“Hello to my dear friend, Epenetus. He was the very first follower of Jesus in the province of Asia. Hello to Mary. What a worker she has turned out to be! Hello to my cousins, Andronicus and Junias. We once shared a jail cell. They were believers in Christ before I was. Both of them are outstanding leaders. Hello to Ampliatus, my good friend in the family of God. Hello to Urbanus, our companion in Christ’s work, and my good friend Stachys. Hello to Apelles, a tried-and-true veteran in following Christ. Hello to the family of Aristobulus. Hello to my cousin Herodion. Hello to those who belong to the Lord from the family of Narcissus. Hello to Tryphena and Tryphosa – such diligent women in serving the Master. Hello to Persis, a dear friend and hard worker in Christ. Hello to Rufus – a good choice by the Master! – and his mother. She has also been a dear mother to me. Hello to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and also to all of their families. Hello to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas – and all the followers of Jesus who live with them. Holy embraces all around! All the churches of Christ send their warmest greetings!” (Romans 16: 5-16, The Message)
Hello! I suspect I know what you are thinking, “What in the world does this passage have to do with anything?” I am certainly not trying to be funny – okay, maybe a little funny. This passage feels very much like what socially distanced ministry feels like to youth ministers everywhere. Instead of meeting in person, we get to visit with the First Baptist Youth Family via Zoom. If you are unfamiliar with Zoom, then I salute and envy you. Zoom has become the video conferencing platform of choice by millions of people as we trudge through this pandemic. Every day, the youth staff meets with different groups of our youth for “virtual lunch” and are able to spend a brief amount of time catching up and hearing about one another’s lives. Sometimes our ministry simply looks like saying “Hello!” to everyone on the call before they have to leave for another call or activity. Sometimes hello is simply a greeting, but very often it can convey an extraordinary amount of emotion and care. For me, “Hello,” has become, “Hey! I see you, I love you, and I am glad you are well!” This current pandemic has changed the face of many norms. I hope that my “Hellos” continue to contain a lot more than a greeting, and I hope that yours do so as well.
Grace and Peace,
—Will Raybon

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