My son Christian and I returned from Ghana this morning, three days early. When President Trump announced the travel ban, we knew that we had to cut our visit short and return immediately. Air France, which routed us through Paris with a layover had us leaving on Sunday, returning Monday—both after the Friday midnight ban. Air France was willing to board us on a flight Friday night at 10, but we would be arriving in Amsterdam on Saturday morning and leaving Amsterdam for Washington, DC on Saturday afternoon. They could not emphatically and confidently guarantee we would be able to return to Washington. By the grace of God, we were able to book a pre-ban direct flight on South African Airline.
The coronavirus pandemic has the world in a panic. While I was at Kotoka International Airport in Accra on Thursday trying to determine our flight options (which was no easy task), there were two confirmed cases—one from Norway and the other from Turkey. Immediately, they were quarantined and the Ghana Ministry of Health put out a release outlining the steps that would be taken and the common-sense procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. By Friday morning, even our small out-of-the-way hotel had masks, an abundance of hand sanitizer, and testing kits. The restaurant down the street was greeting people at the door with hand sanitizer. We were screened at the airport before entering security.
At Passport Control and Customs at Dulles Airport, we were asked if we traveled through Iran or China in the past 14 days. The answer was “no,” but that we did have a layover in Paris. They immediately took our passports and escorted us to a clinic where doctors took our temperatures and asked several health questions. Our results were negative so we went into another line to receive our passports. This process was not very efficient time-wise, but it is a solid step. I wonder, however, how many people lied about where they had been, just to expeditiously get through customs. In talking with a Homeland Security officer, he admitted this was a weakness in the system. Christian and I are self-quarantining for the next 14 days. This is common sense.
From learning about the ban, working through all the difficulties in negotiating air travel in its wake, and navigating a third-world environment, we exercised earthly and spiritual confidence. We used hand sanitizer, drank plenty of water supplemented with Vitamin C, and used zinc lozenges. We operated as 2 Timothy 1:7 men: “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Whether the virus is as big a problem as characterized by the media remains to be seen. But it presents a national challenge for all of us, as well as an opportunity to show the love and strength of Christ. I will be writing more about coronavirus in the coming days. Keep your cool. Control what you can control. Encourage one another. We can whip this AND show Christ to others.