Letters from Lockdown

If you feel like you’re the only one trapped indoors, you’re not alone!

Hear from these 6 millennials in Australia, England, Italy, Malaysia, Scotland, and the US about how they’ve been coping with being on lockdown, and the different ways God’s Word has remained alive to them.

Fun fact:
The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) of New South Wales has seen an increase of up to 28% in pet adoptions, with more than 500 pets adopted.

Melbourne, Australia

Hey fam,

I’m currently in my second week working from home, with zero idea when this will end. When I was initially asked to start working from home for an indefinite period, it felt like a lifelong jail sentence. A natural chatterbox and a people-person, I thrive in an atmosphere filled with, well, people!

Anyway, I knew it was for the best, so I packed my laptop and gave my work station one last dusting down. Who knows when I’d see it again.

The first week working from home wasn’t too bad. At that point, most public amenities such as the council pools and libraries, and indoor sports venues, were still operating. I could still go for my morning swimming sessions.

Alas, the Australian government has since pulled the pin on these in a bid to contain Covid-19. These days, the closest body of water I see are the ones coming down my shower head.

Still, life wasn’t too bad. I could still head to the local supermarket during my lunch hour to grab food and stretch my legs. But this, too, has come to a halt when my state’s local government announced a stage 3 lockdown of four weeks on 29 March.

Now, I can leave my house only to buy groceries, seek medical help, exercise (abiding to new restrictions of maximum 2 people), or head into work/study. There goes my lunch hour activity because there really is no need for me to visit the supermarket everyday, when a weekly shop will suffice.

To keep myself entertained after work hours and on the weekend, I’ve resorted to ordering a children’s sticker/coloring activity book from the local bookseller (while helping a local business!). In case you’re wondering, it’s a Detective Pikachu Sticker Activity Book, promising “lots of games, puzzles, activities, plus lots of stickers”. I’m sold.

But despite all these inconveniences, I’m so grateful to be employed, and I don’t take for granted waking up everyday knowing I’ve 8-hours of paid work.

And this lockdown period has also forced me to slow down and focus on tasks at hand. A pre-Covid-19 me would be up by 5.15am to rush off for swimming at 6am, and dash off to work. A pre-Covid-19 me would pack my weekend with heaps of social gatherings, leaving no time for rest. But the forced-to-stay-indoors me have found more time to pray in the mornings, to finish reading my books, to re-watch my favorite movies, and to reconnect with friends (granted, my screen time has also gone up!).

Sometimes things can get overwhelming (yet another Covid-19 update), and when it does, I pause and meditate on my favorite verse, “He knows our frame, He’s mindful that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). In the midst of these anxious times, God remembers us, He remembers our weak frame, He’s got this, and that’s the comfort I need right now.

Fun fact:
UK author Michael Rosen’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt inspired a worldwide mass teddy bear hunt to help distract millions of children locked down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

London, United Kingdom

Hello mate,

The Prime Minister announced lockdown exactly a week ago now but it feels like a lot longer. Apart from one 6:30am trip to the supermarket and the daily exercise in the local park, I haven’t been outside and it’s not just me; all the cafes are shut, there’s no traffic on the roads outside our windows and, apparently, train journeys are down 95 per cent across the UK.

The panic-buying has eased and now there are just long, silent queues outside supermarkets, with people standing two metres apart all the way round the carpark. Everything has been eerily quiet as the capital adjusts to the new normal.

There have been lots of sad moments. Universities closed their doors and cancelled exams very quickly, taking away the ministry of campus-based Christian Unions and sending many students home far too soon. We’ve been broadcasting Bible studies each morning via Facebook Live from my study, but it’s not the same as being together.

Inside the flat, things are a bit emotional, too. One housemate is finding the increased expectations of her work really stressful, another is thinking about the boyfriend she is not allowed to see and my wife Lois is due to give birth in a week’s time. New government regulations stipulate that I may not be allowed to attend the birth. Not exactly how we pictured baby’s arrival.

The scariest thing is that the end is nowhere in sight. In almost every regard, the UK is precisely two weeks behind Italy on this; in terms of cases, fatalities and regulation. As the TV shows the death toll continue to climb over the continent in Italy, we know that that is exactly where we are headed.

In the midst of all this, we need to remember the hope Jesus offers. Last week, at our virtual CU meeting, I preached on the healing of the paralytic from Mark 2:1-11 and it has some pertinent lessons for us..

The paralysed man has some friends who are desperate to bring him to Jesus, the healer. The friends who bring the poor man drop him down through the ruined roof on a stretcher in front of Jesus and the crowd gathered round can see that his paralysis is his obvious problem.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralysed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

What a shocker. Why is Jesus talking about sin? Surely his physical condition is his pressing need?

Well, Jesus explodes our assumptions. First of all, our sin is humanity’s greatest problem and that’s something that has not changed with this pandemic. Secondly, Jesus is able and willing to forgive our sin. He died in agony on the cross to destroy our sin and rose victoriously to guarantee it is forgiven. He sends us His Spirit to assure us we are forgiven and that we have a place with Him in the new heavens and the new earth. The good newsin fact the best newsis that Jesus has come to solve our biggest problem.

As we continue to face the COVID-19 crisis, I cannot help but keep thinking about all my non-Christian friends. They are going through exactly the same as the rest of usbut without the assurance that comes from knowing Jesus has loved you and guaranteed you with His blood. That makes all the difference in the world. Let’s pray for a chance to share that hope—even if, for now, we’re having to be a bit more creative about the means.

Go well,

Fun fact:
A 101-year-old man from Rimini (Northern-Central Italy) beat COVID-19 (and survived the Spanish Flu and WWII)!

Turin, Italy

Dear friend,

It’s been two weeks now. 14 whole days of being ordered by the Italian government to keep inside our locked-up apartments.

If you had told me that I would be confined to the four walls of my apartment because of this very faraway virus from a very faraway place back in late December, well, not gonna lie—I would have thought you were having me on!

Yet, here I am! Many movies marathoned, hefty amounts of pasta consumed, a handful of piano performances for the Italian grandmas across the courtyard played, innumerable virtual meetings attended—and still one God who is completely and utterly sovereign over all!

As each day passes, the numbers here climb . . . it’s really quite shocking! To the point where the number of people suffering becomes a statistic, impersonal. I can barely imagine the pain of losing a relative, let alone only being able to say goodbye online and without a proper funeral. Each evening, at around 6pm, we hear of how many have passed away and how many new cases have been reported. It’s really sad.

But also, life continues and therefore ministry continues . . . and as most of the world has already done, we have adapted to online wizardry! From “real” and tangible meetings, done in “real” coffee shops with “real” students, drinking “real” Italian coffee, brewed by “real” hipsters . . . to drinking my poorly brewed “English” style Americano, in slacks, under a blanket, virtually connecting with our students who are all doing the same.

Although, “how” we do life has changed, the “what, why and who” remain the same. I praise God that we can continue to share His Word with each other, and for all the increased opportunities God has created for more to come to know Him!

One thing I want to pass on to you, is how God has been teaching me that He is indeed using this situation for His glory! I was reading Paul’s letter to the church in Rome this week, and this verse particularly struck me:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

And by “good”, Paul writes that we are being changed into the image of Jesus—all for His glory! God will work in this situation; He will continue to make us more like Him and He will continue to be glorified. The Word of God will continue to be shared, no matter what!—what an amazing truth!

If death could not hold Him, then I hardly think COVID-19 will.

So press on my friend, let’s keep trusting in Jesus and sharing the Good News for His glory.


Fun fact:
Malaysia has been so short on bread supply that two thieves were caught trying to steal a lorry stocked with Gardenia bread (it was eventually found over 200km away)!

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It’s been three weeks since I last stepped into my office.

The first week, I quarantined myself because I had a flu — and in the COVID-19 season, a flu is a big deal. My colleagues were relieved that I worked from home that week, and I was relieved that the doctor did a blood test and it came out clean.

The second and third week was when the Malaysian government imposed a Movement Control Order (MCO). There was to be no more going outdoors except to buy groceries, food, medicine and masks. As the government encouraged the “heads of households” to do so, my dad has been doing most of the shopping.

There is no more Sunday afternoon fellowship after church, no weekday lunches with colleagues, no catching up with friends, no date nights. It’s just my parents, grandparents, sister and me within the four walls of our home. It’s working from home and working out from home.

Living in a multi-generational home during this period comes with its own sets of blessings and challenges. The quarantine made us creative about our meals, which are together by default now—my mom started making bread at home thanks to a nationwide bread shortage, and I’m experimenting with Dalgona coffee and butter chicken. At the same time, the news is also on day and night, inducing an atmosphere of anxiety. Being in such close contact with my family has also meant that sometimes, we rub each other the wrong way.

As an introvert, I thought I would have it easier than some of my friends. But as the days passed, I started to miss human contact more and more. “No man is an island” means a whole lot more, even if I’d to make do with video calls for now.

I want to count down the days until things are back to normal, but with a possibility of the MCO being further extended, I know I have to adjust to a new normal. I find myself feeling trapped, restricted, and sad.

It takes deliberate effort for me to find things that I’m grateful for, but they are there. I have a roof over my head, food to eat for every meal, technology that keeps me productive and helps me stay connected with other people, and a steady job in a recession. Sure, I’ve had to cancel travel plans and settle for a temporary long-distance relationship, but I am very privileged—there are fellow Malaysians who have had to sleep in train stations, endure sleepless nights as COVID-19 frontliners, or lose their main source of income.

If there is anything I am convicted of during this season, it is the need to help the needy and vulnerable in our society. Amongst a backdrop of new cases and deaths, hearing about how selfless folks have been giving their all to help the poor even though they don’t have much themselves is like a balm to my soul. These people inspire me to find practical ways to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).

Aberdeen, Scotland

Like the rest of the world, the North of Scotland hasn’t escaped the reach of this pandemic. The UK officially went into lockdown on 23 March, but we started to feel the effects of the coronavirus a few weeks before that.

Starting from 12 March, the campus outreach ministries that I’m involved in, went from business as usual to having events cancelled, meetings banned and then campuses closed entirely within a few days. It was quite a shock for me and my students. Months of planning were now made obsolete; the mission field was dispersing, and levels of anxiety and fear amongst students were higher than I’ve ever seen them before.

It would be easy to think that with campuses being shut down, our campus mission would be too, but in the last few weeks it has been incredibly encouraging to see the students I work with do what they can to keep their mission active.

Some have offered to physically help students who are isolated by themselves, others have been reading the Bible with friends over video chat, and there have been regular online prayer meetings. However, a few of the students I work with are back home in very remote areas and are unable to communicate with us as phone and Internet services aren’t reliable, and in some places, unavailable.

Although I live and work in the city of Aberdeen, which is like most other UK cities, most of the North of Scotland is incredibly rural, a scenic and idyllic place ideal for isolation all year round.

Unfortunately, thousands of people have had the same thought—that they would see out the quarantine in the  “Bonnie Highlands”. In the Highlands and most of the islands off the coast of Scotland, there are few to none confirmed cases, so thousands escaping the cities to flock to these rural communities, where the population is most likely more vulnerable, could be disastrous. To see such a welcoming part of the world turn people away was a stark sign of just how fearful the response to this virus is. And that fear isn’t unique to these communities.

Personally, I am isolated in a flat by myself in the North of Scotland, while my family are in Ireland—a lot of them at high risk of not surviving should they get the virus. While on the phone with my 92-year-old grandmother the other day, both of us in isolation by ourselves, 340 miles apart, she burst into tears, saying that she hopes God spares her from this, and if she does, then we’ll have a family reunion with everyone invited.

What seems to be helping us through the fear is the thought of a post-COVID-19 world. People are holding onto the hope of seeing family, friends, going to the cinema or football matches—and everything else we’ve taking for granted— again.

I, too, look forward to that day, but I hope my excitement for that day is merely a fraction of the excitement and anticipation I have for the day when we will be united with Christ, when we will see him face to face, when fear will have ceased, and every tear is wiped away. How I long for that day.

Fun fact:
Scotland has 94 inhabited islands—a lot of these currently have no confirmed cases of Covid-19, so access from the mainland to these islands is currently prohibited.

Grand Rapids, USA

Dear friend,

I’m rounding out my second official week on lockdown, but I’m starting to feel like maybe I just shouldn’t keep track. What began as a three-week mandate will probably soon be extended as Covid-19’s impact continues to grow exponentially.

The reality of COVID-19 hit home hard for me on March 12 when one of my favorite musicians, Dermot Kennedy, announced that his concert the next day was canceled. My husband and I had bought tickets for this concert months ago, anticipating a sold out show. But just hours before it was to start, we found out it wouldn’t be happening.

On March 13, our governor would put a limit on social gatherings of 250 people (that limit has since been lessened even further). That same day, a friend’s birthday party was canceled. On March 14, it was a school event. The next week was full of additional cancellations—church groups, movie premieres, other parties, flights, trips—it felt like everywhere I turned, the next thing was falling off the list.

And I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I still haven’t crossed out any of those things on my calendar. For me, a full calendar is a happy one. It represents fun, variety, social connections, outings, entertainment, and if I’m honest—satisfaction and purpose.

I’m an extroverted person, and I find that people and conversation fill my tank, but these past few weeks, as activities, school, and outings have gone from slowing down to completely grinding to a halt, I’ve had to search my heart and question what happens when staying still is my only choice.

A few years ago, God laid a specific verse on my heart. It’s from Psalm 46:10, which says, “Be still, and know that I am God”. After committing this verse to mind for an entire year, my Bible study leader at the time gave me a piece of artwork with the verse on it, which now hangs on my wall as a daily reminder. As I’ve been spending a lot more time at home, I am thankful for this gift of biblical truth.

Depending on the day, different parts of this verse stand out more. Be still. And know. I am God.

He calls us to be still. A reminder that people, places, and events may be fun but can often be distractions of noise and hussle that get in the way of us sitting at the feet of our Maker and asking Him to direct our path and purpose.

He wants us to know that He is God. While the world swirls around us and the anxiety of another headline can push us to the brink, He is in and over it all.

And so, while my social outings have completely diminished, my spiritual awareness has been heightened. Now that I’m unable to talk through my issues with close friends, I’ve been challenged to bring my concerns and fears directly to God Himself.  

And God has started to peel back the layers of my heart to reveal the places where I’ve filled my need for Him with other engagements for too long.

If you’re feeling bummed about being on lockdown, I hope you’ll allow Him access to your heart over the next few weeks, too, and be challenged by what He uncovers and reveals to you.

Fun fact:
The US Navy has sent the USNS Comfort, a gigantic floating hospital ship, to dock in Manhattan (New York City). It has 1,000 hospital beds, 12 operating rooms and can have 2,000 people on board.

Some vectors taken from Freepik and Vecteezy.

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