“Do not withhold good from those to whom you should give it if it is within your power to help.”—PROV. 3:27.
SONG 103 Shepherds—Gifts in Men
1. How does Jehovah often answer his servants’ prayers?
DID you know that you can be used by Jehovah to answer someone’s fervent prayer? That is true whether you are an elder, a ministerial servant, a pioneer, or a congregation publisher. It is true whether you are young or old or whether you are a brother or a sister. When someone who loves Jehovah calls out to him for help, our God often uses the elders and other faithful servants to become “a source of great comfort” to that person. (Col. 4:11) What a privilege it is to serve Jehovah and our brothers in that way! We may be able to do so when there is a disease outbreak, a disaster, or persecution.
HELP OTHERS DURING A DISEASE OUTBREAK
2. Why might it be challenging to help others during a disease outbreak?
2 A disease outbreak can make it difficult for us to help one another. For example, we may wish to visit our friends, but it is not safe to do so. We may want to invite those who are struggling financially to join us for a meal, but this too is not possible. We may want to help others, but that can be challenging if our own family members are suffering. Still, we want to help our brothers, and Jehovah is pleased when we do what we can for them. (Prov. 3:27; 19:17) What can we do?
3. What do we learn from the example of the elders in Desi’s congregation? (Jeremiah 23:4)
3 What elders can do. If you are an elder, get to know the sheep well. (Read Jeremiah 23:4.) Desi, a sister quoted in the preceding article, says, “The elders in my service group have in the past joined me and others in the ministry and for social activities.”b The efforts of those shepherds made it easier for them to help Desi after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and she lost some family members to the virus.
4. Why were the elders able to help Desi, and what is the lesson?
4 Desi explains, “Because I already knew the elders as friends, it was easy for me to tell them how I felt and what my concerns were.” The lesson for elders? Shepherd those under your care before there is a crisis. Be a friend to them. If there is a disease outbreak that prevents you from making personal visits, reach out in other ways. “Sometimes several different elders called or sent me messages on the same day,” says Desi. “The scriptures they shared touched me, even though I knew those verses well.”
5. How can elders learn what the brothers and sisters need and be of help to them?
5 One way that you can learn what your brothers and sisters need is by drawing them out with tactful questions. (Prov. 20:5) Do they have enough food, medicine, and other supplies? Are they at risk of losing their job or even their home? Do they need assistance with applying for government aid? Desi received material help from fellow believers. But it was the emotional and spiritual support from the elders that especially helped her to get through her trials. She says: “The elders prayed with me. Even though I can’t remember exactly what they said, I remember how I felt. It was Jehovah’s way of saying, ‘You are not alone.’”—Isa. 41:10, 13.
6. What can many in the congregation do to help others? (See picture.)
6 What others can do. We rightly expect the elders to take the lead. But Jehovah invites all of us to encourage and help others. (Gal. 6:10) Even a small expression of our love can have a powerful effect on someone who is ill. A child could send a card or a drawing to encourage a brother. A young adult might be able to run an errand or shop for a sister. What about preparing a meal that can safely be left at the home of someone who is ill? Of course, when a disease is widespread, everyone in the congregation needs encouragement. Perhaps we can stay a little longer after meetings to visit with the brothers and sisters, whether in person or via videoconferencing. And the elders need encouragement too. Some Witnesses have sent a thank-you note to the elders, who are often busier than ever during a disease outbreak. How good it is when we do our part to “keep encouraging one another and building one another up”!—1 Thess. 5:11.
HELP OTHERS IN THE FACE OF A DISASTER
7. What might be challenging after a disaster?
7 A disaster can upset a person’s life in the blink of an eye. Victims may lose their possessions, their home, or even their loved ones. Our Christian brothers and sisters are not shielded from such tragic events. What can we do to help?
8. What can elders and family heads do before a disaster strikes?
8 What elders can do. Elders, help your brothers to be prepared before a disaster strikes. Make sure that all in the congregation know what steps to take to stay safe and to contact the elders. Margaret, quoted in the preceding article, says: “Our elders presented a local needs part, warning us that the wildfire season was not over. They said that should the authorities order an evacuation or should conditions become dangerous, we must leave immediately.” That was timely information because a life-threatening wildfire broke out five weeks later. During family worship, family heads can review what each family member will do. If you and your children are prepared, you will be more likely to remain calm if a disaster occurs.
9. How can elders organize their efforts before and after a disaster?
9 If you are a group overseer, do not wait for a disaster to occur before making sure that you have accurate contact information of all in your field service group who offer it. Make a list and keep it up-to-date. Then in the event of a disaster, you will be in a position to contact each publisher to assess his needs. Forward this information immediately to the coordinator of the body of elders, who will contact the circuit overseer. The combined effort can make a difference. After the fire, Margaret’s circuit overseer stayed awake for 36 hours, coordinating the elders’ efforts to contact and to care for some 450 displaced brothers and sisters. (2 Cor. 11:27) Thus, all who needed a place to stay were provided with shelter.
10. Why do elders consider shepherding to be important? (John 21:15)
10 Providing spiritual and emotional help is part of the work done by Christian elders. (1 Pet. 5:2) In the face of a disaster, elders should first make sure that each brother and sister is safe and has food, clothing, and shelter. But for many months thereafter, survivors will likely need spiritual and emotional support. (Read John 21:15.) “It takes time to recover,” says Harold, who serves on a Branch Committee and who has met with many brothers and sisters affected by disasters. “They may begin to get over their losses, but memories of a lost loved one, a treasured heirloom, or a narrow escape can persist. These memories may trigger feelings of grief all over again. That is not a lack of faith but a normal human reaction.”
11. What ongoing needs may families have?
11 Elders take to heart the counsel to “weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15) Survivors may need reassurance that they have not lost Jehovah’s love or that of their Christian brothers. Elders will want to help families to maintain their spiritual routine, including prayer, study, meeting attendance, and engaging in the preaching work. Elders can also encourage parents to help their children to focus on things that no disaster can destroy. Parents, remind your children that Jehovah will always be their Friend and that he will always be there for them. And be sure to explain that they can remain part of a worldwide family of brothers and sisters who are ready to come to their aid.—1 Pet. 2:17.
12. What can others do to assist with disaster relief? (See picture.)
12 What others can do. If a disaster occurs nearby, ask the elders how you can help. Perhaps you can offer temporary accommodations, either for those who are displaced or for construction volunteers. You may be able to deliver food and supplies to publishers in need. If a disaster occurs in a more distant location, you can still help. How? By praying for those affected. (2 Cor. 1:8-11) You may be able to support the relief work financially by donating to the worldwide work. (2 Cor. 8:2-5) If you are able to travel to an affected area to help, ask the elders about volunteering. If you are invited to do so, you will likely receive some training so that you can be used where and when you are most needed.
HELP BROTHERS ENDURE PERSECUTION
13. What challenges do our brothers face in lands where our work is banned?
13 In lands where our work is banned, persecution makes life more complicated. Brothers in those lands still face economic challenges, get sick, and lose loved ones in death. But because of the ban, elders may not be able to move about or to communicate freely with those who need encouragement. That was true of Andrei, referred to in the preceding article. A sister in his field service group was struggling financially. Then she was in a car accident. She needed several surgeries and could not work. Despite the restrictions and the pandemic, the brothers did what they could to help, and Jehovah was watching.
14. How can elders set the example by relying on Jehovah?
14 What elders can do. Andrei prayed and did what he could. How did Jehovah respond? He provided fellow believers who had more freedom of movement. Some gave the sister a ride to medical appointments. Others offered money to help her. Jehovah moved them to do what they could, and he blessed their united, courageous efforts. (Heb. 13:16) Elders, when the work is restricted, delegate. (Jer. 36:5, 6) Above all, rely on Jehovah. He can help you to fill the needs of our brothers and sisters.
15. How can we preserve our Christian unity under persecution?
15 What others can do. While under ban, we may have to limit our association to smaller groups. So it is more important than ever to maintain peaceful relations. Fight Satan, not one another. Overlook your brothers’ mistakes, or try to settle any differences quickly. (Prov. 19:11; Eph. 4:26) Take the initiative to help one another. (Titus 3:14) The help that others gave to the sister in need had a positive impact on the service group. They became closer, like a family.—Ps. 133:1.
16 Tens of thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters serve Jehovah despite governmental restrictions. Some of them are imprisoned for their faith. We can pray for them, for their families, and for those risking their own freedom to provide these brothers and sisters with spiritual, physical, and legal support.c (Read Colossians 4:3, 18.) Never underestimate the power of your prayers!—2 Thess. 3:1, 2; 1 Tim. 2:1, 2.
17. How can you prepare now for persecution?
17 You and your family can prepare now for persecution. (Acts 14:22) Do not try to imagine all the bad things that could happen. Instead, strengthen your friendship with Jehovah and help your children to do the same. If at times you feel anxious, pour out your heart to God. (Ps. 62:7, 8) As a family, discuss all the reasons why you can trust in him.d As in the case of a disaster, your personal preparation and your trust in Jehovah will instill in your children courage and peace.
18. What future awaits us?
18 The peace of God makes us feel secure. (Phil. 4:6, 7) By means of it, Jehovah calms our heart despite the diseases, disasters, and persecution that can affect us today. He uses hardworking elders to shepherd us. And he gives all of us the privilege of helping one another. The peace that we enjoy now will equip us to face greater trials to come, even the “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:21) At that time, we will need to maintain our peace and to help others do the same. But after that event, we will not face crises that make us anxious. We will at last enjoy what Jehovah has always wanted for us—perfect and lasting peace.—Isa. 26:3, 4.
SONG 109 Love Intensely From the Heart
a Jehovah often uses his faithful servants to help those who are going through difficult times. He can use you to become a source of encouragement to your brothers and sisters. Let us see how we can help when others are in need.
b Some names have been changed.
c It is not possible for the branch office or for those at world headquarters to forward letters from individuals to brothers and sisters who are in prison.
e PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A couple bring some food to a family who are temporarily in a shelter after a disaster.