CMS people in mission around the world are feeling the effects of the measures being put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus. Here, a few of them offer a snapshot of their lives in their own words.
PICTURES: Top left: Audrey Gibson in an empty special needs classroom in Beirut; top right: an empty church in Betioky, Madagascar, where Derek and Jane Waller work; bottom: the ReVive safe house in Brazil is still open as an essential service, continuing to provide security for vulnerable girls.
Andy and Rose Roberts, Recife, Brazil
Brazil is under strict “stay at home” orders and all schools and most businesses have shut. ReVive is considered an essential service due to the children we look after, so work continues as close to normal as possible. The girls are in isolation within the house and so cannot go out. We’ve been able to let some of our staff who are most at risk stay at home, with the rest on a rota which allows them to stay at home as much as possible as well as ensuring the girls are being taken care of. The training classes I run for the other missionaries have moved online.
We were able to submit the paperwork to open the new house before the lockdown was announced. I’m not sure if the local government is still operating…but I’m sure the process will take a while longer. We’re now in their hands and will be able to open the house as soon as the paperwork comes through.
Looking further ahead we’re due back in the UK towards the end of July. Obviously, we’ll play things by ear and see how things develop over the next few months before making any decisions.
Mission partner R is herself a primary school teacher and trains other teachers in addition. As schools are closed and she is unable to do her usual work, she is trying to get involved with a local foodbank. More and more people in her location are unable to support themselves as businesses close and jobs are lost, meaning more people than ever are requesting supplies from the foodbank.
Audrey and Colin Gibson, Lebanon
Like everywhere else, coronavirus is tightening its grip and causing more suffering here in Lebanon.
As we write, all borders, the airport and ports, are closed, schools closed two weeks ago, and everyone must stay at home except for essential journeys. Only food shops, pharmacies, banks and petrol stations remain open. On a positive note, there is less pollution and hardly any panic buying and, yes, we have toilet rolls!
What has lockdown meant for LSESD [Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development, where Audrey and Colin work]? Well, many activities have ceased which is hard, just as actions to overcome the economic restrictions were succeeding.
We have even had to reduce our support to refugees, as movement around the country is difficult. The impact of this is hard to imagine.
Our school [which caters for children with special needs] is closed and most of our overseas students at the seminary went home last week before flights were cancelled – lessons at both will continue online.
We are working at home – though the office is only 50 metres away and empty, so we sometimes go there if needed. Audrey is producing resources to send to parents to use with their children at home.
During this time, one lesson we have been learning is that when you don’t know what the future will hold, it is important to appreciate, and make the best of, each moment, no matter the circumstances. The Bible, as always, has some good advice (Matt 6:25-34). We hope this might be an encouragement to you all.
Derek and Jane Waller, Toliara, Madagascar
Coronavirus has arrived. On 20 March, the president announced the first three cases in Madagascar. We were in the middle of a series of clergy meetings at the time. These were quickly halted as clergy packed and rushed to the bus park to get home. Overnight, schools were closed, worship services stopped and transport was restricted.
Our hope and prayer is that decisive early action will control this outbreak. If not, the poverty, overcrowded living conditions and poor health services mean that many will suffer here.
Jane and I thank the Lord for good health, but we are concerned for friends here, in the UK, in South Sudan, those who are refugees in Uganda, for our family, especially our children and grandchild (though we thank God for good internet); and for where we might find treatment if we became ill.
We feel cut off. This is unsettling but we know you are experiencing the same. You too are cut off from friends, family and church. You share our anxieties. Where do we turn? We would love to hear your sources of comfort.
Here are two things we find helpful:
The first is turning outwards in acts of gentleness, kindness and generosity. Under stress, it’s so easy to turn inwards. So we are asking ourselves how we can practise gentleness, generosity and kindness among our brothers and sisters here even when our movement in restricted.
The second is turning Godwards. For us this takes the form of regularly saying the daily offices of the church, on our own and together. Often it is the Psalms that speak most clearly to our situation, giving us words to cry out to God, and then listening to his reassuring promises. We recommend a Psalm a day! Here is a promise to start with from Psalm 75:3: the Lord says, “When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.”
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