Let’s remember back to the start of this year. I recall feeling full of hope and blissfully unaware of what was about to unfold. Sitting at my home desk 12 months later, it invigorates me to imagine the chorus of celebration heard around the globe when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2020. A sigh of relief – a tumultuous year finally come to its end.
While we look forward to a new year with hope – including a vaccine that can end this roller coaster of a pandemic – it’s amazing to look back at all we accomplished together this year. At how resilient we can be in the face of trials.
I’ve been thinking about the concept of Shalom these days. Most commonly known as the Hebrew word for “peace,” it can literally be translated as “to make complete” or “to restore.”
Even in the middle of social distancing, it’s beautiful to see how we made space to care for and acknowledge each other. How we brought Shalom in a hurting world. We hope you see the same glimpses of hope, humanity and restoration that we found in this year’s best images.
The Early Days of 2020
Just as the pandemic was being discovered in the United States, our video production team was in the middle of a trip to Kyangwali, Uganda. To be honest, we leap into these trips with hope and prayer that everything will turn out well. Thankfully, the trip far exceeded our expectations and was a blessing in disguise. Little did we know this would be the only trip we would be making this year.
Together, we stood in the operating theater and witnessed a new life taking his first breath (see image below). We witnessed a single mother of six, recently abandoned by her husband, finding hope in her newborn baby girl. We saw a young boy restored to health with proper nutrition, his family full of visions for his bright future.
At the end of our week in the field, we left feeling inspired by our incredible staff and their endless dedication to their work. To serve these communities who are in need of restoration.
“I believe every baby matters. Why? This is the future generation and God created us. We are different. We are unique. Now, if one is gone, I believe that we are losing something very precious, very good, that God made that person do. Now if we lose really just one single baby, we are going backwards, because I believe we are created in this way that everyone has their role in our society.” – Nutritionist Monicah Nakabugo
Even in the middle of a pandemic, the need for basic medical care doesn’t cease to exist. Early in the year, our mobile medical unit was up and running in Adjumani, Uganda, providing access to care for people living in remote communities.
Back in the U.S., masks and medicine began to sell out. On March 13, a week after schools and businesses started going into lockdown, our U.S. Programs team pivoted some of our Mobile Dental vans to become COVID-19 mobile screening and testing sites, responding to hot spots throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Socially Distant Spring
By Mid-Spring, we realized that, even with lockdowns, the pandemic wasn’t going anywhere soon. Social distancing, working and school from home and wearing masks everywhere we went became our new normal.
One of the silver linings of this pandemic has been working more closely together with our global staff through our new virtual operations. When we couldn’t meet on the field for our annual event, Field of Dreams, our silver lining was taking you to the field in Field of Dreams: World Tour to meet some of our incredible field staff.
Around the globe, we converted health centers and staff quarters to allow for isolation, treatment and distancing. We shipped masks to protect our health workers now fighting a pandemic on top of providing much-needed care for refugees and host communities. While we constantly checked daily COVID-19 case numbers in the countries where we work, our community health teams on the ground went out into refugee settlements around the world, sharing COVID-19 prevention messaging to help protect them.
The Second Wave In a Heat Wave
By summer, with the pandemic rising to its second wave of high cases in the U.S., our COVID-19 testing program expanded from Washington into Oregon (see Hood River image below).
When you’re in the middle of a pandemic, it’s overwhelming to consider other disasters adding to the mix. Unfortunately, they do layer on. Fortunately, our teams were prepared.
When wildfires began to rage and smoke covered half of the U.S. West Coast, our Mobile Dental and U.S. Program team got to work. They prepared hygiene kits and provided access to dental care for people who had been displaced in Oregon.
On August 4, when an unexpected explosion decimated buildings in Beirut, our Lebanon team hit the ground, providing access to COVID-19 prevention care, monitoring for diabetics and wound care.
Fall: Change Is Coming
Though disasters continued to come with Hurricanes Eta and Iota causing massive flooding and landslides in Guatemala in November, we started to see more glimmers of hope this Fall. The promise of a vaccine soon becoming available for frontline health workers. New programs for green energy and efficient health solutions kicked off with our program in Uganda. Our program supporting mothers and children in Colombia restarted and expanded to Bogota.
Something about the changing autumn leaves here in the U.S. felt like shifting tides in the year. Hope for change is on the horizon.
A New Year Ahead
There is hope in the middle of the storm. Hope that one day soon things will calm down. The vaccine will become available to the public. Restaurants will re-open for dining and planes will fill the skies. Schools and offices will reopen for education and business. Maybe one day, you’ll find yourself sitting at your desk in a new normal, and you’ll forget everything you endured this year.
Let’s remember the blessings and lessons we found in this storm. I believe great learning moments occur more often when walking through fire than when standing on mountain peaks. We can see more clearly in the valley.
My hope is, when that new normal comes, we don’t forget how this year broke down our walls and expanded our horizons. Even while we were confined to our bubbles, our eyes were opened to a world filled with pain that is being restored. May we continue to be harbingers of hope and peace. May we continually find ways to bring Shalom to this world.
Medical Teams Producer, Storyteller & Photographer
This post was originally published on Medical Teams International.