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Before the world changed...

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Before the world changed, I was in Zambia.

This was my last trip outside Australia’s borders. It was March 2020, and we’d heard about people hoarding toilet paper in Australia, but when I arrived in Zambia, things were still pretty quiet. Over my two weeks there, as we went from handshakes at the start of the trip to tapping elbows or feet at the end, we could see the changes begin to happen.

Since then, through two long lockdowns in Melbourne, I have journeyed (albeit via Zoom or emails) with partners in Africa and South Asia as nations have been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic in more ways than one.

These nations have endured difficult lockdowns which have been designed to reduce the numbers of COVID-19 infections, but have also caused many problems of their own. Things like increased hunger, higher rates of domestic violence and months and months of schooling lost to children who may never return to the classroom. Even before the current shocking outbreaks in India and neighbouring countries, there were many days when I have had no words, just tears.

I am sure that God is also shedding tears, watching as his precious creations are lost to this disease and the violence and greed that are exacerbating it. And he has seen them, and heard them, when they have no words left. In a still, small voice he is speaking to them, and invites us to do the same, saying, “Things are not OK, but you are not alone”.

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Jenny on her last trip to Zambia before COVID-19

Back at home, I’ve been so grateful to be able to retreat to a coffee shop, go to a park with my kids, and even go to church in person again! Yet my days are spent with my body in Melbourne and my mind in places where there has not been relief from COVID, or where COVID is back worse than before, or where it has just been another confounding factor in an already very challenging context.

It's hard for me to find words to explain how grateful I have felt to Tearfund’s supporters over this past year. Thanks to their generosity, I have so often been able to say to our project partners: “Yes, I think we can help with that.”

“We need to help our local clinic staff be prepared; they are afraid and don’t have enough PPE or even hand washing facilities.”

“Yes,” I say, “I think we can help with that.”

“Didi, we are in a lockdown and our self-help group members can’t earn and we would like to give them some food and vegetable seeds so they can manage.”

“Yes,” I respond, “I think we can help with that.”

“There have been cyclones that have caused much flooding in our area and our people have lost their crops just before harvest.”

“Yes,” the reply comes, “I think we can help with that.”

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“Sister, there were children who never came back to school after COVID, and some because they have children of their own now. We want to make sure the schools in our area will not spread COVID so children will come back and stay back.”

“Yes, we can help with that.”

“We can help with that because there are friends in Australia who have seen your tears and listened to the father who has heard your prayers, and so we are able to help.”

Things are still far from OK. But our partners and the communities they work alongside are not alone. Bound together by a God who sees the tears, we are still all in this together.

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Jenny Beechey is the Tearfund International Program Officer – Africa

Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).