Coronavirus has turned our lives upside down, leaving many feeling restless with the chaos, adjustments and uncertainty. Last week I found myself comparing our situation to what happens when people transition overseas. When missionaries leave their passport country for a different country and culture, it can be years before they can go home to embrace loved ones again, celebrate birthdays together or visit Grandpa and Grandma.
In missionary care, I assist missionaries in their journey to “cross the bridge” into a new country and culture and face the major changes and challenges of transition. We use a simple illustration of a transition bridge.
Missionaries leave the familiarity and comfort of home. In crossing the bridge, they let go of belonging and being known. They can feel guilty leaving family and experience sadness with each “goodbye” as they step into the unknown. In the middle of the bridge, they experience confusion, lack of structure, stress and fear of the future. On the other side of the bridge, they face marginality, feeling misunderstood and have difficulty trusting. With risk-taking, there may be fear and pain. However, in time, they feel they have landed in a new “home” country, adapting to and accepting the “new normal.” A new beginning is difficult, but with adjustments and dedication comes belonging. With greater involvement in the new environment, comes a sense of home, position and new possibilities. The "old normal" has been replaced by the "new normal." The bridge has been crossed!
We can also cross the bridge and transition well through the coronavirus situation.
With trial and error, laughter and tears, we’re staying at home as requested. We celebrate birthdays and other occasions as if our family and friends live in another country. FaceTime and Skype help us be “together” even when we can’t be in the same room. We get creative “visiting” with Grandpa and Grandma through their living room window. Homeschooling, along with structure, perseverance and extra coffee has become the usual routine. Shopping for groceries also feels like a cross-cultural experience – good luck finding toilet paper!
This is now our reality, and it is stressful; we have lost freedom and can’t go anywhere we want, like church or to have coffee with friends. Everything that once seemed normal is on hold. We didn’t know we would miss our daily routine so much, and even the kids ask when they can go back to school!
Everyone is experiencing this crisis differently, but there are resources and opportunities to care for yourself and others. Despite the separation, can we see this as a bonus to enjoy time for ourselves and unexpected rest? Can we be creative and make the most of it by connecting via the internet, staying in touch, and caring and praying for each other?
Together with God, we can bridge this crisis. Dear people, press on. Soon we’ll be able to fly the coop. And before you know it, you’ll be able to embrace your friends and family again.
extroverted encourager & coffee drinker