Monaliza (right) with the women of Meheramul Khirpur village, Badin Parish - Photo: Monaliza Esteban
Columban lay missionary Monaliza Esteban shares how the lockdown in Pakistan invited her to learn new things and made her realize that God has dug out a strength in her which she never knew she had if not for the lockdown. She continues to trust that God will always be in command whatever lies ahead of this pandemic.
Lockdown kicked off in Karachi, Pakistan on March 23, 2020 two weeks before the end of our Urdu language classes. The whole area where we were was in total silence which was very unusual. We don’t get this kind of silence during ordinary days. The only usual sound left was the call to prayer for our Muslim brothers and sisters which at one time I felt was a very sad voice. I took that initial lockdown time to rest from our language studies and do some stuff. My first month gave me the feeling of being in solitude. Spiritually I was enthusiastic and faithful to the schedule that I set up. The feeling of being alone with God was a moment of grace and joy. From time to time I received voice or video calls from my friends and family around the globe. Thanks to the internet communication is possible. It made us updated and felt closer to each other. I remember towards the end of March one of my family members had to go back to her work place abroad. The fear and worries my family had to go through was really bizarre. I felt the effect of this pandemic emotionally when we started sharing our fears which I didn’t feel during the first few months the news erupted.
While I continue to face the effects of this pandemic, I am grateful to the positive effects it brought to the people especially me.
Towards the second month of this lockdown I started to feel strange. I think the feeling of boredom struck me. “What am I supposed to do now?” There’s nothing to do even if there are things to be done. “When will I go to my ministry?” These were the strange questions that bombarded my mind those days. But seeing the people’s situation and watching the news, I felt we were all on the same boat but perhaps in a different kind of boat. So I thought to myself, ‘why should I allow these things to stress me? Should I be doing something that I can benefit from?‘ So like others, I started to do some new things. Sewing doormats from recycled materials for my room was encouraging. I befriended the kitchen and it welcomed me when I least expected it. It gave me a foretaste of being a baker. Because we are fond of eating pickles or achara, I also did not hesitate to make some. My heart leapt with joy with all the new things I learned during this pandemic. God dug out things from us that we never imagined we have and can. I was at peace with those feelings through these new activities.
Moving into the interior part of Sindh after the lockdown was a good decision. I was greeted with the super summer heat upon arrival. While others were taking precautions against this pandemic, here I was struggling with the heat. I wondered how people coped with this kind of heat alongside the government’s safety measures on this covid-19.
I then started my visitation to the villages. Receiving the hands of these village people was irresistible. I don’t know why, but things just happened whenever I meet them. It made me remember the story of Jesus with the lepers. Through him, I should always gaze through people’s heart because the surface is not always the manifestation of the whole person regarding his/her condition. Should I know who’s carrying the virus, things would be different.
While I continue to face the effects of this pandemic, I am grateful to the positive effects it brought to the people especially me. The natural humanitarian attitude towards each other surfaced. It made me more trusting that hope is always present amidst this crisis. I kept thanking God and trusting that whatever is ahead of us He will always be in command of everything. Indeed, today’s wineskin is a call for a change of heart.
Columban lay missionary Monaliza S. Esteban from the Philippines lives and works in Pakistan.