God’s Presence in the Pandemic: An IVCF Story

Disciples of Old, Disciples of New: A Resemblance

Two disciples trudged down the dusty road. Their week had been a whirlwind of emotions – from overjoyed over their Master’s triumphal entry, to the trauma of Him being captured, tried, tortured, and crucified. They were shocked at the loss of their leader and feared for their lives. They grieved, lost hope. And then there was confusion. Their Master – resurrected?

Their story may be two thousand years old, but their emotions are as fresh and relevant as today. Ominous words like pandemic, COVID-19, virus, lockdown, and others bring a plethora of feelings to us not unlike how those Emmaus-bound disciples felt. But while the resurrection of Jesus Christ brought them initial confusion, it brings us comfort. And the same Jesus who journeyed with them to explain the Scriptures also walks with us and encounters us through His word.

Luke 24:13-35 was an apt and timely passage for the virtual retreat conducted by IVCF. Two batches of staff and graduates in the country “gathered” online and reflected on what God had to say to them in these times. True enough, they displayed emotions in varying degrees because of the pandemic. And like the two disciples, Jesus walked with them through the  reflection time and through the sharing in breakout groups.

“I was battling with anxiety this whole time because of ECQ,” said one participant, “struggling with understanding the word of the Lord in my QT and thankfully the Spiritual Retreat (SR) helped me gain a new perspective about this crisis.” Several were reminded of God’s omnipresence during the pandemic, walking “alongside those who were lost, bewildered or disheartened,” as one stated it. Listening to others’ story, one declared, “I’m not alone with these struggles and [it] helped me to understand what it means to journey with Jesus in trouble.” The retreat had a two-pronged approach: “we can tell God what we are really feeling or thinking about – we need not filter – but after we talk, we should also listen to him.” It was also a time for fellowship with His people.

“The retreat is a blessing to me amidst this pandemic,” one reflected. Indeed. And it was a privilege to witness the Disciples of Old walking alongside the Disciples of New, with their Master, the resurrected Jesus.

A WORD FROM THE LORD: SR Participants showed their word of comfort.
A WORD FROM THE LORD: SR Participants showed their word of comfort.

The Psalmist and the Staff: An Encounter

Although confined, we the staff refused to be bounded by the community quarantine. We met – virtually, that is. Southern Mindanao RD Darby Aspacio expounded on the desperate prayer of David in Psalm 142. The Psalmist, he said, employed very strong images to describe his situation: fainting soul, unsecured path, friendlessness, and imprisoned. But David did the right thing by crying out to the Lord, his refuge and portion. He then prayed for rescue, so that he could praise the name of the Lord. Drawing from his own experiences, Darby went through what he described was like “crawling in a dark tunnel.” “Oftentimes, we may rely on our own personal capacity or power to face the challenges of life and ministry,” he said. “But God allows some necessary desperate situations (such as childlessness, brokenness, COVID-19, etc.) so that we may come to our senses to cry to God for rescue…”

In conclusion, Darby declared, “In times of our desperate situations, we may feel man-forsaken but we are NOT God-forsaken!” He then encouraged us to write our own personal psalm of plea.


Jonahliza Sinday, Northern Mindanao RD, wrote in Cebuano:

Ang kasingkasing ko nagahilak Kanimo,
Sa tanang nahitabo, Ikaw lamang ang nakahibalo.
Murag naglakaw ako sa kangitngitan
Wala kahibalo unsa akong gilaktan.
Ikaw O Dios ang kahayag sa akong dalan,
Ikaw Hesus, akong kasiguraduhan.
Nagsalig ako kining tanan anaay kahumanan,
Ang Imong kabubut-on ang maoy matuman.

(My heart cries out to You,
In all that happens, You alone know.
It’s as if I’m walking in darkness
I do not know where I’m putting my steps.
You, O Lord, are the light to my path,
You, Jesus, are my assurance.
I trust that there’s an end to all these
That your will be done in the end.)

Speaking for the disenfranchised, Admin and Finance Director Reinstary Joseph Arlegui II penned this  Psalm in Tagalog:

Bakit Mo hinayaan na ako’y maghirap
Gayung sumusunod naman Sa Iyo nang tapat?
Ang isip at puso ko’y nalilito
Kailangan ko Panginoon ng tulong Mo.

Iwan man ako ng mundo
Ikaw oh Diyos ay hindi maglalaho
Ang dusa na aking tinatamasa
Palitan mo ng pag-asa.

(Why do You allow that I should suffer
When I am serving you faithfully?
My mind and heart are confused,
I need your help, O Lord.

The world may leave me,
But you will never do so
The suffering that I am going through,
Change it to hope [in You].)

That’s our God. He is present during this pandemic. He listens; He speaks; He journeys. WITH. US.