A Letter to the Frontlines
Updated: Apr 2, 2020
With preparation and responses to COVID-19 ramping up in DFW, our Executive Director wanted to take a moment to address the many individuals on the front lines. Our clinics are not only staffed by healthcare workers, but also are able to function because of over 200 volunteers- many of whom will be on ambulance runs, working in the ERs, and manning the ICUs in the days to come. Here's what we hope they remember as COVID-19 continues to spread.
To our first responders and healthcare workers,
If my small window into healthcare is any indicator, I would imagine life these days has been a bit crazy. As things slow some this week and we all brace for a pandemic to come to town in the days to come, my emotions have swung from resolve to panic. Courage to fear to confidence. I’ve played out the doomsday scenarios and I’ve also told myself “we’ll be just fine”. I’ve gotten on social media and I’ve gotten off of it. I’ve been frustrated with people who “get to” stay at home, and I’ve been reminded that it is a privilege that I still get to see people I love.
I ended last week with only one word to describe how I felt: jumbled.
As pragmatic medical people, you have the curse of knowledge. You know how a virus works. You know how this one seems unique enough to trick us into thinking we’re fine while we infect our loved ones. You know how wildly uneducated the general public is about their health. You understand 80% is a good bet for the individual but statistically that means there is a 20% somewhere out there that will be very sick. And you know most hospital administrators are making decisions right now based on limited resources and risk percentages, not on the needs of the individual.
Some of you are starting to panic, and I can understand why. Others of you are choosing to turn the world off and instead blindly run towards the fire, stuffing any doubts or fears with distraction or cheap entertainment along the way. And I can also understand why.
I understand where we’re at friends because I’ve done all of those things as well. I understand. But I, but WE cannot stay there.
So how do you fight panic and complacency at the same time? What do you do when there’s no easy solution for a situation?
In Luke chapter 14, Jesus coaches his disciples to count the cost of following him. Starting in verse 25:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples."
If you are a first responder or a healthcare worker and you know Jesus, now is your time to shine. You were made for such a time as this. The schooling you went to, the experience you gained, the skill set you have…you are actually helpful right now. Your friends are called to be the church as they stay home and flatten the curve. Your unique set of skills is calling you to go and be His church by bringing healing to those who get sick.
But we wont be salt and light if we are panicking. And we won’t be salt and light if we’re walking into this blindly.
In the same way you counted the cost before you said yes to Jesus, it’s time to count the cost again. Many of you counted the cost as you went into this profession. You sat through classes on how to don and doff PPE. You learned about tuberculosis and the Spanish flu. You calculated the risk as you went through the steps to develop the skills you have. BUT, these are not normal days.
There is a global pandemic and it’s time once again to count the cost.
This week, I let my brain go to all the scenarios:
What if I am one of the fluke young people that die?
What if I am one of the 20% that get very sick and I’m put on a ventilator? Or have to be intubated?
What if we find out in 20 years anyone who got this virus has lingering lung deficiencies?
What if I’m fine, but the people I’m making decisions for (my staff and volunteers) get hit bad?
What if I’m fine, but I carry it to loved ones?
As I counted the cost last week, there was good news.
At the end of all of these what ifs, is Jesus.
If I die, I’ll be with Him.
If I suffer with breathing for the rest of my life, I will experience Jesus in this suffering.
If people I love get hurt, Jesus will show up in my grief and sorrow.
In Matthew 11:28-30 he promises to carry our burdens with us. He is not a God that is far away, telling us to “deal”. He is a God that walks through the valley of the shadow of death with us.
What are your “what ifs”?
Have you allowed yourself to count the cost?
Make no mistake, this already is and will continue to be a tragedy. Right now we’re doing our best to not have it hit harder than it needs to. Your normal days at work are more full of death and tragedy than what most people experience in a lifetime. But a global pandemic with no communal resistance isn’t a normal day on the job. We will all be personally impacted in some way.
BUT, if we take the time to count the cost of what’s ahead, we’ll be able to show up to work and as fear or doubts or “what ifs” rise up, we’ll be able to quickly say- I already know the answer to those, and it’s Jesus. When times get hard, we’ll know we already counted the cost. When people we love get sick…we will have our minds resolute on the fact that Jesus is still on His throne.
Now, none of the above is blindly running to the fire. Continue to practice diligent hygiene as you enter and exit the home to best protect your loved ones. Continue to utilize PPE to protect yourself how you can. The above is merely an acknowledgement that you can do every single thing right, and there will still be a risk.
As you count the cost of that risk, I’d like to remind you of some of the truth that myself and our staff were reminded of this week:
Psalm 90 tells us God has numbered our days.
Psalm 91 reminds us that GOD is our shelter. In a time of trouble, HE is the one that will guard us.
2nd Corinthians chapters 4 5 and 6 remind us that Jesus is the answer, we’re not. Paul tells us life is temporary. We are jars of clay, tents. There is a permanent home waiting for us. We are called to steward this temporary existence for God, and the promise on the other side of it is something beautiful that brings “good courage”. We are not home in this body, and so we walk by faith, not by sight.
Matthew 6:19-21 reminds me not to store up treasures here on earth, where they are easily destroyed. But to store them up in heaven.
Matthew 6:25-34 also reminds me that I cannot worry about tomorrow for I have no idea what it will bring. Today is enough trouble, and the God of the universe is in control of today.
1st Corinthians 15 tells me that in light of the resurrection, I can stay steadfast, immovable, abounding in the works of the Lord.
As you count the cost, these verses might be reminders of what’s at stake if you DON’T answer the call on your life right now. I’ve identified with Peter a lot these days, and his words to Jesus in John chapter 6, when many disciples are leaving, Peter says:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Where else would I go?
When I encouraged my staff to count the cost and asked them where they had landed, one of my coworkers who had previously made the decision to take her family oversees to a communist country said any time tough things like this come up, the first question she asks is
“Did Jesus call me to this?”
And if He did, then we need not fret.
As I look backwards, the role I’m in now is undeniably something Jesus paved the way for me to do. He plucked me out of engineering, had me learning from some of the best medical professionals the last 5 years, allowed me to encourage and build into an army of Christian health care workers….and then a pandemic hit.
None of the past pieces of my story are coincidence or haphazard. They were all preparation for moments like these.
I’m sure the same is true of many of you.
Your faith LED you to this profession.
Let it now LEAD you through this pandemic.
Now, I want to be clear. As some of you count the cost…your answer may be different. And it does not mean you’re not following Jesus or that you’re doing this wrong. Those of you who have lung issues or are older…I hope your administrators are kind to you and change your role for a season to mitigate your risk. We made the call two weeks ago to take anyone in that category off the front lines. I also know I have flexibility to make calls like that which other healthcare administrators do not. But don’t you feel bad for one second if you count the cost and it doesn’t make sense for you to be seeing patients right now. I told my 72 year old dad who’s a cancer patient to lockdown 3 weeks ago. That is not fear or disobedience, it’s wisdom. If you’re in a similar spot, be free.
But for many of you….once you count the cost- your answer will and should look the same as mine.
First, take a minute to grieve the current situation we find ourselves in (and believe me, I have grieved).
Second, take yourself to scripture and the reminder that the chaos you see today is not permanent.
Finally, answer the same as Peter did: “Where else would I go?”
First responders and healthcare workers...you are a RARE BREED of human. Truly. I’ve said it for years, and it is even more true these days. I have learned SO MUCH from each of you these past 5 years. You strengthen me. As I watch you at work it has made me love Jesus more.
These are unprecedented times for our generation, and if the lot of you that I get to hang out with are any indicator- we are going to rise to the challenge.
We will be in history books, people.
Let’s make sure we give them something worth writing about.
Pray this with me: Jesus, use us to make much of YOU. Send us with steady hands and resolved hearts. We come to you humbly, acknowledging we are not God. When they do write history books about these days let there be a footnote that says “while the world was crumbling, there were followers of Jesus who looked different. They were not reckless or indifferent and they did not panic. They seemed to have supernatural wisdom as they professed Christ." Help us to trust you with today as it's trouble enough of it's own. Help us to love the person in front of us. Help us to stand as a testimony of your goodness in a trying time. Amen.
...so that multitudes may be healed,
Questions to Process for Healthcare Workers
Before you go to your next shift, spend some time processing through the following with God. After you’ve done that, we’d encourage you to share the take aways with your family and your community! We’d love to hear from you on how you’re doing.
Where have you given in to panic or apathy? Confess those moments to the Lord and ask for His help to not stay in that place mentally and emotionally.
Have you counted the cost of working in the midst of this? What are some of the “what ifs” you’re wrestling with? What does it look like to carry out those “what ifs” until their end and answer them with Jesus? What are a few verses you can work on memorizing during this time to help your heart refocus on truth when concerns arise?
Take some time to read through each section of scripture referenced in the blog. Pick one verse to write and post somewhere you’ll see every day before going to work.
Have you given yourself a chance to grieve our current situation? What expectations did you have for 2020 that are now shifted? Have you lamented those and turned your expectations and hopes back towards the Lord? (David models this pattern for us in the Psalms, especially Psalm 13 is a great example). Consider taking the time to write your own lament and use the last few parts of it to remind your heart of what is true.
How are you doing at being a light during this time? As you read, what specific situations came to mind where you can look different? Maybe it’s at work, at home, with your peers or neighbors. Who will you be salt and light to in this season?