Remember a couple of months ago when you first heard of COVID-19 and we were beginning to hear of possible cancellations, postponements, orders to stay home, business closings and so on.

Who would have thought that we’d still be where we are today, still in our homes, still seeing the news every day with the number of “new cases” and deaths? It’s almost mind-boggling!

I know we all have opinions and our own thoughts on things concerning our current situations. Differing news reports, both local and international, cause us to wonder just how much “real” information is known and how much are we being told. And we each have our own concerns about different phases of life in this “new normal”.

As an educator my heart has gone out to our school children, at all levels of education, and school faculties an,d of course, parents. I know our school staffs have tried diligently to continue “educating” children in a vastly different educational climate. But I also know, that for many of our students, they are simply losing three months of instruction that they will not get back.

Our seniors were looking forward to all the senior activities: “sneak” day, prom, senioritis, get-togethers with friends, and, of course, graduation. I have been very pleased to see that our local Board of Education has decided to listen to others about different ways to hold graduation and hopefully, to think outside the box.

It seems like a “knee-jerk” reaction to declare all virtual graduations, a full month before the day when much can change in these coming weeks. Graduation dates are not “set in stone” and could be moved back; other ways of honoring our seniors can be explored. And I hope the Board will actually listen to the ideas of students, parents and teachers before making a final decision that will affect these students indefinitely.

But I think my biggest question concerns the issue of “essential” versus “nonessential” businesses. I would have liked to see all of our businesses up and running “full steam ahead” through this whole ordeal, but I know that’s not possible. Some businesses, by their nature, deal more personally with people in close proximity, and that supposedly creates danger. I wish I had gotten a haircut and my oil changed before the “orders” came down, and I’m sure we all have things we wish we could do.

Keeping grocery stores and restaurant drive-thrus open would seem to be a “no brainer”. Our medical facilities are working 24/7 and we are thankful for them, and even our funeral homes, though operating differently, are busier than normal. But as I see commercials on television for various “essential” businesses, I realize more and more how this “pandemic” is politicized and how money and whom you know speaks volumes.

There are two areas that seem to be getting a lot of press. One is deemed by some governmental bodies as “non-essential” while the other is up and running as usual. The first is the church; the second is the abortion industry.

Of course, as a Christian and a pastor, I deem the church as essential, every day, 24/7. The church has been the central focus of public life for the past 2,000 years. When a new settlement came into being, it started with a church and a school. We all understand that the church is not a building, it is the people, but God called for His people to be together, commanding us “not to forsake our assembling” (Hebrews 10:25).

I understand the concerns about large crowds and I know there are different ways for church people to fellowship. I have been appreciative of Gov. McMaster’s understanding of the Constitution and our freedom of religion, not just the freedom to worship in our homes (as one previous President opined that First Amendment right), but the right to worship freely, under the direction of God.

Churches have been very creative in continuing their services, and for that I’m thankful. I appreciate services online, on Youtube and Facebook and have enjoyed being on Zoom with others of our congregation. I appreciate those who are having “drive-in” services in their own church parking lots. And I even appreciate those who have chosen to continue to meet in their churches.

Each local church is independent and under the authority of Jesus Christ, Himself. I will not stand before God for the actions of other church leaderships, but for the one church where the Lord has called me. So I will not criticize the direction other churches take.

I appreciate courts that have upheld the rights of churches to meet in various ways. In Kentucky, a Federal judge ruled against the mayor’s order that a church, on Easter, could not even have a drive-in service. The judge rules that the “Mayor’s decision is stunning and is beyond all reason, unconstitutional”. He said he never expected to see a situation like this “outside the pages of a dystopian novel”. And the federal Department of Justice has come to the aid of other churches that had been subjected to “governmental over-reach”.

Certainly the church should be an example of prudence and care, of love and compassion for others, and we are encouraged in Scripture to obey the powers that are in authority over us. But we can see from our current situation, how easily our basic human rights and freedoms can be taken away by the wrong leadership (as they were in many totalitarian nations, past and present).

Only the Lord can get us out of our current world-situation, and His church is His arms and legs in this world. As Christians, let us honor our governmental leaders and our church leaders; but let us pray to and obey Christ first and foremost. Because, after all, Christ is the head of every true church!

And that brings me to my last point for this week. The most hypocritical aspect of our current situation deals with the politicizing of life and death. Our medical community is made up of thousands of heroic men and women working long hours under the most difficult circumstances. One doctor in a foreign country said he and his colleagues are no longer doctors, but “sorters”, determining who should live and die.

Our patients in hospitals and nursing homes are without visitors. To go to a hospital, we must go through a triage tent, answer a lot of questions and then maybe or maybe not see a doctor. I’ve had appointments canceled and many of you have too, and I understand and agree with this.

But what I can’t understand is, with doctors canceling unnecessary and elective surgeries and procedures, why are we still killing our unborn children in our abortion clinics. Perhaps you didn’t realize that, but the abortion industry is doing well. While our medical professionals are working day and night to save lives, other so-called medical men and women are continuing their grisly practice of ending the lives of our unborn. Many have written letters and emails to political leaders, but it seems as if they’re falling on deaf ears. Again, politics and money make the difference of life and death. As the lives of every man, woman and child who contract COVID-19 are meaningful and precious, so are the lives of every unborn child! We must continue to pray and work to end this needless slaughter!

So as we continue on in this surreal life we’re living, let us continue to stay in God’s Word; continue to be prayer warriors; “fellowship” in your local church as your leadership chooses; look out for your family, your neighbors, your friends; keep up with the elderly, those living alone, those with special needs; share your “things” and your life with others. God is still in control. Let us be used by Him to ease this situation for others. “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:3-4) Yes, we are our “brothers’ keepers”!

Cancellations and Postponements

It would be impossible to list every cancellation and postponement in our faith community. Most of our churches and houses of worship will be canceling services, as least for the next few weeks. Many will offer online sermons, live streaming and so on. Be sure to check with your church for the decision of your church leadership.

We continue to list various events and services from local churches and faith organizations, unless I have received notice of cancellation. But please, before you go out to attend one, call someone to make sure it is still being held!

But don’t take a “vacation” from feeding your spirit: stay in the Word, stay in prayer, keep up with your church members via internet, phone or in small groups. Be available to help others as needed! And be ready to share the Good News of the Gospel of Christ as people are probably more willing to receive it!

Special Prayer and Thanksgiving

Let us continue to be in daily and constant prayer to the only One who can end this time of panic and Who is still on the Throne. Pray to God for healing for those afflicted by the COVID-19 virus; pray for protection for those as yet unaffected; and pray for peace and comfort for families who have lost a loved one.

Let us continue to pray for wisdom and rational thought for our political leaders at all levels: national, state and local.

And let’s continue to offer thanks and pray for guidance and protection for all our health-care workers, our first responders (paramedics, fire men/women, police officers).

Remember, God hears and answers prayers!

HELP Help4Kids

Most readers would probably be surprised at the number of children who go hungry each day in Horry County. But working in schools and with kids, I know it’s a tragic reality. Many children rely on the school system for their meals and in the summer and during these uncertain times, other sources are necessary. One of those is Help4Kids BackPack Buddies.

With the loss of annual fundraisers and food drives, the local budget is down some $75,000. And along with food, this organization also provides clothing, diapers and so on.

Please consider making a donation to this worthwhile organization (they are tax deductible though that shouldn’t make a difference to us). You can make a donation through the website https://help4kidsssc.org or mail a check or cash to Help4Kids, 2523 Forestbrook Road, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588. Call (843) 651-4310. My check is in the mail; is yours?

Spring to Life Gala Goes Online

Coastline Women’s Center has announced that the annual Spring to Life Gala will go on as scheduled today. However, there will be a change of format. This year’s Gala will be online.

Those who were registered for the event on the original March date will receive information about this change and will be told how you can still be a part of this wonderful evening. If you did not register earlier, you can still “attend” and be a part. Register at the Coastline website: www.coastlinewomenscenter.org, or call the office at (843) 488-9971.

National Day of Prayer

Each year we are called to pray on the National Day of Prayer, the first Thursday of May. There has never been a time in recent history when prayer was more needed than today. Generally there are more than 50,000 prayer gatherings across the United States.

The spring prayer time was established in 1952 by Congress and President Harry Truman as a time “to turn to God in prayer and meditation”. This year’s theme is Pray God’s Glory Across the Earth and is based on Habakkuk 2:14 “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the earth.”

The day is commemorated by people of all major religions, and prayers are offered for all elected and appointed officials, the military, first responders, medical personnel, education, churches, friends and neighbors, and families.

During these uncertain times, I hope we will not neglect this day and will not let our fears keep us from somehow joining together in collective prayers.

The First Baptist Church of Georgetown will sponsor that city’s Prayer Time from noon-1 p.m. in the parking lot of the church (219 Cleland St.). Participants include Dr. Ted Sherrill, Bishop John Smith Jr., Ryan Marsh and Mayor Brendon Barber. Attendees are currently asked to remain in their cars during this service.

As other local prayer times are announced, we’ll try to communicate that to you.

Good News Club Online

With schools out, boys and girls are sure to be missing the weekly Good News Club, sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship and conducted by area churches. But there is Good News!

CEF has the Good News Club experience online, songs, memory verses and more. Simply go to www.gncsc.org and stay up to date on Good News Club!

A New GAME APP for Kids

Believing that most of us, especially our children and youth, spend way too much time on phones, tablets and computers, I seldom promote this type of thing. But since your kids are likely to be home more in days to come, how about a new APP, a game that will be fun and also spiritually enriching.

Samaritan’s Purse has developed a new Bible game app for ages 5-9. It’s called Greatest Journey and is based on their international discipleship course created for Operation Christmas Child.

It’s a great way for children to learn about God’s Word. Encourage your children and the children in your church or neighborhood to explore the Bible and learn how to follow Jesus through this new mobile app. The app is free and has no in-app purchases or advertisements. It’s available at the App store and Google play. Check out samaritanspurse.org/tgj-app.

Trip of A Lifetime

Wayne and Joy Brown are taking the “trip of a lifetime” and are inviting you to accompany them. This trip to the Holy Land and Germany will include the magnificent and world-famous Oberammergau Passion Play (put on every ten years since the early 1600s). The trip will start July 23 and conclude Aug. 3.

This trip is all inclusive: air transportation from JFK (New York), breakfast and dinner daily, first class hotels, ground transportation, all entrance fees, taxes, tips and gratuities. It is truly going to be a “trip of a lifetime”.

To receive a descriptive brochure with complete itinerary and additional information, call or text the Browns at (843) 796-0397; you may email to Wayne@WayneandJoyBrown.com. Or request in writing at: Wayne and Joy Brown, PO Box 70777, Myrtle Beach SC 29572.

Upcoming Events

■ Springtime Jubilee, the old-time Gospel Conference for “mature and senior” adults held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center has been postponed until Aug. 17-19!

Musicians include: Ricky Skaggs, the Booth Brothers, Karen Peck & New River, the New Speer Family and Gold City. Speakers include Johnny Hunt and Dr. Robert Jeffress. Go to jubileeconferences.com or phone 1-800-616-8863.

■ Rise Up! The Women of Joy 2020 Tour. Myrtle Beach Convention Center is also postponed and rescheduled for May 29-31. Enjoy Sheila Walsh, Mark Lowry, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Lisa Bevere, Michael W. Smith, Lysa Terkeurst and Charles Billingsley.

Register at the website: womenofjoy.org.

Conway, Loris, Aynor and Western Horry

■ Mark on your calendars: in the will of the Lord, the annual Coastal Evangelism Conference will be held at Langston Baptist Church Aug. 5-7. More information as it becomes available.

■ Tilly Swamp Survivors of Suicide, a new faith-based support group for those having lost someone to suicide, meets the first and third Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the church: 4619 S.C. 90. Phone (803) 566-0702.

■ Cherry Hill Missionary Baptist Church, 504 Church St., and Stepnfaith Ministries will present Music Extravaganza 2020 in May and also the Battle of the Voices, a competition for soloists and choirs. Auditions and rehearsals are going on now. These will be led by Minister of Music Kenzie Carey, and you will want to participate. Winners will receive monetary prizes. Phone (843) 248-4900.

■ St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 3449 S.C. 65, will be distributing food on the second and fourth Fridays of each month from 11 a.m. until all food has been distributed.

■ Loris First United Methodist Church, 3507 Broad St., has a Blessing Box in the church and it is available each Friday from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. This box contains nonperishable food items and individuals in need are encouraged to come to the church at those times. Also, if you would like to donate items, please place them in the box.

■ Dogwood Hill Baptist Church, 1040 Mt. Zion Road in Loris, has a food pantry on the third Saturday of each month from 8 a.m.-10 a.m.

■ Salem Baptist Church, 4008 Salem Road in Aynor, opens its Food Bank on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month from 9 a.m.-noon. The mission: “We serve Christ when we serve people.”

Myrtle Beach/The Coast

■ Low Country Food Bank and Faith Outreach Ministries will sponsor a Drive-Thru Food Distribution at the Myrtle Beach Bowl, 101 Philip Gray Drive this Friday at 3 p.m. These are no-cost community events. Future dates include July 10, Nov. 6 and Dec. 4.

■ St. Philip Lutheran Preschool is currently registering students for the 2020-21 school year for the 2, 3 and 4-year-old classes. Come join the fun! Contact the director, Jenn Loeswick at stphilipppreschoolmb@gmail.com or look them up on Facebook: St. Philip Preschool-Myrtle Beach. The preschool is located at 6200 N. Kings Highway. Call (843) 449-4322 and they’ll get back to you.

■ The New Beginnings food distributions will be held May 16 and June 20 from 10 a.m.-noon at the Church of the Resurrection, 8901 U.S. 16 Bypass in Surfside Beach. Phone (843) 215-4500.

■ Mt. Olive Church, 1108 Carver St., invites you to a 14-week Strengthening Families Program, each Tuesday through June 9 at 6 p.m. Phone (803) 791-5513 or e-mail thodge@growinghomesse.com.

■ St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 542 Cypress Ave. in Murrells Inlet, is holding a Life Chain every first Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on U.S. 17 Business, near the church driveway. You are invited to participate in this event. (Bring a chair if not able to stand for the hour.) Contact Joanne Bennett at (614) 313-8425 or email Joanne.bennett55@ gmail.com.

■ Temple Emanu-EL by the Sea, 65th Ave. North and N. Kings Highway, invites you to Friday night service at 7:30 p.m. (Kosher Oneg), Shabbat Service at 10 a.m. (Kosher Kiddush).

Sunday School, 9:30 a.m.-noon,

On Wednesdays: Advanced Hebrew 12:45 p.m.-1:45 p.m., Adult Education, 2 p.m.-3 p.m.; Conversion, 3 p.m.-4 p.m.; Hebrew School, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

Current Second Nature Project: we are collecting items for New Directions of Horry County that provides shelter and meals for those in need. Please bring paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, diapers), bath towels, laundry soap, toothpaste and brushes, and cleaning supplies. We are continuing to collect new packages of children’s underwear and socks. Take your donations to the Rosen Center and place in the basket provided by the front door. All Mitzvoth greatly appreciated! Questions? Contact Karen Osborne at (843) 446-1060.

Steffi Nathan Scholarship Fund for Jewish Students (awarded each semester): applications in Temple Office.

Youth 12-16, the Jewish Historical Society of SC has a contest just for you: create an essay or media piece on the topic: My South Carolina Jewish History. Phone (843) 953-4930 or go to the website jhssc.org/contest.

■ Don’t miss the 12th Annual Ground Zero Dragon Boat Festival that has been rescheduled for Sept. 19. Sign up your team today.

■ Myrtle Beach Christian Church, 1226 Burcale Road, opens its Thrift Store each week, Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. You are encouraged to come out and browse and buy and, in so doing, you’ll be supporting this community outreach. Phone (843) 236-1121.

■ Temple Shalom, 4023 Belle Terre Blvd., invites you to Shabbat services each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Phone (843) 903-6634 or go online to templeshalommyrtlebeach.net.

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