A collection of pandemic related stories from alumni about finding peace and provision over the last year.
“Already Set Up to Handle a Pandemic” – by Janelle Ganson (’00), Rock Hill, South Carolina
The pandemic really changed very little for us. My husband’s financial planning job continued, although now it included more Zoom meetings. Our homeschool group kept on meeting with only minor adjustments. Even our house church was so used to doing things “differently” that it didn’t feel like we missed a beat. We usually meet as a series of house churches all but one Sunday of the month, so although we ended up meeting in a combination of small groups and Zoom, we still connected with one another every Sunday in worship and discussion like normal. Strangely enough, it felt as though our lives were already pretty set up to handle a pandemic!
“Seeing God’s Gifts and Provision” by Kaitlyn Simmons (’16,’17), Urbana, Ohio
This pandemic has led my husband and me deeper into thankfulness. As the pandemic raged on we realized afresh what the Lord had given us– steady income, spacious shelter, health, and time to pursue our outdoor passions of hiking, camping, and outdoor trail and park skating. We saw the difficult decisions the people around us had to make. We saw racial inequality and injustice. We saw jobs lost, incomes cut in half, and the difficulties of virtual learning, working from home, and extra-long hours for essential workers. In contrast, we’ve enjoyed learning and growth in our relationship as we stayed put after having moved four times in our first two years of marriage. While others remember 2020 as a time of chaos and hardship, our family will always remember this season for its gifts and fresh understandings of God’s provision.
“Introvert Finds Peace in Pandemic” by Anna Mullady (’00,’02), Cincinnati, Ohio
I’m an introvert and devour alone time. When my public school kids went remote a year ago, solitude became a scarce commodity. I started taking our pup, Sora, for walks every morning in our Cincinnati neighborhood before my husband left for work and every evening after dinner. These walks have uncovered the rhythms of my neighbors: two friends on their own daily walk, the dad buckling his daughters into their car seats, the man crossing the street to carry his elderly neighbor’s newspaper to the porch. My walks have also unveiled the rhythms of nature. In the cold months, they take place in the dark. Weeks pass, the morning sky brightens, painted with the sunrise rising over rooftops and oaks. The evening shifts from pale to navy blue as the setting sun pulls down the shade and the stars pop out behind it. And all the glorious alone time this introvert craves.
“Peace with God through Multiple Health Crises – in the Midst of a Pandemic” by Barbara Ann Miller (‘67), Jeffersonville, Indiana
Late afternoon of March 3, 2020, my husband Omar was preparing to change the oil in his truck. I called him to supper while standing on our porch. When he didn’t respond, I went to the truck and immediately saw that something serious had happened. At the University of Louisville Hospital he was treated for a stroke that left him with severe weakness on his left side. Thankfully, his mental status was clear, his speech only slightly slurred, and both short and long term memory excellent.
After his treatment and rehab, I was able to care for him at home until I became desperately ill and had emergency surgery for partial small bowel resection on May 9. During my surgery and rehab our daughter came home and cared for Omar. She was able to get him into another rehab facility to work on improved mobility, and I stayed with our oldest son and his family most of June as I regained my strength.
Then in July Omar fell at the rehab facility, fracturing his left hip. After surgical repairs and rehab, we were hoping to bring him home, but he developed a bleeding duodenal ulcer that needed urgent treatment. Finally in September we brought him home although his mobility remains poor and physical therapy continues.
COVID magnified the isolation we were already feeling. We missed the sweet fellowship of our church people. For the first time in our lives, we were home seven days a week. No mid-week prayer meeting, Sunday School, or worship. Eventually we joined the zoom Sunday School and worship live stream, but it doesn’t replace our need and desire to be with fellow believers.
I am so grateful for the comfort I’ve found in Scripture. One day I read I Thess. 5:16-18, “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s easy to be thankful for obvious good things that come our way, but it’s hard to remember to be thankful when health issues, difficult decisions, and other adversities enter our lives. Along with this Scripture, I remembered an old song, Thanks to God for My Redeemer. The second verse says, “Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered; thanks for what Thou dost deny; thanks for storms that I have weathered; thanks for all Thou dost supply; thanks for pain and thanks for pleasure, thanks for comfort in despair; thanks for grace that none can measure; thanks for love beyond compare.”
These words resonated with me as I reflected on the blessing of adversity. Our Lord understands what we need to grow in our walk with him. Despite how difficult our journey is, we rest in his sovereignty. We know our loving God will always be there, providing comfort and protection through adversity and challenging times. My deepest desire is that I be found faithful.
Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
– I Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Unexpected Surgery and Family Transitions” by Dawn Neff (‘86), Ronks, Pa.
Sometime in 2019 I developed a rare condition called achalasia that prevented food from going down properly through my esophagus. Thankfully I was able to remain COVID free and get permission to have the essential surgery I needed on April 16. My husband was also able to be home to care for me, and now I’m enjoying food again.
Our daughter and grandson who had came from the Dominican Republic for a visit made it back to the airport just two days before travel shut down. She was pregnant and due in a few months. Then when travel opened again we were able to go down to the DR to meet our new granddaughter. Two weeks later our daughter called to say, “We got our visa and are moving to the U.S.” This was after two cancelled appointments! Soon I was gathering furnishings for them and after only a month of living with us, God provided a place for them to live, a car, a job, and a Spanish-speaking church. It’s been quite a year. I hope these God stories encourage you as they have us!
“Mourning the Loss of Three Loved Ones” by Nate (’78) and Sheri (’77,’78,’79S) Peachey, Greensboro, N.C
My mother passed away in early 2020. She did not die of COVID, but it defined her funeral. We could not mourn her death with her church community. Instead, we had a private graveside service with my brothers and our wives along with just a few cousins. Later in the year, Sheri lost her mother to COVID. And then at the end of the year, she lost one of her few remaining aunts to COVID as well. 2020 was a year of loss. It took from us so much of what we had come to think of as “normal.”
And yet, it is often in these dark nights of the soul that God’s divine presence surrounds us in new ways. 2020 was a year of slowing down, of quiet; an opportunity to hear God more deeply and clearly than in the bustle of our frenetic lives. Sheri and I spent a weekend on a silent retreat at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center located here in North Carolina. We spent most of the time alone in nature and in a posture of contemplative listening to God, resting in his presence. We came out of that weekend refreshed and renewed, reminded that God’s divine presence remains with us.
Life will probably never go back to what was “normal” pre-pandemic. And maybe this is for the better. I certainly hope we have learned that the fast-paced frenzy of our lives should be called into question. Hopefully, we have learned to enjoy the quiet and to simplify our lives in ways that help us both hear God and listen more authentically to those in our communities. All those things we thought we were in control of… well, losing control and resting may be one of the more valuable lessons of 2020.
“Finding Peace Among the Peaches” by Amanda Miller (’06-‘08) Hutchinson, Kansas
Nature was beginning to stretch and yawn, waking up and coming to life in brave green shoots and warm fresh sunshine. But just then the rest of world reacted in opposite fashion — shutting down and closing up in a bewildering snap. Everyone knew Spring was coming; no one knew COVID was coming.
Suddenly I was home, alone with the chickens and all the time each day brought. I couldn’t remember not having a job (or three or four), but when the place you work is shut down for six weeks, it feels pretty close to being unemployed. My personality tends to focus on being productive and getting things done, so having my jam-packed schedule wiped clean with the Lysol wipe of COVID was disorienting. And frustrating.
I had a lot to do. I needed those paychecks. I wasn’t even comfortable yet in this farmhouse we were transitioning into, and now I was stuck here and only here. So God and I spent a lot of time together, just being. I’m good at doing, not so much at being — but that strange hiatus from normal life gave me so much time to breathe and rest. The year and half since my husband’s farming accident had been intense, to say the least, and finally I had the chance I needed to catch my breath.
My favorite memory is the hours I spent in our little orchard, unhurriedly and inefficiently pruning the trees, breathing in deep the grace of slowness. The apple blossoms smelled like truth in the midst of so much uncertainty; the branches I lopped off looked like familiar bittersweet pruning.
As the nameless days unfolded, I found peace among the peaches. I learned to embrace the chance to let go of busyness, to claim our house as our home; I finally had a space to call ours, and the time to enjoy it. Looking back I see it as the training period for my next season of life: the one where I now get to stay home again, this time with the child(ren) I’ve always prayed for. That “trial run” helps me wake up to a day without a busy schedule or official compensation knowing I have the best job of all: living in the moment with the people I love in the space I love for the glory of the God I love. I can spend all day trying to make the baby smile, handling foster care phone calls, or chatting with friends, not a “productive” thing in sight: and it’s okay, even good. I am allowed to breathe in the process of being present all the way through.
It seems silly to write this story, so extremely insignificant in the scope of pandemic effects. I know it’s not the “normal” experience. But it’s my story, the grace I was given in that season extending into this season. Spring is here again; we’ll see how pruning goes this year.