Reflections from South Africa During COVID-19
By: Marilee Oldstone-Moore
My name is Marilee Oldstone-Moore and I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa from Ohio in January to start my year of service with YASC. My mission in South Africa is to develop the youth program at St. Michael and All Angels’ Church in Alexandra.
Since the beginning of the national lockdown I have been living in an empty church, and rarely see anyone except when I go to the store to buy groceries. My life here, as with many people around the world, feels entirely derailed by COVID-19. However, unlike many other missionaries, I was only two months into my term of service when all meetings at the church were suspended. I wasn’t even close to feeling established or having a work routine. My work, especially in these early stages is inherently interpersonal, and I’ve found it to be very difficult to continue working from home.
Outside of my challenges with work, I’ve found life during the lockdown to be an enormous struggle. As I mentioned, I am very isolated which is the exact opposite of how I prefer to spend my time. Staying connected has been a challenge, as I am still in the process of making friends in Johannesburg. Despite this, I have found myself supported by many people who love and care for me. I have friends here who have reached out and stayed in contact, as well as loved ones at home who I hear from regularly. We have started adding long distance movie nights and game nights along with regular calls.
During this time of physical isolation, I am constantly reminded that it is a human need to be connected and be in community. We are blessed to be able to reach out electronically, but we know that it is only a stopgap and eagerly await being truly together again. It reminds me how important religious communities are in many people’s lives. I am so grateful for the communities I am a part of and I am honored that my work here will help build such communities. Until that work can start again in earnest, I’ll be waiting as patiently as I can, aching to be together.