Jul21TueLearning to see God at work in the midst of COVID-19 in the Quebec Division. July 21, 2020 by Major Barbara Carey
(Above) Cpt Aida Munoz-Perez (centre), CO, Light of Hope Family Church, Montreal, and members of the corps pack food baskets for families in the community
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on our lives, our communities, our country and our world. People have suffered and died, economies have been destroyed, businesses have gone bankrupt and people have lost their jobs. But even through all the negatives, God has provided opportunities that have changed our way of working, our priorities and perhaps even our outlook on life itself.
In my role as the integrated mission secretary in the Quebec Division, I have seen an understanding and appreciation of integrated mission grow and develop throughout the pandemic. This understanding has happened organically while meeting people’s needs. I have seen corps members reach out to the community in new and wonderful ways; co-operation between community groups, with new partnerships being developed, like I have never seen before; and people reaching out to each other with genuine compassion. I have seen Salvationists getting involved with our social services ministries to help meet increased needs because of COVID-19.
I asked some people from the Quebec Division to share the positive opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what they said.
Captain Aida Munoz-Perez, corps officer
Light of Hope Family Church, Montreal
At Light of Hope, the Holy Spirit is moving. Although we do not have worship services right now, approximately 15 of our corps members still come out every week to help families in our community. We meet to prepare food baskets and pray together before delivery.
Our youth leader is preparing bulletins with our corps information and an invitation to our services, and three new families have come recently through this ministry. They are participating in our daily devotionals, sermons and prayers via Whatsapp and Facebook.
I see an awakening and an understanding that this is kingdom business at work: “One hand to God and the other to humanity.”
Captain Colleen Gleadall, corps officer
Several members of our congregation help with our food bank on a regular basis, and we are thankful this has continued during the pandemic. We have a full force of volunteers who come to unload the truck, sort food, sanitize the space and help prepare food boxes. Volunteers have shared that they feel a sense of purpose in helping other people, and I believe that feeling has intensified during the pandemic.
Louise runs a Stitch and Chat program every Tuesday throughout the year. Since COVID-19 hit, they have not been able to meet in person, so she calls the participants (approximately half of which are community members and not connected to the church in another way) every Tuesday to touch base, to be a listening ear and to pray with them if the opportunity arises.
We have also had several monetary donations from members of our congregation who asked for the money to be passed on anonymously to those in our community who have lost their jobs or are experiencing food insecurity.
Camila Cormier, Montreal Citadel
When the first cases of COVID-19 made their way to my city, I knew this was going to have a major impact on my daily life. The speed at which things changed was faster than my peers at Concordia University, and my co-workers at the hotel where I worked, could have imagined. I was laid off and then I had to complete my semester online. I took both these changes in stride—I knew everyone was facing the same situation—so I adapted as best I could.
However, I couldn't help thinking about the fact that this pandemic was impacting the whole city and each person was affected differently. While I was feeling the pains of being isolated, a neighbour two doors down could be feeling the fear of debt as he was forced to continue paying his bills without a job. As I was dealing with loneliness, a person a few blocks away could be dealing with an abusive relationship. As I was finishing my semester with good grades, a student in my program could have failed their classes because they were having trouble paying rent in their downtown apartment. All these possible scenarios played in my head and my hate for this virus continued to grow.
After finishing my semester, I heard that The Salvation Army’s Montreal Booth Centre needed on-call employees and I decided to volunteer my time. I worked at the Booth Centre for about four weeks, distributing food to residents who could no longer come down to the cafeteria. What stuck me was that the Booth Centre was incredibly busy even when things at home and in the city seemed to be at a halt. Serving the residents, attending meetings with public health, seeing how hard the administration was working, co-operating with the other employees and co-ordinating the generous volunteers gave me a brighter, wider picture of the impact this virus has had on the people around me.
There will always be pain and hardship in life, but I have come to see that there will also be possibilities for improvement, co-operation and new perspectives to gain from these situations. After my four weeks at the Booth Centre, I know that God’s plan was in action, and that he wants to keep his plans for my life going, without brooding on the negative impact of this pandemic.
Captain Vilma Ramos, corps officer
Eglise communautaire de Sherbrooke, Que.
Many new community partnerships and contacts have been developed because of COVID-19. We have new contacts with the ecumenical community and a renewed partnership with the Rotary Club. “La table de chefs” donated 1,350 meals of soup to give out to the community. The increase in need has meant we have increased our days of service, which has resulted in opportunities to make new contacts.
Andréa Lauzon Amyot, regional director of public relations and development, Quebec City
Since the onset of the pandemic, the Salvation Army food bank of Quebec City has doubled the number of baskets distributed per week, from 140 to 300. To do this, we had to buy food from one of our faithful supporters every week. The Maxi Fleur de Lys team worked with us to deliver as much food as possible at the cheapest price. They also organized a fundraising campaign.
Another positive outcome of the pandemic has been an increase in the number of volunteers. We have several new and loyal volunteers help us during the pandemic. We have also developed a partnership with the Katmivik Quebec volunteer program. Through this partnership, we have introduced four new volunteers who offer their time at our family assistance service (FAS) four days a week.
COVID-19 has been devastating and will continue to be so for some time, but there are many lessons we can learn because of this experience. Lessons about living in community and turning a terrible situation into new opportunities. Lessons that teach us we truly are one Army with one mission.
My prayer is that these lessons will stay in our hearts and minds and that corps, community and social services will continue to grow in appreciation and in solidarity.
Our mandate as The Salvation Army is to be a transforming influence in this world. Let’s not go back to normal. Let’s continue to learn new ways that we can work together to accomplish the mission God has given us.
Major Barbara Carey is the divisional integrated mission secretary in the Quebec Division.