Written by Fedora Aletheia, Indonesia
It all started when I had a fight with my boyfriend.
In spite of the COVID-19 social restrictions, he had gone to play futsal with his buddies in an enclosed stadium—without a mask on! I got really angry with him for being so careless and forbade him from seeing me for two full weeks.
If that sounds unreasonable, there was actually a good reason for it: I was worried that he could’ve contracted the virus, and then passed it on to me, and that might potentially affect my dad’s health. My dad works as a doctor, and over this period, I had been living in constant fear that he would contract COVID-19 since he has comorbidities: diabetes and hypertension. So if he got infected, it could be fatal, and I didn’t want to lose him.
Ten days passed without any signs or symptoms. But just as we were approaching the day when I could meet my boyfriend again, I woke up feeling feverish and my eyes felt like they were burning. I checked my body temperature, and it was 37.5 degrees Celsius. I quickly downed a few Panadols, hoping they would bring down the fever. Thankfully, it worked.
But my relief didn’t last long. I felt just as feverish the next day, and this time, my temperature had risen to 38 degrees Celsius. I felt so uncomfortable I couldn’t concentrate on my online classes that morning. I also started to lose my ability to smell and taste, and was unable to enjoy my favorite beef stew that my mum had prepared.
As fear began to creep into my heart, it struck me that my mom had developed the same symptoms three days ago. Did we get ourselves infected with the coronavirus? But it was impossible! Ever since the pandemic broke out, the only person I saw outside of my immediate family was my boyfriend. And neither did my mom or my younger brother meet anyone. The only person who had been leaving our home was my father, and it was for work. I knew that he had been religiously following all the health protocols and had taken every precaution possible: He wore a face shield and a face mask, washed his hands, and was always sanitizing his hands. So, how could we have contracted the virus?
But to be safe, my parents decided that we would take swab tests for COVID-19 at a nearby hospital. I tried to stay calm but deep down, I was petrified. For the swab test, we had to get our throat and nose swabbed. It didn’t hurt much but I got a ticklish sensation and it made me tear a little bit. However, the discomfort I felt was nothing compared to the feeling of having to wait anxiously for the results of the swab test all night.
The next day, we received our results and felt like we had been struck by lightning. Both my parents and I had tested positive! I couldn’t believe my eyes. My mind was racing with questions: “Oh God, what should I do? Am I going to lose my dad? What about my mom? Could we have infected my younger brother too?”
My mom was also bawling her eyes out. In her state of shock and frustration, she started blaming my dad for getting us infected, and that was when we learned that he had been in contact with a COVID-19 patient who was asymptomatic at that time. Hearing this, we were momentarily struck dumb, unsure of what to do next. Eventually, we got ourselves admitted into a hospital for treatment, along with my younger brother, who also tested positive two days later.
At first, I was really angry about the whole thing. It wasn’t just that I had gotten COVID-19, but the whole situation seemed so unfair to me. I stopped going onto Instagram because I didn’t want to see the Instastories of my friends happily getting together or hanging out at the mall without any infections, while here I was—stuck in an isolation room in a hospital with COVID-19, even though I had been religiously following all the health protocols by staying at home, and constantly disinfecting our belongings and home.
The One Health Protocol We Neglected
But it was while we were stuck here in this terrifying isolation room that God reminded us as a family that there was one “health protocol” we had completely forgotten, and it was to pray for protection! That was the most important thing we should have done, but we hadn’t.
I have learned from this experience that everything we do is futile if we only rely on our own strength and wisdom. As Job in his anguish cried out: “What strength do I have, that I should hope?” (Job 6:11), and later concluded that: With Him [are] wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding” (Job 12:13), we now see the importance of taking the time to pray and seek God’s help for the trials that we face.
Over the past few months since COVID-19 broke out, we had allowed our busy lives to get in the way of our prayer time as a family, a practice we usually did first thing in the morning and before bed. Instead of intensifying our time in prayer, we lost ourselves in our hectic schedules and forgot to pray for God’s protection over ourselves, and especially our dad, letting him loose to fight the pandemic alone.
Still, even when we weren’t faithful towards God, we saw how He went before us to work through our circumstances. We were thankful that we could be admitted into a hospital immediately, and had our entire family warded in the same room, while many others had to wait for days just to get a bed since so many hospitals were running at full capacity.
We were also so overwhelmed with love and kindness from friends and family who prayed for us and cheered us on. My parents’ extended family would even take turns to visit us with delicious food and ensure we had everything we needed.
Most importantly, we are thankful that our fear that my dad might lose his battle with COVID-19 did not materialize. A CT scan revealed that his lungs have been affected by the virus, and he will need more extensive treatments, but so far, he’s been recovering well and has been able to resume his daily activities.
Even though we had neglected to look to God during this season, we got a taste of His goodness and mercy towards us, and saw that He is always there for us and with us. He unexpectedly turned our time together in that isolation room into a family retreat and reminded us to rebuild our family altar which we have neglected to do for so long.
It’s now been two weeks since my family and I have been discharged from the hospital and gone back to our lives as usual. Through this experience, we’ve come to realize how much we need God in every aspect of our lives. So we’ve gone back to our practice of praying for God’s protection over our family twice a day—in the morning and at night. And since we don’t know when the pandemic will end, we’ve also expanded our prayers to include those close to our hearts, such as our extended family, colleagues, and friends.
Dear friends, even as we continue to keep vigilant or observe health protocols in our fight against COVID-19, let’s not forget to start and end each day in prayer. Observing the “health protocols” without God is futile. After all, He is our God who will go before us, our God who will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).