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Home  >  Features  >  The Coronavirus Diaries: Alone But Not Lonely


The Coronavirus Diaries: Alone But Not Lonely

Wednesday April 21 2021

The Rev Michael Okpara, Minister of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria who has recently arrived in Edinburgh, reflects on his 10 days in compulsory isolation.

Life is in phases and each phase is full of lessons to be learnt, whether good, bad, tough or great. One of my greatest graces is to give thanks to God in every situation of life, knowing that nothing just happens without a purpose.

As a 2020/2021 International student of the University of Edinburgh on the Church of Scotland/Desmond Tutu Scholarship, I was able to arrive Edinburgh on April 9 2021 and, in line with the policy of the government of Scotland to curtail the spread of Covid-19, I went into 10 days of compulsory personal isolation (quarantine). I must confess that it was truly a trying moment, an experience I have never had in all my life: all alone in an accommodation meant to house a family. The experience impacted on me both positively and negatively.

Alone but not lonely: The first challenge I had was aloneness. It was a reality I felt so painfully. How would I stay alone without my pretty wife and lovely children around me? I lost the warmth of such an amazing bond of love. Truly I had access to call them 24/7, but I felt so alone. It was not so funny that I had to cook my meals and eat alone, wash the dishes and clean up the house all alone. However, though alone I was never lonely. As a pastor, it became a glorious moment for spiritual communion with the Lord who had gracious assured me that I am not alone. It was for me a 10 days of deep fellowship with God.

Socially, I was so lost in a big world as ours. From the airport I felt isolated that I had to carry my heavy luggage into the taxi all by myself without help. I arrived at the house I would quarantine in with no warm welcome, no handshake, and no hug. Thanks to those who did my shopping and waited for my arrival, but could only welcome me from a distance. This was strange and not cultural for me as an African. I lost the warmth of meeting someone you had longed to meet. It was so painful that as soon as I entered the house I locked myself in. I couldn’t step out of the property, I had no neighbour to talk with, I couldn’t attend church services/activities except online. I couldn’t go to school for classes or interactions either. It seriously affected my social life.

Focus: The Covid-19 national lockdown which delayed my coming to Edinburgh last year opened me up to the reality of studying online. Though exciting, it was not a good experience for me at all. I lost focus because of so many distractions: family, ministry, poor network, etc. However, personal isolation became an opportunity to catch up. I had quality time to study and make research with better connectivity, concentration and understanding. It gave me the serenity for critical and analytical thinking as a student.

Pastoral Effect: This time of isolation has given me a better feel of what humanity is passing through especially in this part of the world where Covid-19 had impacted most on people. I realised that freedom indeed is sweet and that restrictions, isolations or quarantine when not properly managed can kill easily. I had questions that needed answers. Questions like:

  • How are the less privileged coping up with life in isolation?
  • How can the church, people of other faiths and the society in general flourish if in isolation?
  • What can I do to assist the suffering percentage in isolation?
  • And finally, what role should the church and the government play in assisting those who are in isolation?

I hope to get a better understanding of these important questions arising from my personal isolation experience and I pray that the lessons learnt so far will help to give my life a better frame in my stay here as a student.

However, I thank God that my Covid-19 tests results all came out well, so I am now free to associate with people though with caution. I thank the Faith Impact Forum (FIF) of the Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria for the opportunity to study in Scotland and all who prayed, emailed, and called to check on me from Scotland and Nigeria. Your calls were so refreshing that I was able to go through the isolation period.


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

Taiwan: When We Work Together, We Achieve the Best Results
Hungary: We Mourn Each Loss
Zambia: Preparing for the Vaccine, and a Third Wave
World Communion of Reformed Churches: The 'Covid and Beyond' Church
Pakistan: Passing the Light
Lebanon: The Lord Will Not Forsake Us
South Korea: 'It is Time For Christians to Hear the Marginalised'
Cuba: Keep Moving On
Canada: Cracks Have Been Exposed
Kenya: Leave No Child Behind
USA: Homes of Prayer
Mozambique: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
A Spaniard in Scotland: The Power of Movement
South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
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'