Our new semester started as our previous one ended – in lockdown. Melbourne went into a 14 day lockdown in May, successfully bringing a small outbreak of the COVID Delta variant to an end. We reinvented our graduation service and final farewells and, despite everything, had a great end to the semester. David quipped to the staff team – ‘now we’ve reinvented every week of the semester except for week one.’
A few weeks later there was another outbreak of the Delta variant in Sydney, which is still growing. Our plans to go to a CMS conference followed by a holiday in New South Wales were hastily rearranged. We enjoyed a last minute, low key, but very relaxing break in country Victoria. We watched the NSW outbreak grow and Victoria’s border with our neighbour hardening by the day. This meant that our trainees for the second semester faced the possibility of not being allowed into Melbourne at all. Most of our new group were able to arrive at St Andrew’s Hall without having to go into quarantine. Two couples came from ‘red zones’ in Sydney and have started the semester confined to their apartments for the first 14 days in quarantine.
We are very aware that, despite Melbourne experiencing six months of hard lockdown in the last 18 months, we have been spared so much of the horror of COVID. Our hearts go out to friends and family in the UK and to missionary friends and colleagues around the world. Reading their prayer letters has been heart-rending. One couple, serving in South West Uganda, lost their Diocesan Bishop and a leader in their local bible college from COVID within a few weeks of each other. Lord, have mercy.
And now, sure enough, our team has reinvented the first week of St Andrew’s Hall. Week one is such an important week in our course. It is where we get to know each other, establish relationships and build our learning community. We’ve always thought that it would be the hardest week to do online. And yet … we’ve had a fantastic week. We have listened to one another’s testimonies at a depth and vulnerability that I don’t think we have heard very often before. Of course, we long to be face to face again, and it looks as though that will happen quite soon, but we’re off to a fantastic start.
During the break between our semesters, we worked hard on completing parts of the fit-out of the new buildings. David vigorously swept out a ventilation space under the stairs, which had masses of builders dust in it. Who knew that dust sets off smoke alarms? It was good to discover that our fire alarm system works well and that Melbourne Fire Brigade is very efficient. We are hoping that they are as merciful as they are prompt and that we won’t have to pay the false alarm fee. We are adept constructors of Ikea furniture having put together 9 Kallaxes, 13 Poangs and a range of other items with interesting names. Our Allen key skills are very well developed.
Tom, Mia, Ziggy and Adelaide are well. Mia has recently returned to work so Rachel is looking after the children one day a week, which is a great joy. Having avoided COVID almost completely last year, Sam and Melanie in Darwin had a short lockdown recently. Their travels out into remote Indigenous communities were put on hold for a bit. Australia has been extremely aware of the particular risk that COVID would place on Aboriginal communities who already struggle with poor health outcomes. Jono and Lizzie’s house sale went through and they have loved moving into their own home. They have worked wonders in their small garden and have coped with life in London through the pandemic with great resilience.
Throughout COVID, our greatest heartache has been the impossibility of international travel from Australia. We long to see family and friends in the UK again. Despite this sadness, we are so grateful for the technology that allows us to speak to one another and see each other’s faces, and all at no cost. So different to when we first arrived in Kenya in 1999 and were communicating by aerogram.
With our love and best wishes,
David and Rachel.
Picture at top of page: The crèche at St Andrew’s Hall.
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