In early June, Willie and Elaine Oliver, directors for the department of family ministries at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, hosted a live online event focused on the intersection of marriage, families, and prayer as a part of the World Covid-19 Marriage and Family Day of Prayer.
“We were concerned about the rising accounts of distress and abuse in marriages and families due to the COVID-19 quarantine,” Elaine states. “Even in previously stable homes, people were feeling anxious and stressed about the unpredictability of their future.”
So, as people of faith who wholeheartedly believe in the power of prayer, the Olivers put together an 80-minute program featuring ministry leaders who not only shared valuable information, but also prayed specifically and authentically for marriages and families around the world.
“We firmly believe we need to turn to our spiritual disciplines such as prayer during times of crisis and distress,” Willie explains. “Prayer takes us out of relying on our own strength and moves us into a reliance on God. It also reminds us of God’s promises such as the one found in Phillipians 4:6-7, which tells us to ‘Be anxious for nothing.’”
“We also believe this day of prayer can help us refocus on what is truly important,” Willie stated in the opening moments of the live event, called The World COVID-19 Marriage & Family Day of Prayer. “Focusing on the word of God can kickstart all that God has left there for us to emulate and apply to our lives, especially in our marriage and family relationships, so we can have the peace God meant for us to have.”
As they moved into the guest portion of their broadcast, Elaine prayed, “We know we can bring all our relationships before you–struggling and thriving. We ask that our relationships in our families and with others and in our communities point others to the good that comes from you.”
Guests during the show included President of the global Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ted N.C. Wilson and his wife Nancy; Mark Finley, special assistant to the president of the Adventist church; Torben Bergland, associate director of health ministries for the Adventist church; Heather-Dawn Small, director of women’s ministries for the Adventist church; Linda Koh, director of children’s ministries for the Adventist church; Andrés Peralta, associate director of youth ministries for the Adventist church, and general vice-president of the global Seventh-day Adventist Church Geoffrey Mbwana and his wife Nakku.
Nancy Wilson pointed out that during stressful times such as the world is experiencing with COVID-19, it is easy for tensions to mount and relationships to be strained.
“We don’t grow unless we’re being stretched,” she said during the live event. “It’s in the home that our true character comes out, and we need to think of the home as a place where Christian virtues should be nourished and grown so that we will learn to help each other. The family is a team that helps each other to bloom how God created them.”
Elder Ted Wilson, the world president, added that prayer is crucial.
“It’s not just one day of prayer, it’s an attitude of prayer and staying connected to the Lord at all times,” he said.
Mark Finley shared suggestions for spending positive time together and bonding as a family, making sure to take time to listen to each other.
Finley also shared three principles he and his wife have been focusing on as they attempt to stay connected to their children and grandchildren throughout the pandemic: Communicate, play together, and tell stories. For example, Finley calls his grandkids in the evenings and tells them stories, dramatizing mission stories for them.
“I’m trying to inspire them to be their best,” he said to those watching the live stream. “I’m trying to lead them to trust God. What’s going on today can be scary, and I want to tell stories that will build their faith and confidence and inspire hope.”
Torben Bergland spoke passionately and professionally about depression and anxiety, encouraging families to be there for each other, to listen, to try to understand, and to support. He also helped with tips for recognizing when professional help may be required to assist both the individual and the family get through difficult times.
“It’s important to be aware that this is a stressful time,” Bergland said during the event. “When we are pressed, the best and the worst can come out of us. We have to be patient and kind to one another.”
Heather-Dawn Small focused on three areas of concern regarding women around the globe during COVID-19, specifically: Fear and anxiety, women who are heads of households, and loneliness. She shared that loneliness isn’t just affecting those who are spending these isolation months alone; women who are in a house full of people are also experiencing being lonely.
“When you don’t have privacy and you’re always face-to-face, how do you find time to be on your own, think, and process?” Small posited in her presentation. “There’s no other woman, no one who understands how they feel as they’re in the midst of their family, trying to meet everyone’s needs.”
Small shared things she had heard and seen online where women were creating spaces to connect in any way possible to fill that need.
Linda Koh spoke to the need to keep our children safe and secure as they are confined to their homes during this time, and encouraged families to take time on a regular basis to spend intentional time together, rather than just existing in the same space.
“As children are spending more time online, it is crucial that parents are super-vigilant monitoring what their children are doing, and hold them accountable,” Koh said on the live broadcast. “Many things on the internet target children, and cyberbullying is a concern not just from peers, but also strangers.”
She encouraged parents to teach their children about online safety, and to also make sure they have plenty of opportunities to experience positive things like Bible stories, family worship, and quality time together.
Andrés Peralta shared that he has heard from many youth, young adults, and teens who are stressed, anxious, and worried.
“The nonstop pandemic news is overwhelming to everyone, and it has become challenging for the young people,” he said during the event. “There is a lot of grief involved, too, as many young people have lost loved ones during the quarantine and haven’t been able to say goodbye. Some are grieving the loss of a milestone in cancelled graduations.”
Peralta also pointed out how important it is for parents to talk to their kids about how they’re feeling.
“Don’t take this lightly,” he advised. “It’s important to them.”
To close the event, Geoffrey and Nakku Mbwana prayed a cooperative prayer. They thanked God for creating the idea of companionship and creating humans to require and enjoy it. They thanked God for his presence and support and guidance, and asked for the Lord’s blessing on those who are sick, comfortless, and discouraged.
“Help every member of every family look heavenward, because our help comes from You,” prayed Geoffrey.
Nakku added, “May the hope for the second coming give us faith until that day when You come to bring us home.”
“Families can survive and thrive as we lean on God through this time,” Elaine closed. “We need to tell the story of how God brought us through this pandemic as we share with the world what He has done for us.”