“I am so amazed at what God has done among us”: Grace AOG’s pastor on surviving COVID-19
Samantha Loh // March 1, 2020, 8:21 pm
The past couple of weeks have been remarkable for my church, Grace Assembly of God.
It all started when two members of our staff contracted COVID-19 and had to be warded in the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). We then discovered that even our Senior Pastor had caught the virus, along with more people who were associated with our church.
Who knew we would become the nation’s largest cluster?
At the time of writing, there are 23 confirmed cases linked to our church and four people remain hospitalised. To allow for recovery and an incubation period to pass, regular weekend services have yet to resume.
The main takeaway? God is indeed working powerfully in the lives of individual members and the church despite everything that has happened.
Beginning his message by apologising, Pastor Wilson said he was “so so sorry for the trials that (members had gone) through because (they had) chosen to be a Gracian”.
These ranged from inconveniences such as having to work from home – whether voluntarily or not – to experiencing stigmatisation and discrimination for being a member of the church.
Pastor Wilson also apologised for having caused anxiety in members due to his sickness. “No words can fully express my deep respect for many of you who have stood with us through this difficult time. I am grateful,” he said.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS LEADING UP TO PASTOR WILSON’S COVID-19 ANNOUNCEMENT
Sharing how he first discovered about his diagnosis, Pastor Wilson recounted that he had been unwell on February 4, but recovered in time to preach at the church’s launch of its 70th anniversary celebrations on February 8-9.
Miraculously, he even managed to squeeze in a 10km run that week, without any difficulties!
On the weekend of the celebrations, he had cleared all temperature checks. However, in the evening of February 9, he began to feel unwell again and decided to see a doctor the next day.
Hearing that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19 and another staff member was undergoing testing, Pastor Wilson decided that the responsible thing to do was to get himself checked at NCID. He was also not recovering despite taking antibiotics for a suspected throat infection.
While being isolated and waiting for this results, it was then that Pastor Wilson received the news that the second staff member had also tested positive, making the church a COVID-19 cluster.
“I remember on 11 February, I slept with a heavy heart,” Pastor Wilson said, as the magnitude of all that was happening dawned on him and he contemplated the decision of suspending all church events and activities.
The following day, another heavy news dropped. He, too, had been afflicted with COVID-19.
“I was shocked… and went into a personal crisis management mode,” he said, remembering that he had to calm himself down before informing his family and the church.
Even though he was kept busy with online crisis management meetings while warded, Pastor Wilson revealed that he also struggled with his own emotions, knowing that he could have infected many who had come in close contact with him.
“You can imagine the stress I was going through,” he added.
“My three letters from NCID were like my prison epistles to Gracians!”
It was agreed by the church’s leadership team and executive board that Pastor Wilson should publicly identify himself as a confirmed case after the Ministry of Health’s announcement. This happened on February 13 with his first letter to the church.
Four days letter, a second letter was released with news of Pastor Wilson’s recovery.
The third and final letter, which announced Pastor Wilson’s discharge from NCID, was released after he tested negative on two nasal swabs.
“I had a taste of what Apostle Paul went through when he wrote his prison epistles to the churches!” Pastor Wilson shared excitedly.
“My three letters from NCID were like my prison epistles to Gracians!”
Admitting that emotions were running high throughout his hospitalisation, Pastor Wilson revealed that he had cried many times after hearing about the experiences of staff and church members.
For instance, he was told that one staffer might not be able to attend his daughter’s wedding because of his home quarantine order. “Many things would trigger my tears as I received the unpleasant news.”
The whirlwind chain of events led Pastor Wilson to seek God even more fervently while in NCID. As he cried out, “God, what is happening?”, the Lord answered.
“Watch and pray!”
Despite not understanding initially, Pastor Wilson started to see the powerful work that God had begun within the church and the lives of Gracians.
“I began to cry again,” he said, because he was so deeply moved by stories of how church members went out of their way to help those affected by home quarantine orders and leaves of absence.
A group of youth leaders even dropped by his home with gifts and flowers to bless his family while he remained in the NCID.
Pastor Wilson shared that he was most encouraged by seeing all the different ministries come together and pray daily.
He exclaimed: “God has started a prayer revival in Grace Assembly!”
Through waiting on God, Pastor Wilson said he was reminded of the sermon he had preached on the launch weekend of the 70th anniversary celebrations.
Centred on the significance of three “70s” in the Bible, the message was originally prepared in the context of the church’s 70-year journey, but it turned out to be a prophetic word for the church in this season of crisis.
“What a way to start our anniversary celebrations!” Pastor Wilson mused, emphasising the fact that the suspension of all activities over the past three weekends is a first in the history of the church.
Revisiting the same three Bible stories he had preached from during the anniversary launch, he shed new light on each of them during his online sermon this morning.
HOPE FOR THE EXILES (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
Just as God had allowed the Israelites to be scattered everywhere during the time of Jeremiah, the congregation of Grace Assembly has also been scattered across Singapore, unable to return to their spiritual homes in Tanglin or Bukit Batok, where the church is located.
But it was also in this same scripture text that God gave the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 to the exiled Israelites. Pastor Wilson shared that he, too, felt led by the Lord to claim this for the church in the midst of this crisis.
“God, what is happening?”
“In our darkest moment, this verse became so real and powerful for me… for God knows His plans for Grace Assembly!”
With the church hoping to resume its regular services soon, Pastor Wilson said that he was claiming Jeremiah 29:14 to come to pass, that God would gather all church members back to the two campuses.
A NEW GENERATION OF LEADERS (Numbers 11:16-17)
During the anniversary celebrations, Pastor Wilson had preached that just as God would place His Spirit and its power upon the 70 elders that Moses selected to help him lead Israel, this would happen in Grace Assembly as well.
Amazingly, this was what happened over the last three weeks, observed Pastor Wilson, as he witnessed how God raised people from the church’s next-generation ministry (NEXUS) to intercede, fast and pray.
He also shared how he was so moved by the faith of the children within the church.
Instead of going to a park, playground or shopping mall on a weekend, one member’s young daughter had wanted to come to the church building even though it was closed. Upon arriving, she laid her hands on the church gates and began praying for those affected by the virus.
“I was so blessed to know that God is stirring the next generation to arise and pray for this church,” said Pastor Wilson, who was visibly emotional even as he recounted this testimony.
“To all our leaders, both young and old, thank you… for arising as spiritual elders of Grace Assembly in this crisis. Thank you for being (the staff’s) hands and feet in reaching out to Gracians (as we served our quarantine)… I am so amazed at what God has done among us.”
GOD’S PROVISION & PRESENCE IN TIMES OF CRISIS (Genesis 46:26-27)
In this scripture passage, Jacob had led his family into Egypt, seeking provision and a greater hope. These 70 members of Jacob’s family signified the beginning of a new nation with God’s presence and peace surrounding them despite the trying situation they were in.
While Pastor Wilson had emphasised then that the church should not live in fear but have faith and trust in God’s presence and provision during times of uncertainty, the last three weeks have indeed proved that Gracians are “coming together as a faith community…(to) live in God’s presence and provision”.
With such an encouraging sight, Pastor Wilson declared boldly that Grace Assembly would emerge stronger than ever through this crisis.
“Never did I expect that these significances of ’70’ preached three weeks ago would now be fulfilled in Grace Assembly, through God’s sovereign move!” Pastor Wilson said. As of 9pm on March 1, the two videos from this morning have garnered more than 9,500 views.
“Yes, we’re bruised by this virus, but in Christ Jesus, we’re not defeated… and I declare, that Grace Assembly will rise again in strength and unity, as a community of prayer!”
Pastor Wilson concluded his sharing with Revelation 12:11, reminding the church that it would triumph over the fear of the virus with the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimonies.
“May we be found not to love our lives so much as to shrink from death… for in Christ Jesus, we have overcome death!”
PAUSE + PRAY
Rounding off his sermon, Pastor Wilson expressed his gratitude to all frontline healthcare workers and encouraged the church to pray for them. These were his 3 prayer pointers:
- For God to continue the work of revival He has begun in Grace Assembly – to visit, touch and restore the church.
- For COVID-19 patients to encounter God’s presence and power through this experience.
- For God’s hand of protection to be upon frontline healthcare professionals.