This week, we hear from the Collet family, who serve as missionaries in France. Trina reflects on how COVID-19 has impacted their lives in the past few months.
Sometime around late 2019 a tiny, microscopic thing, a virus called COVID-19, came into existence. No one could have imagined how this tiny thing would affect the entire world—the havoc and tragedy that it would create. But the pandemic has also served as an important reminder that God, and only God, is in control of everything.
COVID-19 sort of … snuck up on us. First it was something we heard about in the news that was happening in China. Then in early March it started to arrive in France and even in Lyon, and we were told it would be best not to greet friends with the usual kiss on the cheek. Then, rather suddenly, school was canceled indefinitely for our girls, and only days later we were in enforced lockdown: all non-essential stores were closed and we were told to stay at home unless it was absolutely necessary to go out.
I was pregnant, with less than a month left until our daughter’s due date. This was not the kind of environment that we had expected to welcome a new child into. As the reality of confinement hit, several questions and anxieties began to arise: would my husband even be allowed to be present in the birthing room? Would my in-laws be able to come as planned to watch the girls when I went into labour and help after the birth? Would anyone be able to watch our girls, for that matter? What risk did this virus represent for me and for our baby?
Everyone who could work from home was mandated to do so, and we were told that schools would likely stay closed for at least six weeks. No visiting friends or having people over, no church, no playing at the park with the kids, no socializing other than via internet. If we needed to go out for something necessary like groceries, there was a form to fill out and sign so that if you were stopped by police you could prove that you had a valid reason for being out of your house.
People began to go into panic mode, stockpiling necessities. Masks and antibacterial hand gel were nearly impossible to find. In some places, basics like flour and—somewhat comically—toilet paper, were cleared off store shelves as soon as they were stocked.
Homeschooling began shortly after schools closed. Teachers sent some material, and I supplemented with my own ideas. Since we could not attend church, services were held online. The first time that we gathered on the couch in front of our computer screen for church, it felt strange, though knowing that our church friends were doing the same thing at the same time provided a sort of community feeling.
We learned, though it wasn’t always easy, to be at peace with circumstances we couldn’t control, to be thankful for the blessings we had, and to leave everything in God’s hands and trust that he would take care of us. We also learned to appreciate little things, like the quiet time during afternoon naps, sunshine and warm temperatures and the outdoor space behind our house.
The weeks went by, and we developed new habits: keeping distances from everyone we crossed paths with when we went out, crossing to the other side of the street to avoid passing too close, rigorous hand-washing routines and wearing a mask or face covering when it was necessary to go to the store or pharmacy.
Our third daughter came along a few days earlier than expected. We thank God that she arrived safely and healthy, and without any complications. She was born on April 8 at 7:57 in the morning and we were back at home resting before lunchtime!
Our two older daughters, aged 6 and 4, love their new baby sister and like to help take care of her in little ways. We are all adjusting well to our new life as a family of five, despite the fatigue that comes with having a newborn!
Vincent has been able to continue his work for the radio station at home with the help of applications like Zoom. One new project he is currently working on, in partnership with TWR, is a program called Chemins de Vie (Thru the Bible). This program already existed in French in its longer version, but a project was recently launched to translate and record shorter versions for broadcasting on PHARE-FM and other Christian radio stations, as well as on the YouVersion app. Vincent volunteered to take on this project as the voice of this new program, recording and taking care of the audio montage.
Since the lockdown, radio listenership in general has increased in France. This makes the work of PHARE-FM in sharing the hope of the gospel that much more important during these uncertain times! Since the lockdown began, the station has received more Bible requests to date than they did during the entire year of 2019!
On May 11, the first phase of lifting the lockdown began. Stores began to reopen. There were still restrictions, but life was beginning, slowly, to return to normal. Many returned to their workplaces. Schools reopened, but with limits on how many students could return, and with a great deal of restrictions and protocols. We decided to continue homeschooling and Vincent has continued working from home, so very little has changed in our day to day life. At the beginning of June we entered Phase 2 with more of the restrictions being lifted. Many people went back to living just as they had before the lockdown, and as a result the number of new cases has begun to rise again, creating fears of a second wave. As a result, masks are required in public places. We trust that no matter what happens, everything is in God's hands!
We rejoice with the Collets as they celebrate the birth of their third daughter! Please pray for energy for Trina and Vincent as they adjust to a new kind of routine and both juggle various responsibilites. PHARE FM has moved their station to Lyon, and the Collets are preparing to move closer to the new station and their church. Pray that these transitions go smoothly.