Announcement from Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary
RE: COVID 19 and Campus Precautions
For Immediate Release
Given the potentially rapid advance of the new coronavirus, which causes COVID 19, the Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary has announced plans to continue the school year with significant modifications and periodic reevaluation. President Wade Mobley addressed the student body after chapel today. The video and transcript of that address is attached. COVID 19 poses a unique risk to public health, in that it presents itself with common, mild symptoms or no symptoms at all in a majority of patients. According to public health officials, this coronavirus is persistent in public areas and contagious even when patients are asymptomatic. While the campus is small and contains a low population density, some ministry activity contains unnecessary risk and will be modified.
- Effective immediately, all off-campus FLBC ministry events are canceled, through Spring Break (April 12). This includes gospel team outings, the alumni basketball tournament, the Mexico missions trip, and the choir tour to California.
- Students who have traveled to high risk locations will take precautions to not expose other students to that risk until such a time that it is unlikely for them to carry the virus.
- Students, faculty, and staff are asked to be increasingly vigilant of hygiene in their own rooms and common areas.
- Students with underlying medical issues should exercise their own judgment about remaining on campus. Technological accommodation will be made as appropriate and possible.
- Events after Spring Break will be evaluated in the coming weeks, with regular updates given to the student body as they are known.
- Seminary classes will continue as usual unless events dictate otherwise.
Please pray for the ministry of the Bible College and Seminary, and that Christ will be magnified through our actions and attitudes.
Founded in 1964 by the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (www.aflc.org), the Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary (FLBC.edu) includes a two-year post-secondary program (FLBC) and a four-year Masters of Divinity-level pastoral training program Level (FLS). The Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary gained accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS, www.tracs.org) in 2018.
Pastor Wade Mobley
President, Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary
Chapel, March 12, 2020
Psalm 112 verses 6 and 7, challenging words, words that we know are true and yet we betray them constantly, “The righteous will never be moved, he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news. His heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”
Is it true? Yes. Do you fear bad news? Yes.
I felt that for the first time when I was men’s resident head, as I was on staff in the men’s dorm for five years and I lived to tell about it. I remember sitting in the men’s resident head apartment, about halfway through the year, being afraid that somebody would knock on the door. It was so busy that year, 185 students. It’s a bad habit to get into. It’s a bad habit to fear correspondence about what might come next. And yet we find ourselves in situations regularly, even when we live in a land of prosperity, safety and security like no one has ever experienced, probably in the history of the world, we find ways to be shaken. And we have a bit of one of those right now.
So I’d like to share with you just some thoughts and some news, and I hope that this will help us all to slow down, to take a breath, to disinfect surfaces, wash our hands, protect the vulnerable, pray for those who are in jeopardy, and to love our neighbor.
When we need to slow down, the best question to ask is, what is true? What do we know to be true? COVID-19, coronavirus disease 19: There have been COVIDs before, and two of them have been famous and were more deadly, but less contagious. Pestilence is new to most of us. War, frankly, at any global level is new to most of us, but not the world. War, death, disease, pestilence, plague, a result of the fall has been with populations since the fall and continues today; but new to us at our shores.
I will admit that when all of this started hitting our shores, my mental state was downplaying it because of some of the sensationalism and panic. I now think this: I think it’s possible that something is sensationalized and people are panicking, AND for it also to be genuinely bad and dangerous at the same time.
I think that’s where we are. This is not the bubonic plague in medieval London. But what if this hits Mumbai? What if this hits a nation with dense population and limited healthcare and sanitation? Think of the millions and millions of people who could be affected.
This particular health threat has some unique elements to it. The symptoms are common. If you do the Google search, you think, “Well, every time I’m sick I have all of that.” And then you realize that 20% of people so far have no symptoms at all and yet are contagious, and it would appear that people are contagious before they’re symptomatic. So there’s no way for you to know if you’re being cautious or need to be cautious or have been exposed. The disease is very minor to most. But it is deadly to others. And those to whom it is deadly, it is very deadly. The time to stop something like this is early, not late.
You’re here to be established in the eternal and inerrant Word of God for a life of faith in Jesus Christ and faithful service to his Kingdom. And some of the lessons that we learn and teach are unplanned and extra programmatic. God has given us an opportunity together to learn and to teach, to love our neighbor, and to look adversity that life in a fallen world brings in the eye and find refuge under the wings of God Almighty who knows you and loves you.
In what we do now and how we do it, we are also teaching our neighbor about Christ. The comment today is of a continuation of the school year with some modifications and continued re-evaluation. We will know more later than we do now. Things are moving fast, are they not? But what we do know now?
First of all, we are going to try to continue the school year as planned with some modifications. We’re a small campus, I know sometimes it doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the dorms, but we have a low student population density and not a lot of geographic diversity. We don’t have a lot of people traveling various places. We have some measure of control over that, although control is always an illusion a little bit. We think right now that we can complete the school year with some modification and discretion.
Discretion. If you’re sick, lay low. That’s just standard operating procedure in a dorm. If you’re healthy, come to class, and if you’re not, don’t. But could you please not say, “I stayed up too late last night. I’m really, really tired. I think I’m going to self-quarantine during first hour.” Okay? Especially for my class because I take things personally.
Hygiene always. Those of us who have issues, shall we say, behave as if every door knob ever has a contagious disease. That’s me. But right now it’s looking pretty good. So cleanliness of self, of your room, it’s one of the reasons we like you to clean your room. And our common areas. The sneeze guards on the salad bar make it impossible to reach all the way across to the green peppers, but they’re there for a purpose. And the utensils are shared, I know this, I think about it every day, by every single one of your hands, and so would you please for our sake, wash those hands before you help yourself to the green peppers. Wash your hands regularly. It honestly will help someone. It will help you.
If you are concerned, if your parents are significantly concerned, and especially if you have underlying health issues, consider going home to be safe. You need to use your judgment on that, and we will support you in that. There are some modifications that we’re willing to look at to help the educational side of things. But if you have underlying health issues, you don’t want to get a respiratory disease. And we would understand that and support you in that decision.
Modifications. There are some details to work out, but I believe that the government’s advice on this one to limit nonessential travel is wise, not just public relations-concerning, but it’s wise. Because of that, the alumni basketball tournament for this coming weekend has been canceled. Gospel team outings before spring break will be canceled. This is a hard thing, but both the choir tour and the Mexico trip for spring break have been canceled. We think it’s unwise. It is unwise and we’re sorry. The Mexico trip may be delayed possibly to next fall, but we just don’t know. Financially and those things, it’ll work out and we’ll take care of you. I know for many of you that’s something you’ve been looking forward to all year, and I’m very sorry, but we think it’s wise. We will reevaluate some of this- although not those cancellations- next week, a week from now we’ll know more and you’ll know more. And as soon as we know it we’ll tell you too.
Post spring break events, the second Proclaim choir tour, and campus days, we’ll reevaluate in the next couple of weeks. We just don’t know what’s going to happen with the course of concerns here. For spring break, if you go home to an area that has significant concerns- right now, it’s somewhat limited where that is, I don’t know where that will be in a week or two or four- it may be that it would be best for you and for the campus, for you not to return after spring break. And if something goes really bad in our society with this medical situation, there is a chance we would have none of you return after spring break. We simply don’t know though, do we? So it would be best not to speculate, but to prepare with your employer, and it may affect how you pack to go home. Let’s try to make the best of this, all of us.
We would all prefer something else. But in this, God is teaching us too. God has made several promises to us about his faithfulness and his goodness. And these things are certainly, I believe, by contrast, more evident today than they were two weeks ago. But he teaches us to come to him in any and every situation, pouring out our hearts before him, trusting him for our life and in our death and for the love of our neighbor. And we come to him boldly confessing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, which is quite apart from anything that will happen to us here.
And that said, I understand the disappointment, I understand the questions, I understand the concerns, and I ask that all of us together with character, composure, faithfulness, integrity, and charity, that we would walk through these coming days and weeks together.
[Praying] “And Lord, we commit these things to you in prayer. We trust you. And I ask that you would show yourself to our fellow man through us, and that we would learn no matter what comes, and that you would keep people around the world safe, and that we would be marked as Christians by the character of Christ. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
[Edited 9PM, March 12, to correct derivation of the name COVID “19.”]