COVID-19 … time to get back home



When we first heard about this new virus starting to spread, we didn’t really pay much attention to it. We were putting all of our energy into learning language in Konomala. We don’t really get much world news out there, so we figured that things would just blow over in no time. 

Obviously, that’s not what happened. 

One thing led to another and now we’re home in Pennsylvania. We’re watching this drama unfold on the world stage just like everyone else. We’re so thankful that God allowed us to get home before the world began shutting down their borders and international travel stopped all together. 

The progression for us went something like this:
“Eh, it’ll definitely blow over by the time we have to fly home.”
“Hmm. It’s not blowing over. I wonder how bad it actually is.”
“It can’t get that bad in a matter of weeks … right?”
“It’s getting worse. Should we be nervous?”
“Maybe we should consider leaving before this gets out of hand.”
“It’s probably not wise to risk getting stuck somewhere with Kaitlyn being pregnant.”
“You’re right, we need to leave … now.”
“Okay, we have 36 hours to pack everything, shut down our house, and get outta dodge.” 

It was all a bit of a whirlwind. We were just doing normal life in Konomala on a random Thursday morning. Then we got a text from home about the virus. That text made us ask some more questions. 

We woke up that day thinking that we had weeks before needing to pack etc. Then by lunch time, we decided that we needed to get out as soon as possible. 

We spent the next day getting ready to leave:
Changing domestic & international plane tickets and hotel bookings,
Telling all our friends in Konomala that we had to leave,
Packing everything in our house into storage bins,
Putting plastic over all the windows to limit rain damage,
Covering cushions and mattresses to limit mold,
Getting rid of perishable food,
Cleaning out the fridge and freezer,
Packing bags for the trip to the U.S.,
Loading the truck,
And other stuff … 

Thirty-six hours after realizing that we needed to leave, we made the long drive to Kavieng (our supply town) where we would get on a plane two days later. The morning of our international flight out of the country, both of the girls came down with a stomach bug. The main symptom was … you guessed it … a fever. 

Wow. The blood pressure instantly rose. We were having visions of international quarantines, lock downs, and general chaos. 

Once we got our eyes above the trees and remembered some truth, our hearts calmed down a little. It was going to be solely God’s grace if we made it home without any major stuff happening. Throughout the trip we had to keep remembering that God is bigger than a fever, and that He was right there with us seeing everything that we were dealing with. 

A few hours, a few tears, and a few lines later, we stepped onto American soil. What a relief. We didn’t encounter any fever-police, and the trip went smoothly all things considered. 




For the last weeks, we’ve just been laying low and enjoying some down time together. Kaitlyn and baby girl #3 are doing well. She’s due in a little over a month. Natalie and Lauren are doing their best to help come up with names. So far their best suggestions have been: ‘Princess Ariel’ (the Little Mermaid) and ’Emily the ant”. 

When we left PNG, there had been no cases of the virus in the whole country. In the last couple weeks there are have now been a small number of confirmed cases. The government has followed the example of many other countries and locked everything down … no international flights, very limited domestic flights, no public transportation, strict curfews, and strong recommendations to limit social interaction. 

Our teammates, Luke and Ellenie, had been locked down for weeks with a lot of unknowns about what could happen next. We’re thankful that they were just recently able to get on a repatriation flight back to the U.S. 

At this point, we’re all hoping to get back into Konomala towards the end of this year, but that will obviously be determined by the status of the virus and when international travel becomes a realistic option again. 



What’s always true? 

Most of the time we don’t even realize how much we value a sense of control. When we’re faced with unknowns and things in life that are out of our control, it can be a scary reality check. The unknowns can be in something as small as a fever, or they can be as big as a worldwide pandemic. 

What we turn to in those moments can either paralyze us or free us up to rest and move into those unknowns. We have to choose to remember some of the things that are always true:
There is a living, personal God. He’s real.
He is good. He has been lovingly engaged since before the beginning of everything.
Bad stuff happens because this world is now broken. Someday it will all be perfect again.
God knows what’s happening. He sees it all.
He has always moved into the mess. He’s bigger than anything we’re facing.
He has never changed. He promised to never leave us.
Someday soon we will stand before Him.

No matter the size of the thing that’s weighing on us, remembering what’s always true opens the door for Jesus to come into real life. Choosing to remember truth, choosing to do it, and choosing to rest in it … that’s every choice for the rest of our time on earth. 



9 thoughts on “COVID-19 … time to get back home

  1. Happy to know you’re home! I have been praying for you and wondering where you are in light of Kaitlyn being pregnant. Praise the Lord. He is good!

    Sent from my iPad



  2. Good to hear from you guys! I’m so thankful you were able to get back to the States before everything locked down here! I love that you can be near family…and Natalie and Lauren’s name choices are priceless! HaHa!!!

    Great newsletter! Love to each of you,

    Esther Smith
    Resources & Goroka Valley Homeschool Consultant
    WhatsApp +675 7164 2758


  3. So glad you are safely back home & girls are feeling better! Kaitlyn take care of you & baby through rest & prayer on the days leading up to your delivery. Be blessed!


  4. What a crazy story! I’m not sure I would believe it if I didn’t know it was true. Thanks for the unchanging truth. Praying for Kaitlyn and the baby, one month Is so soon.


  5. Hey , just seen this and so glad you made it home, will be praying for a healthy baby to come.By the way would like to submit my choice. Would you consider carefully “Eugenia, if it’s a girl lol

    Sent from my iPhone



  6. Great update Sanfords. Good to hear from you and see all the pictures. Thanks for turning your reader’s attention back on our living, personal God. I also like the Brian Regan quote you threw in there.

    Atomic bombs,

    Aaron Luse

    Church Development Director
    New Tribes Mission-Papua New Guinea
    +675 7250 2785


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