My initial thought was how do I keep those I serve safe?. As a nurse serving a mission in South Korea, it was a bit of a scary time. The virus had been overwhelming to Wuhan in China and then it started spreading to South Korea. It was a specific location but there was some panic in that area of South Korea.
I closely monitored the WHO news as to what precautions to take and would train the missionaries. My husband and I watched as the government carefully and quickly responded with mask mandates and people tracking. We thought this was a burden for the government but it was plain to us that they had been through this with SARS and MERS and knew how to limit exposure to others. We would get alerts on our phones to stay away from where positive cases had been so they could be sanitized. We felt safe and were glad to be in Korea where the majority of the people were willing to comply with the instructions given.
As the outbreak became worse and the cases were mostly older people the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints felt it was best to evacuate all Foreign Senior Missionaries (later all missionaries) back to their home country. Thus within 18 hours of being told we were leaving we were on our way back to the USA. We got many funny looks from people in the airport because we were wearing masks. One lady even asked, “what’s with the masks?”
Interestingly enough the USA was just starting to see cases rise, and without the organization and experience South Korea had- the virus spread quickly. We stayed in isolation for two weeks after returning to Washington State. The number of cases in the USA was soon more than in South Korea.
For the last year, we have traveled to and from our children’s homes. They have been so gracious to help us as we had sold our home before our mission and did not know how long we would be in the USA before going back to Korea. We can’t say we have been lonely this last year as we love our children and grandchildren and have been privileged to get to know them better. We have not visited our extended family; our brothers and sisters or my mother (in her eighties) much at all. Soon we will have our COVID vaccinations and be able to more freely visit them. We will also be able to return to South Korea.
We have lost relatives to COVID-19 and can see its negative impact on many people. We’ve also seen the judging of others as they choose to follow the suggestions and mandates to keep us safe. As for my husband and I, we wear masks and sanitize often since we travel to our children’s homes. We want them to be safe and well and we do not want to be spreading this virus to them. It is real, it is sad but we will make it through as it becomes endemic and we are better able to cope with it.