An update from El Salvador by Alex Shevock.
Hello friends and family!
Seven months ago, La Capilla, El Salvador was booming with more than 30 ministries, reaching and teaching the Bible to many. By the grace of God, I was part of that, until I took a flight to Florida for a "quick" visit to my family.
Then COVID hit.
El Salvador closed its borders, airports, schools, universities, churches, restaurants, shops, and everything you can imagine long before the United States. The church that was once super busy was left empty, lifeless.
Fortunately, Facebook and Youtube became the means to stay connected; although many in the church do not have internet. For the past 7 months, Pastor Carlos has been appearing on Facebook Live every night to talk about the daily Bible reading guide he sends in the morning; Ephesians, and a book by Oswald Sanders called Spiritual Maturity that we read digitally every day.
I thank God for the ability to continue connecting as a congregation and learn together during such uncertain times (especially since I was stuck in the United States up until a week ago!) Normally, the congregation of our church amounts to approximately 2500 people (3 services on Sundays with about 800 each service), but now only 550 people. Facebook Live has grown, the viewers range from here in El Salvador, to Argentina, to Mexico, the United States and even across the ocean to Spain. We praise God for how many have been reached through the systematic teaching of the Bible.
In March, the church was mandatorily closed due to government restrictions. The 6-month closure of the church meant 6 months without tithing. The lockdown across the country meant job losses. Fifty percent of parents stopped paying $45 a month for church school. By law, the church has continued to pay the 60 employees (working or not) during these months of almost no income. The property in San Martín has had to let go four of its employees. Two Patmos students from Peru continue to live here, along with two Patmos staff members waiting for the possibility of these students returning home after a long 9-month stay.
The money that was saved to buy the adjoining parking lot to the church has gone to all these expenses, amounting to $90,000. With the opening of the church, worship has begun slowly.
Children's ministry is restricted to online classes, which prevents many from attending in person due to lack of child care. The elderly or sick stay at home for safety, others stay home out of fear or indifference. It is questionable whether the church school will be able to reopen next year, or whether we can have a discipleship program here on the beautiful church property in San Martin. The Lord knows this and we are resting on that fact.
Seven months later, we continue with Facebook Live discussions every night at 8 pm sharp. Sunday will mark the fourth weekend with in-person services, separate seats, required masks and lots of hand washing.
I ask you to PRAY with us as what would typically be the most exciting part of the year; the church anniversary, Thanksgiving, and Christmas festivities simply bring more question marks.
Pray for protection, provision, wisdom, and for God's will to be done (which I sure hope includes a safe and pronto reopening of Campos Blancos!)
Thank you for your support and love towards a place and a people whom I also love dearly.
Here is our Facebook page =)
Con un fuerte abrazo,
Alexa (aka Alex, Alexandra)
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)
This verse is perhaps one of the easiest to understand as it is pretty self-explanatory. Have you ever been really thirsty? We were branding one spring while it was a very sunny and warm day. For those that have been involved with branding calves you understand how dusty and dry it can get. About half way through I was not sure I could feel my tongue anymore. I wanted water in the worst way, almost to a point of not being able to continue without it. I think that is what Jesus means when He says, “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
That type of thirst or hunger that drives ‘til you stop everything else to quench it. In some way we all want righteousness; I believe this verse is for that hunger or thirst that takes control of your mind. Few of us have ever been really hungry; that was probably the closest I have ever been to truly understanding thirst. I believe God used that time to help me get a small understanding of what He is talking about in this verse.
God is looking for those that desire Him over everything else. The good thing is, those that do will be ‘filled’ or blessed. Multiple times throughout scripture we see this truth. I’ve listed a few of the verses below. This is not a comprehensive list, so see how many more you can find that relate to this topic; as we do, we “shall be filled.”
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Matthew 5:4 (NKJV)
We have all mourned for something; the loss of a loved one, a job, a friendship, or a pet. I believe we need to view this verse as a temporary condition, not a permanent state. We need to look at the word ‘mourn’. I am not trying to make light of our losses but they are not a permanent feeling or way of feeling. The thought that came to me was mourning over our condition of spiritual bankruptcy, if you will. When we realize that we are helpless in a situation, we go through a type of mourning. There are those who go into this state of mourning and seem to stay in it for years. I know everyone walks through these things differently, however, Jesus states in this verse that they shall be comforted.
My point is that we are not to go around with our head down declaring what a sorry, no good, sinner we are. While this may be true, Jesus promises comfort. If we translate this verse literally, we could say it as ‘Happy’ are those that mourn. That part alone would be an oxymoron to most of us. How can one be happy if they are mourning? Have you ever been hit so hard by a loss that completely broke you? Did you notice that when you reach the end of yourself, there came a sense of peace and comfort? I have been there. Maybe what He is trying to tell us, is that if we come to that kind of mourning over our own condition, we will find comfort.
The first two verses of the beatitudes are pointing to our relationship with God and our heart attitude. This is where it all starts; what is my heart and attitude towards the Father? Am I acknowledging Him? For me, I must always put my relationship with God above everything else and let God arrange all of the other parts of my life. These two verses help us to do just that.
Lord, help me to continue to be humble in my relationship with you. Give me comfort and peace to know that You are all I need.
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God…" — Isaiah 41:10a
COVID 19 has made its way into Malawi! PRAY it stays contained! There are only a few ventilators and ICU beds in the entire country -- and no ability for most people to get medical help if it spreads.
In one village area, Mary Phiri and Brenda Sanama had an opportunity to teach gogos, preventative measures like social distancing, hand washing with soap, wearing masks and recognizing symptoms.
Mary Phiri showing the importance of hand washing!
SAFE has 2,730 gogos registered in all three regions of Malawi. Many are still caring for orphans and vulnerable children. Ironically, they are some of the most vulnerable themselves!
Mary using a stick to help describe social distancing. Nothing could be more culturally different!
The Malawian government is shutting down the country through May 9... So our plans to get soap to our other villages had to be changed! White ash from the cooking fires can be used for hand washing, but it is NOT as effective as soap.
Thankfully, SAFE has village coordinators that live in all of our sponsored villages. They can be equipped to educate their village about COVID 19 during the shutdown period. They can also help people replace their fears with faith in Jesus.
James, Coordinator for Kawiya villages, sharing a prayer time with the gogos.
SAFE staff have been seeding God’s word for years in the hearts of gogos, children, teachers, students and inmates in the prisons. We know God will use them during this time to be His witnesses in their communities.
“ … I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10b
Please pray! Malawi is especially vulnerable due to poverty, culture and illiteracy, and because its healthcare systems are way below international standards.
Their hope -- and ours -- is in God!
“Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him; the LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.” -- Psalm 41:1-2
To Pray and/or Donate please visit: https://gogograndmothers.com/donate
In His love for the least and for you,
U.S. Coordinator for SAFE/Gogo Grandmothers.com