October 1, 2020

Challenges and unexpected blessings

Written by  Alan and Carol Wert | May 2020
 Carol heads out on her weekly run to deliver hot meals to seven elderly people who live near Glenwood Church. She drops the bags by the door, rings the bell, and walks away to a safe distance to chat with them when they open the door to collect the food. Photo by Laura Bradford. Carol heads out on her weekly run to deliver hot meals to seven elderly people who live near Glenwood Church. She drops the bags by the door, rings the bell, and walks away to a safe distance to chat with them when they open the door to collect the food. Photo by Laura Bradford.

On March 23, we went into lockdown with each part of the U.K. enforcing their own rules. In Wales, we were only allowed to leave the house for essential food and medicine, to exercise once a day, or if we must go to work. Two weeks ago, restrictions eased slightly so that we were able to exercise more than once a day, and some garden centres and non-essential shops were allowed to reopen with social distancing measures in place. We are still not allowed to meet up with anyone from outside our house, not even in public spaces. Welsh restrictions have been the tightest in the U.K. and the slowest to come out of lockdown, but thankfully, so far, only 1,200 people have died compared with 25,000 in England. So what does this mean for us and the way we minister to people?

Alan must now wear street clothes to the children’s homes and change into his uniform and protective equipment when he gets there. He’s unable to do some tasks because the children or staff would be too close. He’s now trialling working from home a half-day a week to complete paperwork. Cerys’ internship with the church abruptly ended when all church and community activities were forced to shut down. She continues to grieve unfulfilled expectations and process what her future looks like. Her part-time supermarket job continues, and she finds customer interaction both challenging and rewarding.

Brenin’s school was shut and his 12 exams cancelled. The coffee shop was closed, so he was furloughed from his job, meaning the government pays 80 percent of his wage until the plan ends in October or the shop reopens. Unable to leave the house or see his friends, he’s spent a lot of time on PlayStation with them. He’s caring for our small lawn and cutting the neighbour’s too. Dylan has been working from his flat, where he’s been living alone since his friend went home to England for lockdown. As the weeks drag into months, he’s feeling lonely and often bored.

Carol experienced a huge learning curve when switching to teaching her English classes online. She’s lost contact with some students who don’t have internet or don’t know how to use the technology to access classes. Because the internship teaching ended, she volunteers once a week to deliver Meals on Wheels to elderly people in the community. She’s also found Sunday speaking via prerecorded video a unique challenge and grieved alongside her best friend when her wedding was cancelled.

Unexpected blessings

  • We were able to move to our new home during the lockdown and are getting to know neighbours, who are also working from home and spending more time outside.
  • Weeks and weeks of unusually warm sunny weather, which makes lockdown more bearable!
  • Long leisurely family chats over evening dinner (including video calls with Dylan), long walks exploring the local area because no one is rushing off to regular activities, and Zoom quiz nights with friends.
  • A tasty Mexican meal delivered to our doorstep by our missional community on the day we moved in. Sharing meals with them by setting dishes on each other’s patios. Giving Welsh cakes to neighbours and being unexpectedly blessed in return by one woman’s homemade Malaysian chicken curry.
  • Recognising that our “normal” world and lifestyle was destroying the environment, our families, and our mental and spiritual health. Awakening to the idea that we do not want to return to “normal life” after lockdown but instead find a new rhythm that is more sustainable and life-giving for all. We’re still exploring individually, as a family, and as a missional community what that will look like!

This article appears in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue of Missionary MessengerSign up to receive more inspiring stories like this one in our magazine.

Published in Articles, Worker stories

Eastern Mennonite Missions

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