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These are surgical scrub masks, a photo taken several months ago, but masked faces seemed a fitting representation of the global pandemic that has touched us all. Until this last week, we were all enjoying the luxury of ignorance as Ethiopia had yet to detect it's first known case of Coronavirus. But the man from Japan who was touring here on business had gone to The Nordic Clinic in Addis Ababa several times before finally being diagnosed last week. Several other cases have been detected, including passengers exiting flights in Saudi Arabia from Addis Ababa testing positive.
So what does this mean? Was Ethiopia spared until now? Has there been Coronavirus lurking in our midst and we just didn't know it? If we don't test will we know the difference? One thing is for certain. Our lives have changed in the last few days as a result of a few positive tests. Ethiopia has mandated that all schools let out for two weeks, shops are starting to close, the price of garlic (not toilet paper) has gone up, there are 1,000 people quarantined in Addis, we have closed our compound to all unnecessary visitors and anyone feeling ill, etc. And perhaps most significantly for us, there are non-stop conversations and planning about what we do if this gets bad. We all, including our Ethiopianstaff, are acutely aware of the country's health care limitations. We see people die daily from preventable causes due to those limitations and all can imagine what the toll would be on an already inadequate, fragile health care system.
In addition, we are facing a new uncertainty as some Ethiopians have bought into inaccurate information regarding Covid-19 on Facebook and the normal names we are called, "forengee" or "China", have changed to "Corona". There have been reports both locally and from Addis of people throwing rocks at foreigners. A colleague of ours was told to "go home" since she is from a country that has the virus. Times such as this make me even more grateful for the Ethiopian friends and colleagues we have surrounding us. They are our eyes and ears when our language, cultural understanding, and abilities are limited. And as of right now, it seems that the anti-foreigner sentiment is mild and not in any way the majority of the population. That said, we are practicing caution and are limiting unnecessary travel.
And our missionary community? We, like everyone else, are experiencing uncertainty. But I have been blessed by the overall levelheadedness and wisdom of our team. We are trying to make wise decisions and spur one another on in faith. We are praying. A team member sent out an encouraging e-mail containing this quote Martin Luther penned in a letter to a colleague during the Black Death in 1527:
"... By God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely... This is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
Additionally, I felt called back to Mark 4:35-41 today:
"That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "let us go over to the other side". Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"He got up, rebuked the wind and waves. "Quite! Be still!". Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!"
And finally a word from "My Utmost for His Highest" from Mr. Oswald Chambers:
"Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One Who is leading. It is the life of faith, not of intellect and reason, but a life of knowing Who makes us 'go'."
And so, I leave you with this. God is moving friends. He is at work in all of this. We have experienced isolation like we've never known before, threats, vast uncertainties, and that was just 2019, before the onset of Coronavirus. Through many of these experiences, God has looked at me after telling it all to "Quiet", and said ever so gently, "Do you still have no faith?" Little by little, He is changing me. I pray that he continues to grow my faith and that of my family and colleagues in the way we face this new challenge and I pray the same for you.
We, Lord willing, plan to fly back to the US for our first home assignment on May 24th! We hope to spend time meeting, fellowshipping, praying, encouraging and being encouraged by you. We plan to be back in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Denver to meet with our sending organization, our TN church family and friends between June 16 and June 30th. We will also be spending much time in the Central Valley of CA, Santa Barbara and Southern CA in July and August before we head back to Ethiopia. Please reach out if you would like to connect! We are putting our calendar together and would love to see you at a gathering or meet for a meal or coffee (assuming the quarantine is lifted).
Thank you for your continued prayer and financial support! We will be continuing on support through furlough and into our next term in Ethiopia and can not thank you enough for coming alongside us on this journey. Please continue to pray specifically in the following ways:
- That things have calmed down enough in 9 weeks for us to return for furlough.
- For continued health and safety.
- For extra grace and strength for our residents and partners as they carry the extra workload while we are gone.
- For rest during the furlough, so we can return with renewed strength and vision.
- For wisdom to lead our kiddos into the transition of furlough, as we will be moving around a ton, returning as changed people to a very different America.
Thanks again for your support!
Krichele and David
You can reach the Jeffcoaches by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org