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Once on a visit to my Iraqi friend Insaf, who lives outside Toronto, I got lost. I went walking to take an editorial team phone call—back before Zoom took over our lives—and lost my way as the meeting went long, the houses and streets looked the same, and it began to snow. Then my cell phone died.
I did what anyone ought to do in this bind: I flagged down a Canadian postman. He quickly invited me out of the snow and into his truck, asking for details to retrace my steps. I was useless for but one detail: the name of Insaf’s street, which she had given me on arrival. We wound our way back till I recognized her house and thanked him.
Inside with Insaf we laughed. We’ve gotten separated or stranded in Iraq, “but I never thought I might lose you in Canada,” she said. Then she added, “The Lord always prepares you when He asks you to undergo any trial.”
I had a street name heading into that small trial, and on quarantine I’ve thought of that little episode: In what ways, large or small, has God prepared us to undergo this big trial?
We most likely all feel cut adrift, lost even, by our worries and fears brought on by COVID-19, by the deprivations and new routines, or by difficulty finding any routine in this season of uncertainty with its seeming weeks of Groundhog Days. Looking back has helped me face forward.
We most likely all feel cut adrift, lost even, by our worries and fears brought on by COVID-19.
Our home was graciously prepared for quarantine when my middle daughter and her husband moved in with us, stayed more months than they intended, and now provide company and help in all our times of need. My youngest daughter has quarantined with us, too. We work remotely in our corners but also plan and share meals, take time for walks together, and make a big deal of coffee breaks.
My work in this strange time of virtual reporting has been helped by prior visits to many scenes of sudden cataclysm. Empty cities, full camps of suddenly homeless people, and invisible threats have defined much of life in the Middle East for the last five years, and now suddenly ring familiar to many of us. People like Insaf, who lived with her young family for seven years as a refugee, have so much to teach us about greeting uncertain days with cheer.
Our news team was prepared with the recent addition of a gifted and energetic deputy editor in Michael Reneau, who’s been working alongside magazine editor Tim Lamer and with reporters (who span 18 time zones) to cover perhaps the biggest story of our time. I’ve watched our reporters lean into their experience—from covering Hurricane Katrina to Ebola outbreaks to homelessness and China’s censors—to cover this hardest global moment of our lives. They bring professional skill and unaccountable resilience, in a way similar to how medical professionals are doing heroic work because it’s the kind of work they’ve been doing all along.
Like you, we are all doing this work in altered environments, and with personal anxieties to manage at the same time. One colleague has canceled her spring wedding, and another has faced the hard reality with her husband that living abroad for now means no way of returning home. I have elderly neighbors to check on and a dear friend immune-compromised from six months of chemotherapy and needing surgery, soon. We have friends and relatives in hot zones, as you do, and people we love and worry about will get sick.
Every day I start with a running battle between faith and hope, doubt and unbelief—and sadness sometimes enough to sink ships. That’s why we need anchors that hold, including ones put in place before we knew we would need them.