Lewis Jones’s blogs about Covid’s impact on the way we think about the future, prompted KARINE WOLDHUIS* to reflect on her time in Ecuador, where discussions about plans often ended with “God willing”. Fatalistic or realistic? Read on
One of the strange things I had to get used to in Ecuador was a lack of planning. Even organising to see a friend the next day often ended with a ‘Si Dios quiere’ – ‘God willing’. It struck me, in my western mind, as a little fatalistic. Tomorrow was just around the corner; couldn’t we commit to a plan? But really it was just the way things were. Life was so unpredictable that, culturally, planning too far ahead was not the done thing. What would be the point? There may not be money for the bus, a landslide might cut the road, government unrest or some other unforeseen crisis may strike.
Life is lived so much more in the now and a little of tomorrow. You need to flex with what any given day may throw at you and be willing to meet the challenge of that moment. In our minds, it felt like we were living ‘la vida loca’ (a crazy life), but our brains were just functioning out of a more rigid mindset of predictability and a sense that we could control our schedules, our surroundings and our lives. We needed to learn to embrace the continual shifting of what would, could or did happen next. We had to accept that our already laid out plans were just one of the factors that came into play.
I lost count of the number of times someone I’d organised to meet with didn’t show up. At first, I found it somewhat confounding, and a little disillusionment set in. But I learned always to be prepared to occupy my time as I waited for the flexible arrival period of at least half an hour and – another half after that – just in case. Then I brazenly began to double book some of my mentoring catchups, finding that at least one would not be able to make it and never having a problem of both showing up. Although, if that did happen, it would have been just fine.
A crisis comes and people swing into action
I learned to unpack my expectations and my schedule. More than one thing planned for a morning? Not advisable!
Like the time I drove to the kids’ school for an errand and found on the return, a tree had fallen on the one lane road. Too big to push aside, no room to manoeuvre around, I kicked myself for not having a machete as part of my car’s emergency kit. What was to be a 20-minute drive turned into an adventure of a few hours as we went for a trek to find the nearest neighbour with said machete.
I learned to lower my expectations that my cycling buddy would actually turn up at the agreed 5am start for an adventure up some new Andean mountain. A solitary ride was OK, but not nearly as much fun. My buddy was the magical dog whisperer who would successfully navigate us past intimidating street dogs with a firm reprimand (rabies is still present in Ecuador). Those morning adventures were relegated to a safe suburban ride more often than I wished.
But living without the same degree of cushioning from life’s shocks allows for stronger family and community ties. A crisis comes and people swing into action. A family member getting sick means that the whole family pulls together to buy the needed medicine. I remember the time when both girls of a family from church ended up in hospital with broken legs (waiting at the bus stop for the school bus with drunk drivers on the road can be perilous). Our whole church community gathered around to meet medical needs, financial needs, spiritual intercession, plus toys and puzzles to occupy the girls stuck in their hospital bed and during the months of recuperation.
A lesson on leaning on the One who is in control
Perhaps much of the majority world has been able to understand COVIDs constraining power over our future more readily because it is merely an extension of an already lived reality. It is one additional crisis point for an existence with many such points on the journey.
And perhaps with our current Covid experience in Australia we can now better understand how the concept of time is held more loosely by many in the majority world. Sure, it brings its fair share of uncertainty and angst. But with some of our cushioning being stripped away in this loss of control, we have the opportunity to live a simpler, slower life with perhaps a bit more grace for ourselves and each other as we lean into the One who remains in control.
As believers, we have direct access to the One who holds all of time in his hands. We are in a family that has all the resources we need for life and godliness in this present age. We are a community of faith made up of those who have every reason to pull together in a time of crisis, to meet the needs of others this day that’s in front of us, whether it’s patient listening, extra cash or deep prayer. The Alpha and Omega continues to work out his purposes in this COVID moment and calls us as always to rest, to trust, to go on and do the good deeds he’s prepared for us, today.
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
* Karine Woldhuis is a member of the Gospel, Society and Culture committee. She lived for 12 years in Ecuador with her family serving as missionaries with SIM. In 2017, she began a new ministry as co-lead of For Freedom, SIM’s global anti-trafficking and exploitation ministry. Karine has a degree in Business and International Studies UTS; a Graduate Diploma of Bible and Ministry (SMBC); a Master of International Social Development (UNSW); and is currently studying for a graduate certificate in pastoral supervision. The Woldhuis family is back in Australia. Karine’s husband, John, is the pastor at Wahroonga Presbyterian Church in Sydney.
Ecuador Photo: Karine and John Woldhuis prepare for an unplanned experience in the mountains. Photo provided by the Woldhuises