Things Are Chaotic, but I’m Doing Fine

Up through this past weekend, my life in South Africa was mostly unaffected by COVID-19. But now, life here is shifting dramatically. We only just broke 100 confirmed cases yesterday, but as early as Sunday evening the government was taking strong action to slow/prevent the spread of the virus. Schools are now closed, and the Anglican Diocese of Johannesburg has suspended in-person worship services through Easter. Travel from “high risk” countries like China, UK, South Korea, Spain, Germany and the United States is restricted. As difficult as all these closings can be, I’m really glad that South Africa is trying to strike quickly to contain the virus.

The effects on the community are easy to see. At the supermarket, toilet paper, pasta and bread are flying off of the shelves. St. Thomas church is noticeably quieter. The St. Thomas soup kitchen that I help with is having to change which foods it can serve and how it serves the food to limit contact. No matter where you go, it’s understandably the first topic of conversation.

Along with the suspended worship services, Father Clayton and I decided to suspend youth meetings. This means I’ll have a lot of unscheduled time in the coming weeks. I’m planning to put this time to good use– prepping so that the youth program can hit the ground in a few weeks/months. It’s not an easy decision, or one that I’ll enjoy having to enact, but I know it’s the right one for now.

Finally, as is probably clear from the rest of my post, I’m not going home. Many other people on similar trips abroad have been sent home by their program, and I’m really glad that I was given the option to stay here. I truly believe that I am safe here, and I honestly think that I may have a better chance of staying healthy by staying in South Africa. But more than anything, I’m glad that I’m able to keep doing my work here, even in a planning capacity, and I’m glad that I’ll be ready to get going again with the youth program whenever it’s possible to do so.

I hope that wherever you might be, you’re doing well and rallying against whatever challenges are laid at your feet.


4 thoughts on “Things Are Chaotic, but I’m Doing Fine

  1. Hi Mari,
    I’ve been thinking of you!! Thanks for giving us your update. I am kind of in a state of sobered awe over the notion that Easter will not have in-person services. I wonder when last in history was Easter-in-person suspended on a wide scale? Blessings on you – and courage for more alone time than any of had counted on in the coming weeks. For the gregarious — and that’s you and me both — this ain’t easy.
    Sending so much love


  2. Stay safe and well. When your mom and dad show up with extra crop of white hair, I will understand why. But for now, as you must know, we are mostly hunkering down and praying hard…


  3. Marilee,
    I am so sorry to hear that the virus has also spread to South Africa. Bless you for staying there and proceeding with your mission. I am constantly amazed at what you are doing. Please wash, wash, wash your hands. Practice social distancing. Self quarantine if necessary. Prayers go out to and for you. Thanks for writing and keeping us somewhat up-to-date. I’m sure you could tell us a whole lot more. Blessings. Stay healthy.


  4. Hello Mari Lee – thank you for continuing to keep us posted on your activities. Yes indeed, the virus spread is not to be taken lightly. I am happy the program has allowed you to stay in place. If you have the option of using technology (skype, zoom, FaceBook live,etc) to stay connected – that is what we are doing here. In all of it, God is in control and as believers, I thank Him every day for how He is working in each of our lives for the good. We may not see it now, however, a better tomorrow (in His time) is just around the bend. God speed for the courage and strength to carry on.

    Chandra Collins Hightower


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