After the lengthy suspension of gatherings due to the unexpected coronavirus pandemic, many churches in northeastern China have resumed their in-person services. In some places, the pastoral staff was highly enthused as they gathered to serve the Lord, and believers were also eager to be back in church and give their contributions.
On the first day when one church in the city reopened, from the first floor to the fifth floor, the building was full of believers, and there were others standing in the courtyard. Some came from far-away suburbs, and some came from other churches which had not reopened. In order to attend the first service, which started at 8:30, some believers got up at five o'clock in the morning and went to the church where they had temperature taken, information registered, and phone codes scanned.
In some churches, the number of believers who came to the first service greatly exceeded the expected number. So church staff had to stop the believers from entering the church, advising them to stay calm and wait patiently for the next service. In order to attend the second service, some older sisters with weak legs waited from morning to afternoon, as their homes were far away.
A pastor said: " The church resumed one month ago, and the number has gradually increased from 300 at the beginning to 500 now. The church, which could hold about 1,000 people, has been reduced by half so that members can keep socially distant. The church is now at its capacity in how many it can handle for services."
Some believers brought catechumens to the service, and some new attendees accepted the Lord Jesus when the pastor gave an altar call.
One person in charge of a church with about a thousand people said that while services were suspended, contributions had decreased, but that didn’t have a big impact on the work of the church. According to statistics in July, the church received more than 80,000 yuan through online contributions. In the churches that have reopened, before entering the sanctuary, believers handed all their offerings in at once.
Almost all the believers gave as much as they could.
The church staff, especially those who had experienced the church reopening two different times, were full of enthusiasm to work for the Lord and serve the believers. These co-workers in the service group, prayer group, choir, security group, temperature measurement group and disinfection group, insisted on serving in two or three services a day.
Some middle-aged and elderly co-workers who had to stand for a long time took breaks and sat for a while. Some co-workers were too busy to come over to drink water. Until the evening service was over, finding themselves thirsty and hungry, some co-workers asked their family members to prepare some porridge.
Some co-workers had to take two different buses and then walk to the church to serve. Some got up at 5 o’clock in the morning and went to the church without eating breakfast. Some couples attended the service together. In order to take care of the family, some couples divided their responsibilities. One served in the church in the morning and the other in the evening.
The team that looks after funeral arrangements were loved because of their service to families who had lost loved ones during this time. No matter if it was during the pandemic or after services were resumed, as long as they were notified, they would help to handle funeral arrangements. They contacted the crematoriums, arranged proper clothing and were with the family until the burial.
Some churches needed to hand-register the elderly as they didn’t have smart phones where they could have their codes scanned. Some young believers took the initiative to help them to register as the service staff were too busy.
- Translated by Abigail Wu