As yet another Covid disappointment piles on the growing heap of cancelled plans, I found myself in a bit of a funk. All of us are wondering how much longer. We all thought it was temporary, brief, a few months at most. I write this as we enter our sixth month, ½ of the year. And no end in sight. All of us are experiencing disappointments, discouragement and fear. Worse, we wonder where God is in all of this. I feel like the writer of Psalm 77 must have been living with Covid.
“Each night my mind is flooded with questions. Have you rejected me forever? Won’t you be kind again? Is this the end of your love and your promises? Have you forgotten how to have pity? Do you refuse to show mercy because of your anger? Then I said, God most high, what hurts me most is that you no longer help us with your mighty arm.” CEV 6-10
Yes, I’ve felt that way over the last six months. But, verses 11-14 encourage me. “Our Lord I will remember the things you have done. Your miracles of long ago. I will think about each one of your mighty deeds. Everything you do is right and no other god compares with you. You alone work miracles and you have let nations see your mighty power.”
Covid 19 did NOT take God by surprise. In fact, I have. Three specific missionary friends of mine are living proof. They would tell you of many times they have been proof, but this is what God gave for me, for such a time as this. All three of them are in the states during this scary time and none of them should be. All three families came home by “coincidence”. In one case, plans set in motion over a year ago.
A family from Latin America had come home on business for a two-week trip. Covid was just beginning in the US as they prepared to return to the field. They left their hometown on a short jaunt to a larger airport where they would board a twenty-one-hour flight back to their assignment. While waiting for their connection, they learned that the State Department was recommending Americans not travel to foreign countries. Additionally, their country would require a 14-day quarantine upon their arrival. With little time to decide, they found immediate peace in the decision to remain in the US. A two-week trip has stretched into six months and they are now into their furlough year. If, they had left as planned, it is likely they would not have been able to return to the United States.
A second friend made a very unexpected trip to the States for a “few days”. She was asked by fellow missionaries to accompany their young daughter on the overseas flight to join the family in America. The parents had left their daughter in boarding school in Africa for what they thought would be a short separation. Her school closed due to Covid so they wanted to bring her home. My friend readily agreed to accompany her and the two of them headed for Houston. The flight is long and tiring so my friend planned to spend a few days resting and building up her immune system before returning. Covid was now in full swing in Africa. Within a few minutes of informing her leadership of her plan, the borders of her country were closed. Foreigners (her) were required to have 2 documents to return. She has only one as they were waiting for her second document to arrive. Thus, she was unwelcomed in her adopted country.
Yet another couple who minister in a sensitive country are also spending this pandemic in America. However, their journey began a year ago. Don and Kathy* had returned home to attend a denominational meeting last summer. Two weeks before they left, Kathy decided to pack family photos, mementos and other beloved things and bring them home with her. It was unnecessary and some trouble but she just wanted to do it. While here, they learned that they would have to vacate their home in the foreign country. So, upon return, they did so. A move made easier by the items Kathy had left in America. During the Fall, the Lord told Kathy several times that their work would be changing and not as they planned. This was a little unsettling as the country of their ministry was becoming more and more intolerant of Christianity. In fact, Kathy thought they might be imprisoned. In early 2020, they were scheduled to visit a nearby country for business purposes, in the heat of summer. While packing, Kathy kept deciding to pack jeans and heavy shoes. As her luggage pile grew, Don started repeating, “we’re only going for ten days”. At this point, neither of them had any knowledge of a little virus called Covid 19. On the first day of their visit outside their country, they learned of Covid and that their home away from home had sealed its borders. They were unable to go back.
Clearly, God’s plan for these three families was that they experience Covid in the United States surrounded by family and friends. The questions posed in Psalm 77 “Have you rejected me forever? Won’t you be kind again? Is this the end of your love and your promises? Have you forgotten how to have pity? Do you refuse to show mercy because of your anger?” are answered quite simply in the words of the Cambridge Bible Commentary, “The history of the past is the most convincing answer to these questions.”
His love in times past, forbids me to think, He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink.
Thinkin’ ‘bout that.