When our family left the immigration desk in Phnom Penh on April 11, we had left something very important behind. We were no longer in possession of our passports, those critical documents that serve as your identification and allow you to travel internationally.
We had been forced to surrender our passports to the authorities throughout a 15-day government-enforced quarantine. This was a time when our freedoms and lifestyles were stripped away. We were left to rely on God’s sustaining power and the strength he would provide our family to manage the isolation.
We were in the process of re-entering Cambodia after being in the United States to care for health problems Tiffany had been experiencing. She had gone through countless doctors’ visits, tests, diagnoses and a heart ablation before being granted medical clearance to return. In trying to return to Cambodia, we hit obstacles acquiring our children’s visas and our daughter, Katie, tested positive for COVID. We wanted to get back to regular life and ministry.
After surrendering our passports, we went through the first of two brutal COVID tests. Tired and confused, we were directed to board a bus taking us to an unknown destination. The bus soon stopped along the road and we were forced to unload our luggage at a less-than-pristine hotel. The hotel staff immediately began giving us instructions in a language that was neither Khmer (Cambodian) or English, both of which we knew.
We completed the incomprehensible forms, struggled to maintain the locations of our children and our luggage, and worked our way to the front desk where hotel management began dispersing room assignments. We were given a box of congealing food and told we would be receiving breakfast at 6:30 a.m. with food left at our door, which was how we received our food for the entire quarantine.
Our quarantine meal delivery gave us new insights regarding the Israelites’ time in the wilderness, being given food every day through God’s provision. Yes, there was monotony, as per our request we received rice and pork three times a day because other dishes were quite unappetizing and even unrecognizable.
God was sustaining us, however, providing for our needs and allowing certain breaks in the monotony to keep us encouraged. When some breakfasts contained fried noodles instead of rice, our children celebrated. When a meal included a banana, our family cheered.
We prayed and asked God to clear the way for our exit.
He answered with a resounding word, “negative.”
We were on our way home.
Our children demonstrated the amazing way God has been forming them as never once did they complain about the food. They understood we did not have a choice in what was provided, and what had been given was enough.
God also sustained our health. If a health emergency arose, we had wondered if we would receive treatment, or be prevented from getting proper care. There were difficult moments as the hotel food caused some acute digestive problems for Tiffany. We were concerned the irritation would result in dehydration and the need for intravenous fluids.
God’s presence met us in our concern, his Word assured us of his constant care, and no significant health issues occurred. “They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer” (Psalm 78:35).
We were deeply aware of God’s sustaining presence in many facets of this experience. When hotel management was not helpful, Khmer workers also forced to self-isolate at the hotel were amazingly helpful. When the monotony of quarantine was trying, God provided engaging work, Legos and family games, gymnastics for our children on the mattresses and moments of quiet reflection. When the strict travel lockdown in the city would have prevented us from traveling from the hotel, a friend managed to arrange a police escort, allowing us to pass the many blockades and barriers.
We had our second COVID test on day 14. While it was a relief to be able to leave our room, the test process felt brutal, as it seemed we were letting the health officials violate our children right in front of us. The tears in our children’s eyes made our hearts break, but we knew this test would allow us to cross over from quarantine to living, like the Israelites crossing the Jordan from wilderness to the Promised Land.
We prayed and asked God to clear the way for our exit. He answered with a resounding word, “negative.” We were on our way home. God had sustained us through our quarantine wilderness.