“Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep” (Ps. 127:1-2 KJV).
In late January, rumors of upcoming civil unrest began to circulate around Guinea. We decided to take two weeks of family vacation, our first this year, in our home country of Sierra Leone before going on furlough to the U.S.
We left Guinea in the first week of February. We enjoyed our family time in Freetown visiting beaches and seeing places we had known many years ago. As we were preparing to return to Guinea, news about the growing COVID-19 pandemic hit the airwaves. Thinking it would probably soon be contained, we returned to our work, and the kids to their schooling. But the disease continued to spread like wildfire on a hot summer day. No cure, no vaccine, and seemingly no way to stop it. Death counts rose into the hundreds and then the thousands. Then it began to spread in Africa. Guinea began to report cases, followed shortly by Sierra Leone. Having experienced God’s protection during the previous ebola outbreak, we were not afraid. We began to seek God in prayer, claiming our usual promises from the Word, such as in Psalm 91. Once Sierra Leone began reporting cases, a state of emergency was declared, the borders were closed, and movement in and out the country by land, sea and air was restricted. We were trapped in Sierra Leone.
On the evening of June 5, I received a call from my mother in Norway. “Have you been able to contact your uncle yet?” she asked.
“No, Mom,” I answered. “Is anything wrong?”
“He lost his father, so you need to go and present your condolences,” she said.
“Okay, I will call him to see when he is available, and we will pay him a visit,” I said. In our Sierra Leonean culture, when an extended family member dies, the other extended family members must individually or collectively bring their condolences and give a gift to help with the funeral expenses. It could be one or more animals, such as cows, goats, sheep or chickens, or it could be bags of rice or a gift of money.
After the conversation with my Mom, I called my uncle, and we arranged a visit. My uncle enjoys the children, so our whole family went. We spent about two hours together discussing family issues, our job, the epidemic, and the political situation in our country and region. Finally, we presented our condolences. On our way back, Fred commented to me, “Something is not right with your Uncle. He looked sick to me.”
“That man is perfectly fine!” I declared. “You always like to pick on people’s appearance.”
“I am convinced that he is not well,” Fred insisted.
“I think we should pray for him,” I said in agreement just to end the argument.
I had momentarily forgotten that my husband has the gift of discernment, and he is very often correct in his observations.
One morning a few days later, I turned on my phone to check my messages and saw one from my mom, which read, “Please pray for your uncle. He was admitted to the hospital with a respiratory problem.” Fred was away at the time, having left the house very early in the morning to visit his sister and get some groceries. I tried calling my mom after reading her text, but she was at work. I sent a message of encouragement and well-wishes to my uncle.
When I called Fred, he answered immediately. “Have you heard the news?” he asked.
“What news?” I said.
“Call your sister.”
Immediately I called my sister. When she answered the phone, she was sobbing. “Uncle is dead!” she told me between sobs. “He was short of breath, and they rushed him to the hospital, but he died this morning.”
My heart started to race as I began to connect the dots—the timing and the respiratory problem, and the fact that my daughter Patricia was experiencing a loss of taste and smell since our visit. Extremely worried and sad at the same time, I knelt and consulted my Heavenly Father and poured my heart out to Him in tears. I had never been this scared since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Some days later we received confirmation that our uncle died of COVID-19.
Every morning since the outbreak began, I have prepared a concoction of turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, lemongrass, ginger and a bit of cayenne pepper for our family. With prayers and praise to God, Patricia has gotten back her sense of taste and smell.
The Lord said, “Call on me and I will answer.” He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust. He said we should not be afraid of “the terror by night nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee.” My family and I have tasted the goodness of the lord.
Friends, let us not limit the power of God. Let your anchor take hold on the solid Rock, for He will not let you down.