Water Cooler Observations, April 8, 2020

Hiemstra_FHFA_02052009By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Midwesterners have a reputation for being friendly people. As a kid, I spent a lot of time on my grandparent’s farm where the reason for the positive attitudes was very simple. Out on the farm, you did not see a lot of people and, when you did, you were happy to see them.

Walking around the neighborhood these past several weeks, I have seen more smiling faces than all last year. As I enter my fifth week sheltering in place, I too am happy to see my neighbors.

Secondary Trauma

The relentless discussion of corona virus on television is triggering a form of secondary trauma that manifests itself as unexplained anxiety. Secondary trauma normally refers to the trauma induced in caregivers during horrible disasters, like plane crashes and earthquakes. Seeing large numbers of suffering people can overwhelm the caregivers, triggering anxiety and depression.

If you suffer from secondary trauma, limit your television time watching news reports and try getting outside. Sunshine and exercise are natural anti-depressants that you can use to keep a healthy balance.

Bright Spots

Optimism today centered around decreasing hospital admissions in NYC (probably due to social distancing) and the discovery of an antibody treatment (link) that may soon be available to first responders.

Antibody treatment is really good news, but it is not a vaccine. How quickly it can be rolled out, remains to be seen.

Social distancing works to reduce hospital admissions by spreading out the caseload over time. This allows hospitals to treat the critically ill patients without exceeding capacity limitations on staff and equipment, like ventilators. This way lives are saved that might otherwise have been lost.

Corona Statistics

For me, reviewing statistics on the corona virus is an anxiety-inducing event. The mortality rate in the U.S. rose today to 3.0 percent with the cases and deaths both rising about ten percent daily.

Corona Virus Cases, Deaths, and Mortality Rates by Region, April 7, 2020
Countries Cases Deaths Mortality Rates
Count Change 1/ Count Change 1/
Western Europe 611,964 4.4% 51,223 6.5% 8.4%
Eastern Europe 26,329 6.7% 674 14.0% 2.6%
Africa 9,758 6.7% 473 8.7% 4.8%
Middle East 110,502 6.7% 4,611 5.2% 4.2%
Asia 119,236 2.2% 3,891 0.6% 3.3%
Australia and New Zealand 6,787 2.0% 43 16.2% 0.6%
Pacific 11,290 7.8% 472 6.5% 4.2%
Atlantic 87 11.5% 9 28.6% 10.3%
North America 385,404 9.0% 11,334 13.9% 2.9%
Central America 5,469 8.8% 212 18.4% 3.9%
Caribbean 2,669 5.1% 116 7.4% 4.3%
Latin America 27,493 7.2% 1,008 12.5% 3.7%
World 1,316,988 5.8% 74,066 7.4% 5.6%
1/ Percentage change from prior day reported
Source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Corona virus hot spots around the world are much worse than the U.S. Europe remains the worst hit area of the world with Italy and France reporting mortality rates above 12 percent, likely because of a large elderly population. The Europe situation is particularly worrisome because European have socialized medicine not available in the U.S.

In the U.S. we have many undocumented workers and others not covered by health insurance. Think of all the people laid off in recent weeks. If these people are slow to ask for medical treatment when they need it, then they may infect others and  the U.S. mortality rates will rise to compete with European rates.

Corona Virus Hot Spots by Country, April 7, 2020
Countries Region Cases Deaths Mortality rates
Italy 1 132,547 16,525 12.5%
France 1 74,390 8,911 12.0%
United_Kingdom 1 51,608 5,373 10.4%
Netherlands 1 18,803 1,867 9.9%
Spain 1 135,032 13,055 9.7%
Indonesia 7 2,491 209 8.4%
Belgium 1 20,814 1,632 7.8%
Sweden 1 7,206 477 6.6%
Iran 4 60,500 3,739 6.2%
Mexico 10 2,439 125 5.1%
Note: Counties with at least 2,000 cases.
Source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Pre-Existing Conditions

What counts as a pre-existing condition to raise mortality rates for corona virus patients?

Your probability of death about doubles for age groups over sixty, being male, and having certain medical conditions. Heart disease, chronic respiratory ailments, diabetes, hyper-tension, and cancer are all factors more than doubling your risk. Deaths in minority communities are especially high because of these pre-existing conditions.

These statistics come from China where treatment options may be more limited. For details, see (link).


After 9-11, economists at the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates national banks, were busy doing regional and industrial studies to determine the distribution of losses in the economy and how they would affect banks.

The process of determining these economic effects was to examine the industries that would have obvious problems, like hospitality, airlines, and travel business, and look to the Census data to see where these industries were concentrated. Banks serving those areas were then assumed to have been disproportionally affected.

This week I wondered about how laid off workers would pay their mortgages in the coming months. What happens to their lenders?

Also, corona virus deaths may reach levels not previously seen–what happens to the insurance companies standing behind hospitals and individuals that pass away that have insufficient reserves? Companies like hospitals, pharmacies, and grocery stories are likely to have corona related deaths where infection obviously took place on the job.

Response of Churches

Just about every church now offers some form of online worship on Sundays. Many have added midweek Zoom get togethers, Facebook parties, and video devotions. Many are quite good. Check your favorite church website for details.

Turning to God in Distress: A Gethsemane Moment

When you are in pain or afraid, where do you turn?

When Jesus was facing death in the Garden of Gethsemane, he turned to God instead of his pain and fear.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:36-39 ESV)

We face a Gethsemane Moment today worldwide. Where will you turn?

Spiritual Disciplines

Turn to God in your pain.

Consider reading Psalm 8 as a prayer, if you can not find the words to pray. I did this myself for about ten years.

Consider practicing continuous prayer–talking to God while you go about your day. I find prayer comes more easily when I am jogging or swimming laps. One of my own prayers is. Prayer for Shelter.

Consider daily journaling. I start my days in the morning with a daily examine–looking for God’s work in your life over the previous day.

Consider daily bible reading or study. I try to read a Psalm daily after I journal. Once I finish reading them all, I start over.

Consider joining a small group. It is a great comfort seeing people and talking with them about what you are going through. If you don’t have a group, check your favorite church website or call the church.

Whatever you do, turn to God.

Water Cooler Observations, April 8, 2020

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, April 1, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, March 25, 2020

Corona Virus Versus the Flu

Black Plague

CDC Flu Statistics

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Meet_2020




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Spiritual Disciplines: Monday Monologues, September 16, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Spiritual Disciplines.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below:

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Spiritual Disciplines: Monday Monologues, September 16, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/TakingCare_2019

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Why Participate in a Small Group?

Mural in Riverside Presbyterian Church
Mural in Riverside Presbyterian Church

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46–47)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The early church was a small group. Many churches today remain small by choice.

My first small group experience occurred in high school when our senior pastor retired and the youth director left. Overnight our active youth program fell apart. The associate pastor stepped in to fill the gap, but only two of us stuck with the group: my best friend and I. Throughout my senior year in high school, our time together focused on two things: the Book of Romans and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Cost of Discipleship. Interestingly, my best friend and I are now both pastors.

The original small group is the Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because our identities are formed by who we are in relationship with [1], our relationship with the Triune God provides an important example of what a loving, well-functioning community looks like [2].

Another foundational small group is the family. Families talk about every important matter in life. In the family, we learn to talk, pray, and to read scripture. Our families also teach us to joke, to love, to fight, and to reconcile. My first ministry as an adult was to my family.

Jesus did not write a book; he established a small group. This simple observation is remarkable because Jesus drew large crowds—therefore, his focus on disciplining the twelve appeared counter-intuitive. Jesus called the twelve disciples after spending an entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12). The Gospels record how very difficult the journey of faith was for Jesus’ disciples. Not all of them made it (John 6:66).

Small groups provide us the security to make difficult transitions (Icenogle 1994, 126–37) [3]. Most tragedies in life are involuntary transitions. During such transitions, we often cry: Lord—why me? Transitions become growth opportunities when we pray: Lord—why did you bring me to this time and place? Small groups provide a safe place to ask this question while inviting members to wait upon the Lord’s response together.

[1] Maureen Miner (2007, 116) asks an important question: “Can we have a separate and distinct relationship with each member of the Trinity?” If so, striking the right balance requires a community effort which is a mandate for small groups.

[2] This relationship has a name: perichoresis, which means divine dance. It defines the special and intimate relationship we see in the Trinity (Keller 2008, 213–26).

[3] Consultant William Bridges (2003, 43) makes the point that it took Moses maybe 40 days to get the people of Israel out of Egypt, but it took about 40 years to get the Egypt out of the people (Num 11:5). The point is that transitions begin with people looking backwards; proceed through a long period of uncertainty; and end as people began to adapt to the new environment (Bridges 2003, 100). After 40 years in the wilderness, it took new leadership, Joshua, to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land.


Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1995. El Precio de la Gracia [The Cost of Discipleship] (Orig. pub. 1937). New York: Simon and Schuster.

Bridges, William. 2003. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Icenogle, Gareth Weldon. 1994. Biblical Foundations for Small Group Ministry: An Integrational Approach. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Keller, Timothy. 2008. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton.

Miner, Maureen. 2007. “Back to the basics in attachment to God: Revisiting theory in light of theology.” Journal of Psychology and Theology, 35(2), 112–22.

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