What are we learning two months into lockdown?

‘My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.’  James 1

Like me you have probably been having some reflection time during lockdown. The change of lifestyle has been quite a transition for us all – perhaps more for some than others. Some are busier, some have more space! I have been thinking of biblical characters who experienced some form of lockdown from Noah in the ark, the Israelites in captivity in Egypt, Elijah by the Kidron brook, David and his mighty men in the caves, the disciples in the upper room waiting for the Holy Spirit, Paul in house arrest and many more. There’s always opportunity for learning when our circumstances change drastically, and we are thrown into a transition of needing a new rhythm.  So, what have you been learning?  I think most of us are clear that perhaps we won’t be going back to life as it was. Life is going to be different after COVID 19. Here are some very practical and simple reflections:

1. What frantic lives we have been leading: What I love about YWAM is our future focus, wanting to be ahead of the game, sending teams to the places that need them most and jumping into action to see needs met. But with that comes the stress of change, travel, new people, new projects and new challenges, often without completing the last assignment.  Our last 6 months has involved travel to Romania, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, England, Albania, India, Australia, Fiji, Holland and Spain, running 5 b2b’s, a couples retreat, a preschool seminar, a staff conference and walking the Camino.  That’s our lives as YWAMers and we don’t think much about it.  When people look in, they feel dizzy just reading about what we do, let alone doing it.  Then, suddenly two months ago, all our travel was cut, and we entered ‘ground hog days’ but it gave us time to breath.
Suddenly we realise how tired we actually are and that this forced sabbath was needed to slow us down a little and enable us to pause, reflect and learn.

2. We have the opportunity of creating a new rhythm: When you are in the midst of busyness, you have no time to stop and think how to rearrange your daily schedule – you jump into action and try to get all the stuff that you have on your to do list, done.  Many of us have a number of assignments and roles that we juggle, and just keeping up with them all, takes our time. The new rhythm will include first of all, our time with God – I have been getting used to a couple of hours of devotions every morning.  What a luxury!  How do I go back to the old normal after this?  The new rhythm will include time with loved ones – spouse, kids, reaching out to friends and colleagues – even if it’s on zoom.  Then there’s work assignments, eating homemade delicacies and getting creative with our home entertainment & games.  
Suddenly we have some space to think and ask, “What do I want to do?” instead of “What must I do?” 

3. Doing jobs that have been on the to do list for too long: I just cleaned out a drawer in our lounge that has been the ‘oddments drawer.’  It has collected stuff over the last two years and I just threw away most of it because it was ‘junk.’ Why do we let our lives become cluttered? I cleared out my wardrobe and gave away clothes that I had hardly worn in the last 5 years. I took 3 old printers to the bin that had problems and wouldn’t print properly!  Why are they allowed to have room in my life when I don’t use them?  Actually, there are so many things in our lives that just sit there until we do something with them.

Suddenly, there is time to do some of these tasks that have been put off for so long.

4. Clearing email in-trays: I hate to admit it, but I had a few emails that have sat there for several years!  I thought the info would be worth keeping!  I do pretty well at getting back to people but it’s easy for that in-tray to so quickly get out of hand or not have an adequate management filing system.  Unfortunately, one day I accidentally cleared my archive file too and deleted all my saved email files – whoops.

Suddenly, I have a fresh-looking mail app! How many of those formerly saved files have I looked at anyway?

5. Creativity in family relationships: No matter what country we are in, we try to keep connected to our kids and grandkids.  With a little more time, we have managed to make pdf’s of lots of books, so we can read stories over zoom to the grandkids on a shared screen – so nice.  One day Rite had a creative idea of taking corks, painting them, creating some clothes, putting on hats and googly eyes and making them into the four grandkids.  Then we created a game of making a scene and hiding the four corks in the picture somewhere.  They love it and even the parents have got into it too!  I might even make a book out of all the pictures – not ‘where’s wally’ but ‘find the grandkids!’  So, I have been taking a picture every day with these four characters hidden in the picture for the last three weeks. It’s been fun – perhaps more for me than them! With our kids spread around the world, we came up with the idea of asking a question every week, that each of us need to answer on messenger, that helps to deepen our understanding of one another and explore areas that have been untouched before.  I have also sent a postcard to my 96-year-old mum every week that takes me all of 5 minutes with a great little app. We have talked about that nice thought for years! 

Suddenly we have been set free to think creatively and make some memories.

6. Peer groups: I wrote a leadership letter last year called, ‘conversations on purpose.’  Sharing more deeply with some close friends can be a challenge in YWAM with our transitory lifestyle or simply the busyness of life on bases. It takes intentionality to connect on a regular basis with a small group of 3 or 4. I realised that over the last few years, since not having the retreat team to connect to, we have been a little isolated.  We meet leaders all over the world but none on a consistent basis.  So, I woke up one day and thought, I need some consistency and reached out to three guys, Rite did the same with three of her friends.  We both just had the joy of starting small groups where we can be open about what’s going on in our lives and spur each other on in our journey with God and the communities we live and work in. We are going to be meeting once or twice a month – now that’s doable for everyone.

Suddenly, there’s space for meaningful connection that we have thought about but not followed through on.

7. Creative meeting thinking: When plans are thwarted and we are in lockdown, it gives us a chance of spending some time thinking outside the box. Some do it naturally, others need the extra space. We have given little thought to meeting as a church without a building, because we have always had one. Now we only have our individual homes, it’s forced us into exploring digital meetings. And we have discovered that there are some advantages – meeting in the comfort of your home with coffee in hand, using breakout groups with simultaneous translation in English & Spanish, having shorter meetings, actually seeing everyone and greeting everyone, as each family gets the main screen and we all wave frantically, instead of just seeing the back of their heads, and there is no physical set up of the church, apart from organising the technology.

We have been having many zoom meetings throughout the YWAM world too and I think we are all realising that some meetings lend themselves to more efficient, agenda driven zoom meetings that don’t need to rely on face to face time.  For instance, regular board meetings. We can save time and money by connecting online and reserving our face to face time for that once/year retreat! Or short leadership team meetings where we are just reporting in on a project. Just connecting regularly with all the conveners in Europe, along with some elders has been such an encouragement and we all feel more connected.

Suddenly we have more options for meeting than we were aware of – Could we continue like this?  For certain meetings I am sure we will.  I just wish I had bought shares in zoom at the beginning of the year.

9. Go into all the world is perhaps going to mean something different: Loren has told us that ‘GO’ means ‘a change of location’ – perhaps not so much now!  Of course, we will still be sending teams, but the mission field has moved to ‘all of our doorsteps’ in a new way. The statistics of the dead, and the ill; the endangered; the closed-in, the unemployed or out-of-business or unable to provide for their families, are beyond our comprehension.  ‘The world in prayer’ news shares:

• Right now, there are 17 countries that are all reporting more than 100 deaths per 1M population. That’s around 3m confirmed cases worldwide and 300,000 deaths reported so far – but we know those counts are likely to be way underreported, since testing is only for those in hospital or is basically unavailable in many developing countries.  And the first wave of the pandemic hasn’t even peaked yet.

• The International Labour Organization this week reported that more than 4 out of five workers globally live in countries affected by full or partial lockdown measures.  In the U.S., nearly 27 million people have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment since the crisis began!  Half of the private sector workers in France are now unemployed.  The United Nations is predicting 195 million jobs will be lost worldwide due to the virus.

• Severe famine “of Biblical proportions” is likely to hit 30 or more under-developed nations due to the labour shortages and supply disruptions caused by the pandemic, according to reports released this week by the United Nations. The greatest worry is for people living in conflict zones and those forced from their homes and into refugee camps, especially in north eastern Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The world will be seeking to cope with the aftermath of the pandemic for a long time.  We have some new assignments to get stuck into.

Until next month,


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