so, still clueless about when we’d see the last of it! But here we are – like so much of the rest of the world – learning to coexist with the virus while dreaming of life on the other side of it.

Ahhh… Life on the other side of COVID-19! I know I speak for everyone when I say that it can’t come fast enough. But while we can hardly wait to be on the other side of COVID-19, how will such a time find us? Who will we have helped? Whose journey will we have made easier? Will we find that we are better prepared for eternity?

Living through this pandemic, we’ve experienced economic devastation; we’ve witnessed business closures; we’ve watched the nightly news detailing one account after another of the horrendous suffering this pandemic has unleashed on humanity all over the world. We’ve had to endure lockdowns; we’ve had to postpone or, in some cases, cancel meaningful events; we’ve had to socially distance ourselves from people we love. We’ve had to embrace working and studying remotely as we turned our living rooms into offices, studios, classrooms, gyms, workshops or whatever else our lifestyle demanded. Many lost their jobs; some had their salaries cut – and all this with no reduction in our monthly financial commitments.

Some have known the bitter grief of losing a family member to the virus – their pain compounded by the fact that given the nature of this disease, they could not even be by their loved one’s bedside. Others, who contracted the virus, battled death and won; while still other infected persons were fortunate to have recovered easily, having had mild to moderate symptoms. All of that goes to show that individually and as a people, we’ve been through a lot! Some have been in a funk since the pandemic began; they’re plagued with worries about their dwindling resources, wondering how they’ll pay the bills, what each day will bring, when (if ever) will things turn around. Our COVID-19 experience has definitely impacted our lives for better or for worse – both collectively and personally.

That’s why we need to pause and check in with ourselves every so often, to make sure of how we’re doing. Do you feel bewildered, angry, stressed and afraid? Has this whole experience been a strain on your last nerve with one frustration after another, leaving you feeling trapped, confined, restrained – like one held against their will and desperately wanting to escape? Have you been able to find coping mechanisms that gave you some measure of healing, and probably even renewal and refocus on this journey? Even now, are you finding that your experiences and all the stuff you’ve witnessed have made you a better person; more compassionate; more mindful of others; more caring? How have you changed? How have you grown? Will the other side of COVID-19 find you wiser, better, stronger for what you’ve been through?

It's A Family Affair!

Don't you see that children
are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand
a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.
~Psalm 127:3-5 (The Message)



When it comes to church work and Christian service, it has always been a family affair for the van Arnemans. Forever grateful to God for their Christian heritage, Pastor Erick and Sharon have always felt divinely mandated to pass this Christian heritage on to their children, who will then hopefully pass it on to succeeding generations.

Today, they are overjoyed to not only have their daughters (both of whom got saved as tiny tots) serving right alongside them in the ministry, but also their son-in-law,             Denfield Jamaul Hastings, as the new Assistant Pastor of Grace International Baptist Church.

Read Pastor Denfield's testimony below:

As a recently ordained pastor to the work of the gospel ministry, I am so psyched to be the new Assistant Pastor of Grace International Baptist Church and to serve alongside Pastor Erick, who also happens to be my father-in-law. I still can’t believe I am married to his daughter Joy-Ann. My wife has beauty and brains and although I knew she was way out of my league, I couldn’t help falling in love with her. The day she agreed to marry me was the happiest day of my life. 

Born on April 22, 1992, on the island of Antigua, I grew up in a Christian home where I was exposed to the gospel of Christ at an early age. At the tender age of eight, I became aware of my sinful state and repented by faith, acknowledging Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I later got baptized as a teenager and served in the youth ministry as assistant youth leader.

I felt called to preach in my late teens, but it wasn’t until 2010, when I attended a youth conference where I was challenged to live more visibly for Christ, that I started to truly respond to the call. At this youth conference, I delivered my first message. Over the next few years, the desire to not only preach, but to also shepherd and disciple others as a pastor, grew stronger within me, and confirmed the initial call I had felt on my life.

To further my formal training and preparation for the ministry, I completed a number of online courses and attended classes at a local institute in my homeland Antigua. Most of my practical ministerial experience was done at All Saints Baptist Church – the church I grew up in, and also where I served as the formal aide to the pastor. I’m always glad to take up every opportunity afforded me to preach God’s word whatever the setting, and I give God thanks for the opportunity to serve at Grace International Baptist Church.