We Are Open, and Kicking Back into Gear!
Guatemala is well into its re-opening efforts, albeit with significant restrictions and guidelines in place. Nobody mistakes the situation for normal, but it is an improvement over the last 7 months!
We are happy to report the re-opening of our regular children's feeding program in La Cuchilla. We are even happier to tell you every single child returned on the first day. That made social distancing the children a bit tricky, but it was a happy kind of dilemma and each child went home fed.
Here is how everything else is operating with Covid on our minds but Love & purpose in our hearts.
Feeding the White Flag People
White flags signify a person or whole family in need of food assistance.
Sadly, reopening the country did not immediately solve the problems of unemployment and food insecurity.
For sure, the numbers of White Flag people have dwindled as more businesses start to reopen and increased traffic prompts those with unofficial jobs to return to their pre-crisis roadside vending locations.
People are wary of another Covid wave and hesitate to spend on an extra bottle of water or plasticware from the vendors. But it's a return to their former life, and that brings some therapeutic energy with it.
Those left behind are the most desperate of the original numbers. Some have no job to return to. Others lost breadwinners to Covid or to emigration. A few are caring for extended family members as their older children and husbands search for work elsewhere.
So, our White Flag mission continues, even if there are fewer folks. Groceries, produce, and prepared meals fill our car as we drive around town looking for those in need.
This is a mission we hope ends soon. Not because we mind helping out, but because the absence of white flags will signal the end of the Covid Crisis.
Adapting to Covid Life in La Cuchilla
When we posted a sign on our La Cuchilla kitchen that we would serve a meal to the program children, we expected about two-thirds of the children to show up.
The government dictates that no more than 25 persons can congregate in one gathering, with masks and social distancing plans also mandatory.
So, when 120 kids descended upon us, it made for some quick decision-making and a moment of panic when the police drove by.
Our plan is to focus on feeding the children for now. Our hope is to manage a Christmas celebration in December and restart Bible classes in January.
Meanwhile, we bring the children's food to the front door, serve them a "to-go" meal as they arrive on a staggered schedule. We try to get some words and smiles in before we scurry them away to conform to crowd rules.
Along with their meal, we provide some food staples and groceries for each of the 60 families. It is easier now to monitor our special cases for any additional assistance they might need.
We'll see what the weeks ahead bring and whether we need to expand our roster of kids or provide more to the children's homes.
Feeding the Kids in our Youth Church
About 35 children (and a few senior citizens) share a meal five times a week at the La Naranja church in Cocales.
Sister Ana and the whole pastoral family chip in to cook, serve, and lead prayer during these vital events.
Masks are worn, and the participants try to keep some social distance. But we are envious of how they pull off a group activity every day.
The youth church children chip in to prepare and clean the area. They also help cook and sell small snacks to help cover the costs.
At their insistence, weekly youth services restarted- with masks and social distance guidelines, of course!
We continue to provide extra funds to keep the pantry stocked in Cocales.
What About Our Other Programs?
Our first special event since March took place on CHILDREN'S DAY. We distributed special snack bags and toys as we prayed over the children in La Cuchilla and Cocales, as well as dozens of our White Flag children.
Our rural school program in Pamamus remains on hold until at least January. School is expected to open for the new year, but staggered schedules might alter our usual plans. We will, however, be there for the opening week with some treats for the children and supplies for the teachers.
Socially distanced Women's Ministry meetings are slated to start later in October. The women provided a vital communications link during the shutdown months.
Unfortunately, we can not reopen the feeding program at Santa Fe. Our people there report significant problems with the disease and increased crime. We made several trips there with emergency grocery deliveries. We will continue to monitor the situation.
COVID CAN'T CANCEL CHRISTMAS!
CHRISTMAS IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!!!
Christmas has always been a mainstay of our children's ministry. Besides the children at our regular locations, we normally reach out to other churches for additional locations to share the GOOD NEWS of Jesus' birth.
Over the years, we've visited orphanages, factories, church schools, and coffee fields with the goal of handing out over 1,000 toys and gifts of need.
If we can't find enough locations, we drive around the country until there is nothing left.
Dozens of food baskets bless families in distress, too.
We are busy preparing to make this happen again this year. The days might be longer as we stagger smaller groups, and food baskets might be more of a priority.
But there will be a GOOD NEWS CELEBRATION this year despite Covid.
Our Mission and Goal
Our mission is to spread God's love through His Word, through our words, through our works, and with His help. Our goal is to help people get through acute and chronic crises by introducing (or reminding) them of the Hope and Love Jesus offers.