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Hope During Coronavirus

By Natalie Lindsey

Avery County

 

My husband and I recently returned from Europe during the current Coronavirus pandemic. While we were in the air heading to Europe, Trump announced banning travel to/from Europe. When we got settled in our hotel that afternoon in Barcelona, we did not know about his announcement but had received several emails and messages from loved ones worried about the fact that we had just arrived there. I must say that when I first saw one of the headlines in my email, I did feel a little panic but I also knew that I did not need to get too upset without knowing all of the facts. After prayer and some research, we knew that staying was the most logical plan for us at that time. We knew that the airports would be crazy with people trying to get back to America for the next few days. We trusted God for those answers and never felt that he was telling us, at any time, not to travel there or continue our journey.

We started out in Barcelona and stayed there for two nights. We enjoyed the city and went to the Picasso Museum and Guell Park, which were awesome. We also enjoyed a bus tour of the city with no Americans on the bus that second day. At the hotel our last night we met a young couple from England on the hotel rooftop. We were able to speak about God with them and enjoy the beautiful weather and view of the city. Little did we know that those two days in Barcelona would be the only days that would include our own plans. God had other plans for us.

We already had reservations to leave Barcelona by train that Saturday morning and made our way to a beach area on the west coast of France so my husband could enjoy some surfing. When we arrived in Lacanau, France we found out, by messages from the young English couple, that they could not go into the streets or even leave the hotel in Barcelona. Police were making everyone go back inside if they saw anyone out on the streets. This is one of the many and obvious places we saw God working in our journey. We left Barcelona and got into France just in time for Barcelona to close their borders.

France had not shut down their borders yet. We arrived late that afternoon. After we got settled, we went out for a meal and found a great little restaurant where we met some local surfers. They let us know that at midnight that night France ordered that only necessary services/shops could stay open, like groceries, pharmacies, and doctors. That next day was Sunday. We woke up each morning praying and reading our devotion for guidance and safety as we knew we would continue our journey until God let us know we needed to leave. We also enjoyed a church service online from our church in Banner Elk that morning. After our devotion, we left our Airbnb that morning to walk on the beach and saw people everywhere. Even though restaurants and shops were closed people were out enjoying life at the beach. It was a beautiful sunny day.

Because of the closings surf shops were also closed, yet we came there so that my husband could surf. We went back to our rental and decided to do some organizing of our packed clothes and other things. While doing this my husband slid the closet door open and guess what was in there? A wetsuit, just his size. The water was still cold so if he was going to surf, he needed one. We were not sure about a surfboard so I decided to contact our renter and ask him if he knew anyone that would be willing to rent a board. He replied that he was a surfer and that my husband was more than welcome to use his board. Our renter sent a friend to bring the board to us. Hello God! See how God not only cares about our safety and protection but he also wants us to be happy. He provided what we needed and more than we could have ever imagined during this trip as you will see.

Because of the shutdown, we could not enjoy the museums and sites we had planned to see on this trip so that afternoon we strived to contact our airline to change our return trip home to an earlier flight. I logged onto my account with the airline (I won’t mention which one) and they had canceled our trip home with no notice, not even an email. I sent a message to them online, which was their choice of communication during all of the hype. I received an email saying it would be 8-10 days before we would hear from them. We immediately prayed for guidance on this but felt a sense of peace despite what we had just seen online. We knew God would give us an answer. We did not expect an answer right away but knew that when it was his time, we would know what to do. The next morning, we woke up and I started looking for flights from Paris (which was the closest large city to us). We could not go or fly back out of Barcelona, as planned. I found a good price on tickets, so we decided to go ahead and buy the tickets. It felt right.

We went for a walk after we bought the tickets and I was once again reminded of God’s goodness and the fact that he protects us every step of the way. I found rocks with crosses on them as solid reminders that I could hold (see the pictures). It was His way of letting us know that we could trust His path for us on this trip. We never felt threatened by the virus or our situation. Our preacher sent this message to us after learning about some of the things we had already experienced God doing for us. “Remember two things: He is always with you (the rocks remind you of that) and do not be afraid (even of death-the cross reminds us of that).”

It is amazing what God can do during times that seem uncertain. Our blessings did not end on the coast. In fact, His blessings never end. We just have to be open to seeing them all around us. The transportation lines in France were starting to get canceled. Once again God got us out of the small town just in time. We also got an early train to Paris. It was a good thing that we arrived in Paris early that day because something else would happen to test our faith. We got off the train and walked straight to our hotel, which I had reserved the night before. When we arrived at the hotel there was a sign on the door stating that the government forced all hotels to close. As we stood there with our luggage in the street, we felt lost. We started walking down the small streets and saw very few people. We walked around a corner and saw another hotel. We saw people inside and the doors were open, so we walked in. I asked the person who worked there if they had any rooms for the next two nights. He stated that he was sorry but that he was actually waiting for his last guests to leave, who were in the lobby, and that he had to close once they left. We walked back out into the street and had that small moment of fear that we might be sleeping on the streets that night. All of a sudden, a French man came around the corner and asked us if we were ok. My husband told him that we were not sure what to do because all of the hotels were closing. He spoke very good English and said, “Find a policeman, they will help you.” My husband thanked him, and the man smiled and went on his way down the sidewalk. We walked toward the direction that the man had gone and found a fountain where we decided to sit and figure out our next step. We did not see the man again, he just disappeared. We both know we were sent a messenger from God.

Before our trip, I had a strong urge to buy a sim card for my phone so that I could use the hot spot if needed. I have never bought or used one overseas before. I felt that I needed it in case I could not get online for my work in some of the places that we planned to stay. Little did I know that I would be using it next to find us a place to stay in Paris. Thank you, Jesus, for the nudges and feelings you give us to do certain things. Trust those urges when you feel Him nudging. As we sat on the fountain in this big city there were not many people around and a homeless man was sitting near us reading a book. Empty buses were constantly coming and going in this small square. I turned on the hot spot on my phone so that I could get on my Airbnb account. I found places that were only two blocks away from us and messaged the owners to make sure they could rent the rooms to us right away. I received messages from two of the three immediately. I decided to rent one of the places and the owner let me know that someone would call me with directions on how to get into her place. I had not used the phone number with the sim card because it was a French number but thankfully it worked when the person called me. My battery was low on my phone and here is a place where God also showed his sense of humor despite the stressful situation. We arrived at the address the owner gave me for the apartment. The person who would give me directions called and gave me a code to get into the outside door of the building AND then a different code to get into a second entrance. We would take an elevator up to the 5th floor where we had to find a lockbox behind a door and then type in another code to get a key out that would open another door in that hallway. Inside that room, we had to find and open another lockbox (with another code) that would give us the key to our apartment, which was up another flight of stairs. Four different codes later we couldn’t help but laugh once we got into the cute little apartment with a great view of the city and Eiffel Tower.

We stayed there for two nights. Outside of the building, there was a large group of policemen watching the streets since there were restrictions for locals. After we got settled in our rental we went outside, and my husband asked one of the policemen for directions to the market/grocery store. He told us how to get there and saluted my husband with a smile when we left. They stayed outside our building day and night, which made us feel safe. That is what the messenger was telling us earlier that day when we did not know where to go.

Sometimes things do not go as planned. Europe was closing all around us, but God guided us in uncertain situations. He is always there whether we recognize it or not. We could see and feel Him in all aspects of our trip. We could also feel the prayers of our friends and family back home. We had good food, comfortable beds and rest, good exercise, rare views of empty cities, great weather, and reminders everywhere of his love for us during this trip. We also came home healthy and happy!

During this crisis, we cannot fear to live the life God gave us. God has this, whatever the outcome may be. Are we fearful and hiding because of the fear of sickness or death? Only God knows the plan for each of our lives. It is not for us to know or understand. I am not saying to go out and be “unsocially distant” but we cannot let fear take over our faith, joy, and trust in God. He has a plan for your life. What does that look like during this time? Ask him. Ask others to pray for you. Prayer can heal. Take this time to pray and talk with God about our world and your life. You can find joy in the midst of all of this. God is committed to taking what we perceive as bad and using it to bless us. Trust Him. His way is the only way to follow during these uncertain times. We have proof!

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him will I trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.” Psalm 91:1-4.

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Natalie Lindsey is an online Art History professor. She enjoys traveling, photography, and the outdoors. She attends Arbor Dale Presbyterian Church.

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