It’s been an interesting weekend to say the least, watching a worldwide pandemic unfold moment by moment and the swift actions each organization, business, school and government have taken to resist this thing. If you were anything like me last week, I was cynical thinking that this was not as big a deal that people were making it out to be. I mean, for hand sanitizer to sell out all across the country, then a mad rush to buy up every case of toilet paper just seemed ludicrous to me. Who is going to go through five cases of toilet paper even in a year? This is not even a gastrointestinal illness and I couldn’t understand why soap wasn’t (and still isn’t) selling out instead of hand sanitizer. I didn’t believe it until I visited Superstore and found empty shelves and many disappointed shoppers, some frantic. Yet my shock and disbelief to the reactions, that seemed to me like irrational fear, had begun to sink in that this is an actual life-altering threat.
A week ago last Tuesday, as I was in my Massage Therapy class, a notification on my phone came up for an email from Westjet. This was the first of over 60 that would flood my inbox with the subject COVID-19. I half jokingly, but more seriously asked my professors what they made of all this virus scare. Should we really be concerned? Isn’t the flu more prevalent and dangerous? Or is it just cause nobody knows what this is that people are reacting so much? We had an extensive discussion, some even suggesting their conspiracy theories that maybe this was a man virus created to usher in a one-world government or to control the world. But little did we know that would be our last class discussion together for the unforeseeable future.
More emails flooded my inbox of how different businesses and organizations were responding to the pandemic and I wondered maybe action really was required. It was drawing closer in when news broadcasts from President Trump’s address implicated that international travel would be restricted since most of the cases were being spread by travelers. China shut its borders, Italy went into complete lockdown and US followed suit.
It was our turn. After 18 of the previous months of not being able to have travelers come to Haiti due to political unrest and instability, we had been so excited that things had calmed down and we were able to re-engage teams. We had just hosted our first group in the beginning of March when the mayhem began to unfold. Now we were faced with the difficult, but right decision, to again cancel any teams that had plans to come for the remainder of our spring season. As I wrote our letter to be sent out to the team leaders and our ring of Haiti ARISE supporters, it left a lump in my chest of disappointment and sadness. Just when we thought we’d gain some progress, full stop again. Yet, this time it’s ironic that the problem isn’t Haiti. In fact, there are thankfully no known cases of COVID-19 presently in Haiti. That’s a miracle and it’ll hopefully stay that way. We did not want to in any way potentially contribute to a virus being carried by any of our volunteers into Haiti. It still filled me with grief realizing my family and I would not even be able to travel down to our second home any time soon.
Hour by hour since Saturday morning, more developments have unfolded with new measures being taken by our governments. Haiti made the call to stop any flights to/from Haiti and Canada, Europe, Latin America and their neighbor, Dominican Republic, since cases have been discovered there. The US and Haiti maintain an agreement that keep those flights open, at least for the moment. Then Canada called for all Canadians to come home as soon as possible, because travel was likely going to be more limited and anyone returning home from an international destination will need to self-isolate for two weeks. Now this was getting really close for my comfort. Marc, along with six others, are still in Haiti. He had plans to come home for a week, then go back again with a medical team that has since been canceled. So now, if he is still able to get back Wednesday, he will have to be quarantined? How does that look in a family of our size? Does that mean I can’t hug him, his kids can’t kiss him when he gets home? The next announcements came swiftly on the tails of the last, Sunday morning: All large gatherings, including places of worship were to close and Alberta-wide school closures were happening immediately… indefinitely. That may mean no more classes for the rest of the school year. Not for me, or my kids. Canada’s most recent address by PM Trudeau that Canada will be closing it’s borders to any non-residents and only four major international airports will be open- Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and… a breath of relief… Calgary. The daunting question in my mind… will Marc make it home? By Sunday night my mind was reeling with all these drastic, sudden changes. And I am sure I am not the only one feeling overwhelmed by the life-altering adjustments these changes will require. Granted, it’s still not the end of the world, folks. I’ve experienced much worse in the wake of multiple disasters in Haiti; earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, nation wide political uprisings. But here in our comfortable Canadian homes with pantries stocked, we aren’t always prepared when we think we are all good and safe. I am actually just longing to be in Haiti and for a moment thought maybe the kids and I should meet Marc in Haiti instead and just stay… if we could get there. That is unlikely.
I usually consider myself pretty strong, stable, trusting in the Lord that He has a plan. But all these shifts so dramatically and I felt like the rug got pulled out from under me. I had my heart on spring, travel and teams. Not only that, the stormy weekend weather ushered in -28 degree that brought on a sick, unwelcome migraine. I just was not expecting such an escalation and I know I am not alone in that feeling. To be honest, I had a bit of a melt down after I thought my kids were in bed, but they heard me and came to comfort me. Now they were the strong ones, reminding me that God had a plan in all of this and He has always been faithful. He still is. We sat together for a long while as they strengthened me. Humbling. But this morning I met the dawn with a new sense of peace and resolve that this was going to be ok, we’d face the quarantine together and it’d be like our homeschooling days. I got productive and cleaned like mad so we’d be ready and organized.
Emails are still coming in my inbox by the hour of another activity canceled, music lessons going online, the rec center putting our membership on hold, Tim Hortons only having drive thru and our cell phone provider reassuring their services will continue. Yet now it feels like a coming together, as we are all affected and choosing social distancing as our combating force through this challenge. Since everyone is forced to be on board, there’s a relief in not having to worry about whether to attend or miss something. We can rest in the fact that we are all in this together, even though we may be distanced physically.
Ultimately, my hope and longing is this would be a wake up call for the world to turn to God, realizing that He is the Most High, Almighty Lord and higher than all of this. My prayer is this determined time of laying aside every activity would allow space for us to seek Him and find true peace there, in the stripping away of all the busyness we think matters so much. This too shall pass. The Psalmist of chapter 46 says “He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; The God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Let not fear grip our hearts, as we know the Lord is with us through this time of uncertainty. Instead, let us take the opportunity where space has been created for us to be still and know He is God.