Coronavirus: What's Changed?

by Alex Hawke
Posted on 1st June 2020

Processing the Present and Preparing for the New Normal

Like many of you our team has been facing the challenges of navigating through this crisis while living in another culture. We’re not strangers to change, transition, travel and visa difficulties and to having to be flexible. As mission workers we’ve come to accept another culture as a ‘new normal’. But now we’re facing a different kind of ‘new normal.’ The world has changed. We have to accept that some things won’t be the way they were. We also need to process what’s happening to ourselves and the communities we serve, being like the men of Issachar who understood the times (1 Chronicles 12:32).

This is also a time to rethink, review and evaluate what we do and how we do it and prepare for life in this ‘new normal’. It’s not simply a case of ‘keep calm and carry on.’ Keep calm yes, but change and adapt as necessary.

Here are a few questions that I hope will help us as mission workers to navigate, process and prepare in the weeks ahead:

- What is God saying or teaching us? Make time to listen to God; don’t just plough on. Block time for it. There are lots of voices and opinions; value God’s above them all. This week our team are having a Day of Prayer which will include listening to God for direction and insight into how to go forward. It’s so easy to try and fit God into our lives instead of fitting our lives and ministries around God, His will and plans.

- How is our world and our local community changing? How will that affect what we do and how we do it? Our aim can’t be to just get back to what we’ve always done. The countries we’re serving in have changed. People’s lives have been seriously affected. There are some things to keep doing but likely some things to let go of or put on hold that are no longer effective or relevant.

- What new or different needs are there in our local communities and how can we serve? Where I live thousands of people have lost their jobs and many families are struggling to have enough to eat. Members of our team are finding ways to respond to this, including partnering with local churches. We’re also seeing a reverse migration from the cities back to the family home in the villages. Let’s do some research and keep our eyes and ears open. Perhaps this is a time for beginning or renewing partnerships with the local church where possible.

- What do the people on our team need right now? Too often we assume we know. Ask. We need to make an extra effort to keep a sense of team and look out for each other. Now is a good time to review how well our member care is working. We did a survey using some of the questions used here to gauge where people were at as well as hear what they think is happening in the country.

- What do I need right now? Those of us who are looking out for others need to look after ourselves too. Practice self care. You, your family and team will be glad you did. Operating in crisis mode is exhausting; we need to still be functioning in the medium and long term, not just the short term.

- What have we lost? It’s important to acknowledge losses and grieve them. Process along the way so it doesn’t hit you later in one big wave that takes you out (I’ve been there, it was horrible). Some of our team are living in limbo while their placements are on hold, others couldn’t say goodbye properly, some feel like all their plans are up in the air, while others are stuck outside when they’d rather be here. Our country isn’t the most stable at the best of times and this has brought another level of instability and fear. Staying hopeful is important but so is acknowledging that this is hard for everyone. We lose trust if we’re out of touch with reality.

- What are we grateful for? Gratitude is a powerful weapon against hopelessness, despair and despondency. Give time to give thanks. Maybe the Corona crisis has shown us some things we’ve taken for granted until now.

- How can we stay true to our vision and mission even though the way we do things has had to change? With the need to adjust don’t forget why you exist as a team or why you personally came to your country of service in the first place. Crises have a way of helping us see what really matters and what just isn’t as important as we thought it was. This is a good time to revisit and review our vision, mission and values and check we’ve got our priorities right.

- What new possibilities does this situation create? The cliché is true: in every crisis there are opportunities. Don’t miss them. New ideas and initiatives could be waiting to develop. Also, as one national director in our organization noted, we now have something in common with everyone on the planet which we didn’t have before. Though it’s not true that we’re all in the same boat (the poor are not experiencing Covid in the same way as the more affluent), the shared experience the world is going through can help us relate and identify with people in a new way. There is also clear evidence of increased spiritual hunger right now which we must make the most of.

- What are we learning that we don’t want to forget as things improve? Some of the things we had to come up with now can be kept along with insights God has given and lessons He has taught us along the way.

A prayer: Lord, we’ve never been here before. Please help us to navigate this territory and perceive what is happening. We ask you for insight and wisdom to serve effectively. We pray we would learn the lessons You are teaching us and not forget how much we need You. Shape us for what lies ahead. Holy Spirit make us brave to face the changes this is bringing upon us. O Lord be glorified through Your people in this critical hour. For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, Amen.

Alex Hawke is a Country Team Leader with Interserve in South East Asia where he serves with his wife Ellie and their two sons.