Dear Friends and Family,
While COVID-19 continues to affect much of the world, in our own lives we have experienced another (more positive) dramatic change – the arrival of our second child – Nora Ruth Kelling, born in Amman on 6 June just before midnight! It was a smooth delivery and Aidan is absolutely besotted with her and the notion of being a big brother. We thank you for all your prayers about this and please continue to pray as we adjust to life as a family of four.
Our previous letter ended without us knowing whether we wanted to or would be able to return to the UK for the birth and requesting prayer for wisdom. In some ways the decision was taken out of our hands, as the airports in Jordan remained closed and the situation in the UK deteriorated. Lockdown conditions in the UK meant we would not be able to do church visits or see many of our family or friends, and we couldn’t be sure when we would be allowed back into Jordan. Meanwhile we wanted to be able to participate in the Church’s response to the needs that are emerging here as a result of not only the pandemic itself, but the economic and social impact as well.
Lockdown in Jordan has been a rhythmic affair, with a full curfew on Fridays (and the sight of hundreds of kites flying from the rooftops of Amman!). The government here did a really good job of both tracking and slowing the spread of the virus. As we write this the total number of positive cases of COVID-19 is under 900, with fewer than 10 deaths. It does seem that the king and the government have put the health of Jordan’s people above the health of its economy. It has been wonderful during this time to connect with some of our link churches via Zoom services, coffee mornings and other video messages, and we’re very happy to do more through the summer.
Joel has continued working at reduced capacity. This has been made possible by Zoom, the relationships developed over the past year and our time in the Gulf in February. He’s been facilitating a community of practice of Anglicans from across the region who are responding to the needs of vulnerable people in migration across the Middle East, from refugees and asylum seekers to migrant labourers. Praying for and working practically towards providing basic support at these challenging times has forged a greater sense of community across the Anglican community here. It was a privilege to help facilitate the translation of Bible studies on faith in the time of COVID-19 into Arabic and disseminate them across the Arabic-speaking world, and to share more widely the good news stories of how the church is responding to need.
Closer to home, Joel’s work with St Paul’s Ashrafiyeh and the International Anglican Church bore fruit, with the International congregation alerted to the great need of refugees in Ashrafiyeh and able to support 60 families with the basics through the time of lockdown. It is so encouraging to see the body of Christ working together in love and friendship. It is still too early to know whether any of the plans for work and travel in the coming year will be possible, but with Nora arriving at this time, Joel can focus his priorities on fatherhood and see what emerges later this summer.
In addition to her normal activities and some follow-up from the last consultancy, Fiona has also started volunteering with an organisation supporting refugees and migrant workers in East Amman. She has been helping in the search for funding opportunities for the COVID-19 response as well as education, women’s empowerment, economic opportunities and youth activities. Fiona is looking forward to being able to continue this work in the future. Please pray for the work of this organisation, and for the role that Fiona may be able to play while balancing life with two children.
Aidan has appreciated the extra attention he has got from us both recently, while we have lamented the missed opportunity to develop his Arabic at nursery, which is closed. His English skills and imaginative play have come along in leaps and bounds though, and we have spent countless hours either at Mission Control or on a rocket to the moon and Mars! As restrictions eased and we were allowed out, we were thankful to be able to go on walks again as well as to collect the things we needed for Nora’s birth – as everything we thought we needed was at Joel’s parents in England! We are so grateful for the gifts of a second-hand car seat and clothing for Fiona and Nora, as well as the possibility of buying a used cot and sling. It has also been comforting to have two friends from church due to give birth at a similar time to us, which has provided some solidarity and insight into the maternal medical situation in Jordan.
Nora arrived on the day our lockdown formally ended, the eve of Eastern Pentecost. It is exciting that she was able to emerge from hospital as we commemorated the emergence of the disciples from the upper room, filled with the Holy Spirit. Her middle name – Ruth – was intentional, not only as the land of Moab is within present-day Jordan, but because of the words in Ruth 1:16. Hopefully she continues to be a sign of our commitment to our relationships with those we work with in partnership and mission as well as the comforting and enabling presence of God’s Spirit with us as we continue to journey through this uncertain future.
Joel, Fiona, Aidan and Nora