‘Lockdown… hand sanitiser… social distancing’ – words we had rarely heard before have suddenly become everyday vocabulary!
“In just one week, normal life completely changed! We went from taking our students out to buy dresses for the formal dance, and a dorm full of students having fun, to a quiet building with just our family left!
“Grace International School, the school for missionary children here in Chiang Mai, has closed on the instructions of the Thai government, and studying has moved online. As WEC team leaders and temporary dorm parents for the WEC Lighthouse dorm at the school, our lives changed, like so many other people around the world. We quickly helped reunite the students at the dorm with their parents, who are working as missionaries in Thailand or surrounding countries. Borders started shutting and visa requirements changed day by day but, after a week, all the students were eventually back with one or both of their parents.
“We have now been in lockdown for a week. Days are spent home schooling and doing computer work, Skyping friends and family, and contacting team members to see how they are doing. We don’t venture out into the garden because, at present, bush fires in Chiang Mai have taken air pollution to a hazardous level!
“Sometimes, we wonder if we will get the virus and how we would cope with it. What will the Thai health service be like? Will our health insurance cover COVID-19? Should we return to the UK? We are concerned for our eldest two children, who are living in the UK and working on the frontline as a doctor and physiotherapist in the NHS. We think of elderly parents and whether they are keeping safe.
“But, despite these questions sometimes going around in our heads, we have peace, knowing that we can trust God completely. Everything around us may change but he never does. We are reminded of the verse that God spoke to us when we left the UK to do missionary work in Thailand in 1996: ‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ (Joshua 1:9). We praise God that he is with us wherever we are: whether in the UK or Thailand, with family or apart, in isolation or with others. Yesterday, we listened to church online from St Peter’s in Brighton and were challenged by the message which encouraged us to respond to this crisis by praying, connecting and helping. We are, therefore, seeking to pray more, connect with people more and help our community in whatever ways we can.
“When we consider our situation, we feel so blessed. The children from the slum areas in Chiang Mai, to whom we teach English, do not have the luxury of social distancing, air filters, running water to wash their hands or cupboards full of food. They live in broken homes, sometimes overshadowed by violence and neglect. Most of their parents will have lost their main source of income, selling to tourists in the night market. Our hearts hurt for them and we pray for God’s protection over them at this time.”