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We all knew that 2020 would be a significant year.  It was a goal year for many programs… “by 2020 we will _______” (close the Achievement Gap, eliminate homelessness, [insert utopian, ambitious goal]).  It just had such a great ring to it.  2020 was approached with great optimism.

Much like the coming of the Messiah, 2020 delivered something very different from what we expected.  We tend to think, when things go differently than we want them to, that God isn’t in those circumstances.  But when you read the Bible, it seems like God’s will always unfolds in a setting of oppression, chaos, injustice, and sin.

Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt was directly related to the fact that he had been sold into slavery, and falsely accused and imprisoned.  David, after being anointed by Samuel, spent years running for his life, during which time he wrote enduring poetry about the character of God and transformed from a shepherd into a king.  What is God’s redemptive purpose for us, in the time of the Coronavirus?

I have no idea.  Seriously, this is just a Christmas letter, not a theological treatise!  

But I do know that 2020 means perfect vision.  

For now we see through a glass darkly; 

But then shall we see face to face

Now I know in part

But then I shall know even as I am known

And now abideth faith, hope, and love, even these three:

But the chiefest of these is love.

This year we have not achieved utopia, but we now see ourselves in a more honest way.  The Coronavirus revealed our disparities as the poor lost their jobs, spread the virus quickly in crowded living spaces, had little access to healthcare, struggled with education, stretched the food bank thin, and lost their most important asset – community.  Wealthy people, who worked from home and had their groceries delivered to them by poor people, were horrified at the disparity and wanted to help but were not sure how.  Small businesses were hammered, online stores and tech companies became richer.  Everyone thought more deeply about race and justice this year.  We are severely divided politically, each side smug and self-righteous and horrified by the other side, neither side capable of stopping the virus.  Now we know in part, but then we shall know even as we are known.

Healing Grove was born this year, in the crucible of COVID.  Everything about Healing Grove has been miraculous… the prophetic certainty of the call, the funding, the partnerships, the timing.  The TIMING.  Most of the primary care clinics in our area locked their front doors and moved to telehealth, and many people lost their insurance when they lost their jobs, so now we know why God built a primary care clinic for the uninsured just in time for 2020.  Through various grants, we have been able to employ 53 Spanish-speaking employees in temporary jobs to help us meet the tremendous need through food distribution, COVID positive calls, and a whole lot of testing.  We connected with a generous high-end private laboratory up the peninsula that loves our mission and has run thousands of COVID tests for us for free.  Who does that?  As I write this, among the patients who tested positive with us, we have had 1148 positive tests, 6 hospitalizations, and, miraculously, zero COVID deaths.

The need is tremendous.  All of the major Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are impacted by COVID.  People who lack money, sufficient education, a healthy social life, a decent neighborhood environment, and access to quality healthcare – not surprisingly – have far worse health outcomes than those who have those things.  The effects of these factors are far stronger than the benefits of anything we can do in hospitals and clinics with stethoscopes and MRIs, surgeries and medications.  Prior to COVID, our patients had plenty of SDOH issues but most were doing ok.  Now, the SDOH situation for a very large number of people in almost every category is dire. 

People from many different churches have gotten involved.  We had a small but mighty group of homeschool moms helping kids catch up academically over the summer.  Maria Marcelo’s army of volunteers, in conjunction with Cathedral of Faith’s Reaching Out program, has provided thousands of families with food.  Pastora Lourdes has been praying and ministering to dozens of suffering people every day in our Welcome Room.  Generous donors have funded the restoration of a graffiti-covered empty lot into a small soccer field and walking path, which will soon be ready for little teams to start practicing.  An intern posse of fearless young people ran a COVID study in the summer, and another group are supporting our COVID testing site now.  We have harnessed the coding power of nerdy people who have greatly accelerated our processes.  And as I write this, there are 30 people who are giving three weeks of their lives right before Christmas to process hundreds of financial aid applications to help people pay off their rental debt.

2020 has been a year with great anxiety.  Many have been terrified of contracting the virus.  Many have spent anxious hours praying all night for dying loved ones.  Many worry about the future, the “next wave,” a possible economic collapse, or a second pandemic.  There have been a lot of reasons for fear.

I was recently reminded of an old hymn… we sang it a lot when I was a kid.  It goes like this:

Because he lives

I can face tomorrow

Because he lives

All fear is gone

Because I know, I know

He holds the future

And life is worth the living just because he lives

In the hard moments, when Joseph was in prison for something he did not do, when David was hiding in a cave because King Saul was a crazy murderous maniac, when Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus were hiding as refugees in Egypt because King Herod was a crazy murderous maniac… when COVID has taken loved ones, society is shut down, the kids aren’t learning anything, people are eating Thanksgiving alone, and there is nowhere to go… these three remain:  faith, hope, and love.

Faith that God holds the future; chaos, injustice, sin, the “wrong” political party, and death do not hold the future.  Faith that Jesus conquered death, which has lost its sting.  Because he lives, all fear is gone.

Hope that God has a purpose for our lives and can use us with our unique gifts to bring about a better future for everyone on earth.  Life is worth the living.

Love – steadfast, faithful love, that God sees all of us in our suffering, in our sin, in our racial brokenness, in our political division – we are fully known – and He doesn’t hate us, he doesn’t cancel us, he doesn’t erase us.  He never leaves us.  He loves us with a supernatural love, a sacrificial love, a love that “surpasses knowledge.”  It is transcendent and powerful and it changes everything.  And the greatest of these is love.

May you experience the deep, deep love of Jesus during this COVID-tinged Christmas season.