It’s been a tough couple of weeks…..God has taken us to the wire, left things hanging until the 11th hour…..and then He has delivered in spades….more than we could ever have asked or imagined!
Going back to where it started….
We hadn’t seen Walter’s mother for almost 5 years, and as parents get older, that becomes even more significant. We were keen to see her. I was hanging out to see my long-term childhood friend Kathy, particularly after her father passed away last year. And, of course there were other family members and friends we wanted to see. So we planned a 2 month trip to South Africa, departing Australia on Thursday 26 March 2020. Or so we thought.
A few complexities…
Having sold up our home in Sydney a few years ago, we’ve been on the move ever since, spending time in Italy, Argentina and Canada amongst others. Brisbane became our chosen Australian location due to the rapid deterioration in my mother’s health due to level 4 melanoma. Leading up to our planned South Africa trip, we had been the most settled we’d been for a while, having spent close to 12 months in a rental apartment alongside the river in Kangaroo Point, Brisbane.
Uncertain where we would be going following our trip, but feeling that it was time to uproot again, we gave up our rental. It was all planned to perfection. We’d move out on the Monday – putting out furniture in a storage facility – catch up with my mother on Tuesday, fly to Sydney on Wednesday for appointments and fly out to Johannesburg on the Thursday.
The best-laid plans of mice and men…
No matter how much we plan, things change and our planning can be wiped out in an instant. Or maybe they just start unravelling.
We’d all been aware of COVID-19 for a while. We’d been impacted by it a little bit when we’d visited Auckland for a conference of people from all over the world at the end of January. (http://mitchell.news/2020/03/03/forums-family-friends-fun/) Our good friends in Italy were sharing some of their experiences and we were concerned about them. You may have already read my blog 3 weeks ago (http://mitchell.news/2020/03/12/covid-19/). We knew things were shifting, we recognised that there may be some impact on us, but I don’t think anywhere in our wildest dreams did we realise how quickly lives across the globe were going to be thrown upside down and the difficult decisions we were going to have to make. And how much we would have to rely on God to make wise decisions and pull us through.
Making wise decisions…
As things were starting to come to a head in Australia and “smartraveller” was recommending reconsidering travel plans, we came to a point that we were seriously considering cancelling our long-awaited trip. We knew we’d disappoint so may people as they’d been hanging out for our visit for a year. By the same token, we didn’t want to put them in jeopardy by transporting a virus across the world. We didn’t want them to be responsible for us if we had to be in quarantine or were stuck in the event borders were closed. We knew that travel insurance wouldn’t pay for us to cancel in pandemic conditions, but also that they wouldn’t cover us if we went under Australian travel restrictions. We were determined to trust God, so didn’t want to get caught up in a panic response. But we also didn’t want to test Him and make unwise decisions.
On Friday 13 March, as we were praying, I felt strongly that if Qantas offered us a 12 month credit with no fees, we should take it. Walter was in agreement. On Monday morning, we received an email from our travel agent to say that’s what Qantas were doing. I know I shouldn’t be, but I was gobsmacked – God knows each hair on my head and He cared right down to the detail.
By Tuesday, everything was cancelled and we’d broken the difficult news to our friends and relatives across the Indian Ocean. Then on Wednesday, Australia’s travel advice change to “Do not travel”. Not only had God answered our prayers, but He’d graciously guided us in making a wise decision before the choice was thrust on us.
Getting over the next hurdle…
Making the decision not to go to South Africa did not stop us from having to get out of our home as a new tenant was moving in the following day. We’d booked an Airbnb apartment nearby that we’d stayed in before to tide us over until our flight. We met up with the owner to get keys the week before as she was going away, and over coffee we discovered that there had been confusion with dates. She was expecting us 3 days later. To cut a long story short, God intervened once more and we managed to work out a solution, a better one which meant we had somewhere to stay until the Friday. We had to move out after that as she’d sold the apartment and settlement was happening at the end of the month. Just another challenge to add to the list.
On the move again…
We hired a van to shift stuff from our old storage facility to the new one with larger unit. By the following Monday, 23 March, we were ready for the arrival of the removalists and the move of the rest of the furniture and boxes went almost without a hitch. Yippee!
Given we didn’t have a place to live, we considered a roadtrip to Sydney, stopping off along the way to visit friends. A breather before looking for a place to live. We knew there was a risk that borders to NSW may close, but certainly didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it did. Very soon that idea was put to bed.
Next step was to run around visiting rental properties. Attending open inspections whilst trying to keep social distancing meant lining up stairwells and generally manoeuvring around other prospective tenants. Nothing looked like it did in the photos on the internet, and the dirty, cigarette smoke smelling interiors of the places we saw did nothing to encourage us. What was heartening were the people that were so generous, offering spare rooms and generally going out of their way to help.
By Wednesday, knowing that 10am Friday was our deadline for vacating the current place, we were beginning to feel a little flustered. We had started looking at Airbnb as an alternative but still hadn’t booked anything. We were worried that Australia may soon go into lockdown as had happened in other countries. We had found a great option but it was a little expensive and communication was challenging as the owners are stuck in Italy and dealing with their own stress!
Whilst arranging everything and ending up waiting until the Thursday to get it all finalised was extremely stressful, we are ecstatic with the result! Le Moray, a little 52 square metre apartment with extensive views overlooking the Brisbane River, is gorgeous, clean and beautifully set up. Thank you to Martina & Phil for pulling out all stops to get it to work and for enabling us to look after your home whilst you’re away. (https://www.lemoray.com/)
Choosing to look at Airbnb properties turned out to be the best decision we made. In addition to being able to live in a stunning spot, we didn’t have to move furniture again for now, there’s a branch of our favourite bakery 2 minutes up the road and as long as they’re saying we can exercise, the riverside running tracks are at the door. God has done “immeasurably more than we asked or imagined, according to His power that is at work in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Looking back …
I believe that we made the right decision to move from our apartment. If we hadn’t been made to persevere, we wouldn’t have increased our dependence on God or built the character . (Romans 5:3-4 3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
I believe we made the right decision to select an Airbnb apartment where we can bless the owners who themselves have been stuck in a difficult situation. God has honoured our obedience, answered out prayers and provided us with a sanctuary where we can seek to help others and continue the work He has us do.
A humbling experience…
A few years ago, I was living in a multimillion-dollar property in Sydney, last week I was begging for accommodation. Whilst I have never considered myself to be consumerist, and the last few years there’s been an even greater intentional focus on letting go and focussing time and effort on helping others. But this experience has taken it to a new level, relying on the love of others and the grace of God. It’s been both sobering and character building.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart…
We have received judgement – hindsight is a wonderful thing – we have been given advice and we have been blessed by an outpouring of support and assistance from at times the most unexpected of sources. I’m not going to mention names, you know who you are and I don’t want to leave anyone out, but I’m going to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for your unwavering love, support and prayers during this difficult time. Right now looking back, I almost can’t imagine why I was so concerned- but I am so grateful for the pillars of support God provided.
It’s not the end yet….
Now that we are settled in our gorgeous little place, we know that there are so many others struggling out there. We pray for them and hope that we can in some way provide some of them with support in the same way that others did for us
To repeat what I wrote on my previous post:
There is strength in solidarity, power in unity. Let the old saying “United we stand, divided we fall” be our motto. May we stand together even if physically apart