A Letter from Cobbie and Dessa Palm, serving in the Philippines
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And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to God’s purpose.
We had planned a personal trip to the U.S. in early December to share the Christmas holidays with my mother. Although the pandemic had been raging in both the Philippines and the United States, and flights were limited, we persevered. Finally, a window opened for us to fly across the Pacific.
The journey was like no other I had ever experienced. Our local airport was practically empty of passengers. Still, stations were set up as steps to hurdle, beginning with the military checkpoint at the terminal entrance, making sure we had all the required papers and clearances, followed by the medical checkpoint just inside where our temperature was taken. There were more forms to fill out, followed by being required to download a contact tracing app onto our smartphones.
Boarding the plane was an eerie feeling. We were met by flight attendants fully protected from head to toe in an experience that resembled entering the operating room of a hospital. We were all required to wear both masks and face shields, shutting down any communication between us, the flight attendants, and other passengers. We communicated with hand signals, pointing to the item of concern or desire. This experience made us realize that life ahead will be lonely and miserable if we do not work together to end the pandemic.
Despite the ordeal of this unique journey, it was a blessing to get beyond the quarantine and swab tests in Washington, D.C., and to embrace my aging mother. The first few weeks being with family was enhanced by the quality time created by the new normal of staying at home and avoiding contact with persons outside your “pod.”
It was getting into February, and we could still not confirm our travel date. The volatile situation of the arrival of a new variant, a new lockdown, new guidelines on international travelers bumped us from one confirmation date to the next. The situation was beginning to wear on us as there was only so much we could accomplish by working online from Washington D.C. This shed light on another gaping divide in our one world. The Philippines is not as widely and broadly wired as Washington D.C., and we could not do significant parts of our work and ministry adequately. Furthermore, the twelve-hour time difference limited our online engagements with the Philippines to mornings and evenings.
As we reached the end of February, waiting still to travel, frustration was brewing in our hearts. Questions began to swirl in our heads about unanswered prayers and continued disappointment. We were questioning our purpose and the value of our calling. But it is in these despairing moments that God will find a way to speak in a still, small voice. A notice came that we had qualified for the COVID vaccine. We had registered believing that it would be too long a wait before we were eligible and did not expect to have this privilege. But then, for reasons we do not fully understand, we suddenly were sent the notice that we could receive the vaccine much earlier than we had expected. Suddenly there was purpose and meaning, a God moment for us both that brought a silver lining.
Not long after, the door opened, and we were allowed to travel. We had the assuring feeling that God had a powerful hand in enabling our return journey because things proceeded rapidly. Documents required by the Philippines came without delay, the result of our pre-departure swab test arrived miraculously on a Sunday, and soon we were on a plane through Taiwan to the Philippines.
Again, it was a travel experience like no other. We were unloaded in Taiwan and strictly guided through the airport, not allowed to enter a restaurant or shop, and restricted to the pre-departure lounge of our flight to the Philippines. Upon landing in the Philippines, we were escorted into a briefing room, informing us that no one was allowed to leave the airport until we have all submitted to a swab test. Then we would collect our luggage and be transported by the airport authorities to a quarantine hotel where we must stay for ten days without leaving the room. The ten days in that small room was a time to reflect and give gratitude to God, who showed us the worst of a COVID world, inspiring us to live and work to eradicate this tragic pandemic, and designing in a divine plan the road back to where we are called to be.
We are grateful to be God’s instruments and your siblings in faith here in the Philippines. Much is being required of us, and we continue to feel your prayers and support in making our ministries meaningful and possible.
Cobbie and Dessa Palm
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