His Faithfulness Reaches to the Skies
"O Lord, Your loving-kindness goes to the heavens. You are as faithful as the sky is high." - Psalm 36:5
Preparing to travel internationally can be exciting yet stressful under normal circumstances. The anticipation of being immersed in a different culture often surpasses the hassle of securing proper travel documents, immunizations, and a sufficient network plan. However with COVID-19 affecting nearly every corner of the globe, the stress of traveling overseas is now magnified by mandatory quarantines and ever changing lockdowns. Some traveling internationally these days find themselves doing so purely out of necessity, leaning heavily on the promises of God. We asked some disciples to share why they were traveling outside of their home country during COVID-19 and what they experienced before and during their journey.
Bringing Her Home
Gina shares about her and her husband Marc's journey to bring home their newly adopted baby girl from Sofia, Bulgaria to their home in Bloomington, Illinois.
We had been waiting about five years for our international adoption. In December 2019, we got the referral for our daughter! The adoption required us to make two trips to bring her home. The first trip was in February, 2020. Marc and I got to meet our little girl, who is two, in her hometown of Vidin, in the northwest corner of Bulgaria. We spent a few days getting to know her and her foster mom, as well as learning about the local culture and history. After that, we spent a couple of days in the capital city of Sofia, where we would be spending time with her on our second trip before bringing her home. At that time, we anticipated two to four months in between trips while the adoption was finalized in the courts.
When the pandemic hit in March, the whole country of Bulgaria shut down: courts, travel, everything! Our family was devastated because we did not know how long of a delay it would be. As the weeks dragged on, it became apparent that COVID-19 might be here for the long haul. But we tried to take hope in the fact that God's timing had brought us here to begin with, and he would see us through. In May, the Bulgarian courts opened up again, so we were hopeful that the process would continue. Our adoption was finalized on June 8, 2020 in the country. All we had to do was get there! The problem was that the EU was closed to US citizens, and at the time we did not qualify for an exemption. We prayed A LOT. I remember coming to a point when I realized that only a miracle would get us there...and only God would make it happen.
At the end of June, we got the call from our adoption agency that the Bulgarian government was making exceptions for adoption as long as we quarantined for 14 days upon arrival. Not knowing how long this window of opportunity would be open, we started making travel arrangements and setting up childcare for our three other kids at home. We booked a flight within a week!
Tell us about your emotions while making your travel arrangements
It was such a blur that I honestly didn't have the chance to process emotionally while we were booking! We did run into trouble in the Chicago airport. They wouldn't let us check in because they didn't think we had the right paperwork for a travel exemption to Europe. After about an hour and a half of going back and forth with the agents and talking with our travel agent, it was looking like we would have to rebook. We had texted many of our friends and family, who were praying for us, and suddenly, without explanation, they let us through. We made it to our gate just as our section was boarding. Overall, I was just in awe of God throughout the whole process. It was the end of a very long journey for us that started many years ago.
Share about your experience being in Sofia, Bulgaria during this unique time
When we arrived, Marc and I were required to quarantine in Sofia for two weeks before we were able to meet our daughter. We had to order all of our food. The apartment was fairly spacious and in some ways it was good for my husband and I to be together and relax. For two weeks, we worked remotely and checked in with our kids at home a couple of times a day. It was strange being in a foreign country, yet not immersed in the culture.
When we were finally able to leave the apartment, it was incredibly disorienting, but we were glad to be able to walk around. People were required to wear masks indoors, but outdoors it was only required if people weren't able to socially distance themselves. Almost no one wore masks outdoors, to the point where it felt a little uncomfortable on the crowded streets. We tried to stay in open spaces. And of course, our focus was on our new daughter at that time. We were unable to travel to pick her up in her town, which was disappointing, but the adoption agency brought her to us the day we came out of quarantine.
Once she was with us, we had the freedom to take her on walks in the stroller and go play at a park without any restriction. We also sat in outdoor cafes, which were plentiful in our neighborhood. It actually felt surprisingly normal, especially after all of the restrictions we had experienced at home in the preceding months. Just to add more chaos to an unpredictable time, we were surprised to learn that daily protests were unfolding in the capital. People were demanding that the corrupt government step down. Nothing violent erupted while we were there, but we were glad to leave during the rising unrest.
What advice would you offer others who are considering traveling during the pandemic
If you're called to travel at this time, you can be wise and faithful at the same time. I wouldn't have chosen to travel internationally if there was any way to avoid it, but God made a way and kept our family safe. We did everything possible to follow guidelines and protect ourselves and others both while we were traveling and upon our return.
Delayed but Not Defeated
Derick shares about traveling from Nairobi, Kenya to San Francisco, California to begin his academic studies.
For several years, I had been actively pursuing enrolling in an accredited university in the US for a second degree. I faced so many barriers in the process and my faith was often tested. In February 2020, just weeks before the pandemic reached Nairobi, I finally received my student visa from the US. It was painful not knowing when international travel would resume. Once everything opened up, I barely had time to think through my decision. I initially did not even have money for the ticket let alone the school fees. So I moved by faith. As soon as I got enough money for the ticket, I purchased it and trusted God to come through with the rest. I was able to make it to the states days before the fall semester started.
What was different this time about traveling from Kenya to the US
Being that I flew in via Boston, flying to San Francisco was easier because it was now considered domestic travel. But when I arrived in Boston in early September, there were a lot of screening questions regarding COVID-19 and recent travels. To be able to board my flight to Boston, I had to fill out a questionnaire at least 24 hours before departure from my city of origin. Kenya had just opened their airport for international flights so it meant a lot of caution and checks. But for once there were no long queues at the destination city.
What advice would you offer others who are considering traveling during the pandemic
Before traveling, ensure you read through the expectations of your destination airport and your connecting airport. They have different expectations of the travelers going through their airport but the goal is one, TO KEEP YOU SAFE!
A Family Back Together Again
Scotty shares about him and his son traveling from Columbia, South Carolina to Tokyo, Japan to reunite with his wife Kimberly, a US soldier on active duty.
My wife had been in Japan a year alone while our son finished school. Families are better together - spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. My son and I got all of the needed approvals done to travel to Japan in the summer of 2020 before the pandemic exploded in the US and blocked all travel. We needed to be together and a year was our limit. We knew that the pandemic would only get worse.
Tell us about the emotions you experienced while making your travel arrangements
We had some anxiety. My wife, Kimberly sent us tons of sanitation supplies, quality masks, etc., so that we could take maximum precautions. We have a son and a daughter. Our daughter is still in the US, in a hotspot in South Carolina, but we continue to send her supplies. We protected our son and prayed a lot before, during and after our travel. We also had excitement and great expectations of being together again, so that was helpful. My wife also sent us global MiFi so that we had communication regardless of what country we were in and so that we could reach her once we arrived in Japan. My son and I had to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. We prayed more to get through that period of time unscathed by the coronavirus. Our prayers were answered.
Share about your experience arriving in Tokyo, Japan during this unique time
People were wearing masks. There was a procedure to get us tested and transported from the airport directly to the Army base by MIL Escorts with no stops to ensure no possible spread of COVID-19 from the US to Japan. The results of the test were provided within 48 hours. We had a home filled with groceries to get us through the quarantine. Nothing like this happened in the airports in the US. It was actually a relief to leave the US because of its lack of vigilance in dealing with this virus. We left Columbia, SC, one of the many hot spot areas in the US with spiking cases. Japan is much safer. US government civilians, US soldiers (my wife) and their families are restricted from using public transportation. There are mask requirements on and off base and when going to any public place. There is also hand sanitizer everywhere in Japan. It is amazing and a total stress reducer.
God kept us safe. Our prayers were answered. We arrived just before Japan blocked all US travel while they dealt with a small spike in Tokyo. It was fantastic to reunite as a family in Japan. God is faithful. He is a good Father and He will abide in His promises. Matt 6:33, Matt 7:7, Rom 8:28 and Rom 3:3-4