“When the COVID-19 lockdown began in March, we only imagined it lasting three to six weeks,” said Greg Clarke. The Clarkes serve in Eswatini where Greg works as the office manager and Ingrid is the finance manager at the station site. “Once lockdown began, we were only allowed to be out for essential services. I found myself scrounging through government websites daily, looking for information on the lockdown, on how it would affect TWR’s ministry and trying to find the best way forward.”
Greg was able to apply for and receive permission from the government to keep TWR operating as an essential service. Greg then wrote letters for each staff member to indicate that they were part of TWR and allowed to travel for work. “We even arranged to collect each staff member from home to prevent them from having to travel on minibus taxis. It seemed every day had new surprises and challenges. It was exhausting keeping up with the speed at which everything was changing.”
The borders were closed to South Africa and Mozambique and all flights in and out of Eswatini stopped. “We were essentially locked in the small country of Eswatini,” said Greg. “There was the possibility of getting special permission to travel, but this involved a lot of effort, coordination and paperwork. Goods were allowed across the border so local shops were still able to get all the essentials.”
As the months went on, the government eased some of the restrictions, allowing more businesses to open. Eventually, even restaurants opened again, first for takeout only, but then sit-down service resumed. Now, seven months later, most services have returned to normal within the country, except for churches and schools. The border to South Africa re-opened on October 1, with some restrictions.
The Clarke children, Rebekah and Caleb, have been internet schooling since the start of lockdown and there seems to be no change in sight for them. “Our children are fortunate, the school they were attending switched quickly to providing work at first, and then even live lessons on the internet,” said Greg. “The school closed on a Friday and by Tuesday the next week, they were working from home. We have been very happy with the school and the way they have responded to the lockdown.” Helping the kids with online schooling has been taking most of Ingrid’s time in the mornings.
The Clarke family has been blessed to have access to online school; however, the majority of school children in Eswatini have not had the same privilege. Most kids there haven’t had any internet schooling this year. The government is trying to help the students by using the radio to deliver classroom teaching to them.
“Our church moved online the first Sunday of lockdown,” Greg reported. “We have been able to attend church online but have missed the fellowship with people. They have opened the doors to live services with reduced capacity a month ago, but children are not allowed yet. We have decided to continue attending online for the time being as we wouldn’t be able to take our children and we don’t want to take a seat from someone unable to access the online service.”
Greg will start in a new position on November 1 as the station director. Greg has been very busy looking for a replacement for the office manager position. Interviews for the position began at the start of October.
Join us as we thank God that the station has continued to run programmes during the COVID-19 lockdown. Pray for the Clarke family as they continue to face many challenges during this pandemic and for the team in Etswatini, that they will find the right person to take over the position of office manager.