Subject: How Is COVID-19 Impacting ASI Columbia Union Members?

April 17, 2020 ◊ Issue 18
Photo provided by Pamela D'Souza-David 
Dr. Pamela D'Souza-David opened Advanced Glaucoma EyeCare in Laurel, Md., less than a year ago. The business was just starting "to see good patient flow" when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Now, D'Souza-David only treats a handful patients whose needs are critical and require attention.
How Is COVID-19
 Impacting ASI Columbia Union Members?
Daniel Reed could do little as his business “came to a complete stop.”
As the number of positive COVID-19 tests grew and Virginia’s governor called for stricter social distancing measures, customers’ calls to Nova HomeWorks, in Sterling, Va., went from new orders to postponements and cancellations. 
Reed praises God that his company was stable enough to pay employees through the first three weeks of the crisis, even without income. However, by the fourth week, he had to begin making tough decisions about laying off employees. When COVID-19 was first discovered in the U.S., Reed warned his staff that they should start saving money just in case things turned bad. 
“I even had one person say to me, ‘how did you know this was going to happen,’” Reed said. “I had no idea, I just felt impressed to tell people that.”  
The virus is not only impacting Reed’s business. His 73-year-old father, who lives in Michigan, began having symptoms like those of COVID-19, and he has been trying to help his parents from afar. 
 “Be prepared to deal with a lot of unknowns. … If you are flexible, you will be resilient.”
Still, Reed, who serves as ASI Columbia Union's vice president for projects, missions and evangelism, has found reasons to praise God and ways to serve the community. 
Reed offered his business office as a collection site for nonperishable food items and toiletries. The donations will be taken to Living Hope Community Center, part of his home church, where baskets will be made to help people in need.
He also knows this time is special. 
“As business people, we tend to get so caught up in business,” Reed said. “… We forget to sit down and give rich time to our children and wife.”
Zubin David calls this extra time with his wife, Pamela D’Souza-David, and their children “bonus time” after a friend encouraged him to see this as a chance to refocus his priorities.
“I’m appreciating our time … more time to pray, more time to Bible study, more time with the kids, more time to cook, more time to eat,” Pamela D’Souza-David said with a laugh.
Yet, there is much that weighs on their minds. D’Souza-David, an ophthalmologist, began operating her own business, Advanced Glaucoma EyeCare in Laurel, Md., in July 2019. 
“It’s not a work-at-home kind of business model,” D’Souza-David said.

She specializes in glaucoma patients, many of whom are elderly and therefore more vulnerable during this pandemic. To assess their needs, she must have an in-person appointment. 

"We have never had to think so hard about ‘how can we actually get to the people?’”
The nascent business was just starting “to see good patient flow” when the government called for everyone except essential businesses to close, said David, who is a commercial real estate agent with KLNB in Maryland. Yet, lease payments and other bills still must be paid while the business has trickled down to only two or three appointments for the most critical patients, they said. David, who serves as ASI Columbia Union's vice president for membership, faces a slowdown in his industry as well, as investors and business owners are not as eager to look for real estate at this time.
While many businesses are slowing down or halting completely, Andrew S. Baker’s technology consulting company has become extremely busy. The owner of Brainwave Consulting Company in West Virginia has spent weeks helping his clients, many of whom are in New York, transition from office buildings to home offices. 
Daniel Reed
Zubin David
Andrew S. Baker
Lawrence Rykard Jr.
Mark A. Brown
H. Jean Wright

Stress Relief Tips:

1. Spend time with God, both alone and in corporate worship services online.

2. Stay connected with family and friends by phone calls and video conferences.

3. Go outside and get some fresh air, even if it is only by going around your block or standing on your porch or balcony.

4. Be patient with others.

5. Find ways to help someone else.

— H. Jean Wright
This has included helping them find laptop computers, assessing internet speeds for video conferencing and setting up connections to office servers. 
“I had a client at the client site thank me for facilitating them being able to work from home so she still has a job,” Baker said. “That’s a perspective I hadn’t considered … She still has a job and can feed her family.”

While part of his services include helping companies plan disaster responses, he said small companies, unlike large corporate firms he’s worked with in the past, don’t usually plan for pandemics.
His advice now: “Be prepared to deal with a lot of unknowns. … If you are flexible, you will be resilient.”
Lawrence Rykard Jr. had to alter his business focus as his face-to-face demos, catering services and healthy cooking classes and participation in University of Maryland’s Farmers Market had to cease. 
“We have shifted much of our focus to prioritize our online advertising, service and education via our website, social media and the internet in general,” Rykard said. “This was always a part of our plan, now it is just under different circumstances.”
“If God is leading our businesses and ministries then in the end we shall be saved. The Lord can also give us the ability to rebuild again, just as He did to get us where we were before we lost everything.”
Rykard rebranded his catering company to herbspice in October 2019. 
“Our business thrives best being in personal close contact with individuals and groups,” he said. “This pandemic is causing us to temporarily lose this much-needed access to impact lives. We have never had to think so hard about ‘how can we actually get to the people?’”
Mark A. Brown, owner of 3 Brown Boys Granola, is using this downtime to improve his granola recipes. The commercial kitchen he used for production is closed, so he cannot supply the small health food stores and vegan restaurants in Maryland where most of his granola is sold.
Brown, president of ASI Columbia Union, calls his business a faith journey, after working in information technology and cyber security for more than 30 years.
“This granola thing was a total removal from what I was comfortable with,” he said. “I believe God placed me here to teach me some things that I wouldn’t have learned if I had stayed with the familiar. … God developed the recipe and the brought the customers.”
Whatever happens next, both Rykard and D’Souza-David believe, their businesses were always meant to be about God.
“God gives us ideas and thoughts for businesses and it’s for His glory,” D’Souza-David said. “No matter what it is, it’s for His glory. Anything God has enabled you to do is for His glory.”
Faith is what is most needed in this time, Rykard said.
“Even if we lose everything we need to be confident that it is God’s loss,” he said. “If God is leading our businesses and ministries then in the end we shall be saved. The Lord can also give us the ability to rebuild again, just as He did to get us where we were before we lost everything.”
That uncertainty may be hard to face, but it is absolutely OK to feel, said H. Jean Wright, director of Behavioral Health and Justice-Related Services for the City of Philadelphia.
“People feel like they should have a grasp of things, which actually increases anxiety and stress,” he said.
Many of our usual routines, which make us feel comfortable and in control of our lives, have been thrown off, he said. What we are facing is not normal.
However, first we must remember that we never were in control: God is.
— Michele Joseph, managing editor, ASI Columbia Union newsletter
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Hello ASI – Columbia Union family. As the entire world has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, my prayer is that you all are safe and doing well. Considering the numbers of infections and loss of life that is being reported and anticipated, I realize that it is likely someone reading this issue has been impacted by this event. To you I extend my prayers and condolences where appropriate.  Please know that you are being covered with the prayers of many as the Columbia Union has united with the global body of believers in appealing for the presence and peace of God to be with people around the world.

With quarantines, social distancing and the wearing of masks and gloves being the order of the day, many fear that the impact of this pandemic has been so significant that their reality has been altered forever.  In some way, it appears that all mankind has been forced to respond to this altered reality by defining a new normal for themselves and their loved ones. However, I would like to propose to you a different response. As God’s last-day people, who know our prophetic future and realize that there will soon be more and more significant changes to the world and society as we know it, it wouldn’t be prudent for us to respond to each event by defining another and yet another emotionally driven new normal. I am impressed that what God desires of His children is not that they just define a new normal, but instead that they return to God’s true normal. In this intimate God-man relationship enjoyed in the Garden of Eden before the fall, man walked and talked with God, receiving direct instructions and guidance for life. It is God’s true normal, once restored in the lives of His people, that will take us securely and victoriously through present and future reality-altering events. The prophet Jeremiah says to us, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore, with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”  God still desires to have that Eden-like intimacy with His creation.  It is still our privilege to live God’s true normal.

As I close, my prayer for us all is not only that we be safe and healthy, but that we also accept God’s invitation to live His true normal and enjoy His comforting and strengthening presence as we navigate this and future last-day events, until we see our Savior come in the clouds.  

Looking forward to seeing or speaking with you soon.  Blessings on you all.
Your fellow servant,
Mark A. Brown, ASI Columbia Union President
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
— Philippians 4:6-7, NIV
It is easy to be faithful when our faith is not tested. Our God is a promise keeper!  If we invite Him, He will fill us with His Holy Spirit, He will direct and match us step by step. He will give us peace, comfort, and joy, yes joy! As He does, let’s give Him all the glory and praise! Let’s testify with confidence that we are heirs and heiresses to His almighty throne - co-heirs with Jesus!

 — Sharon Pruitt, ASI vice president for spiritual development

To share a prayer request, email us at
Call 570-354-0272 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to pray with Sharon Pruitt, CUASI vice president for spiritual development, and other CUASI members.
8 p.m. April 27, 2020 — Join us for prayer, support, encouragement and networking via Zoom. Register today, to receive the meeting details.
July 29-Aug. 1, 2020 — ASI International Convention, Orlando, FL. For details, visit ASI's website.

Our mission is to obey the Holy Spirit’s call to encourage, empower and equip Adventist members of Columbia Union to work together to finish God’s work in these times in harmony with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
ASI Columbia Union Board: Mark A. Brown, president; Zubin David, vice president for membership; Sharon Pruitt, vice president for spiritual development; and Daniel Reed, vice president for projects, missions and evangelism
ASI Columbia Union Staff: Nicole Labiche, administrative assistant
Sponsor: Celeste Ryan Blyden, vice president, Columbia Union Conference
Newsletter Managing Editor: Michele Joseph

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