Rev. Dr. Rudy Bropleh is an economics professor at Shepherd University, an Elder in the UMC, and the Lead Pastor of Asbury Church in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. He’s worked on six continents, offering training in economic empowerment and leadership development.
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When I entered the 9th grade my parents sent me to Carroll High, a premier boarding school located in the mountains of eastern Liberia. I was 12 years old and this was my first time leaving home. I was homesick. I cried the entire first week at school. Everything was so different from the small town where I grew up. This boarding school seemed like a wilderness, and I felt lost in it.
Things changed as I became acclimated to my new environment. I made new friends, got involved in sports, learned to play pool, scrabble, chess, cards, and participated in a national production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Actually, the year I spent at Carroll High turned out to be one of my best years in high school! But my time at Carroll High had its share of challenges, especially when I would run out of basic supplies, snacks, and personal effects. I didn’t have money and knew not to ask my parents, because they didn’t have it. Whatever they had for me, they gave me when I went off to school. So I managed through the grace of God and the generosity of friends at school.
There was this one time when I was really out of almost everything and somehow, nobody seemed willing or able to assist. I was starting to have a wilderness experience again. Then I got a package from home—the one and only time this happened. In that package was everything I needed! When I got home my mother asked me if I received the package. I said, “Yes. It was like manna from heaven!”
Manna from heaven was one of many wonderfully miraculous things that God did for the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness. God provided a pillar of cloud and fire for guidance (Exodus13). He created passage through the sea (Exodus 14). Bitter waters were made sweet and drinkable (Exodus 15). Israel was victorious when Moses raised his hands (Exodus 17). And many more.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging. As of this writing more than 1.3 million people are infected worldwide with more than 78,000 deaths. In the US there are almost 380,000 cases of COVID-19, and more than 11,800 people have already died due to this pandemic. [NOTE: These numbers have increased significantly since Dr. Bropleh first wrote this piece.] With this kind of health challenge, the stay-at-home orders, loss of jobs, and a global economic slowdown, the world is fast becoming a wilderness. But the God who worked wonders when the Israelites were in the wilderness is the same God today. And He is still working wonders.
When confronted with a seemingly insurmountable challenge in the wilderness—Israel needed to cross a vast sea but didn’t have any ships, boats, rafts, or life vests—Moses addressed a people who were petrified: “Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14).
God is already working wonders in this wilderness of the COVID-19 pandemic. While too many have lost their lives, even more people have survived! Families are learning to cope with their new normal of staying home and being in each other’s faces all day. Wonders! We are learning so many lessons: we don’t need all the things we thought we needed to survive. Wonders! We don’t have to spend all the money we usually spent. Wonders! We can exercise more if only we made the time. Wonders! We can attend church or watch services online if we make that a priority. Wonders! The United States is not as great as it seems. Incredible! The UN is not the problem-solver of the world. Exactly! The WHO cannot figure out all of the world’s health issues. Right!
And the world really needs God and the Church, now more than ever before. True, true, and absolutely true!!! Start counting your blessings, and you will see that God is still working wonders, even in the current wilderness of our lives.