“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
Dr. Robert Strang is one of the most recognizable faces in Nova Scotia. As Chief Medical Officer of Health, he is the face of the greatest public health crisis humanity has faced in more than 100 years – the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Strang is tasked with balancing honest reporting of Covid cases, including death announcements, while maintaining a calm demeanour aimed at reassuring the public during these stressful times.
But Dr. Strang isn’t relying exclusively on his strength and decades of medical expertise – his faith in Jesus Christ helps him to weather this massive storm.
“God’s placed me there,” Dr. Strang told Aaron Ministries during a late-summer interview. “So now I find myself in the middle of the pandemic and … a lot of people remind me I’m here for a purpose.”
It wasn’t always such an intimate walk with Christ for Dr. Strang, who grew up in the Anglican and Presbyterian churches but stopped attending once he became a young man. It was only 20 years ago, when he married a Christian woman, that the accomplished family doctor and public health expert rediscovered his faith and began to apply it in his personal life, and on the job. Navigating the delicate waters of Christian faith and secular public life are challenging, but Dr. Strang said it’s imperative that he be the salt and light that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5.
“How can I be the best person that I can be, the best demonstration of my Christian faith beyond my family every day at work? Ultimately, I don’t have to be in full control of all this. Trust has been really important lately, trusting God with lots of different, very difficult decisions.”
REACHING OUT IN FAITH
Dr. Strang’s faith and public life came together in a dramatic way, weeks after he ordered the pandemic lockdown. He was contacted by a former church friend, Aaron Ministries Executive Director Dwight Habermehl. By then the coronavirus was tearing through the Northwood senior’s residence in Halifax, killing dozens of people and sending a clear message to pastors that it was time to intercede on behalf of an anxious province. Habermehl decided that a Zoom prayer meeting with Dr. Strang was in order.
Nova Scotia’s top doctor immediately said yes.
On the day of the meeting, Zoom quickly became swamped with 200 church leaders from nearly every denomination in Nova Scotia, as well as Christian colleagues of Dr. Strang. The health officials brought prayer requests for medical workers, emergency departments and public health officials, said Habermehl. The pastors prayed with Dr. Strang and his colleagues before taking the prayer requests back to their congregations.
“Of the two hundred church leaders that were there, if they all had one hundred in each church that’s 20,000 that were praying in our province for this place,” said Habermehl.
PRAYING WITH THE PREMIER
The success of the meeting led Aaron Ministries to invite a guest who is even higher in the pecking order – Premier Stephen McNeil. As it turns out, the premier was eager to take part, and a second massive Zoom call ensued. The premier was open about his past struggles with faith, and also shared his desire for Nova Scotia’s community of believers to seek the Lord’s favour during a pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Habermehl said the premier showed a real heart for the people of Nova Scotia.
“I was really impressed and moved by his love for Nova Scotia and his openness to the Lord in that moment,” said Habermehl. “I realize he walks a delicate road in any political position, but at that given moment, he really appreciated in a very heartfelt way that the church here in Nova Scotia was coming together to pray specifically for him and the needs of the province.”
It’s not clear if Nova Scotia’s relatively low levels of Covid-19 infection is an answer to those prayers, but Rev. Dr. Danny Smith, Chair of the Well Leadership Team at Aaron Ministries, said one result from the prayer sessions is undeniable.
“The consistent thing that I heard from people throughout the meetings that we held was the body of Christ coming together in our province in a way that they haven’t seen,” he said. “I think that’s really been the cry of a lot of people’s hearts in our province, that we would see greater unity among the body of Christ in our province.”
This pandemic has shown that our powerful nation can be brought to its knees by enemies that can’t be seen with the naked eye. The pandemic has also presented opportunities for Christians to bring God’s hope to the hopeless and those in despair.
Dr. Strang has advice for any Christian who is struggling to muster the courage to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with friends, family and colleagues. It’s wisdom from a man who has spent his adult life trying to save lives.
“Actions are much more powerful than words,” he said. “You know, we have God behind us. Many, many more people are struggling and we’re in a very difficult time. I think it does create more opportunity just to try to meet needs, which I believe that’s what we’re meant to do. And though meeting those needs may or may not lead you to where you can start to talk more about the Bible or your faith, the starting point is always meeting needs.”