Repatriation during COVID-19

WWU student Miranda Aus shares details about her time as a student missionary in Bere, Chad

Walla Walla University student Miranda Aus, triple major in mathematics, French, and art, spent the majority of the 2019–20 academic year in Africa working as a student missionary at the Bere Adventist Hospital in Bere, Chad. Due to the risks associated with COVID-19, Aus returned home on April 9 on a repatriation flight with assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Chad. Most WWU student missionaries returned to their homes in the U.S. in March. Since returning home, Aus has been taking classes online.

If you had to describe your experiences with COVID-19 in five words, what would they be?
Not too bad considering everything.

What is something you appreciate about coming back?
I really appreciate being back in my mountains in Northern Idaho with cool weather and solitude, and being with my mom and four dogs, four cats, one guinea pig, and one goldfish.

How are you dealing with social distancing?
So far, I have only been home for a few days, and it’s been okay. In the mountains I can be outside and go hiking anytime I want to, but I don’t go to town, so I don’t see anyone. I’m going to start missing people a lot soon!

How do time differences affect your interactions with friends?
Interacting with friends who are on the East Coast is a little challenging, but when I was in Africa the time difference was even bigger. Because I was so disconnected from people back home when I was a student missionary, being back in the States makes me feel extremely connected.

Have there been any positives about returning early?
Being able to take classes this quarter!

If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?
Not having to rush home from Chad. The stressful last-minute traveling was hard, especially because I wanted to bring my puppy home with me. Travel was smooth; it was just the leaving that was stressful and the uncertainty was hard.

What happened with your puppy? Did you find someone to take care of it?
Pistachio (my puppy) and Smudge (my kitty) are staying with my host family.

If you could go back to Chad six weeks ago and live one thing over again exactly the way it happened, what would it be?
Weekend activities at the Mosier’s house! They were one of the missionary families in the area around the Bere Hospital. I would go back and play in the mud with the four Mosier kids, have art classes with them, bake bread, and go swimming in the river.

Where are you finding encouragement or inspiration during these difficult times?
From lots of places I guess, but mostly from the ability to still talk with friends and family, the ability to stay in contact.

How is this experience causing you to grow?
A lot of my growth started with being a student missionary as I had to learn to be okay with solitude and a slower pace in life.

How did more solitude and a slower pace of life change you?
It was a slow change, but by the end of it I felt myself being much more comfortable with fewer people around. I feel like I need less stimulation now.

What has been your favorite aspect so far of taking classes online?
Feeling connected. I felt a little disconnected and left out when I was in Chad and most of my friends were in school. It is nice to feel part of the group again!

Posted April 28, 2020

Watercolor painting of fields and trees.
Aus began work on illustrating Bible stories as part of her work in Bere, Chad.
Three smiling young women.
Aus with two of her host family's daughters.
Young woman with a puppy tied like a baby to her back.
Aus and her puppy, Pistachio.