Hope in Crisis: COVID-19 Outreach

June 11, 2020 |

Puerto Supe, Peru. COVID-19 Outreach.

“Leche!” shouts a little boy. He grabs the can of milk out of a bag and starts hugging and kissing it.

Missionaries pitch in to buy a coffin so their friend can be buried in the cemetery instead of a mass COVID-19 grave.

Churches pool their money and start committees to provide food for the neediest families in their neighborhoods.

When the new coronavirus turned into a pandemic, many people wondered, “Will COVID-19 put global missions on hold?” And while missions does look a bit different these days, we’re happy to report that God is still working to transform lives.

We asked missionaries from TEAM and South America Mission how they’re still serving in the midst of COVID-19. Both ministries are founding members of Therefore Alliance, a mission collaboration created to increase Gospel impact and bring glory to God by working together. Here’s what their missionaries told us about COVID-19 ministry.

Life and Death in Peru

Despite strict lockdowns, Peru’s number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. Hospitals have limited supplies — and limited space in their morgues.

When missionaries Stephanie and Todd Edgar lost a friend to COVID-19, the body was slated to be sent to a mass, unmarked COVID-19 grave by the highway. The family didn’t have money for anything else.

In that dark hour, the Body of Christ stepped in.

Stephanie and Todd helped buy a coffin for their friend. And with some help, the family got their loved one released and sent to the city cemetery.

But while death seems to be the unrelenting theme of the day, God is also bringing new life into the world.

Craig Gahagen serves in missions aviation. And in the midst of COVID-19, he says, “We have been averaging about one medical emergency flight per week. Most of these flights are for pregnant women in distress.”

One woman was 38 weeks pregnant in a small river town with limited medical resources. The SAMAIR team flew her to the city of Pucallpa for a potential cesarean section. Earlier in the quarantine, the team evacuated a young missionary family.

 

“When we fly, strict anti-infection protocols must be followed, including protecting passengers from the pilot and vice versa,” Craig says. “We are not carrying known COVID-19 patients, but since patients can be asymptomatic, we must exercise extreme caution.”

Everyone Needs Food, Scripture and Nature

For many missionaries in Latin America, COVID-19 ministry has been a bit less dramatic, but just as vital.

Los Cabos, Mexico, is a prime tourist destination. But with travel shut down, families are struggling to buy food. Thankfully, missionaries Art and Vicki Reyes and their congregation have been preparing for this moment.

For years, church members have contributed food items each week and given them to families in need. Now, they’re donating even more.

“Some of these folks are rather poor themselves, so they give out of their poverty,” Vicki says. And though everyone expects the economy in Los Cabos to get worse, God is already answering prayers through donations from the Reyeses’ supporters.

Farther north, in La Paz, Mexico, Steve and Lois Dresselhaus would normally be taking groups kayaking. Being surrounded by nature makes it easy to turn conversations to the God who created it.

Now, instead of taking their neighbors out into nature, the missionaries are bringing nature to their neighbors.

“Our house church group … has started a food bank, which gives rather substantial bags of basic staples to families in three neighborhoods,” Steve says.

And with each bag of food, Steve includes a Bible text printed on a quality nature photograph. It’s a little piece of nature and a reminder of God’s faithfulness while most people are confined indoors.

The church doesn’t have enough money to help everyone in need, so they had to form a committee to decide who to serve. But with each delivery, they get to share who they are, why they’re helping and how people can join them after the curfew is lifted.

Missionaries Caring for Missionaries in Northwest Brazil

 

Craig DeLille, South America Mission’s field director for Brazil, made an epic road trip with a friend to bless Brazilian missionaries and a Maxacali indigenous community. Both groups have suffered severely because of quarantine measures adversely affecting the informal economies so many in Latin America depend on.

The quote below is from Craig, who shared details of the outreach while expressing thanks to donors who provided funding to make the outreach possible.

“I just wanted to thank you for the generous contribution to bless the Maxacali village in Minas Gerais, Brazil. My dear friend Pastor Iraque and I were privileged to be able to travel over 2,000 miles round-trip over five days to visit with missionaries who serve indigenous communities throughout the northeast of Brazil, pray with them, offer words of encouragement, and provide for some of their basic needs. We delivered 44 food baskets to the missionaries along the way and 250 to the Maxacali village once we made it to our destination. Since we had 6 food baskets left over, we added three stops to our return and were able to bless two missionary families and a local pastor as well. We returned home late Tuesday evening, our age showing a bit, but very grateful for the opportunity to be Jesus’ hands and feet and humbled by the depth of His love for us.”

How Can You Pray for COVID-19 Ministries

No one knows how long COVID-19, or the side effects of our fight against it, will last. Please stand in prayer with missionaries throughout Latin America as they serve those in great need.

  • Pray for good health and safety as missionaries and local churches serve — whether by delivering food, evacuating people or serving in medical facilities. Ask God to give them wisdom in every situation.
  • Pray for continued funds to buy relief supplies. As local communities run low on funds, global churches, from the U.S. to Germany, are stepping up. Missionaries are also applying for grants to fund COVID-19 ministry efforts. Please pray for favor as they submit these applications.
  • Pray for greater understanding of and love for local communities. Good missionaries always strive to understand those they serve, but a crisis bonds people in a unique way. Pray that this time of hardship won’t be wasted, and that relationships will be even stronger by the end.
  • Ask God to open hearts to Him. Pray that missionaries and local believers will make clear what motivates them to serve others. Ask that people will see their service as a demonstration of God’s love for them.
  • Ask God to show you how you can serve your own neighbors. We all know people in various states of need. Ask God to reveal who He would have you serve right now, and ask Him how to do it.

South America Mission and TEAM have been responding since the beginning of the crisis. Our gospel collaboration has allowed us to respond more widely and more quickly than we could alone. This blog post was originally composed by Bethany DuVal, who serves as TEAM’s marketing manager and editor. 

Peru & COVID-19

May 6, 2020 |

Peru’s quarantine began on March 16th and many believed it an indefinite lockdown, as the dates for its end have regularly been pushed back, with phases for reopening just announced this week. Much of the panic in Peru is connected to the medical facilities that provide adequate medical care under normal circumstances, but would be stressed and overworked if the pandemic grows too quickly at any time. An example of this is in Pucallpa, a major city on the edge of the Amazon where many SAM missionaries work, which has three major hospitals, two that are currently closed and the remaining one only receiving patients with health insurance.

Still, we see God’s mercy and His providence. The Peruvian church and our missionaries there have hope, and from day one have worked creatively to meet the growing needs in their communities. In Arequipa, a church plant in an under-resourced part of the city created food bags to distribute to neighbors, as pictured above, and the missionaries there have helped to distribute food and resources to church members in need. In Lima, the Iglesia de la Ciudad team distributed food and money to neighbors in Manchay, an under-resourced district Southeast of the city. Like elsewhere in Latin America, most Peruvians rely on day wages to survive and this extended quarantine has been hard on many families.

As the stories flow up from the cities and communities where our missionaries serve, we are privileged to share them and give glory to God. Pray for Peru and the church there as they continue to weather an extended lockdown. Pray for our missionaries as they discern how best to serve those around them and care for themselves well. This month, thanks to the generosity of many, we have equipped our missionaries with extra resources and we ask for your prayers as they support those in need.

Bolivia & COVID-19

April 22, 2020 |

santa cruz
[Empty highways in Bolivia’s largest city, Santa Cruz; photo taken by Zayit Clavel]

 

Bolivia’s lockdown and quarantine is currently set to last through April 30th. It began officially on March 31st and individuals have been permitted to leave their home on designated days of the week based on their government ID number. Each household is only permitted one person to leave their home per day, and they must travel on foot or bicycle as all vehicle travel has been banned.

In some ways, Bolivia’s nationwide strike last October and November prepared many for this event. While people could still leave their homes and congregate in the streets, there were blockades on every corner and vehicle traffic was heavily reduced. Even so, the church was united at that time in prayer and worship movements, just as she is united in these days to be generous and support her surrounding communities.

The Association of Evangelical Churches in Eastern Bolivia took up donations and made over 1,000 bread rolls to distribute to families in need. The SAM missionary team was able to send funds out to Bolivian partners in rural Santa Cruz to support team members and friends at the discipleship center. One of our missionaries has built relationships with women in the local prison in Santa Cruz and received donations from individual supporters to help provide food and medical supplies to the women, as these prisoners rely on help from the outside for their daily needs.

The generous spirit of those whose faith is in Christ and whose peace comes from God cannot be contained by fear. Though there is chaos in our world today, God’s people stand firm in His promises and bring light into the darkness. Pray for the church in Bolivia and our missionaries there as they continue under strict quarantine guidelines and seek to meet needs in communities where businesses and livelihood have come to a halt.

Colombia & COVID-19

April 16, 2020 |

Guajira
[Photo from the Guajira Desert of Northern Colombia, taken by Lauren Jones]

 

The most recent message from the Colombian government says that mandatory self-isolation will stay through April 26th. Each region or department is enforcing the “stay at home” order in different ways. For many Colombians, crisis began overnight as their daily income from labor work was suddenly inaccessible and unsustainable.

Even so, the church has not remained idle. Missionaries throughout Colombia are sharing stories of generosity and love despite their circumstances. In Bogotá, one missionary team and their house church community is continuing to provide support for young adults who were graduated from Colombian state foster care without adoption. The team had to close their community center to the public but are still using it privately to process food they purchase from a local food bank to distribute care packages within the neighborhood.

Another team in Bogotá which walks alongside communities to engage in peace and justice work has suddenly shifted into relief efforts, despite the ethos of their ministry being concerned with long-term development work. They have already sent available funds up to the Guajira peninsula to aid the Wayuu people in this time of need. As they put it, “Many of these people now live mostly dependent on the monetary system and a daily income from their labor, while often the previous generations of Wayuu did not. Amongst many factors, severe drought in the past 8 years has served to push this marginalized people-group to further dependence on the developed world, and now, as we are seeing throughout the globe, that system is at a pause.”

Pray for the people of Colombia as many face economic crisis within their communities. We know both from their history and from our long-term friendships throughout Colombia that they are a resilient people, but even so we are all in need of God’s mercy and strength in these days.

Good Friday Hope

April 10, 2020 |

Each year as we walk through Holy Week and approach Good Friday, there is an irony to it. We annually hold the tension of remembering Christ’s final days before his crucifixion and gruesome death with the foresight of his resurrection. We are inclined to consider it “good” because of what it brings, knowing that in his death and burial the story was not over and a victory had only just begun.

This year even more so we can reflect on what is “good” about this day. In remembering the work of Christ on the cross, in seeing God dwell among men and sacrifice his son for the ransom of many, we do have reason to hope. And it is not a foolish hope—we have a firm hope that God is at work to restore his creation and draw his children near, regardless of the circumstances that surround or overwhelm us. He has declared an eternal victory over sin and death and sent us out in his Spirit to bring his kingdom to Earth.

Today we pray that God’s nearness would bless us with that tangible hope, lifting our eyes above our circumstances to see his beauty. Let us pray for those who are without any measure of security or hope in these days, that they would know the Lord. Let us pray also for our missionaries who are scattered and weathering this storm, that they would be empowered by the Spirit to be ministers of light and bring refuge to those around them.

Creativity and Courage

April 8, 2020 |

The featured image in this post is of Venezuelan currency, transformed and crafted into a figurine whose decorative value as a star is worth more than the collective value of the individual paper bills. The strange reality of this valuation is, in many ways, a sign of the times. Globally, our reality has shifted so drastically in a short period of time and what was once reliable, safe and useful has become sporadic or inaccessible in an instant.

Even so, God has called each of us to a specific and unique place today. It is no accident that any of us are “sheltering in place” wherever we are. For South America Mission’s missionary team, we have been urged to not only shelter in place but also to “serve in place”.

In these moments, we have an unprecedented opportunity to tangibly bring peace and hope to others who need it. Whether it’s through virtual encouragement, praying with people who never would have turned to prayer before or being generous with what we have toward those who are in need, we have opportunities everywhere to be the hands and feet of Christ to our world today.

This is the hour for creativity, not fear. While our feelings of uncertainty are valid, we have faith that God is who He says He is and will do what He has promised and as Paul wrote to Timothy “… God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 2:7).

Let us pray in these days that God’s Spirit would guide each of us to think creatively with the resources, influence and time we have available to us. Pray for our missionaries also as many live in full lockdown and have needed to meet needs and love others in new ways. If you are able, prayerfully join us in our Crisis Response to help our missionaries move in new ways this month to love their neighbors and serve those in need.

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