Monday, April 13, 2020

Part Two: Lamenting in the Time of Covid-19 with April Yamasaki, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Soong-Chan Rah and Rondell Travino

The Lament for Grief-Bravester
This is a continuation of a discussion of what it means to lament during a time like COVID-19. This week's writers are April Yamasaki, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Soong-Chan Ran and Rondell Trevino.

April Yamasaki

In the last three weeks, I've been invited to contribute to a special collection of COVID-19 meditations, a prayer book in response to the current pandemic, a newsletter of personal reflections on coping with physical distancing, and several other projects related to the current global crisis. All time-sensitive. All invitations to donate my time. Some of the invitations were phrased rather light-heartedly as if I might be bored at home and looking for something to do. Others recognized that I might not have the bandwidth for one more thing. 

I said no to most of them. Not because I don't care about the current crisis. Not because I don't want to help others get through this critical time. But right now, I have too much. I'm already producing sermons, compiling prayers, connecting with people in need by phone, text, email, and other ways. I'm completing writing assignments I've already committed to. I'm having to come to terms with speaking engagements postponed or canceled, the sudden loss of an editing contract, and the far greater concern for all that is happening in the world.

This then is my lament for those with too much to do and those with time on their hands: How long, O Lord, will we be distressed and restless and wondering what to do? How long, O Lord, will we try to cover fear by doing more and more? How long, O Lord, until we find our rest in you?

April Yamasaki is the author of Four Gifts: Seeking Self-care for Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength and other books on Christian living. She is resident author with a liturgical worship community and speaks widely in churches and other settings. You can follow her at and on Twitter @SacredPauses.

Viet Thanh Nguyen

A crisis often induces fear and hatred. Already we are seeing a racist blowback against Asians and Asian-Americans for the "Chinese Virus." But we have a choice:  Will we accept a world of division and scarcity, where we must fight over insufficient resources and opportunities, or imagine a future when our society is measured by how well it takes care of the ill, the poor, the aged and the different?

Taken from an opinion piece published in the New York Times on April 10. Viet Thanh Nguyen is a contributing opinion writer for the Times, is the author most recently of THE REFUGEES and is editor of THE DISPLACED: REFUGEE WRITERS ON REFUGEE LIVES. He teaches English at the University of Southern California.

Lamenting Machine/ISAN
Soong-Chan Rah

The following words were taken from an address Dr. Rah gave during the Civil Righteousness 2020 conference held in Kalamazoo, Michigan on March 13. 

Forty percent of the Psalms are of lament over suffering. But only twenty percent of modern [American Christian] worship songs typically are about suffering and lament. And only five percent of the top one hundred [American Christian] worship songs typically are about suffering and lament. We skip over lament to get to the celebration. That short-changes our theology.

What are counter-narratives to racism? Lament, not conferences. LAment is a way to enter into a solution.

Widows, orphans, the lame and the blind. They are the authors of lamentations. Sometimes we don't need to hear from the experts. We need to hear from those who have struggled the most. Real power doesn't come from the experts, but from the stories of those who are struggling. We need to ask: What are the stories that we aren't hearing? My challenge to you is... seek the voices that have been silenced.

Dr. Soong-Chan Rah is a professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at North Park University in Chicago He is an expert in church growth and multi-cultural congregations.

Rondell Trevino

Rondell's grandmother died on the Thursday before Easter. She died in a hospital, of Covid-19, hooked up to a ventilator. Because of the circumstances, family members were not allowed to be with her. But they had a chance to say their goodbyes over the phone.

"She just loved people more than herself," Rondell said. "My grandma left a long legacy of faith and courage in the midst of circumstances...She was just a pillar" Rondell told a reporter that his grandmother was "an amazing mother and a vibrant individual." 

Rondell Trevino is a pastor and Director of The Immigration Coalition. The quotes above were taken from an article published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal

If you would like to read the frist collection of writers on what it means to lament during a time like Covid-19, click here.

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