June 24, 2021
By Rev. Mary Ann Cieslak, North Hills UMC (Ferguson)
When the pandemic began, I looked at my two small, older congregations and asked myself, "What can I do to show them that God is still in control and that they are not alone and isolated?" I had a large number of older adults and several persons who were immune compromised or had loved ones who were. They were only able to walk to the mailbox and back inside. They were afraid of contracting COVID-19. They needed an outlet that would let them feel more free and still connected.
Thus started the Weekly Mystery Adventure. Each week my husband and I would go on a "safe" adventure. We walked trails, bike trails, visited parks, went eagle watching, and looked for flowers and blossoming trees or fall leaves turning colors in each season of the pandemic year. At Christmas we drove through light displays. When the pandemic began to open up a little, we adventured to the socially distanced zoo visits, the art museum, the Botanical Gardens, etc. When we went camping last fall we took them with us as we shared our adventures there.
Each time we took photos of our adventure. Sometimes we took videos of fountains, running water, bubbling streams, fish jumping in lakes, pelicans feeding in the lake, musicians and singers in the park, and other interesting events. I then posted them to our church Facebook page and to my personal Facebook page as well.
The comments began to return to us. "I loved this." "I can't get out, and it made me feel like I was there with you." "It made me feel less alone." "I saw God in creation through your pictures."
Each week, even though the pandemic is lifting, we still do our mystery walk. It helps us as much as it brings blessings to others. It allowed us to get out without fear and to stay physically active. It helped us to feel less isolated as well. During this past year we have repeated our location only three or four times. It has been a challenge to find new places to explore. Even now I have several homebound members who look forward each week to see where we will go next.
Sometimes God uses the little things to make a big difference in our sense of hope and connection to God. God is our creator, or guide, and our companion.