New post from missionary Erin Mackenzie

New post from missionary Erin Mackenzie

My Corona

Posted: 14 Mar 2020 07:36 PM PDT

[Here’s a little something for your listening pleasure while you read this since it keeps playing in my head. If no one’s written a parody of it yet, they will, and it’ll go viral.]

I remember serving as a GEO missionary in El Paso, TX, when the swine flu hit. Eleven years later, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc at a global scale.

I won’t bother setting the backdrop since unless you live under a rock, you’re inundated with articles, maps, travel warnings, closures, cancellations, and memes any time you turn on the TV, open your browser, or glance at your phone. Things also change every five minutes, so there’s that. Any business you’ve given your email address to ever is in on the fun, too (mine range from Chick-fil-a to my hometown dentist).

But what does my corona look like? How does a pandemic play out from my kitchen table in Santiago, Dominican Republic?

  • I’ve heard stores are nuts today. The last time I went shopping was Thursday; the bleach stock looked a little slim to me, but it could have been purely coincidental. Dominicans clean with bleach ALL the time, not just when everyone is disinfecting like it’s their job. There was plenty of TP, but the craze of compulsively buying every roll in sight has reached the island according to fellow missionary Jana. Her Facebook post about chocolate and bacon made me laugh this morning! A few stores have issued statements urging the public not to panic and assuring that at least store brands of the essentials will remain in stock. (Compounding the COVID-19 situation is the fact that tomorrow is election day; the public is urged to lay low in the unlikely event that protests turn violent.)

  • I’m putting the handwashing lesson that last month’s CHE MMT taught in Peru to good use. Twenty seconds, people! Here’s some Lutheran help from my talented and creative missionary friend Lizz. 
  • LCMS mission churches and mercy houses around the region are heeding temporary government edicts and taking precautions to protect one another in Christian love. Two examples: Rev. Isaac Machado in Madrid will be leading worship over Zoom for the time being, and Lima’s Castillo Fuerte after school program is closed until further notice. There’s no Sunday morning worship here tomorrow, but that’s 100% election-driven (I’m getting together with friends for brunch, including the coffee cake I made this afternoon!). Instead, the DR churches gathered around Word and Sacrament tonight. Yes, Sacrament, and yes, with the common cup. My pastor gave a lengthier pre-distribution intro than normal and took extra precautions to ensure things were as sanitary as possible, but the body of Christ in Licey al Medio came together to receive His body and blood in faith, same as always. Our gratitude was perhaps even deepened on account of the countless faithful who won’t be able to partake this weekend. We greeted each other after the service with ankle and elbow taps instead of the traditional beso on the cheek. It was awkward!
  • And finally, my jet-setting lifestyle has been grounded. Oddly enough, I was never actually supposed to be anywhere between returning from Peru and the first week of May, but a travel ban in effect for the next twenty-nine days will make sure of that. The ban also applied to two of three short-term teams that elected to cancel/postpone prior to its issuance. It felt like I was getting sucker punched in the gut repeatedly on Friday, but I can’t say I blame any of them. Rather, I applaud their prayerful deliberations and thoughtful consideration of those at higher than normal risk. 
I’m ready for the whole episode to be over. I’m an obsessive planner, so not being able to count on anything and not having relevant information with which to make decisions – due to the rapidly changing nature of the beast – is making me crazy. Aside from my to-do list that somehow grew exceptionally long in the past week or so, I’m making a mental list of things I can do to productively capitalize on this season:
  • Get ahead on logistics for the seminary’s annual theological symposium scheduled for the end of May. 
  • Help my missionary friend Jamielynn plan a bomb 2020 regional missionary conference!
  • File my taxes…
I’ll leave you with a thought. In Spanish, corona means “crown!” I’m not sure how the virus got its name, but I get a mental image of a royal diadem every time I hear it. The verse in Revelation about the “crown of life” (2:10, emphasis mine) was also floating around in there, too, so I finally looked it up on Friday during Play Group: 
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Whoa! My concordance led me to a second eerily applicable occurrence of “crown of life” in James 1:12 (emphasis mine):
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Our world is certainly suffering and under trial right now. Many have been forcibly or self- quarantined for at least ten days. It’s at times like these that we cling to God’s promises, anticipating our coronations as heirs of life eternal with Him!
Until next time, blessings! Wash your hands!