Where were you when...?
For all major world events, time stands still and we remember where we were when we heard the news that would rock us to our core. For some, we remember the moment the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. For others, the death of Princess Diana. For most of us, certainly Sept. 11, 2001 holds a significant moment in our memories.
And for our current generation, the week of March 15, 2020 will stand as a pivotal time when life was fragmented and fractured into before-pandemic and post-pandemic reality. It’s been three years since the world was shaken and as the dust continues to settle – and may for a while still – we know many will always remember what these years have taught us. The loss of so many lives, the isolation and separation, the distance learning and remote working, and all of the hard, daily moments will forever be etched on our souls.
Sunday, March 15 was also the first time a Hillside gathering was live-streamed, and the days leading up to it were filled with lots of preparation. Before that Sunday, on Thursday, March 12, staff members met in a conference room, now affectionately called “The War Room,” and discussed what the upcoming season would look like. Papers filled with scribbled notes lined the walls, and leaders prayed for guidance in these uncharted waters.Staff gathered with board members and ministry partners on Saturday, March 14 to pray and prepare for what was to come. At the time, no one knew what the next season would look like, how long it would last, or what restrictions were to come. All we knew is that God was in control as He always had been. Pastor Aaron reminded us that though we were taken by surprise by what was unfolding, God was not. While it might have looked differently, ministry didn’t stop. God continued to be at work, moving in the hearts of people here in Southern California, but also around the world.
As we look back at those early months and now the past three years, we can seen mountains and valleys. We can hold the tension of joy and sorrow in our hands. Maybe we mourn the loss of a loved one or a relationship, but conjointly we also celebrate the things God revealed or showed to us in that season.
He was with us through it all. He comforted us when we grieved. He gave us peace when our hearts were troubled. He gave strength when we felt at our weakest. Through it all, He was and is good.
We wanted to share some reflections and learnings from our staff as they look back over the past three years. May we cling to the truths that sustained us. May we look to the future with a renewed level of trust in Him knowing that He’s got us. Always.
- “Slow Down. You do not need to be so busy. Take more time with God.” Ron Nottingham
- “I have a deeper faith recognizing that other than Him, there isn’t much in this world I can really, truly depend on.” Shelley Majors
- “I am not in control. Seems like common sense, but so often I think I’m steering my life and he gently – and sometimes forcefully – reminds me He has it and He has me.” Harmony Bathauer
- “Many people stay in the same situation, job, relationships, etc. out of habit (or better or worse). The pandemic shook a lot of this up, and many people seem to be trying to ‘find themselves’ in a way they never have before. I’ve also seen the need for people to be really grounded in scripture for their beliefs, instead of being swayed by popular opinion, those who have notoriety, or simply what they want to believe on their own apart from the truths of scripture.” Jimmy Higgins
- “We were never really in control of things, situations, our future… That was a myth to make us feel safe and secure. God has always been in control and the pandemic taught me that I need to pray more, trust more and look TO God and FOR God in the everyday things that were hard and different. I was also reminded that He is faithful – He’s already in the future!” Teri Goodwin
What is one significant moment that you can recall from the early days of the pandemic? What’s “the thing” you will always remember?
- “For me, the first few months were extremely hard. I don’t normally struggle with depression, but I found myself lost and very depressed. It took me a couple of months of wrestling with God to recognize why. You see, I am someone who thrives and finds joy in relationship with others, with the people around me who are like family. Without them, without my people, I tend to loose my identity and joy. The pandemic rocked my world. I’ll never forget being in the In-N-Out drive-thru, and I was angry with God. I remember yelling out to Him, and He clearly told me, ‘Heather, your identity isn’t in others, your identity is in me. Don’t place relationship in people first, place your relationship with Me first.’ Wow… only God. Although the last few years have been hard, I have grown to depend on my relationship with Jesus first and the hope I have in Him. How He will use me is what I focus on.” Heather Yount
- “Sacred family time and creative ways to connect with others. Leading worship for ‘church’ to an empty room, but feeling the power of presence knowing God was in it all.” Harmony Bathauer
- “In those early days of complete isolation, I experienced true companionship with Jesus. As a single person who lives alone, those days could have been terrible, but knowing that Jesus is always with me and will never leave me was so comforting. I discovered on a much deeper level than ever before that I am NEVER alone! I will also never forget the first time I got to hug my adult children and my grandchildren after a few weeks apart. Those sweet hugs were everything!” Kelly Roth
- “One of the things I’ll always remember about those early days is how dependent I was on God for joy, stamina, strength, endurance, encouragement… all of it. Like never before. I found myself worshiping to ‘Lord, I Need You,’ on repeat and praying through some of the hardest moments I’ve walked through. He sustained me in all areas. Even now, when I feel lacking in a certain fruit, I’ll remind myself of how faithful He was to supply it back then and how I can still receive it from Him today.” Stacey Mensik
- “The early days of the pandemic felt like an experiment to see how to have fun in a world that had a big ‘CLOSED’ sign slapped on the front of it. I’ll always remember the afternoon walks with my parents, the game nights in, the long drives just to see somewhere new, the group Zoom calls with my best friends, and hunting for coffee shops that were open just to get the vanilla lattes I so desperately missed. It was a strange and difficult season, but one I also have some fond memories of as I look back on all the ways we found to be creative with the time we had to spend.” Natalie Moore
- “This may seem trite, but it is significant to me. It was the peace that I had and the ability the Lord provided to simply adapt to the changes and constraints placed upon me for the welfare of the community, knowing that the Lord has a perfect plan, that He will carry it out, and that this is part of the process. This disruption would bring us to a point of recognizing our lack of control and our inadequacy, and bring us to recognizing our need for Him.” Pershing Lum
Check out this video below that we shared after our first live-streamed gathering on March 15, 2020.