Living 30 Days Out
Part Two of "Two Years Ago Our World Changed"
Part Two of “Two Years of Uncertainty”
Read Part One
Following our near-60-hour journey from Indonesia to Coquille, Oregon, the opportunity to lay down and sleep for the first time in nearly three days was more than welcome. The coolness of the basement provided the perfect environment for good, peaceful rest…if not for that pesky jet lag that comes from traveling across 14 time zones.
Fourteen and thirty
These 14 days of quarantine gave us time to rest, recuperate, and recenter. It’s a good thing we had those 14 days because over the next 14 months, we would sleep in more than 14 beds in more than 14 different cities and several different states.
Shortly after arriving in the United States, we were instructed to be on a strict travel restriction, meaning we could not fly. Any travel beyond our immediate locale required permission from our supervisors in Kansas City. We were instructed to live “30 days out,” meaning that we needed to be ready to pack up and return to Indonesia within 30 days at any given time.
We did this for a year…maybe more.
So, after several weeks in Oregon, we drove to Texas, wanting to see our family there before we made our inevitable return to the field. Then, after several weeks in Texas, we drove to Idaho, wanting to see our friends there before heading back overseas.
We planned for one month…
…which stretched into five…
…and then seven…
…and then, thinking that surely we would be able to return home during the summer break from school, we decided to make another quick trip to Oregon and Texas to see family again, not knowing when we might be back in the States again.
Even there your hand will guide me
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
These verses have long been some of my favorite. As we were first preparing to be sent out to the mission field, I even wrote a song based on these. The promise of God is great, that wherever we are and wherever we go, God’s right hand—the giving hand, the gracious hand, and the hand of healing and protection—is holding us. But now, the far side of the sea was the place that I called home, my passport nationality.
Did I still trust God to guide, direct, and hold me fast?
Fourteen months of challenges
Along the with frequent moving from house to house, we faced a variety of other challenges:
Two teenagers studying online at their international school in S.E. Asia beginning as early as 6 pm and ending as late as midnight.
A toddler that woke up at the crack of dawn — RISE AND SHINE!
I developed a strange new allergy—we think shrimp is the culprit—that causes violent and painful vomiting. And I like shrimp.
Our kids missed their friends.
Learning to teach online on zoom with a 14-hour time difference.
Wondering if our home, which we had left planning to be gone for two months, was okay.
Wondering what people thought when they asked for an update, and all we could do was shake our heads and say, “no news to report.”
Uncertainty about the news and covid numbers we heard from overseas and concern about the possibility of quarantine should we be able to return.
However, there were two things about which we did not need to worry. First, a friend in the car business loaned us a car for a month in September 2020. This week are preparing to return it to him. Even as the place we laid our heads at night changed often…the car we drove did not. This was a blessing.
Second, God continued to work in us and our ministry even when nothing was looking at all like we thought it would.
Continuing our ministry from afar
Just before Easter, one year ago, I received a series of texts from one of our friends and co-workers on the Asia-Pacific Region. He wrote:
Hello, Mr. Steve and Mrs. Tamara.
I hope you and your family are well.
I want to tell you about a man named Mr. Kasim. He lives alone with no wife and no children,, with no one to take care of him. For two weeks he was very sick, and his neighbors told me that he was confirmed positive for Covid. Because of that nobody wanted to help take care of him.
Last Monday he sat in front of his house, in the heat of the day and the coolness of the night, for two days because he was too weak to get himself back inside and no one was willing to help him.
When I passed by and saw him, I stopped and tried to help him get back into his house where he would be safe. When I saw his condition, I took the liberty to take him to the hospital to get treatment. I checked on him regularly for three days. He was very sick and it looked like he would not be able to last long.
I felt encouraged by the Holy Spirit to tell him that the Lord Jesus loved him very much and that night as I stayed with him at the hospital, we talked for a very long time.
He understood his sin, he cried tears of repentance and joy, and he accepted Jesus as his Savior. Two days later he died, his body just could not endure any longer. Because he had no family I arranged for his burial, relying on the strength of the Lord to help me.
This event has also caused quite an effect in his neighborhood. Even during this time when so many people aren’t willing or able to love one another, the Son of God gives us the strength to love in courageous ways.
Mr Kasim’s neighbors noticed and felt blessed when we paid attention to him and took care of him, even when they were afraid to do so.
When I read this for the first time, I was deeply impressed by how my friend showed respect to these neighbors of Mr. Kasim, despite their fear, by following all health and safety protocols and doing what he could to respect and honor them.
Yet, at the same time, he boldly moved forward in love, unafraid to connect closely with a man in need when the situation called for it – humility mixed with compassionate boldness and a dash of joyful strength.
What if this way of life became our new normal?
Jonah’s message continued:
For Mr. Kasim’s neighbors, this became a positive witness to them because they saw Christ in our lives and in the love that we were able to show to Mr. Kasim and to them. We continue to pray that there will be a movement of God in this neighborhood and among these people.
Peace to you all and may Christ continue to be with us always.
An opportunity to return
In May of 2021, borders began to open and everything seemed lined up for our return to the field. We were ready to go and had done everything except buy our tickets. Then came a post Idul Fitri spike in cases and, we would soon find out, deaths.
The quarentine upon arrival in country was extended to 14 days and we began to feel a great unease at the possibility of the family being separated during this quarentine time if any of us tested positive. There was no guarantee that parents would be able to accompany their children should something like this occur.
At the same time, we began hearing more stories of people getting sick and dying—people we knew personally, including a pastor and her sister, who were active and enthusiastic students in the extension theological classes had taught over the years.
As we made our way to Oregon—the trip we had planned thinking we would soon be crossing the ocean once again—we sought the counsel of a few trusted friends and ended up making a very difficult decision.
We would not be returning to the field as planned.
This is Part Two of a series called “Two Years of Uncertainty."
Read part one here.
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