A HBCU Campus Minister’s COVID Hopes
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:13-15
A mist, a vapor—here today, gone tomorrow.
For 5.78 years, I’ve seen the Lord save and sanctify college students at Howard University. Why such a specific number?
Because it wasn’t a full 6 years.
When I walked onto the campus of Howard University on Friday, March 13th, little did I know that it would be my last day there. But God knew. You see, this year was supposed to conclude 6 years of laboring for the sake of the Gospel at this prestigious HBCU. But then, COVID-19 broke out. My last semester being cut short due to a pandemic was the last thing I could have ever imagined, yet God in his strange providence allowed for the unimaginable.
Saying Goodbye to Campus after COVID
Strange. Bittersweet. Sad. These are some of the emotions I’ve felt since learning I would not, at least in my current role, step foot on a campus I’ve grown to love—a campus that not only I got to impact but one that also impacted me. I’m thankful for the time I’ve spent there, for the relationships built, for the grind of doing ministry day-in and day-out. But much like when I first got to campus in the Fall of 2014, the advancement of the gospel has and will always be up to God. It’s only when God is building the house that the labor is not in vain; this is the case even when my ministry doesn’t conclude the way I had hoped. As my time is cut short, and I move on to a different ministry, the Lord continues to build the house, and He’ll do so without me. There’s comfort to be found in God’s sovereignty.
So, instead of assuming the Lord will do something, James’ exhortation in verse 15 has jumped off the page to me in a way it never used to: Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
This pandemic has halted my work, but praise God that His work continues. He has already used this experience in my life to grow my understanding of his sovereignty and hope for what He may do—if He wills.
Saying Hello to Hope
For the Christian, myself included, all of this time in isolation has the potential to create a deeper longing for the people of God, maybe even unlike ever before in our generation. I’ve found myself imagining what it’s going to be like belting out hymns with a thousand other saints in the heart of Washington DC when this pandemic passes, Lord willing. I get emotional at the thought of returning to be with those who want to know Christ and make him known. Could the Lord be using this strange time to help grow our Romans 5 hope that does not put us to shame? I’m hopeful.
I’m also hopeful for something that is less visible. For many people, this pandemic has created time and space our busy lives don’t normally allow for. I wholeheartedly believe that with this extra time many Christian fathers are spending extra time in family devotions, extra time washing their wives in the Word, extra time praying for their families and loved ones. And as a result, I wholeheartedly believe a harvest is coming! These gospel seeds are being sown in Christian households across the world will one day grow into oaks of righteousness heralding the glory of God. I’m hopeful.
Lastly, I’m hopeful for those who don’t know Jesus. The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 makes it clear that God can use whatever he pleases in calling his people to himself. If he could use a famine to make the younger son see his foolishness and return home to his Father, imagine what he could do with a pandemic. I’m hopeful that when, Lord willing, this pandemic is over there will be baptismal testimonies being given all over the world that include the phrase, “The Lord used this pandemic to draw me to himself.”
Our plans may change: in the face of COVID, or any other life circumstance. As James says earlier in his letter, our God doesn’t (James 1:17).
- Pray for gospel work at Howard University and HBCUs across the country. Pray the Lord would build laborers on the college campus for the lost world.
- Pray for hope. In the midst of death, unemployment, and uncertainty, pray that Christian hope would increase in the heart of every believer and be attractive to the non-believer.
- Pray the Lord would end this pandemic and that saints all over this world would be able to gather together again and sing praise to the Lord louder than ever.