Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Battle on COVID-19

It's happening here, too.

The first coronavirus case was reported March 6th, and while the reported number of cases remains minimal and there have been no confirmed deaths, there is great concern as to why. To think we have not truly been affected the way the world has seems too good to be true at this point. Especially considering the state of our neighbouring country. Today alone, Ghana's number of reported cases jumped by 50%. We hope and pray it will not happen here, but we are under no illusions that we will be spared what is to come.

We are preparing for a healthcare war.

When we read and listen to what is happening around the world, we are bracing ourselves. Our Hospital here in Togo has been thrown into planning and preparation for what many believe is inevitable.

The biggest difference for us here in Togo is no surprise - we lack the resources needed to truly battle this pandemic. While the hospital has oxygen, we have no ventilators. Rumour has it there isn't a ventilator in the country. Our PPE is highly limited. Jesh is currently strategically choosing when to use his face masks - a commodity we aren't sure will always be there.

Still, plans are being made as to how we can best treat what may come at any time. Wards are being cleaned and prepped, supplies counted, staff informed.

For us personally, this has impacted our family life in many little ways. As everyone in North America experienced, hour by hour things have changed and evolved. Last weekend the country suspended in-country travel, advised against church groups and gatherings, and began sending out text messages to the public.

Sunday evening we were told there would be no missionary school the next day, and therefore like so many others, commenced with an early spring break.

As a family, we have begun social distancing. In our context of community living here, this proves to be incredibly difficult. Life out here is isolated on a good day, but our saving grace has been the wonderful relationships we have here. Needing to intentionally close our door, even slightly sooner then some of our teammates, has proven to be quite stressful.

Along with the hospital planning and the immediate little changes required for our family is the ongoing topic of safety. How can we live our lives safely? How can we protect our Togolese community? How do we model and inform others of what measures will need to be taken for the next little while as we battle this together?

When we decided to bring our family to Africa, someone asked me how we could bring our children to a place with so much risk and suffering. Our answer was we need to trust that God goes with us, no matter what happens. Our call has never been to safety, but to obedience.

The same applies today.

As the security measures slowly decrease, I am forced to think long and hard about where, and in Whom, my true security lies. Up until now, we have had the luxury of a security blanket. Should things get really ugly, there's always evacuation insurance. A medical evacuation. At the very least, a flight out.

But we are now preparing ourselves for the reality that these may not be options for long. As countries continue to close their borders, flights get cancelled and airports locked down, our back up plans are quickly disappearing.

This is no way means that we don't evaluate the situation and make wise decisions with the information we have. But it does mean that we don't need to panic or react in fear (something I am choosing to practice daily). If I think too long about "what-ifs", then anxiety and worry become the filter through which our decisions will be made. And frankly, it's easy to get caught up in that.

What if it comes to our hospital?

What if we can't control it?

What if Jesh is exposed, and unknowingly exposes our family?
Or gets sick, and is isolated from us?

What if we respond poorly to the virus? And there's nothing we can do?

What if we could have received more care in Canada?

Even as I write these questions out in black and white, it's disconcerting. I know what I believe to be true, but it doesn't always feel easy.

I have found myself turning often to the Psalms, and the cries and laments within.

"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Our ancestors trusted in you,
and you rescued them.
They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

Psalms 22:1-5

"God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea."
Psalms 46:2-3

In uncertain times, the hope of Christ is our certainty, and for that I am grateful.

By Julie