Two first-term Columban Lay Missionaries arrived in the Philippines last February 22, 2020. On February 27, they traveled to Davao City to begin their six months of full-time language studies (Binisaya). On March 11, the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In March 15, a modified lockdown had been declared in the different provinces of the country. Barely four months in the Philippines, Latai and Mereani share how they are coping with all the uncertainties.
LMS Latai Muller (l) from the Kingdom of Tonga and Mereani Nailevu from the Fiji Islands, while having an online language class in Davao City.
Storms of Life
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown! “He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement, they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” (LUKE 8:22-25)
I have been here in Davao City for three and a half months learning the local language (Binisaya). Facing this pandemic and experiencing lockdown in a place I am barely familiar with, I am hit with fear, restlessness, feeling worried and anxious, and I miss home. Experiencing this global crisis away from the comfort of my home and family, have caused me to panic, even angry.
Having to deal with the newness of everything is limiting in itself. Having to deal with the restrictions to stay indoors, wearing masks, frequent handwashing, physical distancing is irritating and upsetting. I can’t help but ask, ‘what have I gotten myself into?’
However, I have to accept that there is nothing I can do with the reality I am facing. The question Jesus asked his disciples came to mind ‘where is your faith?’ Living in this storm, in this pandemic reality I sometimes lose faith and begin to question God with so many things. But these past few weeks I discover myself dwelling into the reality of living in lockdown. I cannot change the situation, but I can change my own outlook on the situation. This difficult situation has given me the opportunity to strengthen my spiritual life and has drawn me closer to God through prayers. This situation has given me a chance to look at myself inwardly. I am able to use my time to focus and concentrate fully in my studies, to focus on my physical well-being, to eat healthy food, exercise a lot, and develop mutual support with my companion.
I heard myself uttering the same cry as the disciples, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” The disciples thought they were all going to drown. But who was on board with them? The Lord uses the storm to reveal new areas where we need to learn to trust Him. We all must come to know our weaknesses so that we will rely on the Lord’s strength. This pandemic often shows us things that we don’t see in calmer times and that we must learn to be more patient. Even if we feel helpless and restless, we will always remember that God is with us in our stormy life even though we cannot see him physically but spiritually we can. Things may feel difficult now but let us all take a moment and encourage everyone and say, “everything will be okay because God is with us”. Lord, may I never lose sight in your promise. Amen.
Talomo has just become one of the most infected areas in Davao City. Changes have been taking place quickly that most of the people have been caught off guard. We are all trying to adapt to this new reality in the hope that the pandemic will end soon, although it is impossible to predict how long it will last and what consequences it will bring.
Fear and uncertainty causing me to feel stressed, anxious, and powerless in the direction of my life. Watching what has been going around the world today has drained me emotionally especially when I see people getting sick, mourning for their loved ones, losing jobs, and struggling to put food on the table.
However, faith and hope still push us through this difficult time. I realized that a lot of people try to distinguish economic, faith, social and cultural differences, but this pandemic is reminding me that we can all get sick and that my actions have an impact on the lives of the people I live with.
We are all interconnected with each other. It also reminds me that no matter what country I live in, how old we are, or what we do, we are all important and therefore we must fight at all costs to care for each other. It doesn’t matter if the problems are big or small or the consequences might be impossible to bear, what matters most is that God doesn’t give us the spirit of fear but of power and love which enables us to face the circumstances with confidence.
|Columban Lay Missionaries in the Philippines|