COVID-19. It has changed all of our lives in a matter of days. Wednesday, I could teach ESL; Thursday, classes were canceled. Thursday, it seemed safe to visit my Sudanese friend in her home; Friday, it didn’t. Monday, I met with my teammates; Tuesday, we switched everything to video calls.
I’ve wrestled with what following Jesus looks like in this unique time. We are called to be the light of the world set on a hill, not hiding under a basket (or behind our doors). We are citizens of the Kingdom of God and should respond in a counter-cultural way, not driven to protect ourselves in fear. We want to love our neighbors and communities well with Christ’s sacrificial love… How do we do that when the recommended place to be is home? Do I throw caution (and command) to the wind simply because I am not afraid to die?
I’ve come to realize that social distancing and quarantining is an act of love, not fear. I’m not afraid of getting COVID-19. I am young and healthy. But I don’t want to carry the illness to the elderly or at-risk people – or anyone for that matter! I don’t want to overload the medical system. These are significant reasons for loving others by staying home.
But I also don’t want to distance myself from others, to not be available and willing to serve, to not be the hands and feet of Jesus. This calls for discernment, wisdom, creativity, and constantly asking, how can I faithfully follow Jesus in this situation?
Now, more than ever, our foreign-born friends and neighbors need to see the confidence we have in Jesus. They need to hear the hope of the Gospel proclaimed to them. They also have practical needs. Children from refugee and immigrant families often struggle with school and routine and now that challenge is intensified indefinitely. Moms will be at home with their stir-crazy, bored children for weeks on end.
Here are five practical suggestions for remaining involved in your international friends’ lives:
1. Check-in with friends over phone and video
Use Whatsapp or Facetime to video call your friends. Most of our international friends are used to keeping in touch with family long-distance. Share your life with them. Ask how they are feeling about the pandemic. Ask if they have needs or questions. Listen. Pray. Share your hope in Jesus. Be intentional to send pictures of what you are doing throughout the day. Send video clips of your children’s activities. My Sudanese friend and I were talking about each making tea and then sitting and talking over video like we would if I was at her house.
2. Tutor over video
Yes, this is challenging, but it can work! I spent an hour over video with a 4th grader earlier this week and I was able to help her with homework, talk about life with her, and read her a story. At the very least, this breaks up the day for them and might give moms a break too! Remember that students aren’t going back to school anytime soon so anything is better than nothing! Again, Whatsapp or Facetime is probably your easiest platform for this.
It’s easy to think, “I can spend so much time in prayer now!” and then not actually do it… and I’m speaking from experience here! Schedule times to pray. Pray with your family or roommate. Call a friend to pray with them. Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work”.
4. Go on prayer walks
This is a fun way to get exercise, pray over neighborhoods, and still practice social distancing! Just be prepared to graciously explain why you need to decline hugs and invitations in for tea if you see a friend.
Yes, volunteer. School districts need help handing out food for the children not in school. Go grocery shopping for your elderly neighbors. Buy toilet paper and give it away. Be creative in how to bless people without coming in contact with them.
I believe that as we see this as a time to press into the opportunities we do have, rather than to coast and wait until life returns to normal, that we will see God at work in surprising and miraculous ways. May the light of Christ shine brightly over our video calls and text messages and may His power work mightily through our devoted prayer.