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Community Rallies Behind DCHS Senior Class

April 19, 2020
By: Bill Conger

For the D.C.H.S. Class of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a disappointing end to the school year. Conventions, trips, banquets, the prom, and other special events either have been cancelled or postponed, dampening the spirits of those who looked forward to the last high school memories with their friends.

Folks in DeKalb County are supporting those students through a Facebook group called “DCHS Adopt A Senior” that Whitney Lester created after seeing the same idea for Rutherford County.

“I have seen several 2020 seniors sharing things on social media recently about how the stay at home orders and other COVID-19 recommendations have had a negative impact on their senior year,” says Lester. “This year’s graduating class is having to miss out on so many of the things that make senior year memorable, like yearbook signing, senior skip day, and other end of the year festivities, including the postponement of graduation. I had been pondering for several days on how I could assist in making the last couple of weeks of their high school career memorable for them, and when I came across this idea in Rutherford County, I saw a great opportunity to spread just a tiny bit of kindness, love, and recognition with the DCHS graduating class, while still maintaining the recommendations of social distancing.”

Parents and guardians of graduating seniors are asked to make an “Up For Adoption” post on the group’s Facebook page and include pictures of the student along with information about the person’s likes, activities, plans for the future, etc. Others in the community will “adopt” that senior.

“They receive contact information for that person to send them cards, words of encouragement, prayers, small gifts or things they may need for college, or even do something fun for them, such as going to decorate their yard,” explains Lester. “I am working hard to ensure that each senior is included in the program, and is assigned, at minimum, two adopters.”

“When I read the details, it just warmed my heart that someone had started something so special for the seniors,” says Amy Evans, mother of Salutatorian Holly Evans. “As it progressed and parents were posting descriptions and pictures of their seniors followed by multiple people from the community wanting to “adopt” them, it definitely lifted some of the darkness and sadness that everyone has been feeling.”

Evans says her daughter has been devastated.

“Like all the seniors, she has worked hard for her achievements. The thought of not getting to celebrate them is devastating to her. She’s missing out on some of the perks of being Salutatorian, some of her awards ceremonies, her last cheerleading banquet, etc. She had a few club trips planned that were cancelled including a trip to NYC. She is graduating from Motlow with her Associate’s Degree, but they have cancelled that graduation already. But even with all of that, she said that not getting to be with her friends prior to going off to college is the worst thing. As for me, it has made me sad not being able to see her go through some of her senior milestones. Most people know that I live to take pictures of my kids. Missing out on that plus seeing her being upset has broken my heart. We know there is a greater plan, even though we are sad right now.”

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude for what this young lady has created for our seniors,” says Molly Bratten, the mother of Braeden Jett. “This is a way to show these amazing kids that they are special and they haven’t been forgotten or that their accomplishments haven’t been overlooked. I am just so grateful for both Whitney and the people in our community who are taking on our seniors to make this unfortunate circumstance a little less stressful.”

Bratten’s son, Braeden, plans to attend Tennessee Tech in the fall and wants to be a History professor. A member of the FBLA club, he placed first in the Political Science division and would have been competing at the state level this month in Chattanooga.That event like so many others was called off.

“Braedon has faced a lot of disappointment in the last few weeks,” says Bratten. “I have been very proud of how he has handled the situations. He had plans to travel to Europe over Spring Break that had to be cancelled. Not to mention Prom and the FBLA convention that he was looking forward to. He is well aware of what he is missing, but he tries his best to keep his chin up and realize that this is how it has to be for now. He is actually handling it way better than I am. I wanted to see him make all of these memories, and at times it is so hard not to feel bitter or cheated. He has to help me keep my chin up at times also. I know that we will get through this together as a family with lots of understanding, love, and prayers”

“It’s good to let them know everyone still cares and that they are not forgotten, says Margaret Bockoven, whose son Aaron graduates this year.

“He was looking forward to his last days of school and auto mechanics [class], going to prom with his friends and graduation. It breaks my heart for them because I remember the excitement of the celebrations of being a senior with my friends. It’s just sad that they have to miss out on all of it and won’t get to have those memories to look back and reminisce on. This is a year they have worked for for 13 years”

“The Adopt A Senior group is so special and beyond touching,” says mom Amy Rhody. “Following a missed 18th birthday and other milestones, I assured my daughter, Rachel, that we would celebrate everything once it was safe. She’s so practical and matter-of-fact, telling me that no one would care by then. I told her that I cared, but I’m her mama and that’s not the same lol. But then, Whitney Lester introduced this beautiful idea. I don’t know why. I guess because she’s also a beautiful soul. My daughter was adopted and received warm chocolate chip cookies on our porch the next day. It wasn’t expensive, but it was heartfelt. She was soooooo happy to know someone (besides her mama) cared. She felt loved. As a parent, that’s all I need. It was simple. But it was so special.”

As of Saturday afternoon, the public group had 740 members. If you’d like to join and show your support, check out DCHS “Adopt A Senior” on Facebook.

Connecting to Christ During COVID-19

April 19, 2020
By: Bill Conger

People are looking for answers during this time of uncertainty in our country. The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked fears and stress for many, keeping doctors and mental health care professionals busy. People are also looking for spiritual answers. This week’s Q and A is with Dan Gulley, minister at the Smithville Church of Christ.

Bill Conger: What can we learn from church history when it comes to thinking about the threat of pandemics?

Dan Gulley: One lesson we can learn is that the church usually responds in a very positive and powerful way. After a long day of healing all who were sick and casting out demons, it is declared in Matthew 8:17 concerning Jesus Christ: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.” It is further recorded in Acts 10:38 that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Authentic Christians in every generation since the first century have sought, in the words of Scripture at 1 Peter 2:21, to follow the example and walk in the steps Jesus left us. There have been many pandemics throughout history, and the church typically seeks to follow Christ’s example in not only cooperating to stop the spread of the disease, but also marshaling human and financial resources to relieve and heal those who suffer from the effects of disease. Just over a hundred years ago, beginning in the fall of 1918, the “Spanish flu” came to the shores of the United States. John Mark Hicks, a professor of theology at David Lipscomb University in Nashville, recently wrote about the response of churches of Christ in America to that pandemic. Hicks reports that pandemic eventually killed 700,000 in the United States and more than 50 million globally, making it the worst pandemic in modern history. The title of Hicks’ very interesting article is “How Churches of Christ Responded When the ‘Spanish Flu’ Killed Millions” ( In that article Hicks notes that many congregations of the church canceled services, and some Christians focused on feeding and nursing the poor. He cites the example of the Russell Street church of Christ who helped the Red Cross and opened and allowed their church building to be used as a hospital because the city hospitals were turning people away. Christians attended the sick, exposing themselves to risk of infection. Although most congregations did not meet, they continued to worship on Sundays in their homes with their families and maybe a few friends. While there are a few exceptions, a look back through history reveals that the church usually seeks to do what Jesus did when He walked the earth. The church seeks, however imperfectly, to bring relief and aid to those who are suffering. That care and concern by people of faith is being seen in our local community and all across our great land in the current coronavirus pandemic, and it is making a difference.

Conger: Some people ask whether the virus is a plague or judgment from God. What does the Bible say?

Gulley: The answer here is two-pronged. The Bible does indeed record instances when sickness and disease was sent by God as a punishment. When the proud Pharaoh of Egypt stubbornly and rebelliously refused to allow Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery, Exodus 9:9-10 records that dust spread across Egypt and caused “boils” that broke out in sores on man and beasts throughout all the land of Egypt. Other examples, including cases of leprosy, could be cited. Having noted that, a healthy dose of caution is needed before we decide that a particular modern pandemic is a judgment from God, including the coronavirus. The Old Testament book of Job in the Bible makes clear that not all people who suffer sickness and disease are bad people. Jesus Himself in John 9:1-4 makes clear that not all suffering and sickness is due to sin. Suffering can be self-inflicted through sin (1 Peter 4:15). We are warned in Scripture at Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death” (spiritual death in this verse). But we must also remember that Jesus Christ, the only sinless Man who ever lived, suffered for us. On the one hand, to say with absolute certainty the current coronavirus pandemic is a specific judgment sent from God would be to put ourselves in God’s place. On the other hand, surely the widespread threat of this disease should sound an alarm and cause all people to recognize and acknowledge our need for God and His help in dealing with not only physical diseases, but the spiritual disease of sin and death.

Conger: What advice do you have for people to decrease their fear and anxiety during all the uncertainties?

Gulley: First, I would advise everyone to understand that fear and anxiety are not necessarily wrong. The Bible speaks to the topic of fear hundreds of times, and often directs us to “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). One of my favorite Bible passage on fear is Psalm 56:3 which says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” The sin or wrong connected with fear is not in being afraid. There are times when fear is appropriate and even necessary to incite us to action and caution. If you wake up in the middle of the night and your house is on fire or a thief has a gun in your face and you are not afraid, your fear meter is broken! But fear that betrays a lack of trust in God, fear that rules us to the point it paralyzes and debilitates us and gives way to constant panic – that is the fear the Bible forbids and condemns. At the end of the day, the peace God grants us is not grounded in the absence of problems but in promise of God’s presence and provision. Scriptures that can help to flush fear out of your heart are found in places like Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew 6:25-34, and Philippians 4:4-8.

Conger: What are some practical ways we can love our neighbors in the midst of COVID-19?

Gulley: It seems weird to say it, but maybe the best thing we can do to love our neighbors for the time being is to keep a safe distance away from them! By now most of us know about “social distancing” and washing our hands and keeping our hands away from our faces, etc. Indications are those things are working. They are working because millions of people are submitting to the directives of our political leaders and medical professionals. The “stay at home” mandate is effective if we stay at home (except for essential outings). In our church I have been contacted by younger members volunteering to go to the grocery store or pick up medications or run other kinds of errands for older people or those otherwise shut in. Phone calls, text messages and other kinds of social media contact, emails, even written notes and letter sent by mail — all of these and other means can be used to communicate words of comfort and encouragement to friends and loved ones. “By this we know love”, the apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:16, “because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
I would close by reminding all of us that amidst all the changes and anxiety and uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic has forced into our lives, there is a constant we can always count on. The Bible declares about in Revelation 1:8- ” ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’ And again in Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

The COVID-19 crisis will pass. Until it does, let us anchor our hope in the Rock of Ages.

Services at the Smithville Church of Christ are streamed on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. These services can be reached by going to the website at and clicking on the Facebook Live link at the top of the page. At the website people can view the weekly church bulletin and some other Bible based articles and materials.  WJLE listeners can also hear Gulley’s “Got a Minute” devotions from the Smithville Church of Christ on Mondays through Fridays at various times.

DeKalb Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Holding Steady at 10. Health Department Continues Drive Through Assessments

April 18, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

DeKalb County’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has held steady at 10 since Monday. As of Sunday, April 19, the Tennessee Department of Health reported that 344 people had been tested with 334 negative results and 10 positive. There have been no deaths in DeKalb County from the virus and 7 of the 10 persons tested positive have recovered.

The DeKalb County Health Department will resume its COVID-19 drive through assessments Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the health department at 254 Tiger Drive.

Anyone, with or without COVID-19 symptoms who has concerns, is invited to receive testing for COVID-19. This testing will be provided at no cost to participants, and those who come for testing can remain in their vehicles throughout the process of collecting their samples.

Nurses and/or National Guard medics will collect nasal swabs from those who want to be tested, and test results may be available within 72 hours after the samples arrive at the lab, depending on lab volume.

“I encourage you to take advantage of these drive through assessments at the health department and to continue to do what you can to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by keeping your hands clean and practicing social distancing. Stay at home  and keep an eye on our elderly. They need to be staying at home as much as possible and we need to support them and keep them safe,” said County Mayor Tim Stribling.

“We are working closely with the Tennessee Department of Health and all agencies of government at all levels to minimize the impact on the residents of DeKalb County. That has been and continues to be our primary concern. We will get through this together,” Stribling concluded.

Tennessee’s Coronavirus Public Information Lines are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., CDT daily at 833-556-2476 or 877-857-2945. TDH is posting updated COVID-19 case numbers by 2 p.m. CDT each day at Find additional information at and

Visit the Tennessee Department of Health online at

Connect with TDH on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn @TNDeptofHealth

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