One thought that has been recurring in my head through this pandemic is how strangely unifying the whole experience is. When was the last time in human history that everyone–down to an individual level–was affected by something like this?
It has been a good opportunity to check in with friends around the world.
A friend in Australia is desperate for human interaction while working from her apartment. An immuno-suppressed friend in England grows restless while staying with her mother. A friend in Brazil is struggling with his anxiety because lockdowns cut off resources for him. A friend in Saudi Arabia continues work and must stay away from his family. A friend in Japan has lost her job and is not sure what she will do next. A friend in Canada is struggling with keeping up with her children’s school work.
From the Philippines to Portugal, from Germany to Gabon, I’ve heard of the same fear, the same isolation, the same risks, the same overworking that we have heard of here in the US.
But I’ve also heard some good news.
And if John Krasinski’s YouTube show Some Good News is any indication, with 2.5 million subscribers since its launch on March 29th, the world is aching for good news during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Allow me to share some good news of how the kingdom is working around the globe.
Back in February, when we were still unsure about the severity of COVID-19, I wrote two articles for Renew.org in which I relayed to Americans how we should be especially caring for our Chinese brothers and sisters during this time. Much of China is now returning to some semblance of normalcy, with many schools and businesses reopening and many lockdowns lifting. Most people I know in China have told me that apart from having their temperatures checked on a regular basis, a lot of daily aspects of their lives have resumed as before.
For my husband and me, we were concerned about many of these people in January, February, and March. But since the US became the country with the most COVID cases, many of our Chinese loved ones have been concerned for us here. We helped with sending masks and medical supplies to China in February and March, but now people are wanting to send them to us to forward to friends who work in the medical field.
We have since received more than two hundred masks from China and have delivered them to individuals in our area to pass around to their staff. One of those recipients, Nick, an ER nurse, received about a thousand masks from Chinese friends. His wife Hilarie wrote this Facebook post:
“As Corona spreads across our land, Chinese friends here and abroad have written to check on us and ask if Nick has what he needs to stay safe at work in the ER. Today Chinese friends in our Murfreesboro community began collecting and dropping off much need[ed] masks at our house, masks they have taken from their own personal supplies, sent to them from home. Friends living in China, now able to get masks, are shipping them to us also. My friends, you leave me feeling humbled and grateful. Thanks so much to you all for loving our family!”
Fabiana, a former English student of mine from Venezuela, told me that her university classes were now online and that she was stranded in Argentina and living with an old friend, Maria. A few years ago, Fabiana and I started online Bible classes to help keep her English skills sharp and to deepen her understanding of the Bible. We had to take a rather lengthy break, though, because her university classes were becoming more difficult and because I was learning the ropes as a new mother.
But when I contacted her about a month or so ago, she thought now would be a great time to get back to our lessons. “Also,” she said, “my friend wants to learn English, so she can participate.” Maria needed to increase her English skills because she lost her job to COVID and needed something to boost her resume. The three of us are now having video calls on Instagram two times a week, and I can’t tell you how my heart melted when I heard the both of them sing “The Creation Song” to remember the days of creation: “Day one, day one, God made light when there was none….”
I’ve also had a chance to talk to my dear friend and former student whom I will call Hamida, though that is not her real name. I’ve always thought of Hamida as a “person of peace”–someone whom the Spirit has always nudged me to. And even after she went back to Saudi Arabia and was no longer my English student, when I prayed for someone to reach out to, her name came up.
And God did great things.
When I asked Hamida if she would be interested in Bible study, she said, “Can I share with my friends and family?” She shared the information with her cousin, and they have both been in communication with me, learning about the Bible. Hamida is now pregnant with her first child and is inside much of the time to protect herself from COVID. Because of this, she is studying more and is going back to her passion of painting.
I also talked with my old classmate from when I studied abroad, Kevin, from Cameroon. Kevin is getting his Masters in Shanghai, and I wanted to know how COVID was affecting his life both in his time abroad and in his home country. He had just returned to Shanghai in late December after an internship back in Cameroon, and when lockdowns started happening in China, his father contacted him and said that he would buy him a plane ticket to come home.
“But I decided to stay,” Kevin told me, “not because of the Masters but because God told me to do so.…
“I know He asked me to stay because He wanted me to grow closer to Him, to grow in maturity to Him. And I have faith that I am doing that. I am actually growing, and I am happy about that.”
He explained more that the demands of the Masters program are very high and that he was very anxious about it all before COVID happened. But after the lockdowns and after he felt God with him there in Shanghai telling him to stay, he felt calm.
Kevin told me, too, that racism towards Africans has become worse in China because of COVID. “Africans were evicted from their homes and their passports [were] seized.…I always ask God to forgive them for they do not know what they do.” He feels that his choice to stay–his choice to listen to God–kept him safe in more ways than one.
Though the disease keeps spreading, though politicians are making treatment a debatable issue, though racism and hate crimes may be on the rise, there is good news:
God is in control, and He has given us a Savior who has overcome the world.
It may be easy to be caught up in the bad that you see from inside your home, but make no mistake that God is moving all around the world–and that is not-so-strangely unifying.