This piece was written by CMMB volunteer, Martin Rubino as he sat on a plane about to head home in Juba, South Sudan with his wife and fellow volunteer, Sarah Rubino and their young son, Max. Here he reflects on the way the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundation of what it means to be alive.

Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.”  

We all yearn for firm ground on which to stand, a sure point of reference from which to navigate; in a word, we want certainty – bedrock on which to build institutions, culture, a worldview; assurance that we are following the right path, doing right by our families, and leading meaningful lives.

The society we were born into and helped build always seemed to provide the certainty we sought. We moved about our daily routines and did our part.  We knew what to expect and what was expected of us.  Sometimes we stepped through a weak floorboard and felt the chilling sense of a void below; the tragic loss of a loved one or the news of a shooting, perhaps.  But even if our whole world came crashing down during these bleak times, society gave us its cold, mechanical reassurance that things would continue to move on.

church in south sudan

One of the most disturbing features about the COVID-19 pandemic is that we can tangibly feel the creaking and groaning of our society’s very foundations under its weight.  It’s like the terror experienced during an earthquake when the one thing we thought we could count on, the ground on which we walk, has failed us.

I must confess that I am writing this from the second hand knowledge I have gathered from the news, conversations with family, and posts from friends.  My wife Sarah, our small son Max, and I are currently in South Sudan, one of the few places that, for the moment, remain relatively untouched by the virus.  I pray it stays that way.  So does the government, which has closed down most of the country in an effort to protect its people.

A new mom holds her newborn and her husband stands behind her hospital bed. This is the Rubino family. Sarah and Martin served at St. Therese Hospital in South Sudan.

Sarah, Martin, and baby Max!

The people of South Sudan already face their own share of uncertainty.  The lasting trauma of war, failed peace agreements, and political unrest will be felt for years to come.  Poverty and food insecurity weigh heavily on the population.  Parents live with the grim reality of how quickly the lives of their children may be snuffed out by malaria or diarrhea.  The effort it takes just to survive the day leaves scarcely any leftovers for the inevitable hard times looming in the horizon like the ominous dark skies of rainy season.

In this time of Lent, this time of great uncertainty, let us join in solidarity with those all over the world who are burdened by fears but continue on even while not knowing what crisis the next day will bring.  As we search for a fixed point from which to chart the path forward, let us keep in mind 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Love alone overcomes fear and is the true foundation that lasts. 1 Corinthians 13:13

In these days when cracks seem to be appearing in everything, may we find truth in Leonard Cohen’s words “that’s how the light gets in”.

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