The New York Times reported that, “The World Health Organization has declared the Zika Virus an international public health emergency, prompted by growing concern that it could cause birth defects.”
Quest Diagnostics announced that it has received emergency authorization from the FDA to sell the first commercially developed diagnostic test for the mosquito-borne virus. Hospitals and public health workers all across the US are scrambling to prepare for this heartbreaking virus as it makes its way to the U.S.
I know this sounds like a medical emergency, but it is also an opportunity for the church to do what we do best … provide spiritual care to those who hurt!
Below are five things the church can do right now about the Zika Virus:
1) We can educate ourselves and educate the community about what we offer.
We need to educate ourselves, right now, as diligently as the health care professionals are, about the virus. Our congregations are filled with medical professionals and with their knowledge and wisdom, we need to formulate a thoughtful and spiritually based plan to offer to the community.
2) We can remember that the church is called and prepared to offer pastoral care, worship and prayer practices to those who find themselves frightened and overwhelmed.
While mental health workers and life coaches are a gift, they do not offer what the church does. Bringing God, prayer and hope into the lives of those who need it are the unique gifts the church brings to society.
3) We can train and enable our lay members to be Holy Listeners.
Holy Listening equips people to provide spiritual support inside our churches, and outside our walls to neighbors and co-workers.
4) We can work together with other congregations.
The body of Christ is much larger than any one denomination. Imagine all of the churches in your community working together to creatively prepare and educate the community about our role in the spiritual support and healing of those affected with Zika.
5) We can decide that we want to include people affected with Zika in our ministry plan.
Pastoral care, networking with health care professionals, planning extra worship services, figuring out how we will best minister to these people and to any baby born with birth defects will take energy and work. We can prepare now to help them… but will we? The choice is ours and it is now.
*To learn more about Holy Listening, please visit my website at leanne-hadley.com.