Gander, Newfoundland | September 11, 2001
One of the most dramatic stories to come out of the incidents surrounding September 11th was related to the need to land hundreds of planes as quickly as possible–but not in the United States. This is not an easy task, given how many planes are flying around the world at any given moment. In the picture below from this morning, notice all the westbound planes, but specifically the heavier line going diagonally along the U.S. east coast:
When the incidents began to unfold that memorable morning, one of the very first actions—and I have no idea how they did this—was to ground all air traffic in the United States. For planes approaching North America, this meant landing at airports in Canada, including the first one, Gander, Newfoundland.
In the early days of trans-Atlantic air travel, all planes stopped here to refuel. But since the jet age it is used primarily for military staging. And unlike other Canadian cities that took in planes (Halifax, Toronto, Montréal, Calgary, etc.), Gander is remote (more than 200 miles away from the nearest city) and small place: only 10,000 people. The next day it was 17,000 people. The story is one of legend as this town absorbed these people for four days–people whose luggage was stuck on the planes for security reasons.
Besides the actual events of that day, what we saw globally was a major change in how we do air travel. It took months for air travel—and the travel industry in general—to recover.
What we are seeing today is unprecedented in the history of the world: The entire world shutting down to stop a potentially deadly virus from spreading out of control. Wow! No fiction author has ever attempted a story like this—who would believe it?!
I teach a World History class to my son’s 10th grade homeschool group, and when we were discussing the bubonic plague in the 15th century a few months ago, I walked them through a discussion about how we were one virus away from a global crisis. “Imagine,” I asked them, “what would happen to our economy if 25-50% of people could no longer work? How would all of our key industries keep running?”
I have three thoughts related to the unfolding and uncertain situation we’re in:
- God is still in charge. The bubonic plague and the coronavirus did not happen without His knowledge. And our personal peace and hope should never be on the world or governments around us. Psalm 94:19 says, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
- As missionaries, I think our top priority is to care for our partners. My wife just celebrated her 30th anniversary with our ministry, and amazingly, our very first partner recently gave their 30th annual gift. During these uncertain times, many of our partners have their own uncertainties and issues… and for many of them, they could be far more serious than ours (more on that below).
- I am honestly a bit concerned about the financial state of many of our missionaries’ funding. Giving to missionaries tends to hold up far better than other giving in past times of financial turmoil, but even so, if many of our staff saw a sudden 10-20-50% drop in monthly support, that could put them in a challenging financial position.
Point #2 is most related to the core of this blog. I write about TntConnect first and foremost because I love my partners. TntConnect helps me connect with my partners on a regular basis.
- Last week when our organization began cancelling all travel, cancelling events, and closing offices, I sent out a quick email to all of our partners to let them know I was praying for them and asking for prayer requests. I got responses from some people who have never responded to an email before. A couple in particular were very concerned about their financial situation because they were already experiencing an immediate financial impact.
- This week I sent out a paper newsletter to our regular newsletter list with similarly worded content.
- Next week I am planning to devote some focused time to calling my partners–something I have not done in a while. I have some extra time on my hands because I’m not commuting and all of my son’s sports activities have been cancelled. 🙂
I received an email this week from one of our European partnership development leaders:
[Our] staff generally like to be busy in their assigned ministries. Now that many of those ministries are seriously disrupted it will be good to take more time feeding back into the lives of our supporters. They are living surrounded by fear and we have the opportunity to speak faith into their lives. And to have the focus on us serving them rather than have them serving us. They can become a primary ministry for us for a while.