Coronavirus, Family, Community, and Hard Decisions

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Friends, I’ll probably write one or two….or three blog posts about our time in China at some point down the road but I just wanted to say a quick word about the circumstances of our leaving. As most of you are aware, the Chinese New Year starts later in January and thus their winter break is approximately 3 weeks after ours. The break is also longer so we weren’t slated to be back at school until mid-February. As the coronavirus break-out developed, we began praying for clarity and wisdom about possible contingency plans and what signs would be significant enough for us to leave the country. As Ashlee and I have stated and reflected on numerous times, this opportunity would be significantly different if we did not have our four daughters with us. There’s a willingness to adventure and a greater capacity to risk when you only have to answer for each other. We felt a peace about conviction concerning moving our large family to China for a year, and there are no regrets in this matter.

The first early signs that started to surface as to the possibility that we should leave were connected to China’s canceling of New Year’s celebrations and many tourist attractions closing. After that, the Chinese Board of Education came out with a mandate that no schools would be opening before March 1st and that an online plan needed to be in place before that. However, at that point we still had every intention to stay. The game changers for us started happening around two weeks ago. The U.S. Consulate in Shanghai ordered the evacuation of all unnecessary personnel. This came along with the U.S. advisory for U.S. citizens to not travel to China.  But the straw that broke the camel’s back came when the U.S. State Department issued a statement on its website that said, “Those currently in China should attempt to depart by commercial means.” This advisory and some information about increasingly restricted travel helped us make the decision to leave. At first, we wanted to try and head to Bangkok for 3 weeks and see how things unfolded. We care deeply for the people of Shanghai and the community of expats that we have been working with for 7 months, and we did not want to leave them before the end of the school year. However, we are responsible for the health and safety of our daughters, and the circumstances that had been developing and are still developing in China concerning the virus, presented too great a risk for Ashlee and I to keep our family in Shanghai to wait and see what would happen. Our attempt at trying to finance a temporary “watch-and-wait” trip to Bangkok was not successful and therefore the convictional decision that Ashlee and I had to make was to fly our family back to the States.

This was a very difficult decision for us to make. Even though we had already received clarity that this was a one-year adventure for us in China, we had no desire to leave our school and community in Shanghai until our contract was over in June. I’m not a quitter, and I’m certainly not one to abandon my post. But my first “post” is to my wife and daughters at this point, and to keep our large family in Shanghai during this health crises would have violated my sense of responsibility to my family. We feel like God gave us this clear discernment, but we make no indictments against those that have chosen, or felt led, to stay. To stay is a sacrifice for expats and wealthy Chinese alike. No doubt, to stay would have offered up many countless opportunities for service. We commend those that have chosen to stay for the right reasons. Please be in prayer for those that have chosen to stay or simply can’t leave. There are so many precious people in China that need our prayers.

Thankfully, I will be able to help my school move forward with offering online course work to the students. I’ll be helping to create weekly work for my students, and I hope that I can continue to encourage them from a distance as well. They have a long spring semester ahead of them, so please be in prayer for these students and their families. China will need wisdom to navigate how to educate millions of children over the internet for what could be a month or more.

We are now self-quarantining in Texas for two weeks, and we will then be staying with family until we are able to move back to Virginia. We’re not sure of the next steps, but I’m thankful that I will continue to be able to help the school in China and teach some classes online for Liberty while we wait to see what new opportunity the Lord opens up for full-time work for me. Please keep us, and more importantly the people of China, in your prayers. Thank you so much to those who have been praying for wisdom, safety, and health for us over the last month. We recognized the providential hand of God in these challenging times, even if in hindsight. Much love to you all.

Jason & Ashlee & the girls.

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