This Church is Spreading Hope during COVID-19
Every Christian can be an ambassador of hope during this crisis
Geoffrey Bassett is the Missions and Outreach Minister at Mount Hope Church in Lansing, Michigan. The state of Michigan has seen over 40,000 cases of COVID-19 and has had almost 4,000 deaths.
I understand that the federal and state government asked your church, Mount Hope, if you could help during this pandemic, managing a COVID-19 shelter and even using your own cars to drive COVID-19 positive homeless people to the shelter. Can you describe how this came about?
This partnership just kind of happened. A young lady who had attended our church a few times works within the health department. She reached out to us to see if we could help fill in some of the gaps they were seeing.
The context we are working in is extremely hard. There are a lot of hurting people and overwhelmed public servants.
However, serving in this work has been great! Our church’s volunteers are the best on the planet! They have been coming with a pure and powerful joy in the face of all this grief.
The church has provided food and equipment for the COVID-19 shelter. We helped provide for their overflow plans, and we have enjoyed serving our city.
Have you personally been involved in this project? Have you seen the work up close?
Yes, my whole family has been volunteering and it is a privilege.
Since the original request was made, for us to drive COVID-19 positive people to the shelter, an anonymous transport company has also volunteered to work alongside us. These vans have upped our capacity and made it so we don’t have to ask volunteers to use their personal vehicles.
This is a huge answer to prayer. Their vans can be washed out easily after each ride.
Has Mount Hope been contributing to COVID-19 relief in any other tangible ways?
Yes! Locally, we have given over 35,000 pounds of food away to hundreds of families though a bi-weekly drive up and delivery service. We also worked with guidance from the mayor of Lansing to place 20 hand-washing stations around the city.
We have provided easy access prayer and help phone lines for those with anxiety in the community – they can call and receive prayer and counseling. We also deliver weekly care and encouragement packs to front-line workers (police, medical professionals, and service-industry workers).
“The Church has always been a representation of Jesus to those who don’t know him yet. The community learns what God is like through us. God is not fearful or distant, and neither should we be!”
We also partnered with 14 other smaller churches in mid-Michigan to make sure they are well resourced. We are offering technical, pastoral and outreach support. The list of ways we are getting involved goes on and on.
And that’s all just local! We have 327 missionaries we continue to partner with in 122 countries. All of them are responding to the virus in local ways. India and Pakistan are two nations that have been particularly challenged economically by COVID-19, and our missionaries are working around the clock to provide food to people in villages who would otherwise be starving.
Why do you think Mount Hope was ready to respond to COVID-19 so quickly? No one could have predicted what this virus would become, so why do you think the church was able to be activated on short notice?
Mount Hope has always been a serving Church! We say every member is a minister! So right now, there are over 2000 imbedded missionaries all across mid-Michigan and hundreds more around the world.
Why is it so important for churches to help their communities during this pandemic?
The Church has always been a representation of Jesus to those who don’t know him yet. The community learns what God is like through us. God is not fearful or distant, and neither should we be!
This pandemic is a great opportunity to show the world the true nature of God’s love. If the community is not glad that the church is there, we are doing something wrong.
What has been the communities’ response to your efforts so far? Have you had any experiences stick out from the COVID-19 relief efforts?
I think the stories of life change are still being written. Many have called or written to say “thank you”, for the food donations and other services the church is providing. Among them are international students, the elderly, single-parent families and the sick.
One man confided in me that the stress of this pandemic was too much for him, as I was standing in the parking lot loading food into his trunk. The man stepped out of his truck and when his foot hit the parking lot he began to weep. He asked me if I could hug him.
“Look and listen, right where you are. Right next to you, there may be huge opportunities.”
That was really hard, as we are supposed to be practicing distancing, but it was also a privilege to pray with him that Jesus would be his Comforter. It’s been a joy to be part of the continual care given to this individual – through calls and texts, we follow up with each one who comes to us.
Imagine a believer contacted you and said, “I want to get involved in the frontlines of COVID-19 relief, but I have no idea where to start. What should I do?” What would you advise that person? How can they get involved, even if their local church may not yet have a program to join?
First, I’d say look and listen, right where you are. Right next to you, there may be huge opportunities.
It might be as simple as writing “HOPE” on the sidewalk in chalk; giving someone a smile and wave, or volunteering to wipe carts down at the supermarket. So you don’t need to wait for someone to organize kindness. Just go be intentionally kind to those around you.
Also, God lets us see problems so that we can save and serve them, not so that we can criticize them. If your local church does not yet have an outreach program, go start it!! And do it in a way that honors God’s Church and your Pastor.
If you want help with starting community outreach programs, you are welcome to contact us.
Geoff has held his role at Mount Hope for the last two years. Prior to this, he was a missionary in China for nearly a decade. He and his wife, Andrea, are married with two children.