We left Burundi in the middle of February with a plan to start our sabbatical in France. The plan was to improve our French language skills by living in France for three months. This would also put us in an easier position to return quickly to Seattle for the terminal illness of our last living parent.
We arrived in France without a specific plan as to where to live. Most of the leads we’d looked into for housing had fallen through. So, we head south to Avignon since we had few winter clothes. We began searching for a living situation in a community big enough to have a library, several churches, tutors or language school but without a lot of English speakers. After several more dead ends, by God’s providence, we found a small apartment in the rural environs of the southern town of Béziers.
We were set! Ready to dig into improving our language skills and start de-stressing from the work we’d been doing. We bought bikes for transportation and exercise (no car). We found a tutor through one of the local language schools. We got library cards and checked out books in French. We were warmly welcomed by a small local evangelical church our first Sunday. We marveled at all the ways God had provided just what we were hoping to find.
Then it became March and the pandemic was declared. Within a few days we went from social distancing to self-isolation to enforced confinement. Everything closed. Flights were cancelled. Borders were closed. By God’s providence we are here, in France. Not in Burundi. Not in Seattle. Not in a lot of other places but here, where we are the most socially disengaged than we’ve probably ever been. We (of mid 60’s) are probably in the safest place we could be, since we only see each other, but we ache for others and find we can do little.
My initial reaction was feeling “stuck”, then helpless. This has been quickly followed by disappointment, anger, grief, then grave concern as the spread of the pandemic has closed country after country. We are deeply concerned for all but especially for the most vulnerable persons and countries (like Burundi and much of Africa) that have very limited health services and poor populations. Like most everyone else, I experience all these emotions daily but there’s little I can do but keep away from others, follow the guidelines and PRAY.
In the quietness and slowness of confinement not only am I humbled again to admit I have no control over anything (except my choices and reactions). I’m continually having to make the conscious choice to graciously accept what has been given to me. We could have been in so many other places or situations. No one could have predicted this at this time. Yet, here we are, while some others have it much worse and some better, this is where God has us at this time. So as I’m given breath again this day, I will choose, as best I can, to live in humility with thankfulness, compliance with the confinement for the good of others and prayer for all those things beyond my control.