Everyone approaches change differently. Many people cling to the old times and wait for them to return. Some people become obsessed with planning for the future. Some people only live for today. The one thing that’s common to everyone is change is inevitable. People get older, economies shift, jobs are lost, people die. The saying “the only thing constant is change” exists for a reason. So how do we respond to change in a healthy way?
In running an orphanage, escorting and guiding children through change is a big part of the job. In every way, their old lives are over and not coming back. Just like our reaction to the death of a loved one or any other extreme loss, there are stages of accepting change. A child arriving at an orphanage, if they are old enough to know what’s going on, goes through all the stages of grieving: denial, anger, depression, and ultimately acceptance. Although the stages of grief can blend together and are different for everyone, the end goal is always acceptance. The ability to look at what’s happened, accept it, and move on the best we can is critical. This does not mean we forget the past; it just means the past no longer controls us. We don’t live in the past, hoping it returns. We use what we’ve learned to move forward. To live for today and make plans for the future.
In an orphanage setting, we seek to help a child emotionally leave their old life behind. The sooner they realize and accept their past life is gone, the sooner they can build a new life and move into something better.
Humanity is currently going through a collective grieving process. Not just for the people who’ve already died from COVID, but we grieve our old way of life that is not coming back. OK, I know that just writing that is going to bother a LOT of people, but it is true, our old way of life is not coming back. The sooner we grieve for our old life, and reach acceptance, the sooner we can move into our new and very different lives.
Many people are still in denial of what is going on around us. “When COVID passes, things will go back to the way they were.” “Once there is a vaccine, we can get on with our lives.” With each passing week, our old world is fading away, and the sooner we realize it’s not coming back, the sooner we can move on. Change is inevitable; how we deal with that change matters.
We all know people in the service industry who are out of work, or their work has changed dramatically. I know people who travel and work in the convention industry, that’s not coming back any time soon. How many thousands of people work in sports arenas that are now out of work? I’ve done a lot of “extra” work in film and TV as a side hobby (yes, missionaries have hobbies) I know so many people working in the film industry whose careers have been upended. Some estimates are that 50% of ALL restaurants will never re-open or can’t survive under the new rules. We may not see live sporting events or large concerts for years. We are living in a new world.
Most of my adult life has been about caring for orphans and hosting short-term mission teams. There will always be orphans (more now than ever), but how we care for them is changing. As for short-term missions, this is just one more area that is gone for the foreseeable future, and the ripple effects are enormous. There are so many support businesses for short-term missions that nobody considers. There are van rental companies that only existed to rent to mission teams. Some small families made a living catering to mission teams. The many impactful service projects that teams worked on are not happening this year. In a “normal” year, our teams would build about twelve homes for local families, this year we’re building one. The teams who make our children’s Christmas so special will not be coming this year. The impact of the loss of mission teams is vast.
Along with the effect on the communities who received short-term teams, the teams themselves have lost out on incredible, life-changing experiences. We hear from leaders every week who grieve the loss of the trips they’ve built their years around. We hope they can return someday, but in the meantime, we pray that God helps them through the process of moving forward with this genuine loss in their lives.
As long as we live in this world, the things around us will change. Change is out of our control, but we can control how we react to change. We need to remember that we have an unchanging God on our side. He knows what we’ve been through, and He knows what’s coming down the road. He needs to be our rock in the middle of the raging, crashing river of change flowing around us. Cling to the knowledge that whatever is going on around us, God is in control. As a child rests in their parent’s arms during a storm, we can rest in our God.
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