rebecca arendell

Rebecca Arendell Franks outside the gate of her residential compound for the first time since quarantine started on January 23. All photos from Rebecca Arendell Franks' Facebook.

Last week, the city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the coronavirus, lifted its lockdown after more than two months.

Even before midnight on Wednesday, April 8, when restrictions were officially lifted, buildings and bridges were reportedly lit up and cars lined toll lanes, ready to leave the city which had all but come to a standstill for 76 days since transportation in and out of the city was halted on January 23.

The lifting of restrictions will be gradual – many neighbourhoods are still sealed off; only those with a clean bill of health are allowed to leave, and even then only past checkpoints where residents must show their “health code” and have their temperatures taken.

Schools, cinemas and other entertainment venues remain shut. Many shops remain closed and restaurants only do delivery or serve take-out, much like the conditions of Singapore’s Circuit Breaker.

As the rest of the world that is behind the COVID-19 curve is still struggling under the strain of lockdown and climbing infections, one family who has emerged from the Wuhan lockdown is sharing their reflections as an encouragement.

Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Encourage one another, and build each other up”, Louisiana native Rebecca Arendell Franks, who together with her husband, Edgar, and son, Daniel, have been living in Wuhan since 2011, started her blog to be a “Social Media Encourager”.

“We bumble around a lot and still can’t speak the language worth a flip, but God has us here for his purpose, and that is good enough,” said Rebecca in her blog.

These are extracts of her reflections from Wuhan:

WUHAN. Saturday, April 11, 2020.

Three days ago the lockdown was lifted in Wuhan. Edgar and I both have our “health certificates”, which serve as release papers, so we can leave whenever we’d like. Thursday was my day.

So … freedom. What did I do with it?

It was great to be out, but it wasn’t so fantastical. God had given me perfect peace in lockdown – peace in spirit and in the physical – so frankly, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to see what was outside. But I am thankful I got to go.

Traffic returns after the lockdown is lifted.

Restaurants are still closed, offering only take-aways at the door.

“Thank God (nature) never locked down. It’s been thriving,” Rebecca says. “God painted such beautiful things in his natural world, and he’s waiting for us to discover them.”

“The son never leaves,” says Rebecca.

I walked around for about an hour, noting the world around me. It was surprisingly anticlimactic, as it felt like I was watching the city slowly wake up after a long nap.

Some of my favorite places are open now, but they weren’t much of a lure because you can’t sit inside. I’ll feel the freedom and release when I can sit inside my local Starbucks and sip my coffee while people-watching or visiting with a friend.

Jesus said if we are silent, the stones will surely cry out (Luke 19:40). May the stones never ever cry out in my place.

The best part of my little freedom tour came when I spotted a walking trail spilling over with flowers. The trail was overflowing with new life, evidence of how creation did not stop just because we did.

Three months ago, Wuhan shut down, the world went into a panic, and so many have suffered because of this virus.

The crisis and the pain are real.

While people have been sidelined and struggling, nature never quarantined. Thank God it never locked down. It’s been thriving.

God painted such beautiful things in his natural world, and he’s waiting for us to discover them. They’re beautiful gifts from a beautiful creator.

Jesus said, if we are silent, the stones will surely cry out (Luke 19:40). God is good, He is beautiful, He is sovereign, He is perfect.

May the stones never ever cry out in my place.

WUHAN. Thursday, April 2.

It’s day 69 of quarantine, day 45 of lockdown in our complex.

The light is bright at the end of the tunnel, and it’s sponsored by McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and KFC. They’re open, and they’re delivering.

My constant prayer request has been that I don’t waste this time.

We’re still locked in our complex, though many are back to work due to their special work passes. The city is scheduled to open on April 8, but it also requires a pass to be able to leave then. We’re still not sure if we can get a pass, mainly because we’re foreigners and don’t have “essential” jobs.

We’ve had more new signs of life this past week. They opened one additional driving gate at our complex, meaning two of the usual four gates are now open. It’s really busy outside, with folks everywhere, it seems. Shipping is in full swing, and we can order anything we need with 1-2 day delivery.

Also, food deliveries have really fired up this week. I’ve vowed to remain a quarantine purist, not wanting to taste outside food until I can eat it in the restaurant. I may change my mind if this goes much beyond April 8. We’re all tired of eating at Café Franks. It’s been 73 days since we’ve eaten out, not that I’m counting.

Taobao in full swing.

The basketball court in Rebecca’s compound, where they pick up their groceries.

Free food is distributed once a week.

Aside from wanting a little restaurant reprieve, I’m in no hurry to leave. In fact, I’ve been mourning the end of quarantine. I’ve come to love this quieter life, and I dread the return to a faster pace, consumerism, and overscheduling.

My constant prayer request has been that I don’t waste this time.

Quarantine has been a very special gift of time for me.

At first we had too much time on our hands. Now, we’ve adapted to our new normal and have figured out how to be more productive while all together at home. Most days we’re just busy, with all the roles and hats we wear.

My husband and I both work for our school. I am also a university student (still). We (okay, mostly Edgar) also teach our son, where we are in our 8th week of online school. We have definitely found our groove, and my prayer is that you find yours soon.

WUHAN. Sunday, March 8.

From the epicenter of the coronavirus, here is just some of the good we have been experiencing because of the lockdown:

Our family life has never been better. Usually one weekend is long enough before I’m ready to send each of us back to school or work. But for many weeks, we’ve been home together with very little outside influences or distraction, forced to reconnect with one another, learn how to communicate better, give each other space, slow down our pace, and be a stronger family than ever before.

Coronavirus wants you to take care of your own first. Instead, look to Him first while you take care of others.

We’ve learned how to accept help from others. During this time, we’ve had to rely on others to show us how to get food and other things we need. People here are so good, and they want to help. It’s satisfying to accept the help.

Shopping is so much easier now. It comes straight to our complex, and we just pick it up. Simple.

Right now I hear birds outside my window (on the 25th floor).

I used to think there weren’t really birds in Wuhan, because you rarely saw them and never heard them. I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people.

All day long now I hear birds singing. It stops me in my tracks to hear the sound of their wings.

Spring in Wuhan is absolutely stunning. God has been giving us glimpses of the beauty to come with near-perfect weather.

Because of lockdown, we get to watch spring slowly unfold right in front of us with no work, traffic, pollution, or other distractions. I have pulled up my chair and am ready for the creator’s show.

My cooking has gotten way more creative. I’m cooking like a homesteader. Housekeeping hasn’t suffered, either.

We take naps in the middle of the day sometimes.

We’ve all been reading so much more than before.

I’ve reconnected with lots of old friends. We’ve talked with our families more than ever before.

“We’ve been together through quarantine, none of us out in the public, so it’s my ‘safe’ group of people to be with. I thank God for these friends,” said Rebecca (extreme right) in a March 28 post.

We still work and do school, but all from home and all on flexible hours. It is not perfect, but it is fairly productive and good.

My prayer life has never been better and my study time has been much more real.

I have quiet time that is actually (usually) quiet – and I can devote real time to it. Most days I have so much more time to think, to listen, to process, and to discover.

I am discovering the good gifts that God has given me and my family. More than anything, I am bowled over by his goodness at every turn. He overwhelms me with his goodness.

We are at peace in the epicenter of the virus. We are at peace in the epicenter of His will.

We had “church” by Zoom this morning at 10:30, as usual. My husband just woke up from his nap. My kid is reading quietly on the couch. I have the luxury of writing uncensored here on FB. We are about to go pick up a ham that a friend is giving us, taking her our coffee and cranberries to share.

God is providing so many opportunities for good while we are here, and he is showing us his goodness every single moment.

We are at peace in the epicenter of the virus. We are at peace in the epicenter of His will.

Fear is a faithless coward and has no place in the lives of believers. Fear and worry have no seat at our table. We’re here because he wants us here, right now, for his purpose.

Coronavirus wants you to isolate and stock up and take care of your own first. Instead, look to Him first while you take care of others. In community, we can do so much more than we can do on our own. God is caring for us so richly and showering us with so much good each and every moment.

And the song just plays nonstop in my head:

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
It chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the 99.
I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away. Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.

Psalm 118:6: The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.

What can man do to me?

Rebecca Arendell Franks is the Director of Marketing, Admissions, & Communications at Wuhan Yangtze International School, where her husband also works. These extracts and photos were first published on Rebecca’s Facebook and have been republished with permission.

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Salt&Light

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