Which Way Forward?

We remain in flux. Like more than a few church workers, we’ve been unable to deploy overseas to our intended destinations because of the ravages of Covid. We wait, anxious and hopeful to go but uncertain when that will be or what it will look like.

For the last month our hope was perhaps church partners in Taiwan would have some influence to get my work visa approved despite Taiwan’s current lock-down. In that hope we hurriedly finished the last of our visa application requirements and mailed off everything on October 1. But last week we received it all back. Passports, applications, and money orders. All of it returned, essentially unlooked at. We won’t be deploying to Taiwan just yet. Who knows when? Most probably not until next year.

Right now there are only two countries in all of Southeast Asia we could deploy to any time soon. One is Sri Lanka and the other is Indonesia. Sri Lanka will accept us without the need for quarantining so long as we have proof of our Covid immunization and test negative for the virus within three days of departure. Indonesia requires us to be vaccinated and also requires an 8-day quarantine period upon arrival.

Each of these locations has been proposed in informal messages this past week. Each time we’ve been stirred into a tizzy of wonder and uncertainty, a flurry of research and trying to figure out logistics and how it all might work. Each possibility has benefits and drawbacks. While Indonesia remains our intended home, we could be put to some useful short-term work in Sri Lanka with greater ease. Or at least that’s my assumption. Right now the other church worker family assigned to Indonesia is still in the US awaiting renewed passports.

All of this must sound somewhat strange, we know. Normally when workers are called to overseas service their deployment is fairly routine, dependent mostly on the ability to create a base of partners to support their work in the years ahead. But now even when we have wonderful support, getting overseas becomes problematic or, until recently, impossible. None of this is a shortcoming of the Office of International Mission, our international or regional leadership or anyone else. We’re still in a pandemic situation and nothing is as it was a couple of years ago. Everyone is trying their best to figure out what to do, how to do it, and when we’ll be able to do it. They told us early on that flexibility was crucial – I just assumed they meant overseas rather than waiting to get overseas!

The past few weeks have felt like being in a popcorn popper. Each time a new idea explodes we’re thrown up into the air of wondering whether this will be the way forward and imagining and planning and praying about what that will look like and what we’ll need to do. Then of course we come back down, disappointed and frustrated with, well, just the situation. Not people or organizations or partners, but just the awkwardness of all these people and pieces attempting to make the best decisions possible with the world the way it is right now.

Please pray for us and with us as these options are further discussed hopefully in the coming week. We’re open and willing to head to either destination. We’re also willing to wait here in the States hoping for things to get steadier elsewhere. By the grace of God and our partners we have all we need and are grateful for that. But we’re coming up to a decision point in the next couple of weeks – either we’re planning to head overseas as early as December, or we’re having to come up with a living option in the States for at least the month of December. No shortage of things to wonder and pray about, and we’re grateful you’re praying with us and for us. May God grant all of us his peace as well as an end to Covid!

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