The following dated entries are from my personal journal in the midst of COVID-19.
March 27, 2020
Your girl’s living through a pandemic. Coronavirus swept through so quickly that the U.S. has the highest amount of cases now, even higher than China and Italy. It’s insane, and we’ve been cooped up in the house self-quarantining. So is the rest of the world. School has obviously been canceled. The Lord has a way of bringing us together and this time has given me the opportunity to get closer to Him. With all the panic and uncertainty, it’s so important who I choose to rest in. I pray it’s always Him. I’m living in history! Just wanted to document the days, we start remote learning in two weeks which is new. See you then…
May 7, 2020
It’s been a little over a month, and the stay-at-home order is supposed to be lifted tomorrow. I have mixed feelings because I thought it was going to be extended, but I think businesses are going to slowly open back up. I want to see my friends so badly but if everyone rushes back out, coronavirus cases are going to rise again. They’re sort of plateauing right now, but I see people on social media hanging out everyday so no one really cares.
May 21, 2020
Today is my last day as a sophomore in high school. Writing to you 20 minutes before my last four classes start virtually. Didn’t imagine my year would be ending off like this.
I didn’t imagine my year would end in the same virtual space with soaring coronavirus cases. As I hinted at my faith in the March journal entry, at this point I can say this pandemic has been a blessing. Now I’m not simply an optimistic Christian who blindly places everything in the hands of God while ignoring all the precautions, isolations, and loss of hope. I’m a human who has had all the time in the world with my thoughts just like everyone else. My relationship with God determines some differences in this journey, which shows the beauty of each person’s experience in this life-changing pandemic.
I am a structured person. I like planners and routines that allow me to be secure knowing I’m in control. This applied to my life too; I had school everyday followed by martial arts practice, with somewhere to go on Saturday and church on Sunday. This was normal life without any second thoughts. Coronavirus made its intentions clear from the beginning as people’s homes transformed into bunkers around the world, which combated my daily life. School being transferred to an online setting, no news about practice, and no plans over the weekend didn’t affect me as much as not being able to go to church.
I may sound like a terrible Christian for expressing this, but church was the last thing I thought would be on my mind amidst everything going on. My family is from Ethiopia and my dad was always working on Sundays, so I grew up following my mom’s denomination at an Ethiopian Orthodox Church. My mom and I were donned in traditional Ethiopian dresses as my brothers wore button downs and jeans or khakis. I’d step in eyeing everyone else who looked like me, with a distinct connection to the fellow first generation teenagers whose primary language was English. This created a barrier as the pastors catered towards our parents by speaking in Ahmaric and Tigrinya. We kids delivered worship songs in these familiar languages which some were fluent in. I wasn’t and am still not. I appreciated all of the cultural pieces intact with a gist of deeming God almighty.
I didn’t go to church one Sunday, then the next, and then the next. COVID-19 settled in and interrupted this part of my life which I was initially okay with. Scrolling through Tik Toks inhabited my newly revised quarantine routine, which introduced the pastor Craig Groeschel. I’d watch the 30 second to one minute clips of him preaching and I felt bad. I didn’t feel the same zeal about Christianity, granted he’s a pastor, but I wanted his passion. I found online services that were offered every Sunday under Life Church, which Groeschel founded. I went to my first service where the English worship songs engulfed me as much as the Holy Spirit, with a pretty diverse makeup of singers on stage. Instead of the Ethiopian pastor cloaked in his robe, a white man in a button down and skinny jeans was introducing the service with prayer on my screen. What was happening?
As soon as I adapted to a new definition of church, I recognized that the message drew me in. I continued my following spree on social media by following Groeschel on instagram and Life Church on TikTok. I went to service after service and watched the sunset as I worshipped. My church attendance was ideal for the “perfect Christian,” but my heart was challenged like no other time in my life. I learned that identifying as a Chrisitan and going to church wasn’t enough. I had to develop a daily habit of reading the Bible, have a giving heart, and form a relationship with God. I learned my walk with Him throughout my life was guided by my parents being Christian, my Ethiopian friends being Christian, and my privilege in the United States identifying as a Christian. Coronavirus had to happen for me to genuinely take the time to distinguish relationship from religion.
I’m more secure in myself than I’ve ever been, which is contradictory to how much COVID has racked our world. This is partly due to my vulnerability with myself, but all glory goes to God. This isn’t a stopping point for me to get comfortable with because look where that got me before coronavirus: nowhere. I know that following God is a choice I make every day and no routine will ever overshadow the flaws I have. This pandemic brought everyone out of their normal day to day groove prompting empathy, so we’re going to get through this together. We’ve all bettered ourselves in this time and I know I have a rock who will never leave me nor forsake me.