Dear VCFers! Hope you are safe, healthy, and doing well in the Lord! I wanted to let you all know about Michael’s sabbatical which will take place February 15 – May 14, 2021. Some of you may have heard about it in various venues, whether it be in a recent sermon, a prayer meeting, or…
Hope you are safe, healthy, and doing well in the Lord!
I wanted to let you all know about Michael’s sabbatical which will take place February 15 - May 14, 2021. Some of you may have heard about it in various venues, whether it be in a recent sermon, a prayer meeting, or your small group. We would like to provide you with more information about the sabbatical.
The biblical precedent and Christian tradition is for pastors to go on sabbatical once every seven years. In line with this, at VCF, a sabbatical is for three months every seven years. Michael’s sabbatical will be from February 15 through May 14, during which time, Michael and Cindy will be on sabbatical together. It is meant to be a time of resting in the Lord, reflection, renewal, and purposeful seeking of God. Michael also plans on doing a lot of writing, especially of spiritual ingredients to pass on to the church.
Since mid-November, the Board, Coordinating Team, Daniel Healy, our Administrator, and other leaders have been working with Michael and Cindy to prepare the church for the sabbatical. In structure, not much is changing - our daily and weekly prayer meetings, small groups (many of which started at the Fall Feast), ministry teams and, of course, our Sunday service will all still move forward. Much of the preparation has been to strengthen these structures to not only continue but thrive and grow during the sabbatical.
Our hope for the church is that each member of our body would grow deeper spiritually during this time. I want to invite you to consider how this might be a season of committing even more to the process of spiritual growth through involvement in the existing structures, however seemingly mundane they may seem. Remember that it is through regular repetitive spiritual practice and saying yes to the work of the Spirit that we find ourselves growing in the life of Christ. Many of you have already testified to how daily prayer or your small group has transformed your life and your land during this season. The good news is that it is not too late to enter into this grace that the Lord is offering the entire body of VCF. May I encourage every single one of us to take a step to be more involved in the daily and weekly life of the church during this time?
If you have questions about Michael and Cindy’s sabbatical, or about the invitation to go deeper with the Lord during this time, please feel free to reach out to me. (For example, if you are not part of a small group right now and would like to be). I will be the point person, providing oversight during the sabbatical. Pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus with you all.
VCF Board Chair
UPDATE for VCF on COVID-19: Staying Healthy and Informed through the Global Pandemic 7/7/20 Dear VCF Family, As we move well into the 4th month since the initial call for a lock-down in Southern California, we’ve received so much information regarding the ever evolving COVID-19 pandemic situation. …
UPDATE for VCF on COVID-19: Staying Healthy and Informed through the Global Pandemic
Dear VCF Family,
As we move well into the 4th month since the initial call for a lock-down in Southern California, we’ve received so much information regarding the ever evolving COVID-19 pandemic situation. The volume of data can often be confusing and overwhelming even for those in the medical community, let alone the rest of the general public. As such, we’d like to take a moment to briefly share some helpful updates in a question and answer format, focusing on 7 different, high-yield “hot topics.”
1) What is the Current State of Affairs (Health Burden of the Disease)?
- 130,000 deaths in the United States / 2.8 million infected thus far
- CDC (Center for Disease Control) projected death toll by end of July for US: 148,000
- 34 states are currently showing a rise in new cases (California included)
- 13 states show steady state in new cases, but only 3 states show a declining trend
- Worldwide: 11.3 million plus infected and 532,000 deaths (affecting 188 countries)
- LA County: 2000-3000 new cases / day. About 40-50 deaths per day presently.
- Reliable Epidemiological source: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality
- Local source: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/data/index.htm
2) What Can I Do Right Now to Stay Safe and Healthy?
- Maintain social distancing, 6-10 feet away from others (whom you don’t live with)
- Use face mask (or face covering) when around others (outside of your own home)
- Wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water when touching things in public. Alternatively, use hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid being around others in public for greater than 15 minutes, even when masked.
- Take vitamin C 1000mg / day supplements when having early cold-like symptoms.
- Have your physician check your vitamin D level – ensure at/above 30 nanogm / ml.
3) What Symptoms Should I Monitor for with COVID-19 Infection?
- Fever (certainly above 100.4 °F), chills, shortness of breath, cough, sore throat, headaches, muscle aches, diarrhea, loss of smell / taste, malaise / fatigue.
- Less likely: congestion / runny nose, nausea or vomiting, new confusion.
- In children: also look for belly pain, a rash, red/cracked lips, swelling of joints, dizziness, vision problems, looking pale (multisystem inflammatory syndrome).
4) Where Can I Go to Get Tested?
- For those without health insurance:
- For those with health insurance, call your health-care provider to have a telephone/virtual appointment encounter to set up testing if you meet criteria. Each healthcare system will have slightly different testing protocols – usually a drive-thru testing site.
5) What Treatment Options Currently Exists for COVID-19?
- Mild Symptoms (Home Management / Over the Counter Medications)
- Tylenol (Acetaminophen) 500 mg every 6 hours around the clock for fevers, headaches, body aches. Robitussin (Dextromethorphan) – 1-2 tsps every 4-6 hours for cough, Cepastat (Cepacol) throat lozenges for sore throat (suck on 1 every 2 hours), Imodium (loperamide) for diarrhea (4mg initially, then 2 mg for each loose stool), and vitamin C supplements (1000 mg / day) for malaise / fatigue. Rest, remain well hydrated, keeping yourself quarantined for 10-14 days, and monitoring closely for worsening respiratory symptoms (like shortness of breath / difficulty breathing).
- Moderative Symptoms (Only prescribed my medical provider)
- Prednisone & Colchicine / Plaquenil for shortness of breath, Robitussin with codeine and Tessalon Perles (benzonatate) for cough, Lomotil (diphenoxylate / atropine) for diarrhea.
- Severe Symptoms (Requiring Hospitalization)
- Immunosuppressive drugs like Anakinra & Tocilizumab, Dexamethasone / steroids, Remdesivir (anti-malarial drug), aspirin, lovenox (to prevent blood clots), and BIPAP / intubation (as a last resort).
** You should always consult your primary care provider or a licensed medical professional before starting medications for moderate to severe symptoms!
6) Who Is at Greatest Risk for Severe Complications from COVID-19?
- Over the age of 65 (8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in US are in this population)
- Those with chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), immunocompromised (from history of organ transplant, on active chemotherapy), obesity (BMI over 30 or higher), serious heart conditions (such as congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies), sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
- Other conditions with moderately increased risk: asthma (moderate to severe), cerebrovascular disease (history of stroke / blood clots to brain), cystic fibrosis, hypertension, liver disease, dementia, pregnancy, smoking, pulmonary fibrosis, thalassemia, and Type 1 diabetes mellitus.
- Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCOv/index.html
7) What’s On The Horizon - Vaccines / Lock-Downs / Breakthroughs?
- First Quarter of 2021 is when the first vaccine and / or antibody therapy is expected.
- Be prepared for continued waves of intermittent lock-downs – could last through Spring of 2021 and beyond. May take 18 months to 2 years before herd immunity is reached (when at least 70% of the population has antibodies to the virus).
- Get your flu vaccine when they start coming out around the end of September 2020.
- Feel free to contact the following 2 health-care professionals at VCF by email if you should have any further questions related to COVID-19 matters and your health:
Be vigilant, remain in prayer, and trust the Holy Spirit will give you discernment! The VCF Leadership team will continue to follow the COVID-19 situation closely! A virtual town-hall meeting for VCFers to call in with questions is coming soon!
Update on Re-opening VCF from Board Chair
I would like to give you all a quick update about where we are in terms of resuming in person services.
I’m sure many of us have been wondering this since May 25, when the state of California released guidance for “places of worship” which allows large group gatherings at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller. It goes without saying that we all miss gathering in person, that we all miss seeing and greeting one another, worshiping together, enjoying meals with one another, praying together, seeing children run around together, among many other things.
We met this past week as a leadership team to discuss the issue of resuming in-person services. We talked about resuming in person services from the angles of safety, which is paramount, as well as how God is leading us. In light of safety considerations and how God is leading us and what God is doing in our midst, we have decided that we will continue meeting virtually for another two months till August, at which time we will re-evaluate whether it is the right time to resume in-person services.
Regarding safety considerations, we take seriously the information and guidance given to us by medical and health professionals in our midst as well as the county, state, and federal government and agencies. We have been going through 2 documents, Guidance for Places of Worship from the state of California, as well as Protocol for Places of Worship from the County of Los Angeles, both of which were released in the past two weeks. Based on those guidance documents, we are preparing a written plan for re-opening, creating checklists and protocols for cleaning, purchasing everything required to re-open, such as social distancing signs, disinfectants, no touch hand sanitizer stations, and more. We have noted precautions from the state of California which says, “Even with adherence to physical distancing, convening in a congregational setting of multiple different households to practice a personal faith carries a relatively higher risk for widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and may result in increased rates of infection, hospitalization, and death, especially among more vulnerable populations. In particular, activities such as singing and group recitation negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing.” We understand that we cannot eliminate all risk, but we want to do our due diligence in these months of preparation for the health and safety of every individual in the church as well as the broader communities in which we live. We are also in communication with other church tenants to coordinate our plans and safety procedures as we impact one another.
Another major consideration that guides our decision is how God is speaking to us and leading us right now. I think this is best captured by the following sentence from the letter which Pastor Koh sent to the whole church last week. It reads, “We believe that rather than trying to rush back to “normal”, this is an appointed time in which God is deeply testing, strengthening and healing the most important parts of the church, and of our individual lives, which are the crucial building blocks of church.” While it’s okay to miss and long for the days when we can be back together in person, we want to fully embrace and step wholeheartedly into what God has for us as a church in this season, in this appointed time. Therefore, we encourage every VCFer to seize this moment to “forge strength in the small”, “in the home, our prayer groups, in our family life, our small groups, our one-on-one discipleship, our acts of reaching out to those whom God is directing us, our individual witness, our prayer life, our daily devotions, our relationships with our housemates, our spouses and children every day.” (quoted from Pastor Koh’s email) As we do that, we will be participating in the work that God is doing in our church to build up, strengthen and prepare us.
One final note: while we are not meeting in-person we have decided to paint the inside of the sanctuary. It is our hope that the fresh painting will add to the joy when we are back together again.
In summary, in light of safety considerations and in light of wanting all of us to sow into the ways God is growing us in this home-stay season, we will not resume in-person services just yet.
Things are constantly changing, so we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust as needed. We would love to hear from you and get your feedback and input, so feel free to reach out to me or any members of the leadership team.
VCF Board Chair
Letter from Pastor Koh: Forging Strength in the Small during this time of COVID-19
It has been 11 Sundays since I last wrote to you, and much has changed in the way church has been these 11 weeks. I know that for several of us, the season has been difficult, with the disappearance of many basic things we have grown to rely on over the years. Many are wondering what the oft spoken “new normal” would be like when this is all over. This applies to church, no less than the rest of life. So for example, the Sunday service assembly we have been accustomed to calling “church”, is not available to us. Face-to-face fellowship, and direct prayer with physical touch is now something we haven’t had for 11 weeks now. It is weird that fellowship over food, such a key part of VCF life, is obliterated from our church life!
Yet it seems clear to me that God has prepared us for this moment for years. When many of the normal activities in the life of the church are not available to us, we are compelled to distinguish between the most crucial ingredients of church, and the things that are good, but not as crucial for this time.
We believe that rather than trying to rush back to “normal”, this is an appointed time in which God is deeply testing, strengthening and healing the most important parts of the church, and of our individual lives, which are the crucial building blocks of church. And it is not in the large group, or in the macro-sized gatherings and activities that the substance and strength of the church is forged, but in the smallest units of spiritual life - in the home, our prayer groups, in our family life, our small groups, our one-on –one discipleship, our acts of reaching out to those whom God is directing us, our individual witness, our prayer life, our daily devotions, our relationships with our housemates, our spouses and children every day. In such basic places, we are not an anonymous part of a crowd, but singularly deciding for God, wrestling with long-standing issues in our souls and in our families. And it is in the small, domestic settings that a deeper, more thorough work is being done to prepare our church for revival. In some ways, focusing on the smaller units of church (small groups, daily corporate prayer, worshiping on Sunday with the family, ministering to each other etc.) and experiencing church in the domestics of home, we are faced with the most basic unit of our real spiritual condition. It is in the small, the domestic, that God is strengthening and healing us.
The need for this is great. Urgent, even. If the church is weak in these areas, the very bricks that form the larger church as a whole will be fragile, and unable to stand up to the pressures to come, let alone the hardship of quarantine. For example, it is not in the Sunday worship service that we learn to worship, to break through barriers, to move in the Spirit, to pray out, to operate in the gifts, to not depend on the musicality of instrumental backing, and to develop sensitivity to the Spirit, and to our own spirit. It is in the unstructured worship of the small group that we learn these things first-hand. It is in the small group that we learn to intercede, and pray in the spirit, follow the leading of the spirit, and even make mistakes so that we learn and sharpen our spiritual instincts. Without the props of rich musical backing, we learn to stir up and edify our spirits to overcome heaviness and break through in the spiritual realm. How strong we are in the spirit depends a lot on this. In VCF, no worship leader is asked to lead on Sunday if he or she is not adept at leading in the small group, because it is there that the real spirituality of worship is forged. Other than that it’s not much more than just music. The over-dependence on making church easy on Sunday makes for a fluffy church. Happy and attractive, but made up of weak bricks.
I believe that in this period, God has given us a limited time to strengthen the crucial areas that make up church: corporate prayer, small group discipleship, intimate fellowship, caring for one another, connecting in the spirit through prayer, facing up to serious problems and interceding through them through corporate prayer, leading our children in devotional life, facing the everyday realities of domestic life (with little recourse to escape to work). Several ones who have been joining for daily and weekly prayer witness to seeing a tremendous strengthening of faith and spiritual intimacy just by the faithful discipline of daily prayer in a group. Discipline has broken through to delight. It’s been encouraging to see that in these days of social distancing, we have more than doubled the number of small groups and more than doubled the number of VCFers who belong to a regular prayer group.
Our hope is that in emphasizing the small, rather than the large during this period of Covid 19, we shall be giving space to God to do the deeper work in our church, making us more solidly founded on precious jewels:
"Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles, and all your wall of precious stones. All your children will be taught of the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.” ()
In a way, this period reminds me of the Church in China in the aftermath of the Revolution. Many churches closed down and many Christians left the faith under the pressure of Communism. Unfortunately, much of the work of Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission, for example, was devastated. There was however one of two movements that thrived during this time. One of them was the group “Little Flock” started by Watchman Nee. Many other churches depended much on the congregational model with its congregational-sized “large group meetings” complete with attractive infrastructure. Nee’s group, on the other hand, worked in small groups with a highly rigorous practice of his teachings. Even today, the depth and strength of the Christians of that movement is distinct.
In view of the recent CCP- sponsored persecution of churches (teachers asked to denounce their faith, taking down of crosses, demolishing of churches, neighbors used to report on Christians etc.) house churches that are growing in size are re-emphasizing small groups, rather than high-visibility congregational meetings. It’s not hard to imagine this for our own situation.
I believe that God is preparing us as a church for revival, but also for testing. It seems unmistakable that this period is a preparation for both.
We don’t know how long this period of social distancing will last. We are committed to following the mandates given us by the County and State in preparing for an ordered and conscientious return to services in our Sanctuary. Our return to the Sanctuary will happen. All precautions will be closely followed so that all will be safe. In the remaining time we have under these restrictions, may I heartily urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to join the daily and/or weekly prayer, as well as the small groups, bible-studies and discussion groups such as The Gathering (click here for more information). And do help your children to plug into our CM and Youth sessions. In an age in which public institutions endeavor to marginalize the influence of families and churches as much as possible, the urgent task of parents is to be wise and present disciplers of our children.
Letter to VCF: We are Going Virtual - Effective 3/19/20
Starting March 19, 2020, Vision Christian Fellowship is going virtual with all of our meetings in compliance with local, state, and federal guidelines. This includes prayer gatherings, small groups, Sunday Worship Service, and even one-on-one meetings. While the latest guidelines allow social gatherings of less than 10 people, we have decided to avoid all face-to-face gatherings in the spirit of minimizing the further spread of the coronavirus. We anticipate that we will be in this mode for quite some time.
Therefore, as a church, we will be transitioning to a period of virtual meetings, which allow us to continue to meet together () while remaining subject to the governing authorities (). We understand that connecting to virtual meetings may be new for some and will do our best to help everyone be connected during this time.
Visit our Livestream page for all the information for connecting to all of our meetings. If you have any questions or require assistance connecting to virtual meetings, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
We will keep you posted on further details.
Pastoral Letter regarding COVID 19
As the COVID-19 virus affects more and more spheres of life, it would be good for us to reflect on what God may be doing in these peculiar times. It’s easy to be caught up with the quickly fluctuating winds of change that affect how we gather, how our hearts are affected, and how we follow God. It’s crucial that we are grounded in what God, in His foreknowledge, has been preparing us for up to now. You will be receiving communication from the church on many practical, health and logistical levels. From a pastoral viewpoint, here are a few thoughts:-
- Scripture is clear that there is indeed a protection for those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High. promises that “he will deliver you from the …deadly pestilence” so that we will not fear the pestilence that stalks in darkness (). In v.7, we are even told that a thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand on your right hand. In , the children of Israel are told:
If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.
The mistake that some Christians make is in interpreting these promises to mean that there is a blanket legal and unconditional right to immunity from diseases because of the word of God. The obvious counter argument to that belief is another mistake - that since we already know of Christians who have died of diseases, these promises are not applicable, and therefore should be discounted. What these 2 opinions fail to see is that there is a great blessing in these words if we take them seriously, and allow their power to take hold.
These promises are invitations to us to enter into a powerful dynamic that is active, though unfortunately, elusive to many.
The real power is in the invitation to dwell in the secret place of the Most High- not in a facile passivity that isn’t engaged with God, but by being increasingly filled with the Spirit.
It is in our spirits that the divine life of God is resident. And God has been longing for us to draw into the fire of His presence in our spirits, not just in our minds or emotions. To be in the refuge of God takes effort but is founded upon simple trust in the truth that He is true to His word. It is not our striving efforts that arm us, but the grace of God. But it is whole-hearted and often strenuous prayer against the resistance of the flesh that activates that life of God, the faith of God and the power of God in us. When that life of God issuing from our spirits permeates our mind, emotions, will and bodies, we are transformed and lightened by God’s presence. In , when we look intently to God, our faces are enlightened and delivered from all our fears. We have been talking a lot about the real dynamics of being face to face with God. By patiently waiting on God, slowly, a change occurs in our whole being. Our double-mindedness, our distraction is singularized into a steady gaze upon God. The importance of waiting until singularization of our souls grips us, cannot be overestimated. To dwell in the secret place is to extend the momentary occurrence of this experience to a continual abiding. This does not mean that we will never die of disease, but if we walk in the Spirit, we will certainly not die an untimely death.
- I would encourage us all to pray in the spirit throughout the day.Let this time which coincides with Lent, be a sanctifying and purifying time that comes with extraordinary blessing. This is an important time to allow God to search us, to “see if there be some wicked way in me” and to allow repentance to flow. This is hardly a time to withdraw and isolate from prayer, but to mount up with strength as with eagles’ wings. If we are forced into more social distancing, we will use technology to pray together. We are increasing corporate prayer with the help of the internet, and you will be hearing more presently.
- This is a season of opportunity. God is at work, and in many ways, He has surely been preparing us as a church for this time and for times like this. Many people – and nations -- are being shaken, and there are many whose hearts God is opening in an unprecedented way. This is the time to be focused on the leading of the Spirit, in some ways, to get our news from God, and not just from the news media. So much of what He has been speaking to us over the years has been meant for times like these. I remind you of the scripture that we have spoken about many times:
Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the people: but the LORD will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you. And the nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. ()
While taking all precautions for your health and safety, please do look out for the elderly and those who are vulnerable, especially those in the household of faith. While most people’s preoccupations are upon their own fears, we have been prepared to seek out God’s will and leading. “But the people who know their God will display strength and take action”
- Finally, please communicate with others in the body often. Don’t isolate yourself. And don’t let “social distancing”, an important precaution notwithstanding, distance you from fellowship, albeit through different media. Please do not hesitate to contact your small group leader, the office (626-304-2688), or myself (626-695-7844) if you need anything.
Senior Pastor Michael Koh
VCF Precautionary Measures
We are planning to have our Worship Service at Vision Christian Fellowship this Sunday, March 15. To prevent the spread of COVID 19 Coronavirus and Influenza infections, we will be implementing some practical measures effective immediately, until further notice:
- Attendance Restrictions: If any of the following apply to you, we ask that you please remain home for your safety and the safety of others:
- Adults age 65 and above - The elderly population is most susceptible to the severe respiratory complications of COVID-19.
- Children (grades 5 and under) and infants - Due to the difficulty of implementing social distancing with the children, we ask that parents please stay at home with your children. For two parent households, we encourage one parent to still attend service if the other parent stays at home with the children. Please note that Children's programs (age 1 to grade 5) are cancelled until further notice.
- If you are sick or have symptoms of illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath).
- If you recently returned from a high-risk area and had close contact with those who are sick
- If you have other health problems and/or are immunocompromised
- Livestream: For those who are unable to join us in person, we will livestream the service starting this Sunday via Facebook Live on the VCF Facebook Page ( https://www.facebook.com/Visionchristianfellowship). You can also find the livestream embedded on our website: visioncf.org/livestream.
- Call-in Number: If you do not have internet access, you can also call in to listen to the Worship Service over the phone: 423-720-0218 PIN: 448 355 715#
- Single Point of Entry: We will have a single point of entry to the Sanctuary and everyone who enters will be screened by one of our Connecting Team Members. You will be asked if you have any symptoms of illness and if so, will be politely asked to return home and invited to watch the service via the livestream or call the conference line to listen to the service remotely.
- Offering: We will not be passing the offering bags. Available giving options include: donating online via our website (https://visioncf.org/other/give-online) or the Church Center app (available on iOS App Store or Google Play Store) or you may drop your gift in the designated offering container in the front of the Sanctuary.
- Healthy Hygiene Practices: We continue to promote healthy hygiene practices including: frequent hand washing and avoiding touching the face (nose, eyes, and mouth). Hand sanitizer will be available. Surfaces people touch will be cleaned and disinfected before and after service. Tissues and waste baskets will be readily available should anyone need to sneeze or cough.
- Social Distancing: To the extent possible, we will practice social distancing. Providing 6 feet of space between each other, while we are gathered together, will reduce the likelihood of community transmission. Those who live together in the same household may feel free to sit close together.
- No Food or Beverages: We will not be serving food or beverages in the Narthex.
- Communion Packets: Packets will be available for individuals and families to take Communion at home.
- Prayer Ministry: Prayer ministry will be available after the service. Prayer Ministers will not be laying hands on those seeking prayer and will maintain 6 feet of distance while praying.
We will keep you posted as further developments take place. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we implement these changes. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact any of the church leaders.