How the Pandemic Opened Doors in Durham

DURHAM, NC – Pastor Kent Butterfield and his wife, Rosaria, began their pastoral ministry in Durham, North Carolina, in the Spring of 2012. The conservative, evangelical, Bible-believing church to which they had been called was just a short walk from the university campus where the Blue Devils have dominated collegiate basketball for decades.

Because God is good, just, and wise, all the time and in every circumstance, then the pandemic, for the Christian, must be for our good and for God's glory.
Photo by Airman Jason W. Cochran, U.S. Air Force

What are we doing here?

Like many neighborhoods surrounding major college campuses, the residents in theirs were liberal, left-leaning, and highly suspicious of true-to-the Bible, born-again Christians. The neighbors were careful to give the Butterfields and their church plenty of distance.

It didn’t take long after their arrival for the Butterfields to sense the frigid breeze blowing over the cold shoulders in the community. Their attempts to reach out through their church ministries and events were met with ‘popular public apathy.’

The identity politics that infused the locale eventually evolved into minor vandalism. According to Rosaria’s article originally published on Desiring God’s website, someone had defaced a “Please Curb your Dog” yard sign. Post-artistic treatment, it said, “Please Curb your God.”

Lackluster responses to a church’s outreaches weigh heavily on spiritual leaders. After years of prayer with few visible results, the stress can lead some to ask the Lord, “What are we doing here?” Oddly, that is the same question the neighbors were asking.

Then, in early 2020, the first wave of the COVID-19 virus made its way to the U.S.

The pandemic changed everything.

The essence of biblical Christianity is trusting that “God is who He says He is, and that He will do what He has promised to do.” It is not just acknowledging Him. It is having unshakeable faith in Him and His promises – no matter what the currents circumstances are.

The Butterfields found the COVID-19 pandemic to be an answer to their multiplied prayers.

When it became clear that access to food was being disrupted, the Butterfields joined a community-supported agricultural program (CSA) and distributed fresh-from-the-farm foods to their own neighborhood.

It wasn’t long before they opened the church as a drop-off distribution center. Neighbors who were once avoiding the Butterfields and their church are now expressing their appreciation. The light that has been shining in the darkness has been opening the eyes of unbelieving neighbors who, whether they know it or not, are responding just as Jesus said they would.

Seeing the good works that Lord is using the Butterfields to do in that community, neighbors are now connecting with them – even asking for prayer and becoming open to the Gospel. This never happened – and probably never would have – without the coronavirus pandemic.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Praising God in the pandemic.

When others are overcome with anxiety and fear, true followers of Christ can praise Him for opening doors of service that we would never have expected. Sometimes, we just have to wait patiently for the Lord to show us what we are to be doing here.

Rosaria may have described it best when she said,

“Giving thanks to God for everything, including COVID-19, humbles us — deeply. It reminds us that God’s providence is perfect, and our point of view [is] flawed. Because God is good, just, and wise, all the time and in every circumstance, then COVID-19, for the Christian, must be for our good and for God’s glory.”

Read more news on Christian Ministry and the Coronavirus Crisis on Missions Box.

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