I recently read the book, “Going Down the Great Unknown”. It chronicles the first successful river expedition through the Grand Canyon by John Wesley Powell’s team in 1869. There are some similarities between that expedition’s situation and the one we find ourselves in as we deal with the COVID-19 virus.
For many decades, the term “Great Unknown” was used to describe the vast expanse of land that is today the southwestern United States. Nobody knew what was out there. Even the Native Americans didn’t know. They believed that the gods had purposely made the Grand Canyon impassible. There were no maps and no landmarks to guide you. It was uncharted territory.
The hardships the Powell expedition faced on this journey were harsh and unending. The ten men and their supplies set out on May 24th in four heavy oak boats that were 20 feet long. These heavy, cumbersome boats, as you would imagine, were hard to handle in the water and out. Time after time they had to portage the boats and supplies around impassable rapids. A few times, the rapids looked impassible but going around them was not an option. To make matters worse, the boat carrying most of the food and scientific equipment was lost early in the trip.
On August 28th, 96 days after they left Wyoming, the expedition had reached a crisis point. Their situation was dire. The food was almost gone, even though they had been rationing for weeks. What little flour they had left had gotten wet, and the bacon had spoiled. As the team looked downriver, they were facing what appeared to be a long series of impossible rapids with huge boulders pelted by 15-foot waves. The vertical canyon walls prevented them from carrying the boats on land. And even worse, they didn’t know where they were. Think about that! After all they had been through, they didn’t know how much farther it was to the end of the Grand Canyon. Even if they lived through this series of rapids, they could be facing days or weeks of more hardships and starvation.
We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! We may conjecture many things.
- John Powell
As they looked at the rapids, three of the men decided they had had enough and could not go on. These men knew that if they were able to climb out of the canyon, they faced at least 75 miles of barren desert before they would reach a settlement. They had no food. They could carry very little water. Despite all these obstacles, these three men thought that was a better choice than continuing. As the expedition split up, each group wished the other good luck.
On August 29th, the group that stayed with the river exited the canyon less than 24 hours after the others left. After 97 days and 900 miles of hell, the expedition had reached their destination. The joy they felt was extreme but bittersweet. They could not help but think about the three that had left the group just a day earlier.
The other three were successful in climbing out of the canyon. Sadly, they were killed shortly after their dangerous climb. Local Indians had mistaken them for the white men that had recently murdered some of their tribe. If only they had stayed with the expedition one more day.
We have all heard clichés like, “It's always darkest just before sunrise.” That is true, but we know when sunrise will arrive. In real life, we can’t see into the future. History is littered with examples of people giving up just before achieving their goal. The Burke and Wills expedition of Australia of 1860 is a sad example of this. They planned to travel from the southern to the northern coast of Australia and back. They had left part of the team at a halfway point and took two extra teammates with them to the coast. After waiting for several weeks, the other team gave up waiting and left only nine hours before Burke and Wills returned, which eventually led to their deaths.
As the world fights the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we find ourselves in uncharted territory. We don’t know exactly when or how it started. At first, we were not sure how it was spread. We did not know what treatments would be effective. Now, a few months into the pandemic, the unknowns still outnumber the knowns. No one knows when it will end. No one knows when or if there will be a successful vaccine for COVID-19. What will normal look like after the crisis?
Before the world had ever heard of the COVID-19 virus, Church Facility Managers had their hands full. Now, add the pandemic and what do you have? We don’t know! How will it affect our staff? How will it affect our churches? Will we ever return to normal?
What do we know? We know that our God loves us and has a plan for us!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
What do we need to do? We need to pray for God’s will and mercy. We need to encourage each other.
“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up...” -
1 Thessalonians 5:11
We need to have faith in the One who made us and never give up! There are hardships and suffering in our future, but never give up. We don’t know when this will end, but never give up.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” - Galatians 6:9
as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” - 2 Chronicles 15:7
As we travel through this uncharted territory together, let others see the strength, faith, and love that comes from Christ. Please continue to pray for the NACFM, our churches and our members.
Yours in Christ,
2020 National Conference Update
The NACFM Conference Planning Committee and the Board of Directors met on April 24 to review the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on our 2020 National Conference. The good news is that, while our contract with our hotel could have left us with significant expenses if we were to cancel or reschedule our conference, the hotel management has informed us that the hotel will be closed through the month of June. This effectively removes us from any financial liability with the hotel. We discussed the current situation in the State of Illinois and their plans for the eventual reopening of busines
ses and allowance of group gatherings of more than 10 people, as well as available options for rescheduling the conference.
As much as we desired to arrive at a solution that would allow us to hold our 25th Anniversary National Conference in 2020, the dynamic situation, not only in Chicago, but around the nation presents too many challenges to our ability to host a quality conference. We have instead decided to postpone our Chicago conference until June 2021 and push back our gathering in Denver to 2022.
We know that many of you had expressed a desire to still gather for a conference this summer, but we also heard from many that were going to have to cancel their plans or simply will no longer have the necessary budget to attend. We also desire to gather with you all, so we are planning a series of online events during our normally planned conference week that you can join via video conferencing. This will include daily devotional times, round table discussions, and a virtual Annual Business Meeting. We will provide more specifics as we get our plans in place.
This pandemic situation has effectively placed us in exile from our regular routines, activities, and fellowship. Jeremiah’s words to the exiles in Babylon seem very fitting and applicable to us today.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
Our board believes that the Lord has plans for the NACFM as well, and that the end result of this postponement of our 2020 National Conference will result in a stronger organization that can more effectively fulfill our mission to equip our members for their respective ministries.
Still, Looking to the Future!
Patrick Hart, CCFM
Visit the NACFM Forum for Valuable Information on Navigating through the COVID-19 Crisis!
Engage with your Facilities Managers community. Use the forum to connect with members who are seeking advice and are interested in sharing solutions.
Member Spotlight Now Available!
We are happy to announce that we're launching a new monthly member profile. In each newsletter we'll be highlighting an individual NACFM member. This article, simply called Featured Member,
will provide a bit of personal and professional background, along with how the member became associated with the NACFM, what the things are that inspire spiritually and professionally, and how our organization supports
and encourages all of us. We have NACFM members across the country and our desire is that we stay connected and come to appreciate the value and diversity of the NACFM.
This month's featured member is Frank Pollina!
HERE to get to know Frank.