Two weeks ago, I wrote to you regarding the challenges arising from the arrival of the coronavirus and its impact on the stock market. Today, we are seeing a much more widespread effect of the virus, not only on commerce but on everyday life. President Trump has declared a National Emergency and, here in Minnesota, Governor Walz has also declared a state of emergency. These broad, sweeping declarations will pave the way for more rapid responses to the effects of the virus as it spreads and will certainly require changes in our work at Bethlehem College & Seminary.
Nationally, the effects already include everything from toilet paper shortages to the cancellation of all major sporting events to the closure of many college campuses. And, in many parts of the U.S., churches are canceling worship services. Most educational institutions have also made the decision to cease activities on campuses and transfer all teaching and learning activities to the online environment. In short, the impact of COVID-19 is more far-reaching and affects daily life more greatly than anything most of us have experienced in our lifetimes.
It is affecting us at Bethlehem College & Seminary as well. While the occurrences of the coronavirus in Minnesota are, as yet, still relatively few, they are growing. And while we are not fearful about this pandemic because our hope and trust rest firmly in the Lord God Almighty, we do have a responsibility to care as well as we can for others—our students, our faculty and staff, and the greater Bethlehem Baptist Church community with whom we share facilities. Because of this responsibility, we have made the decision to close our campus and move all of our classes online beginning immediately and lasting at least until April 3. Next week is spring break, but when we resume classes on Monday, March 23, all classes will be held online rather than face-to-face. We will continue to monitor the overall situation, and it is very possible that we will continue to hold our classes online beyond the April 3 date. That decision will be made no later than March 27. (For the latest, most up-to-date information, please check our coronavirus page here).
While this will be challenging situation for all of us, my prayer is that the Lord will use this pandemic to awaken people out of their spiritual ignorance and cause them to seek Him as their only sure hope and joy. For believers, my prayer is that we will all see this as further evidence of God’s sovereignty over all things and that He has a gospel purpose for allowing this to take place at this time in history. We must not be shaken. Rather, we must demonstrate by our calm and assured response that we have a sure and rock-solid hope in Jesus Christ, who has conquered death forever, and that those who put their hope and trust in Him will inherit eternal life.
The Psalmist puts it clearly and powerfully into perspective (Psalm 20):
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
Trusting in the name of the Lord our God,
- Please pray for wisdom as we carefully navigate these difficult decisions. Pray that we would exercise appropriate caution while at the same time encouraging each other to see this through with grace.
- Please pray that the Lord might be pleased to keep our community healthy and spare us of potential negative consequences.
- Please continue to pray for the Board of Trustees as they search for our next president. Pray that the Lord would raise up a clear, top candidate who will be able to lead us into the future.
- And, as always, please keep praying for our school’s finances. There are many institutions of higher learning out there that are struggling over financial matters and the coronavirus situation isn’t helping. Please pray for the benevolence of God to continue to be upon us.