When the world began to turn upside down, my family and I were finalizing the counseling work we had been doing in India for the previous three months. We were calmly packing our bags and thinking ahead to the steps of the journey that lay before us. We planned to spend a few days in Istanbul before proceeding to Norway, where we were enrolled in a missionary training program for the spring. Little did we know as we took our first step into the next chapter of our lives, the world was about to be turned upon its head.
Part 1: India, canceled flights & pictures
While flying from the north of India to one of the country’s international hubs, New Delhi, we received an email informing us that our flight from Delhi to Istanbul had been cancelled due to precautions taken in the Middle East for public health. There had been a murmur of the soon to be infamous virus in the news, but up until now, business as usual had continued in nearly every country. We were surprised and a bit shaken by the cancellation, but remained calm until that evening, when the search for flights became complicated. Our minds became more and more unsettled as our options dwindled with the passing hours.
When we began the conversation of what to do, we talked about just getting a different flight to Istanbul, since we had already purchased a flight from there to Norway. We began to move forward with the reservation, but suddenly, a profound feeling of discomfort settled into my spirit. Joel’s troubled expression told me that he was not at peace with the new plan, either.
As we tried to put together the new travel plan, Joy was resting and Eva was drawing in my journal. “Look at my picture, Mommy!” Eva said.
The jumble of circles and squiggly lines seemed too hard to decipher while we were so busy. Normally I would have asked her to share with me what they represented, but instead I just said, “That is a great drawing, Eva!” I turned back to Joel, ready to share what was on my heart and hear what was on his.
But something made us turn back and gaze at her drawing a bit longer. A familiar sensation told me that there was more to her drawing than met the eye.
“What are you drawing, sweetie?” I asked.
She said, “There is a lake with fishies, and a car.”
I then pointed to the lines and circles on the page and asked Eva what the circles were. She replied, “Those are where all of the people are. ”
I went on , “And what are the lines?”
Eva said, “Rows.” Rows? What kind of rows? How did Eva even have that word in her vocabulary? Well that would have to wait for now. We went back to looking for the flights.
As Joel found a flight to Istanbul and we were about to make the purchase, I felt an extreme discomfort in my spirit. I said, “Hon, I don’t feel okay about this. I feel as if we should go straight to Norway.”
Joel responded without hesitation, “I feel the exact same.” We took a moment to pray for guidance with some dear friends over a video chat and listen to God.
Now, I say this with great reverence and gratitude for how much God has grown my husband and me as individuals and as a couple- but it is rare that we both receive confirmation about a big decision within seconds of each other. What normally happens is one of us processes within a moment and the other may take weeks or even months to speak out with confidence. So, when we both got confirmation and felt peace immediately changing plans we knew that God was guiding us. We began looking for direct flights to Norway.
Part 2: Pandemic Panic
We began the new search for flights, and by ten o’clock, we were unable to find anything, so reluctantly we decided to go to bed and find something early the next morning. It was our last night reserved in the hotel, because we’d originally planned to fly out of India at ten the next morning. Joel was suddenly awoken at 4 am by an urgency in the pit of his stomach to find the flight. An hour later, he still hadn’t found anything, but woke me so that I could repack our three checked bags to ensure they weren’t overweight. I began to frantically pick through our already thoroughly gleaned suitcases, trying to find anything else we could do without.
Finally, we found a flight to Norway. We gathered our bags, and I strapped Joy to my chest and took Eva’s hand as we rushed out of the hotel and into the taxi. It was now 8:15 am, and the flight’s departure was at 10:05am. On the ride to the airport, we calmly explained the change of plans to the girls as we tried to wrap our heads around all that had happened in only a few hours.
Upon arriving at the airport, we were bombarded by numerous obstacles and questions regarding visas, health and paperwork. We got checked in to the flight, and then made our way through the chaotic crowd in the elderly and familial security line. People were rushed, panicked, and elbowing their way past each other to get to the front of the line and to their flights. By the grace of God, we managed to get through, and began our race to the departure gate at the other side of the airport. When we were a quarter of the way through this marathon, a security guard on a motorized vehicle stopped us, and to our relief, offered to drive us to our gate. We made it just in time as the flight was almost finished boarding.
We found our seats, got the girls settled in, and sat down. My head was spinning. I was finally catching my breath and sat back in my chair. Everything felt so surreal. As the plane began to move, I grabbed my phone to turn it off and suddenly remembered to message those who were to receive us in Norway. Everything had happened so quickly that there’d been no time to communicate what was going on with anyone. I quickly typed up a message and turned off my phone.
The flight was calm, and we landed in Helsinki, Finland (a layover) without any problems. We went to the immigration officer and explained that we were missionaries who had been registered for training in Norway for nearly a year. The immigration officer raised his eyebrow and asked a few questions. We answered as best we could, and to our relief, he allowed us to enter Europe.
We then made our way to the gate of our connecting flight and found something to eat. At this moment, we got a message from our friends in Norway who were just waking up to our message and a world that had been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. They informed us that things were shutting down and that there were many unknowns on their side. Upon ending the call, we were hit with a barrage of doubt and fear.
Part 3: Follow me
Ever since God had told us to leave our home in Mexico the previous May, we had experienced so many unknowns. We’d had no idea what God had planned for us from September to March. We referred to this as our Abraham moment when Abraham and Sarah and their entire family walked into the wilderness with no idea of what was ahead of them at God’s command . The only thing that we had been sure of was that God had called us to Norway in March to receive training.
Standing in the middle of the airport minutes away from getting on a plane in the midst of a global pandemic, we were faced with a test of our faith. This was a hard moment for us as a family as this internal battle raged. A part of us wondered whether or not to move forward or go back from where we came.
I stepped away from everything and took a walk through the airport holding one of my girls in my arms. I knew that our lives could be at stake. We needed God. We needed his will and nothing else. I began to pray intensely while walking and asking God to speak to me, to us.
He told me to follow Him.
Then that was it: silence and no other response or confirmation. I grabbed onto this word, and we followed Him. We promptly landed in Oslo, Norway. We were immediately able to settle into a hotel room to rest and pray about some big decisions. Again, we decided to follow Him.
The next morning, we were warmly received at the nearby YWAM campus, where we had been expecting to do our training. It was that morning that we discovered the details of what exactly God had done. Three and a half hours after we had safely entered Norway, the government officials arrived at the airport and began to stop people from entering and turn them back to where they had come from. If we had arrived a moment later, we could very well have been sent on a plane back to India, where we had nowhere to stay, and where the lockdown and suffering have been terrible during the pandemic. God saved us from terrible hardship. He cared for us. He is a good father.
Upon arriving at the YWAM campus, we were blessed with a quarantine spot in a line of spacious joined homes that were painted red. At the back of this line of homes, there is an ample yard in which children can play that are bordered by thick, green hedges. These houses are called, The “Row” Houses,-the very same houses where nearly all of the people on campus were at the time of our arrival. The houses overlook the largest inland lake in Norway- full of “fishies.” Our father protected and cared for us, and He showed us what was to come prophetically through the mouth and hands of a three-year-old child.
God is faithful. He will always care for us as long as we allow him to do so by walking in obedience and faith. He keeps His promises.