My current job, to walk alongside parents whose young adults are on the mission field, was born from launching my own daughter to go around the world several years ago. That life experience gave me the compassion I need to do my job. I have the honor of helping parents release their kids, and I get to take them to countries all around the world to visit their kids on the field. In the past few years, I have travelled to Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America, visiting multiple countries on some of these continents. It’s been a privilege.
One of the first questions parents ask when their kids sign up for one of our trips is how do you keep the kids safe? Followed by, what if you need to get them out of a place quickly? We have answered those questions and all the ones that go with them hundreds of times. Our risk management team constantly monitors world events of all kinds and they know when we need to make changes. We have moved small teams or whole squads of Racers many times successfully over the years, due to natural disasters, political uprisings, or threats of illness.
This past week in light of this unprecedented global pandemic event, we canceled several of our parent trips to see their kids, just hours before they were supposed to happen. As you can imagine, the disappointment was monumental on all sides. Within a day or so of canceling those trips, it became clear we needed to remove all our participants from the field. The ever changing landscape was hard to keep up with around the world as countries closed borders, travel restrictions were put in to place, and the virus spread from country to country wreaking havoc on healthcare systems in every place it went.
Since that time, we have been putting our protocols into practice to bring home hundreds of missionaries from around the world. In a 24/7 effort, we have moved 24 teams, over 540 people, from numerous countries throughout several continents and brought them home to the US. Never have we worked so fast in such a changing environment as this. Following guidelines from WHO, CDC, and the State Department, among others, had us moving and changing things daily…sometimes hourly, to comply with recommendations.
Trying to communicate with parents when their kids are one step ahead of an unknown invisible enemy is not an easy task. Especially, when there is constant adjustment happening and changes of the magnitude this crisis is requiring. All our departments, working together, got them ALL home, through flight cancelations and border closings, across continents and through customs. The parents have been amazing, even in their fear, they have let us work our processes. It was a group effort which required cooperation from everyone involved. I am kind of proud of the result.
Now, as I try to process this past few days it feels surreal, yet God is not surprised. We might be wondering how this crisis could happen, but he is not. The constant activity, phone calls, postings, and emails will slow down now. Our jobs to support missionaries on the field and their parents will change now that there are not as many missionaries on the field. We do not know what this means exactly, but we do know there is a shift to help them process the past few days as their lives changed in an instant. All of our lives did.
A few weeks ago, I, like much of the world, thought, it’s just a flu. This is all an overreaction. But as time moved on, and the spread continued, the seriousness became clear. This is not a drill. This is real. The seriousness cannot be understated. Our way of life is threatened.
But that is how it goes, right? How many times has my life changed in an instant? It happens all the time, to all of us. The phone call that your spouse has been in an accident. The doctor says you have cancer. Your baby dies. Your house burns. Your business fails. All of these things are before/after events. Everything is upended. Everything is different than it was just moments ago. It is the unknown event…which changes everything.
We are in the midst of such an event. This time it is a corporate one. Worldwide. Global. All of us together. None of us knows how it will turn out. None of us knows what will be the new norm afterwards. Pearl Harbor was such an event. WW2 was such an event. 9/11 was such an event.
This one is a germ. So tiny you have to have a microscope to see it. It has brought the world to its knees in a few short weeks. It has leveled the playing field and turned grocery store clerks, custodians, and fast food workers into heroes. It has single handedly shut down the entertainment industry, professional sports, all travel activity and hospitality businesses…in two weeks. This is one powerful germ!
Before. After. Two simple words, with a lifetime between them. They are the time splitters. Before is the known world. After is the unknown one. We are sitting between them now. The familiar is before, the future is after. After, whatever this is we are doing. The waiting is tough. The sitting with ourselves is hard. If we take stock of our lives, we might not like what we see. Time splitting moments have that effect. They are good for perspective shifting, if you let them be.
The unknown brings fear with it. Fear either freezes us in our tracks, or creates a frenzy of panic. I can see both responses all around us now. The job of our brain is to try to grasp and make sense of things. It is what brains do. They reach and try to connect the dots of this new picture. Fear can shut our brains down which leads to flight, fight or freeze responses. Just watch the news if you need evidence of this fact. Behavior in a crisis is usually due to the fear of the unknown.
I might not know what is going on, or what will happen in the after, but God knows. I live in the unknown, but he doesn’t. He knows all; it is not possible for him to be in the unknown. So, if I operate in faith, rather than fear, the unknown will not matter. I will stop inventing a future in my head. I will quit imagining all the worse-case scenarios. I will clear my head and fill it up with God’s words to me. I can trust in my limited knowledge or I can trust in God who is unlimited. Faith, not fear, will win the day.
I am not saying that I will suddenly know what I cannot currently see. I am saying it won’t matter that I don’t know. Fear will not rule me if I heed his words. Peace will come, despite the unknown. I can wait, in my house, for the way out of limbo land. I can sit with him. I can rest. I can listen. I can take stock of my life, and how I might want to make some changes. I can be at peace in the midst of a crisis, because of the God of the known. I place my trust in him, even when I cannot see the after.
So, I will be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. I will do what is required to keep the people in my world, like my parents, safe. I will stay home and follow all the protocols, because this is real. But I will also, sit in the Peace of God. I will wait on him. I will take this time to soak up his faith and put away my fear. I will let go of the before, and I will wait on the after. I will know that he is fully aware of everything that is coming so that I don’t have to be. I will live in this time splitting space with hope for the future. Before and after.