At Harding University, seeing God may have been easy while being surrounded by a community of believers. Since COVID-19 has disrupted everyday life — bringing changes like social distancing practices and life off-campus — students, faculty and staff may have to work harder to find Jesus in a time of confusion.
While saddened by the unexpected end to the year, senior Kennedy Barden said he finds hope in the Harding community near and far as people pursue connection with one another.
“Despite all the uncertainty and sadness and anxiety that COVID-19 has brought to the world and to our Harding community, I haven’t seen any shortage of strength or faithfulness in this community,” Barden said. “To me, this is nothing short of the Holy Spirit’s work in the body of Christ himself to bring about the goodness of God. God is present even in the difficulty of our present situation, and it’s been made obvious in the people of God.”
In this time of confusion, Dr. Shawn Daggett, professor of Bible and the faculty member at Harding University in Latin America (HULA) this spring, said he finds Jesus in the shared stories and experiences of the students and the people of the HULA program.
“The night that the students weren’t able to fly out of Arequipa and were going to be coming back to the hotel, Jeremy Daggett, the director, called me and asked me to meet his neighbors who would help bring his large washing machine down from the fourth floor,” Daggett said. “His neighbor, Pedro, was there to meet me. He and his sons shook my hand, [Pedro] looked me in the eye, and he said something like, ‘Shawn, these are upsetting and unpredictable times, but I think we can look for Jesus moving and working in all of this.’ Pedro was a rock and wanted to encourage me. He reminded me of Romans 8:28 and God’s style in working through difficulties for the good.”
Along with finding Jesus in the people he is around, Daggett said he is finding contentment in enjoying each day in spite of the fact that the future is unknown. Sophomore Kelsey Smith agreed with Daggett and has taken on the same mindset.
“I’m taking everything one day at a time right now,” Smith said. “It’s definitely hard not knowing when this will be over and life will be back to normal, [but] on the tough days, I try to gain perspective and pray for peace and guidance. I’m trying to see this as less of an abrupt and disruptive change and more of a temporary redirection.”
In spite of fear some may be feeling, Daggett, Smith and Barden urged the Harding community to use this time to seek God through his word and through prayer.
“Wake up to prayer, listen to God in reading scripture, and look for opportunities to share faith, strengthen positive relationships and act on each godly, scripture-directed and Spirit-led impulse,” Daggett said.
In a time when many things are uncertain, Smith said there is one who remains the same always.
“Notice that during all of this, as life is stripped down and most of your stimulants are removed, God is waiting underneath the layers,” Smith said. “We can use this time to increase our knowledge of God as we’re forced to learn to trust and lean on him.”