This week was supposed to be getting ready for our Spring 2020 trip to Zambia. We would have been leaving this coming Saturday, April 11th...with new team members, with excitement to see patients we've seen before and new patients, with anticipation of Protashow returning to the U.S. with us to stay for a month for more training in prosthetics. And then...plans changed. The coronavirus happened. Our world is turned upside down.
I know we aren't unique. There's are thousands, no, millions of people whose plans have been changed by Covid-19. The school year for students is upended, vacations are cancelled, weddings rescheduled, baby showers and birthday parties cancelled. Even bigger is that people's paths of life have been changed with jobs lost and economic uncertainty. The list of changed plans goes on and on. And when we stop to think about it, as important as all of these are, they pale in comparison to those whose plans and lives are changed because family, friends, neighbors or coworkers have been afflicted by Covid-19. This is all scary and can be overwhelming, so my disappointment in not being able to go to Zambia this month seems a bit unreasonable.
Where we're at as Prosthetic Promises:
We're in communication with Protashow, our Zambian team member, who has notified patients and the Disabilities Office in Choma (who we coordinate with to help patients needing prosthetic and ocular prosthetic services) that we're unable to come due to the virus and travel restrictions. Protashow has been talking with patients when he contacts them to see if they need to come to the clinic for repairs, adjustments or new supplies. He has been seeing patients independently to provide this follow up care, which are so grateful that he is able to do. We currently don't know when we'll be able to make another trip to Zambia, but we are anxiously awaiting the time when we can.
I've been reflecting on the situation we're in as Prosthetic Promises since figuring out in March that we wouldn't be able to make our April trip. And this week two dear people in my life sent me pictures, a song and a video that make me think about how sad I am that a return trip to Zambia is a big question mark right now. It's been important to me that we've worked at establishing relationships and trust with patients in Zambia. We're trying so hard not to just be Americans swooping in to "fix it" in our terms. So cancelling our trip and not having an answer on when we'll be back is stressful to me.
Sadness, disappointment, anxiety...those are all valid feelings people are having right now. But I'd like to look at a few encouraging thoughts shown to me this week as well.
In a theology discussion group (that's being done via online video right now), a pastor shared something that really struck me. Among the whole conversation this question stuck out (paraphrasing here)...."This is all very frightening, but what are some ways that we can be helpful right now?" How can I be helpful and hopeful during this time when I can't physically be in Zambia? Prayer. I've been thinking of patients one by one. When we met them, interactions, excitement seeing them walk with a prosthesis, whatever comes to mind....and then praying specifically for them and their families. So, if you follow what PPIHN does and the people we've been able to help in Zambia, I invite you to think of a story of someone we've posted about or told you about and pray for them.
Another specific encouragement I've had this week was in my daily devotional. But first something about me that makes this such a "lightbulb moment". I don't do rest very well. I really am working on it, but my tendency is to be busy all the time. So this excerpt really struck me:
"Rest is often thought of as the opposite of labor, something perhaps earned after hard work. But biblical rest is the opposite of hurry, heaviness, and anxiety. It is freedom from the need to control circumstances and people. It is not laziness or passivity, but an active trust in God. Rather than being something we earn, rest is a gift God gives for our freedom and health."
Wow, this really is impactful right now. Collectively, we're in a time of rest from activities because of distancing measures to combat Covid-19. This also gives us time to realize we're not in control. Silly human beings with our plans and need to control circumstances and people. This global pandemic is a really awful thing, yes. But I'm going to try really hard to see this resulting rest from the normal life as a gift. How can I be helpful and hopeful during this time?...for my neighbors near, my far away Zambian neighbors, and for myself.