Let's face it. Lately things have been pretty grim in this world. We have a global pandemic and the very real possibility that people we know and love may get sick or die is a reality in our lives. It is surreal and feels nightmarish. It is scary to know that we can have losses that amount to the expected numbers and that we can see a change in our lives as we know it. A lot of us are using "shelter at home" technique to manage our and other's exposure to the Covid-19 virus and are rarely leaving our homes. Many of us are still out and about working because we are essential to the function of this country and our way of life. Some are not heeding the warnings as well as others, but it seems that more and more people showing a growing understanding of the reality and that we have more control over it than we like to let on (distancing ourselves so that we can not spread the virus as quickly as it might if we did not). It is easy to get lost in the fear of things and wonder what we will do with this time we have on our hands or our changed lives. How do we function in a world that is so different than we are used to? How can we have faith in this time of turmoil and loneliness? I listened to a great message today and heard some pretty wonderful snippets of information about being in the wilderness and how it can edify and grow us. Make no mistake...this is a wilderness of epic proportions. We can easily get lost in the mud and muck of it and not be able to find our way through it. We can be like the Israelites who wandered aimlessly for 40 years or we can use the time we have sheltering at home to spend growing ourselves and our people. As Pastor Kyle Tennant said in the sermon I listened to, in this time of being at home so much, we can make it a prison or a greenhouse. What can we do during this time of extra "space" so to speak? Could we spend time reading the Word and praying? Of course that is a wonderful thing to do. Could we reach out to others who may be lonely and just check in? That would be excellent as well. We can be conduits for God's love and grace at all times. He has allowed us to slow down and focus on the real things...the good things. It does not mean that the realities of Covid-19 do not exist- of course they do. We are not to be ignorant as to the state of the world. We are however to come from a place of victory. It is already ours per Romans 8:37 ASV, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. This verse says that we have won...not that we will win. When I talk about winning, I'm not saying we will not be affected or even harmed by the effects of Covid-19. I am saying that in the grand scheme, the victory is OURS- we know that He is in control and this earthly time is just the beginning. Jesus said he has come that we may have life and have it more abundantly. I propose that during this time of sheltering in place, you look for the abundance that God has for you. Spiritually it is there. It will look a bit different for us all, but it exists for all who seek it. He is gracious and is extravagant with His peace in the times of trouble. Use this time to abundantly seek out a new talent and then develop it. Use this time to connect with your family in a way that you never have been able to before. Use this time to reach out to people in new ways through video chats and technology so that you are connected and that others do not feel alone. We do not have to suffer at home.....we have to shelter at home. Please know my heart. I am not minimizing the effects of Covid-19 and I am not making light of the real suffering that is happening and will continue for some time. What I am suggesting is we do not have to live in fear because we have a hope that is bigger than this. We can share this hope. Reach in and cling to Jesus in a way you never have before. Show people the Holy Spirit by your peace. Be there for each other. Be tender and gentle with others and yourself. Do the things that are good for you. Nurture yourself and those close to you. God will provide peace in the midst of the storm.
We left our church family seventy-five years ago, at the end of March, looking forward to Easter, which fell on April 1st in 1945. Also, on Easter Sunday, the Wellman Theatre opened its run of the wonderful film, Meet Me In St, Louis, finally coming to the theatres of smaller towns like Girard. months after opening in the larger cities in the East. I don’t know how many Girard folks went to see the film on Easter afternoon, but Peter Wellman had advertised it heavily in the Girard News, and he wouldn’t have done that if he felt he was wasting his money.
Back on March 2nd, a Girard sailor, Albert J Betts Jr., had been killed by a hit and run driver near his Naval Base in Richmond, Virginia. Now, in the April 6th edition of the News, it was reported that the driver had been arrested in Florida – not exactly good news but at least they caught up with him. The News also reported the deaths of two more Girard boys, in the Pacific theatre of the war, on March 7th and 15th. The same edition of the News also reported that the City of Girard had exceeded its local Red Cross Fund Campaign Goal of $13,000. The April 13th edition of the News reported that a boy reported missing in action in December was now reported to be a Nazi Prisoner of War. And, a second boy, reported to be missing in action in February in Italy, was now reported to be a POW. A new boy has been reported missing in action over Germany March 22nd. The April 20th edition reported one boy wounded in Germany and one boy missing in action in Germany. And finally, the April 27th edition reported two boys killed in Germany and one wounded. Thus, the bad news kept coming, even as the war was obviously being won by our boys.
Meanwhile, in our church, the ladies of the Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) were meeting on April 4th to plan a Banquet Dinner to mark their Anniversary on April 20th. That would be held on Friday evening at 6:15 at the church Fellowship Hall with twelve tables set, one for each month of the year. Friends and Family would be invited for this mass Birthday celebration. After the business meeting with the banquet plans finalized, the ladies wrote V-Mail letters to our young men of the church serving overseas.
As I write this History Blog seventy-five years later, I find myself now, sheltering in place in my winter home here in Florida, leaving it only once a week to purchase groceries early on Tuesday mornings when Publix opens at 7 AM to let people over 65 shop early before the rest of the crowd arrives at 8. This was not what I had planned to do. I think of the WSCS ladies planning for their birthday – anniversary dinner, not knowing what competition they would be facing on that date. How could they know, that on April 12th, our President, Franklin D. Roosevelt would die suddenly, at his Warm Springs, Georgie home. He had been our President since 1932. He was the only President many young people had ever known. There would be a huge Memorial Service in Girard for FDR on the 15th, with many, many in attendance. Our new President, Harry S Truman would have to preside over the ending of the war.
When the ladies finally held their banquet on the 20th, the world was changing at a breakneck pace. In early April American troops had liberated their first Nazi Concentration Camp with the pictures of emaciated living and piles of dead prisoners seen in newsreels and weekly magazines. On April 25th, American and Soviet troops met together at the Elbe River, thus cutting Germany in two. On April 30th, Adolf Hitler and his newly married bride, Eva Braun, committed suicide. The war in Europe would soon be over.
April 1945 – 75 years ago in our church, our town, and our country.