When we came to Malawi, we brought a lawn sign proclaiming in bold letters, “THE PARTY’S HERE.” The sign originated at a going away shindig in British Columbia, and we took it with us across Canada from BC to Ontario and then to Amsterdam before landing in Africa. All along the way we brought it with us and took pictures.
Today we made the hard decision to end the party. Or at least, that’s how it feels. Maybe when we look back, we’ll be able to say that we moved the Bertrand party yet again.
We are booked to fly back to Canada on April 6th, 2020. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began we have been in close contact with the Presbyterian Church in Canada staff. They have been encouraging and respectful, practical and pastoral. Together we developed some criteria we could use to measure our safety, our quality of life, and our risk. This past week we tipped into the “go home” territory on all three categories.
We have a swirl of feelings about this. First and foremost, we are concerned for our Malawian friends and colleagues. Malawi neither seems to have the desire nor capacity to respond as Western experts are telling them they must. We fear for the safety of those we know and love. We also grieve our inability to protect them. While we are leaving the country, the warm heart of Africa will continue to beat in us.
Any leave taking is hard but to do it so rushed makes it especially so. We hope to say good bye to everyone here but the state of disaster and the timing make it difficult. If we do not see you, know that it isn’t because of a lack of desire on our part.
There is much more that we could say but we will try to do that when the time is right. Thanks for your prayers as we make this transition. We feel surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and rely on that strength these days.
This moves fast so don’t you think you should leave earlier?
Yes, it does move fast but expert opinion puts Malawi 3-4 weeks behind other countries. Remember, we do not have a single confirmed case. Yes, yes, there are likely cases but this is still very early. If it begins to move faster, we will shift our date.
They are cancelling planes so don’t you think you should leave earlier?
We are working with people whose job is to monitor flights. If our particular flight is threatened, we will change our date.
Did you know about …. ?
Likely. Vivian has been tracking this closely since it started in China. Bird Boy stays on top of the stats (almost hourly). We have been in contact with medical experts in Africa and Canada. The number of factors we have considered are bewildering at times. It is likely that we have considered some dimension of whatever it is.
Where will you go?
We will serve our 14-day quarantine at a Presbyterian Church in Canada property. The church has graciously offered a place to land. From there we will likely visit with family but, truth be told, we don’t know for sure.
Do you have jobs to return to?
Yes. Although we are not in Malawi we are still employed as missionaries by the Presbyterian Church in Canada. We will be doing a lot of work remotely. As well, when feasible, Blair will return to Malawi and finish all that we can’t get done in the next 9 days.