The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Search for Answers to the Medical Questions
Bro. Siemer September 2021
This is written with a great awareness of my own limitations. I’m not a virus specialist, nor am I caring for COVID patients; but as a physician, I’ve been trained to approach medical concerns in a disciplined way. Often, pastors, missionaries, and other Christians approach me with questions about the medical aspects of the pandemic. It’s hard for any of us to provide guidance without a foundation in knowledge. This is written to provide a foundation for this knowledge so God’s servants can find the truth and wisdom they need to make wise decisions.
Since the pandemic’s onset, there have been a lot of questions without answers. Since this was a “new” virus, the medical community had a lot to learn in a hurry in order to treat patients effectively. The response of governments was unprecedented, with inconsistent and hurtful lockdowns and restrictions. The public response was worse. Driven by loss and fear, the volume of widely diverse and intensely vocal opinions obscured the truthful answers we sought. Worse yet, increasing individual frustration led to unprecedented polarization, stifling effective and constructive dialogue to find solutions. Even churches suffered as God’s people disagreed.
The Good News
Pastors, missionaries, churches, and church members have experienced great opposition and yet, by God’s grace, have responded by faith with innovation. From the outset, Spirit-filled pastors and missionaries have led their churches to deal with lockdowns, school closings, public-health requirements, and a host of other challenges. We have found God to be faithful and true as He has opened amazing doors to reach more people with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet God’s servants struggle with an understanding of the medical aspects. What are the facts? Without a foundation in sound knowledge, how can we make wise decisions? Just as Israel was to magnify the name of the Lord before other nations in the Old Testament, we know that the Lord wants us to represent Him well in front of a lost world today. Yes, we fear God. Yes, we have the direction and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Yes, our Saviour is our Advocate with the Father, and He promises to answer our prayers. And the world senses that we have this spiritual advantage and watches carefully to see what we do. Will we honor God by responding spiritually and wisely?
Thankfully, “we” (collectively) know a lot more now than when this pandemic began.
There are many different coronaviruses, but only seven affect humans. Four cause mild or moderate disease. Three are dangerous: SARS-CoV, MERS, and COVID-19 (COVID). MERS came from camels and the SARS/COVID viruses from bats. This passage of viruses from animals to infect humans (called “spillover”) explains why new diseases (like Ebola and COVID) appear without warning and affect people around the world. The public-health community serves to detect new disease threats and to respond on our behalf.
COVID is unique because it has been genetically modified in two major ways over the last 20 years. The second modification was in Wuhan, where the pandemic began. We know this because patents exist for both modifications. Because it was modified, it behaves differently than the other viruses with which we are familiar (Ref: Dr. Zelenko’s podcast).
We wondered if COVID would mutate and, if so, how frequently. “Fears were realized,” and a number of mutant viruses have appeared, most notably the Delta variant. The concern of experts at this point is, “The longer this pandemic persists, the greater the possibility of a ‘doomsday variant,’ more highly infectious and much more dangerous in nature.”
We wondered if we could eliminate the virus with the vaccine by creating herd immunity. We’ve learned this cannot and won’t happen. We should instead work to move from the “pandemic phase” (community-level outbreaks in multiple countries, simultaneously) to the “endemic phase” (the virus is being addressed everywhere) as soon as possible. [Think of this in terms of a forest fire. As long as there is “virgin forest” with a lot of underbrush and dead/fallen trees, the potential for an out-of-control fire exists. Once a controlled fire has gone through the area, the likelihood of a catastrophic fire is minimal. Firefighters fight large fires with local “backfires” for this reason.] The goal of a “herd immunity” of around 80% can be understood as a goal for the endemic phase, and should be viewed as the sum total of three groups:
Those who’ve had the infection and now have natural immunity (now 20% in the U.S.).
Those who’ve been vaccinated and now have acquired immunity (now 50% in the U.S.).
Those who are being treated with effective prophylactic or treatment medication.
We wondered if acquired immunity (from the vaccine) would be better than natural immunity (from having COVID). We’ve learned that all the vaccines have been based on the spike protein antigen, which means if a COVID mutation ever should alter the spike antigen sufficiently without affecting the variant’s pathogenicity (how dangerous and infective it is), then all the vaccines could be rendered ineffective. Natural immunity is always more broad-based, including several antigens (usually on the surface) of the infective virus.
We hoped that we could eradicate the virus. In actuality, this is impossible. It is a “new” virus; no one has any natural immunity, so there is no resistance. The vaccine is only partially effective. Everyone eventually will be exposed, and all must prepare to deal with it. The focus is not on eradication but rather on moving from pandemic phase to endemic phase. This will happen when there is worldwide herd immunity. This is a GLOBAL PROBLEM. Our mindset must be on the well-being of others, rather than just on ourselves.
We hoped that vaccination would help people.
The experts in epidemiology (the spread of disease) say it has saved many thousands of lives . . . the vaccinated elderly and vulnerable who were most at risk and who are now largely protected. (Over 99% of people now admitted to hospitals for COVID are unvaccinated. If vaccinated people should happen to become infected, they tend to have milder disease and are more likely to survive.)
We hoped that it would be impossible for a vaccinated person to infect others, but with the Delta variant, this hope was shattered.
We hoped it would reduce restrictions, but vaccinated people are subject to ALL international travel and social restrictions.
We hoped that if herd immunity could be achieved in a country by vaccination, they would be safe, but in Israel and in the Seychelles, they achieved 80-85% vaccination rates but then experienced very harsh outbreaks of the Delta variant. This is a global crisis, not a local one. Large portions of the world are still very vulnerable, so the pandemic marches on.
We wondered if Sweden’s approach was wise. Their government was widely criticized for selectively protecting their vulnerable population, avoiding lockdowns and school closures, yet when the Delta variant hit Sweden and her neighbors, the damaging effects were far less in Sweden because the Swedish people had broad, natural immunity from the earlier, milder strains.
Leaders in most countries expressed that the lockdowns were necessary. Hopefully, it helped hospitals not to be overwhelmed, but the virus spread anyway. The collateral damage has been extensive.
Suicidal ideation among teenagers up 25% (normal 4-5%), and even children are committing suicide in the developing world.
Education and social development of children is being delayed.
There are many mental health concerns community-wide and worldwide.
Opioid abuse and deaths, along with other drug abuse, are on the rise.
Medical treatment, that should have been provided, wasn’t given or was delayed.
Preventative health measures, which should have been performed, weren’t.
Economic toll is devastating (businesses have closed, bankruptcies, far worse in the developing world, with grave consequences among the poor who couldn’t work).
Social unrest and crime, as large segments of the population were idle for extended periods of time; U.S murder rate up 29.4% in 2020.
We thought that all vaccines would be equal, but they aren’t. They vary in their degree of effectiveness, in their method of operation, in their development, in their production, and in their harmful side effects. Christians should understand the differences and choose accordingly. Many see ethical reasons not to take certain vaccines.
We hoped the individual vaccines would meet the requirements to be a wise medical intervention. Once again, we are doing a risk/benefit analysis.
Safe? Some potential complications have already been identified.
Acute (short term): 1st trimester miscarriages, myocarditis, blood clotting problems (Ref: Dr. Zelenko’s podcast for death rates in Israel and in the U.S.).
Subacute: “More is better” doesn’t work with vaccinations. Sometimes “two doses is good, while three isn’t” (“pathogenic priming” or “paradoxical immune enhancement”). This must be considered when immunizing those with natural immunity (prior COVID infection) or when giving “boosters.” Those who specialize in this field must give us good guidance.
Long-term: It is not known if infertility, autoimmune disorders, or cancer might be long-term side effects.
We know that the vaccines provide partial protection for a limited time. We don’t have the data to say more.
We know they reduce the risk of hospitalization and death, especially for the elderly and those in a high-risk group.
For the elderly and high-risk, probably yes. They are more “fragile,” and their immune system is less robust. The disease is more dangerous than the vaccine.
For the young, most medical experts say no. Influenza is more dangerous to children than COVID is to them, and no one has ever recommended immunizing children for influenza because the risk is so low.
There is much controversy about who to immunize. It is a risk/benefit analysis between the risks for the individual of vaccinating or not vaccinating. The pros and cons vary according to age and risk factors. We cannot ignore those who are urging caution. We promote “ethical deployment” of the vaccines, meaning those who need them most should receive them first.
Thankfully, experienced clinicians worldwide, laboring to care for the sick, have compared notes. We now have evidence-based protocols based on the research and this experience which can be effectively used by any clinician for outpatient and hospital care. Early outpatient care reduces mortality by 85% (from 7.5% to less than 0.5%).
The “Zelenko Protocol “(authored by the doctor who treated President Trump)
The FLCCC Protocols (authored by a group of lung and intensive care clinicians)
“I-MASK+” for prevention and early outpatient care
“MATH+” for hospital treatment
“I-RECOVER” for long-haul COVID recovery
Inexpensive, proven drugs that have been safely used for other diseases for many years have now been “repurposed” for COVID and are included for early outpatient treatment (not inpatient treatment) in the protocols. They’ve been safely and effectively used in other countries to quench COVID outbreaks with documentation (e.g. Ivermectin’s use recently in India, Mexico and Peru). This “off-label” prescribing is a common procedure among physicians, as medications are used with due caution for conditions for which they haven’t been officially approved.
Three recognized, national authorities in public health published “The Great Barrington Declaration” in October of 2020, recommending an effective and cost-effective overall approach to end the pandemic from a global perspective, recommending “Focused Protection.”
COVID-19 vaccination should be for all the elderly and those otherwise at risk.
For those at minimal risk (children and the young), return to life as normal. COVID infection will naturally pass through the communities, they will suffer the mild illness, and they will have natural immunity
The Current Debate
Pastors and missionaries should know that there is a disagreement in medical circles with regard to the prevention and treatment of COVID.
The CDC publishes extensive information having to do with COVID, including prevention and treatment. Everyone appreciates this wealth of available knowledge.
A treatment approach has been developed by public health experts and clinicians, but there’s much public disagreement in medical circles with regard to certain elements of this published approach.
Those doctors who have disagreed with the official position have surprisingly been criticized, censored, and even censured. They believe that truth is being suppressed.
Unfortunately, there has not been a venue for the public discussion of these differences of opinion by the clinical, public health, and other professionals involved in an atmosphere of mutual, professional respect for the good of the people.
This disagreement contributes to the growing division and polarization in our nation. Citizens who seek answers and find censorship (and other such distractions) when they seek medical information about COVID treatment and the COVID vaccine become very nervous.
As we serve, we must point people to “the truth” wherever it is found.
The Word of God and the Person of Jesus Christ
That which can be known of God through Creation, including His natural laws (e.g. gravity)
Spiritual Frame of Reference
Where did all this public contention come from? There is a collision of two mindsets:
If one believes in God, there follows a logical progression: We’re created beings. à Human life is sacred. à Each individual has a free will. à Human decisions result in consequences. à We are motivated to act wisely. à God is the Judge and we will give an account for our actions.
If one rejects God, likewise there is a logical progression: Humans are the products of evolution, here by chance. à There is no accountability to any authority. à Anyone can do anything he wants to get ahead… for possessions, pleasure or power. à Those in power make the choices and all others must submit. à So, power is to be sought most of all. Two illustrations:
Nazi Germany and their doctrine of Übermensch, with the Aryan Germans as rulers and all others as servants or destined for disposal
Soviet Russia founded on atheism, experiencing Stalin’s purges with countless millions murdered because they were seen as a threat to those in power
In the days I’ve been prayerfully preparing this material, the Lord led me to these quotes in a commentary on Ezekiel 39, with regard to Stalin and Russia.
“The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God . . .” (Psalm 14:1)
Concerning Russia, “You cannot negotiate with them.” Anon.
Concerning Stalin, “The Great Upside-down Philosopher. Top is bottom, black is white, far is near and day is night. Big is little, high is low, cold is hot and yes is no.” Rube Goldberg
“We have deposed the czars of the earth, and we shall now dethrone the Lord of heaven.” Joseph Stalin
In other words, evil is not predictable. We can’t figure it out. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not rational. We can’t reason with or trust an evil person. Those who believe in truth are a threat to the evil.
In the battle of good versus evil, the evil have always promoted fear as a way to more easily control the people because fearful people can’t think clearly. We mustn’t yield to fear as we face everything related to COVID, nor can we lead others to fear. Let’s fear God as we love Him, trust Him, and obey Him. Biblical fear of God will lead us to the spiritual blessings of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
A Suggested Approach
Become a student of the pandemic and everything related.
Use all available resources on one’s board of counselors.
Pastor and other spiritual authorities
Family doctor(s) and his/their resources with regard to medical questions
The Christian Law Association regarding legal ramifications (e.g. mandates, exemptions, etc.)
Peers in the ministry regarding matters of application . . . how to do whatever needs to be done
Reliable sources of news and information (such as hospitals with a reputation to defend)
Utilize our God-given tools of (1) a walk with God in His Word, (2) prayer, and (3) the direction and empowerment of the Holy Spirit
Ever-increasing obedience to the Great Commission (God’s provision to love Him and others)
We are so pleased at the great Missions University held last week in conjunction with Youth Conference at First Baptist Church. This four-day event, titled “Money in the Middle,” began with a special picnic on Monday night and concluded with a prayer meeting and challenge on Thursday afternoon. In between, many vital, practical, and encouraging sessions were held, including sessions taught by Eddie Wilson and Dr. Mark Bosje and a record nine sessions just for ladies!
We are already making plans for next year’s Missions University, “Growing and Multiplying,” to be held July 11-14, 2022. We are expecting God to use this in many of our lives in a great way. In addition, we plan to host our first-ever Missions Marriage Getaway that same week, July 15-16. More details will be coming soon about these “don’t miss” events.
Select the link below to download the 2021 EOM form. Please note: Mileage rates dropped slightly for 2020.
Missionaries still on deputation should not use Box E in the form because they do not yet have a fixed salary. Please complete and email this form to firstname.lastname@example.org. Direct any questions you have to your Field Service Coordinator (FSC) or call FBMI at 219.228.2850.
Health Alert – Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs (January 15, 2021)
Location: Worldwide: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director has signed an order requiring all airline passengers traveling to the United States, including U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test or recovery from COVID-19.
Event: Effective January 26, all airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older must provide either a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel or provide a positive test result and documentation from a licensed health care provider or public health official of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel. Passengers must also attest, under penalty of law, to having received a negative qualifying test result or to recovery from COVID-19 and medical clearance to travel.
Airlines must deny boarding to passengers who do not meet these requirements.
U.S. citizens in countries where adequate COVID-19 testing is not available or may not be able to satisfy the requirements, should depart immediately or prepare to be unable to return to the United States until such time as they can meet the requirements.
Actions to Take:
Monitor the CDC website for latest guidance regarding testing requirements.
Check with your air carriers or travel representative prior to departure for the United States.
Dr. Ed Tutton, former staff member at Hyles-Anderson College and founder of “Teaching All Nations” and “Teaching Our People,” went to Heaven peacefully this afternoon. Dr. Tutton won the battle against Cancer today.
Dr. Tutton and his wife Carolyn have devoted their lives to Christian education both in the United States and on the mission field. They served together in Christian schools and Bible college ministry in the US before joining the FBMI China Missions Team and later the Ghana Missions Team, where they helped start Hyles-Anderson College of West Africa. After several years on the mission field, they returned to the US to work on staff at HAC, where Dr. Tutton oversaw the Student Recruitment and Alumni Departments. They spent their retirement years developing discipleship curriculum that is used worldwide to literally “teach all nations.”
Dr. Tutton was the epitome of a gentleman. He was a selfless servant who spent his life ministering to others. Heaven gained a great man today. Please be in prayer for his wife Carolyn, son Jon, and daughter Kathy during this time.
For new missionaries especially, don’t get thousands of pieces of letterhead printed right out of the gate.
You will find that you still have copious amounts of it years later, and with the trend toward emailing letters getting more and more popular, you are going to end up stuck with thousands of sheets of unusable letterhead, not good for anything except scrap paper for your kids to draw on.
Regarding printing your mailing address on your letterhead, you might want to consider just adding it to the bottom of your prayer letter each time, as your mailing address is more than likely going to change once you get to the field, and possibly even several times after you get to the field.
Your mailing address wouldn’t have to take up a lot of room–simply a “banner” at the bottom of each letter. That way, if your mailing address changes, you’re only having to make a correction to the prayer letter, not the letterhead.
In addition, you might want to change up your design over the years to represent more of where you are in your ministry, and you won’t want to have to throw letterhead away to do this.
In designing your letterhead, don’t allow your letterhead to overwhelm your prayer letter. While letterheads do draw people to your letters, the most important part is the content of your letter.
Regarding the picture, it might be best just to have the husband/wife picture on the printed letterhead, so that you don’t have to keep getting it reprinted every time another child is born.
Regarding the Supporting Church information, it might be best to leave the pastor’s name off, as pastors can resign, take another church, etc.
Always put a date at the top of your prayer letter (can be just the month and year).
Some type of greeting is recommended.
Always start on a positive note.
Update your readers/supporters on how your church is doing.
Give a personal soul-winning experience, not just corporate details.
Reference new ministries that have been started.
Always, always, always mention your family in some way–personal, ministry-related, etc.
Include prayer requests, which can be in list format or paragraph format. Unless a prayer request is extremely urgent and the main reason for the letter you are sending, prayer requests should probably be put at the end of the letter.
Recently, some of our missionaries received an email purportedly from Pastor Wilkerson. The email, which was a hoax, asked the recipient to purchase a gift card. Many missionaries wisely ignored the email or contacted us to ask about it. Unsolicited emails from unknown sources are not always so direct, but they are often both deceptive and dangerous. For this reason, email safety is a key concern to all internet users, including missionaries.
Another recent email to one of our missionaries is copied below. Notice especially the knowledgeable, purposeful use of church and ministry language. Here is the first email:
From: CBC Secretary <email@example.com> Sent: Thursday, July 2, 2020 11:14:54 AM Subject: [EXTERNAL] Quick Favor.
So sorry for disturbing you with this mail, i really need your favor.
Thank you and God bless,
Nancy Jaco Church Secretary
The missionary responded:
From:XXX XXXXX <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: Friday, July 3, 2020 12:13 PM To: CBC Secretary <C_secretary@hotmail.com> Subject: Re: [EXTERNAL] Quick Favor.
Glad you replied. I need to get an iTunes gift card for my Niece, Its her birthday but i can't do this now because I'm currently traveling. I tried purchasing online with my credit cards but unfortunately no luck with that. Can you get it from any store around you? I'll pay back as soon as i am back, Kindly let me know if you can handle this.
Await your soonest response.
Thank you and God bless,
Nancy Jaco Church Secretary
Based on these and other emails, here are a few things that may help you with email safety:
Watch out for emails from unknown domain names. In the first email above, the email comes from an atypical address (mchsi.com). If in doubt, make sure to look carefully at the entire email address. While the name may be familiar, the email address may not match.
Watch out for grammatical errors. Many emails that pretend to be from large companies, recognized vendors, and even friends can be exposed by incorrect spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation.
Watch out for emails that are labeled as external but claim to be from within. If an email comes from outside FBMI or First Baptist Church of Hammond, it will be labeled as external. If you receive an external email from another FBMI missionary or from someone else within our ministry, you should be extremely cautious. While it is possible that they used a personal email to communicate with you, it is also possible that the email was sent by an imposter.
Watch out for unknown people. Sometimes, you may be contacted by a real person you have not met. If that is the case, do not share information that you are not comfortable with everyone knowing. If you do not know the person, you do not know the person.
Do not click unknown links for any reason.
Do not open unknown attachments for any reason.
Do not share private information through email.
Do not share any financial information through email.
Do not share any information through email that you could share in a more secure manner.
Do not share personal information about other people without their permission.
Thankfully, the examples above ended well. While we acknowledge that there are many people who are trying to deceive (II Timothy 3:13), we also believe that God can give us wisdom and prudence (James 1:5). If you have any questions or would like more help, feel free to contact us!
According to their website, the United States Postal Service has temporarily suspended international mail service to over 100 countries because of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. To view the current list of affected countries, you may visit this page on usps.com. While large shipping companies remain open, their services have been affected in many places around the world. Many countries have suspended their in-country postal service, as well.
These kinds of service interruptions affect missionaries, supporting churches, family, and friends. If you are planning to ship or mail anything internationally, you may be unable to do so at this time. Please remember to check with the applicable mail service providers. Also, if you have any related questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.
First Baptist Church has begun emailing a weekly newsletter to many of our members and friends. Please enjoy reading the attached newsletter, which was sent out last week. Also, we would like to invite you to sign up to receive this newsletter, which includes news, prayer requests, and many helpful resources.
If you would like to subscribe, simply email email@example.com and mention that you would like to receive the weekly update.