On Mission to Care for People Well

I’d like to tell you about long-time Bible Church members who are also Health Care workers, Sarah Whang Ro and Young Whang, and how the current pandemic has affected their lives.

Our family moved to Chapel Hill from Los Angeles, when my husband, Young Whang, got his first job as an oncologist at UNC 21 years ago. We have three children. Katherine is a grad student in Baltimore, Andrew is a data analyst in Richmond, and Alex is a junior in High School. I stayed home to raise our kids and went back to work in 2015 as a family physician and weight management physician in Hillsborough.

While church shopping in 1999, Jim Abrahamson’s preaching kept us returning to the Bible Church. After he stepped down, the godly leadership exhibited by elders at the time kept us at the Bible Church. Young and I have been involved in the Korean ministry and Children’s ministry. Young served as a deacon and is currently serving his second term as an elder.

The landscape of primary care has changed drastically during this pandemic. To minimize patient exposure to the coronavirus, most of our care has been delivered through telehealth (video and phone). Patients with COVID-19 symptoms are thoroughly screened via phone and are directed to the newly created 11 Respiratory Diagnostic Centers (RDC) of UNC Healthcare for evaluation and testing. I have been working both at our Family Medicine Clinic and RDC. Young is also seeing patients via telehealth and is currently taking care of hospitalized patients.

During our phone or video visits with our patients, both Young and I noticed some common trends. Almost everyone is experiencing a significant level of anxiety. So we spend some time going over what is known and unknown about the virus and recommend effective ways to minimize their exposure and brainstorm different ways they can cope during this stressful time.

During one of Young’s phone visits, a very frail elderly patient requested two cloth masks as they did not have any. So Young volunteered me to deliver these masks to the patient’s home saying that his wife was involved in our church’s face mask ministry. The couple were so thankful when I dropped them off on their porch and saw them from 10 ft away (practicing social distancing and delivered with mask and gloves on)!

Another disabled patient shared that he/she did not eat for two days last week due to lack of resources and the only communication she/he has had for weeks was with our clinic scheduler and the physician. So I immediately connected the patient to our social worker and inquired about Meals On Wheels in her area (which wasn’t available). I also connected the patient to Ryan McKee, our Pastor of Community, who was able to assist the patient with some resources through the church’s benevolence fund.

So, both Young and I are finding that through these telehealth visits, we are able to learn about these physical needs. We are able to not just provide medical care, but also connect the more vulnerable patients in need with immediate community resources. Thus, telehealth became a tool to check on our most vulnerable patients in our community. I shared these stories with my colleagues at work to bring awareness to these potential needs. We are so thankful that the CHBC’s Mask Ministry and the church’s resources are used to meet some of the needs in our community. We believe that these tangible actions speak volumes about God’s love during these stressful times.

There has definitely been a heightened level of anxiety for both of us as we continue to work in our clinics and the hospital. Daily we are inundated with new procedures/policies that change overnight. We are constantly mindful and careful about potential exposures and are taking extra precautions.

This quote by Martin Luther written during the Black Plague (first brought to our attention by Roddy Dinsmore) has given us some comfort and guidance:

I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.

Martin Luther

Young and I both feel that exercise is an important part of staying healthy and it is a wonderful coping strategy during these stay at home orders. So we have had so many delightful lengthy hikes in the nearby trails. During these hikes, we often pray the words of Psalms which gives us much comfort:

But our delight is in the law of the Lord…. We are like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season….. For the Lord watches over the way of righteous….Blessed are all who take refuge in him….But you are a shield around me, O Lord….But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy….Surely he will save you from the deadly pestilence…his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

The Lord has taught us to “be still” and to trust him and put all our hope on Him during these uncertain times.

We are so thankful for our pastors and our church staff for swiftly changing our weekly worship services to a virtual one and doing it so beautifully with excellence. We have been so blessed each week. We are also thankful for the church leadership in providing sound guidance on how to conduct the various church ministries while leveraging all the safety measures. The virtual weekly life-group meetings have been a lifeline for us as we share and pray with one another. If you are not in a life group, please consider joining one. We covet your continued prayers for protection for all the healthcare workers.

Thanks to Sarah and Young and the many health care workers within the Bible Church body who, like Sarah and Young, have poured themselves into caring for others during this strange and difficult season.