I have always felt a special connection with Nephi and his familiar words in the Book of Mormon, “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents…and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days.” These words have repeatedly entered my mind during this pandemic. Despite the afflictions brought by the virus, my family and I have always felt the tender mercies of the Lord as He continually blesses us every day. This has been a constant reminder for us to serve, at least in our own little way.
I can still remember that day when I received an unexpected call from my brother, Francis. He was then working as a Medical Technologist for a laboratory, analyzing COVID-19 samples from swab tests. It was a time in 2020 when the COVID cases in the Country have dramatically increased, and people were terrified and anxious about the uncertainties and the risks brought by the virus. I hadn’t really seen him for more than a month since he was staying in their laboratory quarters, but we would communicate via Facebook Messenger once in a while. Thus, getting a phone call from him, instead of the usual FB message, meant that something was off.
And true enough, what we feared actually happened. He contracted the virus and he experienced all those symptoms that we’d usually just read about on the news: severe headache and body pain, loss of taste, and high fever. He described the illness as something that made him feel as if he was “going to die”. Fortunately, when he gave me a call, he was already in the convalescent stage. He had recovered and developed antibodies for the deadly virus.
Having experienced and survived COVID himself, my brother began to understand the struggles of many people affected by the pandemic---not only among those who experience the illness firsthand but also the families of those who suffer from COVID. As I am also in the health and sciences field, being a biochemist myself, we both felt a desire to assist others. Many laboratories already conduct swab tests, but a lot of people do not have access to such services, especially those with mobility needs and those who are stuck at home due to quarantine and mandatory isolation. With this, we started a home service swab testing business and put up an online page.
Unexpectedly, we have received hundreds of inquiries and bookings. From talking to different people who need COVID tests, we have realized that swab testing is not only an essential service to those who are exposed to the virus, but also to those who need to find jobs and go back to the provinces. Thus, for the past months, we have dedicated ourselves to booking RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen appointments and providing home service swab tests. While this has been a great opportunity to help others, it has also blessed us temporally.
The pandemic started as a problem and a burden. But slowly, it has turned into a blessing to our families. With this, we strongly felt a sense of responsibility to also create ways to bless others. We then coordinated with various community pantries and local government units so we can provide COVID test kits and conduct free Rapid Antigen tests to those who need them the most. We prioritized giving free swab tests to breadwinners of the families to enable them to provide for their loved ones. We also gave free tests to those who want to reunite with their families and go back to the provinces, but do not have enough resources to do so. We may not be able to provide free tests to a lot of people, but we are hoping that these simple efforts would, somehow, make a difference.
When I heard Elder Gary Stevenson’s general conference talk on being “highly favored of the Lord”, I have always felt that Heavenly Father is talking to me and my family directly. Elder Stevenson said, “Nephi gives his gospel perspective of being highly favored of the Lord in all his days. Times of affliction and disappointment do not change the watchful eye of the Lord as He favorably looks upon us, blessing us.” And with such favor, we can also draw parallels as members of the Church to endure the challenges brought by this pandemic and to give back--so we can, in turn, bless the lives of the people around us. ◼︎