WUHAN. Day 48.
We’ve been locked in our apartment complex for many weeks. The last day of school and work for most of the city was January 17. We’re living in such strange times. And yet, right now I hear birds outside my window, on the 25th floor. I used to think there weren’t really birds in Wuhan, because you rarely saw them and never heard them. Turns out they were just crowded out by traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing. It stops me in my tracks to hear the sound of their wings.
From the epicenter of the coronavirus, here is just some of the good we have been experiencing because of the lockdown: Our family life has never been better. Usually one weekend is long enough before I’m ready to send each of us back to school or work. But for seven weeks, we’ve been home together with very little outside influences or distraction, forced to reconnect with one another, learn how to communicate better, give each other space and slow down our pace.
We’ve learned how to accept help from others. During this time, we’ve had to rely on others to show us how to get food and other things we need. It’s satisfying to accept the help.
Spring in Wuhan is absolutely stunning. God has been giving us glimpses of the beauty to come. Because of lockdown, we get to watch spring slowly unfold right in front of us with no work, traffic, pollution or other distractions. I have pulled up my chair and am ready for the Creator’s show.
My cooking has gotten way more creative. I’m cooking like a homesteader. Housekeeping hasn’t suffered, either.
We take naps in the middle of the day sometimes.
We’ve all been reading so much more than before.
I’ve reconnected with lots of old friends. We talk with our families more than ever before.
We still work and do school, but all from home and all on flexible hours. It is not perfect, but it is fairly productive and good. We are exercising more. In my yoga world, I have finally done a forearm stand. I also share goofy yoga photos each day with a local friend/yogi.
Because of this quarantine, we have bonded with fellow staff members in ways that I’ve never experienced in nine years of living here – crowd-sourcing feminine products and coffee, creatively sharing overstock of carrots and squash and so on.
My prayer life has never been better and my study time has been much more real. I have quiet time that is actually (usually) quiet – and I can devote real time to it. Most days I have so much more time to think, to listen, to process and to discover. I am discovering the good gifts that God has given me and my family. More than anything, I am bowled over by his goodness at every turn.
We had “church” by Zoom this morning at 10:30, as usual. My husband just woke up from his nap. My kid is reading quietly on the couch. We are about to go pick up a ham that a friend is giving us, taking her our coffee and cranberries to share.
We are at peace in the epicenter of the virus. We are at peace in the epicenter of his will.
Fear is a faithless coward and has no place in the lives of believers. Fear and worry have no seat at our table. We’re here because he wants us here, right now, for his purpose.
Coronavirus wants you to isolate and stock up and take care of your own first. Instead, look to him first while you take care of others. In community, we can do so much more than we can do on our own. God is caring for us richly.
Pray. We are praying for you.
WUHAN. Day 59.
Things are not back to normal here. In other cities, friends report that things are slowly opening. But here at ground zero, things are not open yet. Though many are still infected here in Wuhan, I understand there was only one new case as of two days ago. That is wildly encouraging!
We see many other encouraging signs around here, too. The best sign of change is something I’ve not seen for weeks: children! Since the beginning of quarantine, there have been no kids out. The few besides us who’ve ventured outside have been mostly senior adults, as though China has been trying to preserve a generation or two. But last week I saw two older kids; this week two younger girls; and yesterday, a toddler! Parents letting their kids are out now shows a great sign of trust, hope and renewal.
Other signs of change include more options for delivery. Our regular grocery app, where we get most of our food, is now selling non-consumable things. Today’s offerings include pantyhose (why?), hula hoops (exercise), and raincoats. The raincoats are mostly to protect your clothes when you go outside. We have outside clothes and inside clothes. I always change my shirt or outer layer after being outside, and I only change my pants if I sit down. I’m not saying that’s right. That’s just what I do. You could also buy the raincoat from the grocery app to protect your clothes. Just get a system and make it work. We also have a germ zone at the front door. Clothes, phones and keys don’t come past the threshold until/unless they’re clean. One final tip. We all need community now more than ever, so don’t isolate from others. Use Zoom, Skype or other video tools to do church, small group and more.
My sole purpose in writing is to encourage you. Our circumstances and situations are not exactly the same, but I can understand some of what you may be experiencing. God has been so faithful to deliver us through some challenging coronavirus times here in China. And while this virus may just now be ramping up in your part of the world, God has always been there and will remain there to carry you through it. Load up all your burdens on him. He can handle it, and he cares so much for you!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Eph. 3:20-21).
Pray. We are praying for you.
Left: Spring comes to Wuhan. Right: Rebecca (left) with the security guards from her apartment building.
WUHAN. Day 61.
The guards who had been monitoring our building gates are now preoccupied with other things, letting us wander among buildings unhindered. At one post where guards used to stand, there’s now a barber. More cars are leaving the complex now, as some essential personnel have been called back to work. Locks on buildings are gone. People are outside regularly on the basketball courts, walking the grounds, playing on the playground.
What you’re probably seeing around you – sickness, fear, unemployment – these are not good. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be hopeful. Your circumstances don’t have to determine your outlook.
I am not a Pollyanna. People don’t come to me to get their feel-goods or to get a hug. But I do have hope. I have hope that is rooted unfathomably deep in my faith in God. He’s proven himself in my life over and over and over again. I’m here in the epicenter of the coronavirus, in quarantine still, possibly with far fewer freedoms and resources than where you are. I’m here with many friends – both Chinese and other Americans and Europeans – and we are living our lives well.
The first part of our quarantine was not smooth. Home-based learning for our son: my nightmare. But now, though we certainly have frustrating times almost daily at “school,” we are in a good rhythm and make it through most days without major meltdowns.
My friend Tino had a very rough first month of quarantine, home as she was with two babies and her husband. But this strong woman is now thriving – same circumstance, time to heal and settle, different outlook. Her husband Bryan has learned to bake, keeping his family well fed while isolated. Erika finally has time to finish her dissertation. Julia is getting some much-needed introvert time while still working and staying connected with her friends and prayer groups online. Sara is finally catching up on her writing and research projects. JC takes breaks from his quarantine by chilling on the rooftop with a cigar and cognac, cheese plate at the ready, hole cut in his face mask for optimal cigar access. We all have found ways to enjoy this time.
On our Zoom fellowship time yesterday, one friend said that we are to become the people God wants us to be during this period. Growth is usually painful and often leaves scars (stretch marks, anyone?). The whole world is in this thing together now. I hope we all come through this period of time changed – wiser, more mature, more trusting, more loving, and with much more optimism and hope for the next challenge that may come. For me, this is yet another chance to prove God faithful – because despite our circumstances, he is faithful.
So we continue in quarantine, seeing his goodness, stealing from his strength and so hopeful for the future.
“Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:6-7).
Pray. We are praying for you.