“Our world, our nation, and our communities are facing challenges. How we respond will define this time for us. As believers, we must look to the Scriptures for guidance, humbling ourselves in prayer before our almighty God.”
Two years ago, as our vehicle was finishing a trek from Jos to Abuja in Nigeria, my phone showed some troubling information. The words ‘flight canceled’ read loud and clear in a red block on the top of the screen.
The night before we embarked on the four-hour drive to the Abuja airport and our team received an email warning us of activity around the Abuja airport. There was an apparent travel advisory for dangerous activity in and around the terminal. While risk is an inherent part of air travel and the work ITEC does abroad, it is rather ominous when preemptive warnings show up in our inbox.
If you’ve never been to Africa and experienced a flight cancellation, it’s not like being in Atlanta. The ticketing agent doesn’t have three other flights that day to fit you on. There is a real possibility that your evening flight cancellation will set you back 12-24 hours. With dirty clothes in our suitcases after 10 days on the ground, our mildly homesick team was ready to be home. We didn’t have much to lose at this point, so our team continued to the airport to sort out our options.
Our world, and specifically our nation, received an ominous warning about COVID-19 months ago. But we’ve been warned about new viruses like this before. The media has a way of blowing things like this out of proportion, preying on the fear of the public. In the beginning, it seemed like we had a logical reason not to be worried. Then things started to progress, the virus began to spread, and just like the warning email we received in Nigeria, there seemed to be a real threat.
The past six weeks have felt somewhat similar to our team’s four-hour drive from Jos to Abuja. We have been driving, full throttle, towards this pandemic. I have felt a wide range of emotions throughout this time, from initial denial and dismissal to a more balanced perspective today. We are facing a formidable challenge as a human race. Our collective plans for the spring and early summer have been postponed, and just like our small team approaching the Abuja airport with a security warning and canceled flight, we have a decision to make. Do we walk into the ‘hopeless’ and ‘dangerous’ situation prayerfully trusting God, or do we retreat?
The Hand We’ve Been Dealt
Due to domestic and international travel restrictions, the ITEC team has been forced to postpone upcoming travel. These are the cards that have been dealt to us. We also made the decision on March 30 to ask our staff to work from home. Then, Florida issued a lockdown beginning on April 3. However, our team is not going to retreat. We are working hard, first and foremost, on asking God what he has for us in this season of the ‘unexpected’ and ‘unforeseen.’ We are desiring, as a staff, to react appropriately (not in fear) to the information we have. In light of our staff quarantine, we aim to maintain the hope, optimism, and humble submission in prayer that allows God to use us during challenging times. As believers, we all must suit up with Romans 8:31, and similar truths, daily.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
In Abuja, our small team ventured through the ‘travel advisory’ area, and we walked up to the ticket counter. Initially, it seemed like there was no hope. There was no crew and no departing partner flights. Per the instructions of the agent, we waited in the terminal for an hour, passing the time playing cards. Then, they called us up to the counter and shared with us that they had placed us on a non-partner flight for no charge, and we would leave in an hour! What beautiful and unexpected news.
How Do We Respond?
Our world, our nation, and our communities are facing challenges. How we respond will define this time for us. As believers, we must look to the Scriptures for guidance, humbling ourselves in prayer before our almighty God. This season is a part of God’s plan, and while the prognosis looks grim, our hope is so much greater. It’s so amazing that we can ‘play cards’ in the storm, waiting for God to reveal what He has for all of us during this challenging time. Yes, there will there be loss, challenge, hardship, and destruction. But that, too, was foretold in Scripture. We can take heart because this world is not our home!
Instead of retreating, let’s use this opportunity to grow closer to God and point more people to the hope we have in Him. Just like our team was delivered from an unfortunate situation in Abuja, I believe that the light and momentary affliction we are experiencing is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).