The letter came in a business-sized envelope, but it was hand addressed in bold print with a complete return address and an honest-to-God stamp. How often does that happen?
I noted the Raleigh postmark but didn’t recognize the sender’s name, so I opened it with some curiosity – and at a suitable distance from my face.
I don’t think anyone would be sending me powdered anthrax or COVID-19 spittle, but you never know.
The letter itself was not handwritten, though it was personally composed with grammatical stumbles intact, printed in a very large font.
The sender was a woman who said she desired to visit me personally, as a public service, so she could answer my questions about whether we are living in the last days. She regretted the pandemic had left her unable to come.
She quoted 2 Timothy 3:1-5 from the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ “New World Translation,” describing it as a prophesy of Jesus that the last days would be marked by people who were “slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness …”
I’m quite sure Jesus did not write 2 Timothy, and not so sure about the last days, but it’s hard to read the news without being reminded we do have our share of people who fit the description.
The writer assured me these turbulent times will soon end because Jesus said so and “because last night came to an end this morning.” If that didn’t answer my questions, she said, I could find all the answers at www.jw.org.
The letter reminded me that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in more things than we usually think about.
How can Jehovah’s Witnesses earn their way into the 144,000 they believe will rule with God in heaven or even gain a place among the “other sheep” who expect an earthly paradise if they can’t get out and win more converts?
And what about those young Mormons who get sent out two by two to knock on doors all over the world? How will they complete their missions if they’re stuck in their apartments?
I checked the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints website, and it turns out most of those sent overseas have been returned to their home countries and given new assignments. Some within a few months of completing their mission were allowed to call it done.
Where COVID-19 restrictions don’t allow door-to-door proselytizing, missionaries are to stay in their apartments, use technology to evangelize and spend extra time with their Bibles and other study materials.
So, those of us who Zoom to Bible study and worship through Facebook Live or YouTube or some other service are not alone in being COVID-inconvenienced.
It’s a mixed blessing: We can’t worship face to face with our church family, but we don’t have to awkwardly decline a front-porch discussion of the last days.
Even so, I’d happily deal with the latter if we could enjoy the former. The truth is, I rarely think about the last days before Jesus comes. He said no one would know when, and that’s good enough for me.
Like most of us, I’m more focused on when the coronavirus pandemic will run its course.
With all the death and suffering and lost jobs and economic turmoil and political division it has stirred up, those are the “last days” I’m praying for.
If only enough people will listen to the medical experts and think more of others’ health than their self-centered “rights,” perhaps we’ll get there sooner rather than later.