Today, we will be joined by our American friends from Tulsa, OK. We are delighted that, after so long talking about it, they are finally arriving later today. But, what a time to be coming! They will step off the plane (after a taxi ride from the airport) straight into a two week isolation period. We are grateful that we have narrowly avoided a period of quarantine in a hotel, potentially somewhere near Heathrow. So, every cloud and all that.
But, of course, after their period of isolation there will be the usual settling in issues. They have somewhere to stay in the meantime, but will need to get about finding a permanent home. They will need to familiarise themselves with the town and where our members live in relation to the church building. They will need to navigate which shops sell what and which of them happens to be more expensive than others selling the same stuff. All that will take time.
But even when that stuff has all happened, we still have to contend with a lockdown. It is looking likely that nothing is going to be changing between now and Easter. Everything we had planned for them to be doing involved contact with people. We had hoped they would make connections with people through our English Classes and Dialogue Evenings and go and undertake Bible studies in people’s homes. We had hoped they would be able to work with us in discipling our Iranian believers as well as picking up and running with our evangelistic warm contacts.
So, what are we to make of the fact that we just can’t set them to do any of the stuff we had hoped they would do?
God is sovereign
I know I say this a lot, but you can’t say it enough really can you? The Lord has given them to us and he was not caught out by the lockdown. He has decided that, despite our plans, they would join us in the middle of a hard lockdown where they can’t do any of that stuff. And I know that he has decided that because it will bring him more glory this way than doing whatever we thought might work best. I have no idea what that means in practice, but I do know in God’s goodness this is how he has orchestrated it and it will work for his greater glory. Whatever it is that we need, or our American friends need, or our town needs, the Lord has decided now is the time it needs it and so we trust that his plans are better than ours.
It’s not wasted
The fact is, their being here is not totally wasted. We can still go for walks outside one-to-one, that gives our friends some scope for things they might do. Whilst they may be here ostensibly to help reach out to Muslims in our area, it is entirely possible that the Lord has sent them to us to encourage us as much as to do that work. Likewise, there may be lots of ways that they see how we operate as a church, the ministries we are involved in, and as naive outsiders with no skin in the game, see all sorts of things that appear totally weird to them! Whilst some of these things might be contextually appropriate, some of them will be the inevitable result of our personal blindspots and they will help us to see some of those things with fresh eyes. All of that is valuable.
This is all temporary
I don’t know when COVID-19 will go away. I don’t know when we will be released from this lockdown. But I do know that it won’t go on forever. There will come a point when we can be about the normal business of ministry again. Things may look a bit different, there may be changes in what we do and how we do it. But we will be out and about again in time.
In God’s grace, when we are free again, our friends will be able to hit the ground running. They will have been here for a time already. They will have settled in a home, got a handle on the area and seen the church running to some degree. In many ways, it gives them a pressure free lead in period so that, when we are able to be about the things we thought they would be about, they will be well placed to be about them.
So, let’s be honest, this isn’t how we hoped things would start. This isn’t what we thought it would look like. But this is what the Lord has given us, it isn’t wasted and it won’t be like this forever.