A Family Update in Strange Times

These are strange times, aren’t they? They are probably the strangest I’ve encountered in my life, comparable perhaps only to the aftermath of 9/11 in all its scope and fear and uncertainty. Like so many of you, I’m keeping an eye on the news so I know how to adapt and how my family can do our part as the increasingly severe measures are handed down and as the increasingly tragic death toll creeps higher. For those who are interested, here’s what we’re up to just now.

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My son (aged 20), a student at Boyce College and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (where he’s enrolled in the five-year program that combines the undergraduate and M.Div. programs), returned home on Saturday after the college and seminary closed their doors. He is now in self-isolation within our home since, as per Government of Canada regulations, anyone returning from any other country is required to remain isolated for two weeks. Thankfully, he shows no signs of exposure or symptoms. Though his schools canceled classes for two days, they picked up again via the Internet on Monday, so he carries on with his usual schedule.

My two daughters began their regularly-scheduled March Break on Monday. After that planned week of vacation, they have been told they will have at least two weeks out of school. It seems likely that the schools will remain closed for significantly longer, so we are assuming the girls will begin online learning by early April in an attempt to salvage their year.

My older daughter (aged 17) works at a major grocery store, and continues to take her regular shifts and also to respond to the store’s daily summons for all available employees to come in. I know they are taking extra precautions with their workers, but there is still something nerve-racking about sending out a 17-year-old to be around so many people. Still, she is doing her duty! My son works at the same store when he is home for holidays, and may begin shifts once he completes his isolation. My youngest daughter (aged 13) stocked up on library books before school closed, so has been reading voraciously, while also catching up with some video gaming and joining me for some exercise.

Aileen and I have few reasons we need to leave the house right now, so are mostly staying put, save for our evening half-hour stroll around the neighborhood (where we’ve noticed that other walkers are now giving us a wider-than-usual berth). All of my travel has been canceled up to June, and this has freed up a fair bit of time since it leaves me with many more days at home and many fewer sermons to prepare than I had planned. I’ve been putting some effort into a plan for my neighborhood that will serve the elderly and those who are in a form of lockdown or isolation.

We are expecting we will soon face a lockdown-type situation where we may not be permitted to leave home except for essential activities or emergencies, and have been preparing accordingly. (At the very least, even now it’s becoming clear that we generally shouldn’t leave home in order to protect others and to do our part in “flattening the curve.”) For this reason we’ve gotten out puzzles and games, have plugged in the PlayStation, have begun to revive dormant hobbies, and so on. We’ve also begun to read books as a family again—a habit we once loved but which gave way as the kids got older and began working in the evenings. We have also begun to take a course together. And we’ve begun to realize just how very small our house is when all five of us are around all the time!

As for our church, we had a “virtual service” this week—two of our pastors recorded an hour-long service on Saturday and we watched it from our various homes on Sunday at 10 AM. While we are so thankful for this technology, and while it felt surprisingly non-weird to worship in this way, we sure did miss our normal service, our normal people, and our normal location. I expect it may be quite a long time before we are together there again. We are meeting as elders today to begin to formulate a plan that will cover the weeks (or even months) ahead.

For now, I hope you, too, are keeping well. And I hope you’re doing your part as together we figure out what this thing is, what measures are necessary in the midst of it, and what role we all need to play in bringing it to an end.