“Gather” from a Distance

The childhood memory of going to a summer drive-in movie with neighbors produces an ear-to-ear grin on my face. The moms sat in lawn chairs and shelled butterbeans. The kids fished icy bottles of orange or grape sodas from a cooler to wash down salty, butter-laden popcorn.

I don’t recall the title of the show, but I remember the excitement of gathering with neighbors at the drive-in theater.

Fast forward several years to last month…

Hurry please, so we can sit–I mean park–on the front row,” I said to my husband as we visited a local church’s drive-in service. We stayed in the car (social distancing, you know) and listened to praise music and the sermon via an FM radio station. Voices soared from car interiors as we held cell phones and followed song lyrics posted on the church website.

When drivers started their engines after the final prayer, joy bounced from one car to another like rays of sunshine as we waved to strangers and listened to music. Warm smiles from parking lot attendants spoke the final “Amen.”

At drive-in church, coordinated outfits and the familiarity of our normal seat mattered not. Gathering with the family of God did. The Bible addresses fellowship.  

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

Current mandates prohibit congregating physically, but many of us can gather in cyberspace, and we can certainly encourage each other in a variety of ways.

Isn’t connection via technology a blessing during these shelter-in-place days? Last week we joined our Sunday School courtesy of Zoom technology and participated in our church’s live-streamed time of worship. I’ve enjoyed Bible lessons, pretty memes, encouraging posts on social media networks, and e-cards.

How has technology enhanced your isolation days?

As we enjoy “gathering” on devices, my heart hurts for those who cannot join us due to a lack of computer access or the inability to use it. My ninety-six-year-old mother-in-law, a godly saint, doesn’t own a computer and can barely use the telephone due to neuropathy in her fingers and failing vision. Do you know others like her?

Fear creeps through healthcare home hallways and stalks elderly residents who can’t go out or entertain guests. Some fail to understand why family members and friends don’t visit.

A video of a friend and her sister greeting their mom through a large window of the assisted living facility thrilled my heart. After checking with the staff via phone, they yelled messages to their mom and held up corresponding signs. What joy their creativity sparked!

For some, human interaction and gathering are severely limited or non-existent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Does God’s Word address this dilemma and offer guidance? Consider these verses:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

Romans 15:1-2

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Maybe we need some old-fashioned ways to connect or “gather” from a distance without technology. How about these?

  • Wave enthusiastically to those we pass.
  • Call those who cannot text or receive emails.
  • Send cards and letters to those who can’t communicate electronically. Tuck Bible verses or homemade bookmarks into the envelopes. Call to chat and discuss the verses once the mail has arrived. End in prayer or sing a hymn.
  • Post encouraging Bible verses on signs in the yard or hold printed messages up to windows.  
  • Add family and pet photos to care packages. Chat about the photos over the phone.
  • Order a meal to be delivered and include dessert if diet allows. Plan to talk over coffee and dessert and pray together.
  • Start a magazine subscription for someone who can’t access the issues online. Call after each issue arrives to discuss a favorite article or photo.

Do you think these ideas would soothe lonely hearts and include folks who aren’t tech-savvy into Christian fellowship? Initiating conversation requires little. I always say, “A teaspoon of effort yields a cup of joy.”

Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

1 Corinthians 10:24

Won’t you please share examples of reaching beyond technology to “gather from a distance?” I look forward to your ideas or observations.

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Bible verses are from the ESV.

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30 thoughts on ““Gather” from a Distance

  1. Jeannie, this is wonderful! I wept as I read it, not out of dismay but from joy! Such heart-warming ideas to spread encouragement. Maybe you should send me a pack of tissues! 😹😂

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      I’m glad your tears were from an origin of joy! Tissues in the mail. 😉 Thank you for commenting.

  2. I LOVE these ideas, Jeannie! I’d not thought of ordering a meal for someone but that’s going on my list of ideas today. We drove past a church having a drive-in experience. I believe the quarantine is bringing out the creativity in the Church, and it’s amazing. P.S. I loved drive-in theaters too. Such good memories of going with my grandparents. This post made me smile from beginning to end. 🙂

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Cathy, I’m thankful for your smiles and good memories. Yes, many churches are using innovative means for sharing the gospel and encouraging people. Thank you so much for stopping by to comment. Let us know how your delivery meal goes.

  3. Jeannie! Like Lisa, I wept as I read this, but not out of joy, but out of sorrow. I never thought about those who can’t use technology to connect. Both my parents are with the Lord and my in-laws are technology wizards. It never occurred to me that many are truly cut off. What a blessing this post is to me. Now I not only realize this great need but you also gave me so many wonderful ways to encourage these people. I’m going to share this so those who do have people who are truly shut in can know great ways to comfort and encourage them!! Thank you!!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Jean, use of technology is so common that it’s hard to remember those that don’t have access. I’m thankful you found the suggestions helpful. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  4. Amen Ms. Jeannie. I think the greatest benefit of today’s technology is that it has allowed us to be together, even when we are mandated to be apart. A smile from your computer or smart phone screen is not the same as a warm embrace, but it’s much better than trying to read someone’s week old emotions in a letter. Great post ma’am! Thank you!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      J.D. I appreciate your comments and the fact that you stopped to share. Technology does grant instant contact which is a blessing during the pandemic. For those who cannot connect in cyberspace, personal calls are treasures.

  5. Love your list of ways to keep in touch. Waving and making eye contact with other people is a true joy.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      You’re right, Melissa. God expects us to use whatever means we have available to encourage one another. I’ve heard that elderly people who aren’t with family find great joy in seeing them through windows or hearing their voices on the phone. Thank you so much for commenting.

  6. Jimmie Annette Ballard

    This is so encouraging. I have two friends 97 years old neither has a computer, but when I talk to them they always encourage me. They have seen God work in so many different ways in their years. They know He is in control and have such sweet peace. Their main concern is when they can go back to church.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Isn’t it wonderful to think of those ladies having the peace of Christ and longing to gather at church! I know your calls brighten their day, Jimmie. Thank you for commenting.

  7. These are valuable insights and helpful suggestions. Thank you for helping us see what many of us haven’t even thought of. Blessings to you, friend.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Thank you, Lori. It’s easy to forget those outside of our circles, especially when we’re busy connecting via the Internet. I’m working on using my time better to allow more reaching out time.

  8. I feel sad for your mother-in-law. I will include her in my prayers. I like your ideas for old-fashioned ways to connect. I think they are great ideas even without a virus epidemic. I am in my early 30s, but I firmly believe in not needing the Internet too much. I think we should still do things like gathering for the drive-in movies.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Robin, thank you for praying for my sweet mother-in-law.She is a faithful Christian who is lonely right now. I like your point that we can include the listed ideas even when the pandemic is over.

  9. I’ve loved the questions and family discussion time sparked by the online sermons. My kids are creating cards and writing letters to people. I adore the notes families chalk onto their driveway and scavenger hunts neighbors put together. Strangely, I feel like we talk more. How is it possible to feel connected while isolated? I really like your connection suggestions. An excellent post and encouragement.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Karisa, you raise a thought-provoking question: “Strangely, I feel like we talk more. How is it possible to feel connected while isolated?” Maybe we’re making a greater effort to connect because for some life is quieter and less rushed. May we continue those efforts post-pandemic for those who are lonely. Thank you for joining the conversation and sharing what your family is doing. I love the idea of kids making cards.

  10. Thanks Jeannie. First the visual of the “bottles “ of sodas took me back in time.😊 Thanks for giving out ideas to encourage and notice people in a challenging time.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      I liked recalling those fun moments. Nehi Grape had the most wonderful taste! I’m glad you said “encourage and notice,” Marilyn. Sometimes folks need to be noticed with a smile, call, or act of kindness.

  11. Beautiful post, inspiring Scripture, and wonderful ideas for “social distancing.” May God strengthen us all and give us the courage to strengthen others as best we can.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Deborah, I really appreciate your comments. Yes, we need God’s strength and reminders to reach out to others.

  12. This social distancing is giving us opportunities for creativity with gathering together and communicating. When this is all over we will have discovered nuggets and treasures we can keep using.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      What a great outlook on this unusual time, Barbara. Thank you for sharing that perspective. I agree.

  13. Love your ideas! I’ve noticed how eager people are to wave across the street as we walk! It is refreshing.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Seeing those waves is refreshing, Sylvia. I agree. I’m glad you like the ideas, and I hope readers find them useful. Thank you.

  14. All great suggestions, Jeannie. I can’t imagine what I would do if mom was still alive and in assisted living. It would break my heart.

    I’ve been a “homebody” for many years since I started crafting, coloring and making cards. Even with J.D. home, there isn’t any change. The thing I do miss most is going to church to have a cup of coffee, a donut and fellowship before the service begins, and then enjoying our pastor’s message. The problem is that most of our members are older and sometimes struggle with technology. Amen, my ministry partner, Debbie, is savvy and is always there to help, and with her help we are now able to watch our church Sunday mornings! There’s no place like home.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Diane, thank you so much for commenting. I’ve thought the same about my mom who is no longer living. How wonderful that Debbie can help those who lack technology skills. Our Sunday School class started Zoom lessons and our church offers live streaming. It’s not the same as gathering in person, but we’re thankful for these opportunities God provides. Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy church via the Internet this Sunday.

  15. Such wonderful and thoughtful suggestions, Jeannie. As I read Diane’s and your comment, I thought of my parents. I miss them so much, but I’m thankful that they are not threatened by Covid-19. I’m isolated now as a caregiver, but I know it is important for me to reach out to our older church family that are also isolated and probably lonely. Some have email and we are communicating that way. For others, telephone and snail mail are options. Probably the most important thing to remember is that we must do it–not just talk about it. Thank you for reminding us how important this is.

  16. Katherine, may God bless you as you provide care and continue reaching out to others as well. You’re right that we need to follow through with our ideas to ensure we help those who are lonely. Thanks so much for your comments.

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