Anniversaries of the loss of special people can often creep up on us with unexpected waves of grief as if it were just yesterday. But who would have thought I would be so aware of the anniversary of the day COVID became a reality in my own life (in a different kind of way). But from the looks of many social media posts, I’m not the only one.
Many of us remember the moment we began to realized COVID was going to change a lot of things.
The first Sunday with no church service in person.
The first day of virtual learning for kids.
The first day of wearing a mask in public.
For me it was getting off the plane in Paraguay as we began our feasibility study for the possibility of a new Signs of Love plant. A woman at the end of the jet bridge dressed in medical gear and a mask stopped me to take my temperature. Say what?
Well it did start a little earlier that day. It was my birthday and Robin had come to Chile and we were to then travel on to Paraguay together. As we sat in the Santiago airport I noticed maybe 1 in ever 6 people that passed by wearing a mask. It seemed odd. Chile had its first case of COVID just 10 days earlier and even then, it was in the far away big city from where we were residing on the Chilean coast at the time. After all we still had plenty of water and toilet paper on the shelves.
As we began to board our plane from Chile to Paraguay it really hit. We were 2 of 4 people on the entire plane!
The flight attendants came and sang happy birthday (one of Robin’s schemes) to me in a language that wasn’t Spanish. Wait where were we going? (Come to find out they were singing in Guarani, one of Paraguay’s official languages!)
They had taken a piece of cake from first class (no one was sitting there to eat it) and put a battery powered “candle” on it for me.
We landed in Asuncion. Once we got through the temperature check, things seemed pretty normal. At least we thought so. We had never been there be able to compare it to anything.
Our plans for the next 2 days got more and more challenging being North Americans. At the time, the US was quickly becoming called a “hot-spot” and when people saw us they were unwilling to make much contact. Simple things like finding a public bathroom and purchasing some essential items for our boarder crossing the next day required a lot of patience.
Were we crazy to be trying to cross the boarder into Northern Argentina, where we were told there was great need for rural deaf ministry?
If we cancelled our plans for travel the next day were we walking in fear or stupidity? We had been asking ourselves these questions in the previous days, but now we had to make a firm decision.
We took a few hours to sit before Jesus seeking direction. I opened my Bible to 2 Corinthians 5. Nothing seemed to speak to our situation. Then I turned the page to 2 Corinthians 6:
“Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly… in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.
“Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” (Corinthians 6:1-13 MSG)
We took this as our go ahead… “stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly… in hard times, tough times, bad times.”
So we prepared to travel the next day.
11:00 pm our contact in Argentina sent me a video she took of her television screen. It was the Argentinian president announcing that at midnight they would be closing all boarders and that any foreigner without residency currently in the country would be escorted to the airport and put on the next departing flight.
We landed back in Chile to the news that they were also closing it’s boarders and the president had banned gatherings of more than 500 which was not accepted well with the already active anti-government protests that had been going on for the past few months.
This was just the beginning of 1000 ways (big and small) that our lives would be changed over the last year.
But the one thing that hasn’t changed is God sovereignty.
I’m grateful for the ways He has guided every step of our lives overseas the past 10 years, and we actively wait as He makes the next step clear to us. He is graciously providing for us and using us right where we are and we desire to glorify Him wherever our feet may be.
“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” (Jim Elliot)