By Rosalie Hunt
Special to The Alabama Baptist
I’m Rosalie Hunt. I live in Guntersville, Alabama. My husband, Bob, and I have actually lived here 25 years, the longest I’ve ever lived in one place in my life. I married an Alabama boy because both of us felt led to go to China, to the Orient, as missionaries. I grew up as an MK (missionary kid) in China and did not have roots in America really. Alabama has become home for me now, and I love living here. We are members at First Baptist Church in Guntersville.
Troubles in China
I first learned about the illness in China in late February. I had a trip scheduled the last week of February to speak at the annual meeting of the Hawaii WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union), and I hesitated about going. They were just beginning to talk about masks and the fact that this thing might spread. But I went ahead and made the trip.
I recall sitting on the plane, and a woman on the other side, maybe one or two rows back, kept coughing, and I was very conscious of that fact. I got to Honolulu and was there three or four days, and the news began to swell at that time.
I went with a friend after the meeting to the Costco there, and huge lines of people were buying toilet paper and paper products and I thought, “What in the world is going on?” I soon came to find out.
I returned to the states, and the news was everywhere that there were a few cases in America, and it might get dangerous. It didn’t take long for it to really sound frightening.
Our daughter, who is the director of the American Academy of Religion headquartered in Atlanta, came here and has stayed with us during this time so that we would not have to go out and be exposed in shops.
It’s been more than five months now that we have basically been here and not been to a store. My husband, Bob, has had a number of bouts with pneumonia; he’s in his upper 80s, and he’s very high risk, so we didn’t want to take any sort of chance. That’s the predicament in which we have found ourselves, just like so many other people.
We had no idea how long-term this thing was going to be.
The most difficult thing has been an emotional strain; it’s emotionally rough.
Bob and I both have had the sense we don’t know how much time we have left, and these are our precious days, but we really have no choice right now except to try to practice as much caution as we can.
Most of us run the whole gamut of emotions. Sometimes I’m just plain angry and wonder how can such things be. I see way too much news on TV, and I see people not taking caution, gathering in crowds, not wearing masks, and I think, “We all have a responsibility to our fellow man. This is all of us in this, and we all need to take precautions.”
Someone may say, “Oh I don’t care; I’m young; if I get it, I’ll get over it.” We are our brothers’ keepers, and I have been so aware of that during this time.
We count precious the time we have with family, and we want more time with family. During this period, we’ve had our very first great grandchild born, and we have not been able to see him. Strange, but that’s been a real emotional problem. He’s very high tech for a three-month-old now — and he Facetimes us every day, and so that’s become the highlight of our day.
We do miss a routine. We miss going to church so much, so much. I miss my Sunday School girls; I teach Sunday School and the first- through third-grade GAs (Girls in Action). In order to fill this vacuum, I have been videotaping our Bible study every week.
Once a week, I send all the girls packets, and we do our Bible study, and starting this next week we’re going to be doing our GAs together from our “GA World.”
Sunday School, Bible study, is so important for children, I don’t want them to miss out on this time. So even by video we have somewhat of a link. That’s been helpful.
I had to cancel speaking engagements for several months into the future. That has been a real, real challenge to me.
But there have been some unexpected blessings. For one thing, I’ve had time to write more. I was working on my sixth manuscript, and I sped it up by two or three months because I had time without all the other things of life that I normally do. I sent the manuscript of this book to the publisher early and then started on another project. I’m managing to keep busy that way.
Spiritual blessings, of course, are many. I have worked really hard at something I don’t do well. I’m a Type A personality. I’ve had to think every day, “Be still and know that I am God.” I want to listen to what He has to say. I know that none of this was a surprise to our heavenly Father.
The Chinese (have an expression) which means, “Lay down your heart.” Every day I think of it. There’s really no English expression quite like it. When conditions are beyond our control, we just need to lay down our hearts.
Something else has been very real to me in these days.
My new project is to begin forming China stories from my past — my parents were missionaries and my aunt was a missionary — and I’ve been going through hundreds, actually thousands, of letters and pictures.
So very real to me is one of my mother’s favorite expressions. She was an amazing Bible scholar and teacher, and she would often say to her class and to us, “Practice the presence of God.”
In these COVID-19 days, I have thought about that so very much.
The unexpected becomes the expected. My parents in their 20 years of missions service were disrupted time and again by wars and rumors of war. I look at their letters and they say, “The Japanese are near our city.” Sometimes they would say, “We can hear the fighting beyond the gates of the city.” And then the Communists were coming.
I remember as a child that fear of the unexpected. We didn’t know what was going to happen, but we knew to practice the presence of the Lord. I learned that from my parents.
I hope I’m not too old to learn some lessons. I’m looking so forward with new appreciation to seeing friends and family members I haven’t been able to hug in a long time. I hope I’ve learned a new sense of gratitude.
EDITOR’S NOTE — As told to Margaret Colson. In Their Own Words is an oral history of Alabama Baptists during COVID-19. The interview has been edited for clarity and space.