Dr. Timothy Sloan of The Luke Church in Houston, Texas recently posted a video on Instagram about not being able to visit a dying member of his church due to COVID restrictions.
The video, posted Feb. 27, went viral with thousands of comments and views.
"One of the young ladies, who's a member of our dance team, she's transitioning. And the doctors have told her they can do nothing. She's a young lady. Very young. She's got cancer and I can't be there for her," Sloan says in the video as he wipes tears from his eyes. "And Pastors this is what we do. We walk with families. And COVID has made it so that we can't be there, and this is hard."
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During an interview with CBN News, Sloan shared why he took to social media to share his heart and the pressures and challenges pastors are facing due to coronavirus restrictions across the country.
"I had been over the last several weeks kind of wrestling with this season and the pandemic and sort of the fatigue of pastoring," he said. "And as time went on of course you begin to have some different energies setting in and this was sort of the season where the weight of the pandemic and the distance from individuals in ministry was starting to kind of take its toll. So, the accumulation of that weight," Sloan continued.
He said the impact of the recent winter storm also weighed on him as residents in the Lone Star state endured what became known as a "a catastrophic blackout." Millions had been left shivering in the cold and dark for four days.
"All those things in combination has just challenged all of us to do our very best to navigate life's difficulties and recognize our critical faith is," Sloan said.
He recalled what it was like when he got word that the young member of his church was about to die.
"That evening I was sitting in my study and I was preparing to preach and of course we know what goes into preparation to pour into the lives of so many and what's at stake in just those few moments. As I'm preparing that I get the message that one of the young dancers in our church was at the point where she was transitioning. I knew she was sick. And I knew that the cancer had begun to take a really aggressive toll on her," Sloan said.
He added, "When I got the call, I of course immediately called her mother. As I'm talking to the mother I'm listening to the pain in her voice. And as a parent you relate to the pain of a parent who is having to deal with the transition of a young child. And knowing that there's absolutely nothing that they can do. And that helplessness that you feel. And so, as I'm listening to that, attempting to sift through my own emotions in order for me to be able to minister to her.' She tells me, 'Pastor you're not going to be able to come see her because of the Covid restrictions. They're not really letting me in or the family.'"
At that same moment, Sloan said he then received a call from his wife who was attending a dance competition with their daughter. The plan was for him to see her performance via Facetime.
"As I'm praying for one mother whose daughter is transitioning and she's a dancer and then having to look at the possibility of seeing my daughter who is dancing, it was just this situation whereas a pastor you often don't want to say it but that was the moment where you're saying, 'this is not fair,' he said. "That this mother is having to wrestle with not resuscitating her child. And here's my daughter, who's a dancer just like her and she's dancing. So, the emotions just weighed in, flooded in."
Sloan said he reluctantly shared his emotional video on social media in the hopes of helping other pastors who are struggling to connect with their congregants during the pandemic and to encourage prayers for them.
"I wanted to share with people what so many pastors and people in ministry are feeling in this season that is often not articulated or talked about for so many different reasons," he explained. "Authentically we're called to be with people in crisis. So, to not be able to be there in a season of crisis it was heart wrenching. It is heart wrenching."
While Sloan said he initially hesitated to share his vulnerability publicly, he was only planning to leave the video up a short time. He is now grateful for its far-reaching impact.
"In just a few moments I started getting texts from pastors and direct messages and inboxes saying thank you. And it just continued to build," he explained. "As I got more and more messages, I mean thousands from across the country, from people who're saying, 'thank you.'' It has just been overwhelming. I think I realized that that was more than about me. That video spoke to the heart of people who are in this season of fatigue and trying to make sense of the weariness. And recognizing that all of us need the support of one another in this season."
Meanwhile, the young member of Sloan's church has since passed away, but the Texas pastor remains confident that God is in control.
"The one consistency we have in life is the presence of God. And the one confidence we can lean completely on is the confidence in know that God will never leave us or forsake us," Sloan said.
"The trust that we afford to God in this moment is just we're going to look to him, hold to our faith and we're going to trust that all things work together for good," he added.
What is prayer? Does God hear me if I pray? Your important questions about prayer are addressed here.