Locked down in the Arctic: What one woman’s choice to ride out Covid in the frozen tundra teaches us about serving God
For Valentina Miozzo, like so many others, the last year presented both unique obstacles and unique opportunities. Prior to the Covid lockdowns, Miozzo accompanied people on trips abroad to serve as their nature and walking guide while blogging about the experience. As she describes it, “My life was always spent on the road—I was away from home about six months a year.”
When the coronavirus closed travel to much of the world, however, she was left without a clear path forward. As such, she was uniquely positioned to jump at the opportunity when she was approached last September about leaving her native Italy to run a guesthouse in the Arctic Circle.
While many might blanch at the thought of leaving the rich culture and temperate climate of Northern Italy for the frozen tundra, for her it represented “a beautiful opportunity to visit places I would maybe never have chosen off my own bat. . . . Since I couldn’t do my traveling work anymore, this was a way to travel and to live another reality.”
Another reality is a great way to describe it.
Kongsfjord, Norway, the village she’s called home since last fall, is comprised of twenty-eight people with the closest grocery store and airport twenty-five miles away. She also arrived just in time for the polar nights—a period of two months where the sun never rises. Apparently, that was child’s play compared to the current circumstances, however, where from mid-May to mid-July, the sun never sets.
But despite the challenges, living in the Arctic came with its fair share of benefits as well. The extreme isolation meant that there was never a single case of Covid in the town and the wildlife—replete with foxes, whales, dolphins, seals, and countless varieties of birds—meant every day presented the opportunity to experience something new.
Miozzo has enjoyed the area so much that, despite her time at the guesthouse ending two months ago, she stayed in Kongsfjord and plans to journey even farther north soon before returning to visit the people she now considers part of her family.
Giving God room to work
One of the ways in which I believe God has been working to redeem Covid and all the changes it precipitated is by helping people reexamine the aspects of our day-to-day existence that we take for granted.
For a lot of us, where we live, what we do, and who we spend time with can easily become facts of life that we accept as normal without a second thought. The idea of actually changing things up to try something new could—and, perhaps, still does—seem incredibly intimidating. As a result, we often limit what God can do through our lives by attempting to give him a predetermined menu of options from which he can choose when deciding how we can best serve his kingdom.
The tricky part is that it can still feel like obedience and being open to his calling because it’s not like we’re dictating exactly what we’re willing to do, whom we will consent to serve, or where we will consider going. We’ve given him more than enough to work with, or at least that’s how it can seem to us.
But when was the last time you truly gave God the freedom to plan out your life and how he would use you without any preconceived notions of what that might look like?
It’s a scary thought, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s not something I’m comfortable doing either. But if you look at the people in Scripture and throughout Christian history who have been used by God to accomplish truly remarkable things for his kingdom, often the only quality they had in common was a willingness to be used.
They likely had their preferences, but, when God said go, they went. When he said stand up for him, they stood and often did so against overwhelming pressure. And when he said to share his truth, they took that message of repentance and salvation wherever he led.
How big is your menu?
It’s easy to gaze at the world around us and lament all the ways in which it seems like our culture is straying from God’s path. It’s much harder to look in the mirror and honestly ask the Lord what he would have us do about it.
But if the gospel really is as transformative and powerful as we claim it to be, then how could our society not fall apart without it? And, as Paul noted, if we want to see things get better, then it has to start with those who have been transformed by the gospel taking the gospel to those who so desperately need it (Romans 10:14).
So set aside some time today to ask God to help you do a bit of introspection.
How much freedom have you given him to work in your life?
How big is your menu of acceptable responses when you ask him to use you?
How you answer those questions will go a long way toward determining the degree to which you can make a real impact for his kingdom.
So pray with faith and respond with courage. God’s calling is often a little scary, and that’s all right. It’s just his way of reminding us that we can’t do it without him.
Fortunately, he also promises that we’ll never have to.