Charlie Batarseh is a member of the Youth of Jesus Homeland group, a Christian youth ministry in Palestine.
If someone would have told me few months ago that soon the whole world will shut down — from schools, kindergarten, airports, malls, sports events, work places, and that even we won’t be able to see our parents or join our community in the sacred holy Mass — I would have laughed in their faces. How could this happen today? In the 21st century, and with all of these incredible scientific and technological development? It is mind-blowing that it actually happened.
In few months, the whole world knelt before a tiny virus: coronavirus, COVID-19. Every morning, people wake up nervous, listen to the news and carefully go through all the places newly infected people have visited. Day by day, fear grew; suddenly, the normal daily ways of greeting, such as hand shaking, along with hugging and kissing each other, became strange and gravely irresponsible acts. Unexpectedly, a short walk from home became dangerous too — it might cost someone’s life, and a person cannot move without using face mask, gloves, and hand sanitizers.
Personally, my view of life post-COVID-19 has changed in many unexpected ways. I discovered that many of the things that are “trivial” or “taken for granted” have tuned out to be completely essential! To be alive and in good health; to have the freedom to do anything and go everywhere; to have a job and decent life; to walk in lively streets and shops; to hug and kiss my dear family members and friends; to have enough food and resources; to have enough money for the end of the month; to have the true blessing of attending the Mass at church, and to be surrounded by the love of the community! I have noticed that all of these blessings I previously took for granted. The spread of COVID-19 changed everything.
Today, I realize how much life is special. I have learned to truly appreciate the big and most important things, as well as the small things in life. As a result, my relationships with my family and God have changed a lot. The spare time I spent at home gave me the opportunity to spend more time with my wife and daughter. I discovered how much I was missing due to the chaotic and uncontrollable busy-ness of my life. The joy of being and playing with my two-year old daughter exceeds anything else in life. It also helped me build a special relationship with my wife and strengthen our connection. It helped us to come together as a family and kneel before God — folding our hands together and lifting our prayers to him in one voice and one heart.
Even though we couldn’t reach the church, we prayed from our home. We prepared a special corner in our house that has a cross, candles, flowers, icons of Jesus and Mary, and a Bible. This corner became our new church. There, we lifted our prayers and declared God as our savior and hope. The events of COVID-19 already revealed to us how weak and powerless we actually are. Therefore, in our small corner, we turned to God and gave him full control over our lives; it is now in his hands and this is how we are at peace
This seemingly dark period gave many people the ability to see the light! The light was always there, but most of the time, we did not notice it, just as the Bible says: “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5). Suddenly, and out of nowhere, social media was overwhelmed by countless posts about hope, love, and faith in God. People all over the country finally awoke from their spiritual slumber and saw the truth. They realized that nothing in this world will last and that everything will eventually come to an end. Besides, they realized that we are powerless and totally lost without God in our lives.
No one asked them to do that! They did not wait for a request from the church or from anyone. It was simply spontaneous, and that’s what made it more special; it reflected the honesty behind these actions, and the true work of the Holy Spirit within every one of us. God is present and we are never alone. On the contrary, during this time of weakness, his power dwelled stronger than ever in our hearts.
Simultaneously, the church acted with the same attitude. The priests encouraged the people with their heartfelt preaching and videos. They made sure not to stop the church activities and streamed most of the Masses and events on social media. They also made sure to help families that were in need of financial aid by raising charity acts. Moreover, spirits in our youth members were higher than ever. We, The Youth of Jesus Homeland – Palestine (YJHP) made sure to spread the Word of God to everyone on a daily basis through Bible verses, prayers, spiritual activities, videos, and hymns. At first, most of our content originated from YJHP members, but after some time we opened the door for others to participate and contribute, regardless of their age and beliefs. Surprisingly, many people contacted YJHP; some of them had no previous connection to our ministry or its activities. We felt a new kind of connection and unity that was absent before.
It is true that God works in mysterious ways. Even during this time of uncertainty and fear, we found happiness and peace. Even in this time of weakness, we found strength in God. It is truly a time of a new beginning and a new dawn — a new chapter in the history of the church, and in our lives as Christians.