To Stay or To Go
We were leaving Thursday. For 9 days to the Dominican Republic.
I remember laying in bed the Monday prior thinking, “How can I tell the team?”
I had developed a hernia in my lower abdomen and now, 3 days before leaving, I was contemplating staying home. There were two other chaperones for this youth mission trip; they’d be fine without me.
So how do I tell them? Would they feel abandoned?
Well, I didn’t have to.
Monday night, 7:35 PM, while driving, I receive a phone call from one of the other chaperones.
“Mark, sorry this is coming late in the game, but I will not be going on the trip. I’ve had valves replaced in my heart and it’s not been as successful as the doctors had hoped. I don’t feel well and I’m often out of breath. My doctor recommends I stay home.”
Decision made. I was going on the trip. A hernia pales in comparison to a heart issue.
Into and Out
Thursday March 12, 2020 was our flight to the DR as a 12 member EduDeo HANDS mission team. We left a fairly “normal” Canada behind, only to be informed while away in the DR, global conditions due to COVID-19 were worsening and our trip was likely to be shortened. And things back home were worsening rapidly.
We were ushered home three days early on March 17, with the threat of borders closing. While life seem relatively untouched in the Dominican while we were there, many countries were buckling under the pressure of this rampant virus, including in Canada. We were glad to get home when we did. Borders started closing, shutdowns were happening everywhere, and the virus continued to spread including into the DR.
Home But Not Home
Homecoming was not easy.
It was a little overwhelming. After saying farewell to each other on the team, my son (with me on the trip) and I grabbed a hotel room that night. It was late and we had so many things to sort out.
Quarantine would be mandatory. My wife, after considering numerous options, had arranged for my son and I to live in a recently acquired apartment from our oldest son. This was best for the health of everyone including our youngest with Muscular Dystrophy. But we’d be 20 minutes away and after being away 6 days, I would not see my wife for another 14 days!
First Morning in a Strange New World
Our hotel was across from a Tim Hortons. Looking out our window that morning was eerie. The Tim Horton’s lot was empty. A usual buzzing place in the mornings! Only the drive thru was open. And the highway alongside us was quiet, when normally it would be packed with cars.
I called and inquired of my wife as to how to go about things. We were to go to the house and pick up provisions to begin our 14-day quarantine. We were not to meet anyone at home, but to simply pick up the items they’d leave outside for us. It felt like a weird version of Hunger Games, or like being kicked out of the house.
We stopped as instructed and packed everything into my truck. It’s strange to pull into my own driveway and not be allowed to enter my home and greet everyone.
We left for our 14-day ‘home away from home’ finding it by GPS. Arriving at our apartment we unloaded our things. We settled quickly and began discussing what the positive aspects of this new adventure might be.
We made the best of our time in this little apartment triplex in St. Catharines. Time was spent in prayer, reading, writing, preparing and sharing meals together, phone calls, talks, walks in the neighbourhood, and doing various odd jobs around each of the apartments (there were 3). It proved to be a very enriching time for both of us.
14 Reminders in 14 days.
- Live one day at a time. We know this. Often we make plans for days or weeks at a time. That all got stripped away. We simply laid out one day at a time. Food and house supplies were outside of our control, and the ever-changing government updates made planning much past one day just speculative. Wise words from Jesus, “Do not worry about tomorrow, but let tomorrow worry about itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”
- Freedom isn’t guaranteed, and yet is. In a matter of days many of the freedoms we took for granted got stripped away. Hopefully we get them back! Freedom is not guaranteed. During quarantine, we still had many freedoms, but many had been stripped. But there is a freedom that far outlasts any freedom of this world, a freedom guaranteed… that comes in knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. “Jesus Christ gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone.”
- Tell those around you, ‘I love you.’ No day is guaranteed for us. If you are alive today it’s a good day to share with love ones that you love them. Whether by phone, text or in person.
- Things that matter tend to surface. It is amazing how some things that seemed important a month ago seemed to have faded for now. Front and center are family health and safety along with simple things like food and basic needs… (including toilet paper)! We find ourselves slowing down and re-evaluating life, and spending time with family, enjoying home cooked meals, taking walks, working close to home, and making calls to family or friends.
- It is a beautiful thing to hear my 18-year-old pray. We spent daily time in prayer. What a beautiful thing to hear my 18-year-old son pray with me about all kinds of things and for me as his dad.
- Work is good; so is working with your hands. In quarantine it doesn’t take long to realize that we miss our work. We were created to work. It was good to have a few projects that we could work on with our hands.
- This life really is frail. All normal life got uprooted because of a microscopic virus. Thinking about that really puts perspective on the frailty of life. Much of the world has ground to a halt because of something we cannot even see. Good thing we have eternal life beyond this world, guaranteed in Jesus Christ.
- Daily devotion and quiet time keep us grounded. It’s important to disconnect from our devices and spend time in quiet reflection with the God who made us, “…meditating on His word day and night.” This grounds us in life’s big questions of origin, destiny, morality, meaning, and identity, especially important in times of crisis.
- God is in control. Maybe it sounds cliché, but He really is…in all situations. He is on mission, on track, with a plan…gathering, defending, and preserving for Himself a church. Right now.
- Nature reminded me God is in control. The blooming crocuses, the sparrows busy in the big spruce tree by my window and the shining sun in the big blue sky were daily reminders that God is in control and that which He has set in order, like the seasons, will continue till Jesus comes. Amazing how the birds, the flowers, the trees, the sun all carry on regardless of man’s problems.
- Something had to change. Our consumeristic, ever-escalating, economy and ever-indulging, carefree society had to change. And it has. Some things for the better and some not. But if nothing less, for a time we’ve been pressed to think about our mortality, our frailty and eternity.
- Some Routine is Good. Everyday there we certain things we did. We always got dressed, made the beds, made meals, had walks, and had time of devotion together. We also kept a rough schedule and got some work done.
- Remain Flexible. Inside of the routine and the regular things we did, we found it important to be flexible. Flexibility leaves some ‘wiggle room’ when people are out of sorts with what is ‘normal’.
- We really can live with much less. Our apartment had one bedroom, one bathroom/laundry combo, a small living room (turned bedroom for me), and a small kitchen. We ate in my living-room-turned-bedroom with an 18”x18”x24” table as our main table, with lawn chairs as our main chairs. A foldout table was my desk/suitcase-dresser all in one. We shared clothes and made do with small wardrobes. We shared a driveway with the neighbour. And food was limited to what got brought to us with nothing wasted.
Quarantine did come to an end and we’ve had sweet reunion back with our family. We look back at these 14 days with fond memories, and as time well spent, and carry lasting effects with us.
Amazing how one decision to go on the DR trip has left so many unexpected positive and lasting changes…some of which we may yet more fully discover as time goes on.