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View from Fiona's flat in Dhapakhel, Lalitpur, Kathmandu Valley.
View from Fiona's flat in Dhapakhel, Lalitpur, Kathmandu Valley.

The Coronavirus Diaries: So Many Premature Goodbyes

Wednesday November 4 2020

Fiona Hafvenstein, Church of Scotland mission partner in Nepal, reflects on the current situation in the country.

About six weeks ago the Nepali government told its people that they were no longer going to manage covid risks for them.

When they locked the country down, the hundreds of thousands who rely on daily work for money, and therefore food, began to starve. When the government ended internal lockdowns, covid rates began to rise, but at least people could work and eat. Either way the government was massively criticised. So they stepped right back and told people that they now have to manage the risk themselves. Then covid rates started to soar. ICU units have been full of covid patients for a while. 

Now we have just had dashain, the major Hindu festival of the year. City dwellers return to their villages meaning massive travel throughout the country. Families gather, and children and teens mingle in the community with gleeful festivity. I have long said that in our village area we have a wonderful sense of community, and a hopeless sense of social distancing. At least most interactions here naturally happen outside as people work in their fields, tend their animals, or as the kids play.

There is massive stigma attached to getting covid here. Some medical workers have been evicted from their rental accommodation for fear of transmission. So now people largely hide covid diagnosis and symptoms. I suspect our landlord has covid as I write. I need to gently enquire more, gently keep offering more help. And keep on praying. His wife is in a very high risk category; her health is bad anyway, and she worries a lot at the best of times. This is a dark time for her. 

Today the boys and I joined another family to play together at their school. Schools have been closed since March here, and there is no sign yet of reopening. This is the only playground our kids get to go to. Not just in covid times but in general. Playgrounds don’t really exist here, other than in private institutions. Only in the last couple of months have the school allowed very controlled access to it. It is a gift. On the way back we stopped off the see friends who will be leaving Nepal in a couple of weeks. Another family going. There are always people who come and go in a setting like this. But covid has led to so many leaving this year, including my closest friend here. So many premature goodbyes. Covid is leading to premature goodbyes worldwide. How much grief it is bringing. 

I hold to the knowledge that Jesus is not afraid of grief. It does not shake him. He has walked death. He has walked separation. He knows those places and pains more deeply than we know them. I know he stays with us in grief, in the valley of the shadow of death, as long as we need to be there. Not rushing us. Not chivvying us into a place we cannot yet go, or a state we cannot yet be in. And yet, when we cannot hope, he is hope. When we cannot see light, he is light. When we do not know the way, he is the way. So that when we are able, falteringly, to start lifting our head just a little, he will be there to meet our eyes. To lift us up.  To take those first steps on. I hold to this Jesus. This Jesus that is enough even for all that 2020, 2021 is bringing.

The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'