Caring during the pandemic
Even as the world looks bleak and uncertain, our faithful god, who never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121) is still in control and he is using these events to shape and minister to those he loves.
None of us living through this time of the COVID-19 pandemic will ever forget the April of 2020, when regular routines of work, play and friends were replaced with stay-at-home orders and long bouts of isolation.
We were stuck at home with not much to do and no end in sight. It was hard, but time moved on. And despite ongoing infections, we can look forward to getting back to everyday life when vaccination reaches target.
But for many people with disabilities, loneliness is a daily thing that doesn't go away. With few options available to them, many depend on the small number of activities and social opportunities such as day programs or supported employment, for their sense of wellbeing and independence.
James, a member at Jesus Club Jannali lives by himself in a social housing unit. Usually, James has lots of activities to keep in touch with people, including Breakfast Club, Sunday Church, Jesus Club and Joshua's Kitchen. James also works for the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability, advising on issues that affect people with an intellectual disability, and help out at his local church, advising on access issues, and goes to several church conferences.
But all these things stopped when Australia went into lockdown at the end of March and he found himself very much alone overnight. And life got hard.
James attending a Jesus Club event with his pet cat
Thankfully, the leaders at Jesus Club Jannali were there to help. The team started a "buddy system", using their dozen or so leaders to follow up members, giving them regular phone calls and the occasional visit to keep them connected. They also started a newsletter which they have been mailing to their members every fortnight.
James was followed up by Barry, one of the Jesus Club Jannali leaders. For many Sundays during the lockdown, they had met for a coffee or a walk in the afternoon. Sometimes for just a casual 'how are you going' and other times talking about the Bible talk in the newsletter and praying together.
"[Our catch-ups] have been quite important. James and I decide together what we will do each week. Sometimes we talk about Jesus Club stuff and it's great to get a member's ideas on our group. I think James has been quite encouraged by our time together" Barry said.
Their newsletters with their fun, comic-strip images, also helped bring a Bible focus to their conversations.
Jesus Club Jannali has been learning that, just like in the times of the disciples, "Jesus is with us even when things are tough". It's a simple, reassuring message.
Since resuming in July, the club was forced to cancel again after three weeks when COVID-19 cases increased in the state. A disappointed James then unpromptedly put himself forward to address the shortage of leaders, "Well, I can help!" he said.
While the team is still working out how James can serve, they are excited by the idea of members serving members. "Nothing about us without us!", said one of his leaders in support as he repeated the disability slogan. A feeling shared by Barry, "I want our members to come to Jesus Club and serve each other. In the same way that you and I don't go to church and just sit and consume – we want to love and serve each other as brothers and sisters in God's family."
For the future, Barry hopes that Jesus Club will provide a place for each of its members to use their gifts to serve God's people and feel truly belong.