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Great is Thy Faithfulness

Nearly every night for the past two years or so, our son Josiah has asked me (Abby) to sing "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" before he goes to sleep. Some nights he giggles through it. Other nights he is angry about having to go to bed. On rare occasions, he is so exhausted that he falls asleep before I finish. But no matter how he feels, hearing "Shadows" at bedtime is a priority for him. I must confess that many nights it has simply become part of the routine and I find myself rushing to finish it so that I can move on to my other responsibilities. Still, when I take a moment to slow down and contemplate the words, I find that God uses the song I am teaching my son to remind me of a very deep truth.

The past few months have also served to remind us time and time again of God's great faithfulness. On Sunday, January 19, I started feeling contractions that became increasingly more regular. Because I was still more than six weeks from the twins' due date, we went to the hospital to see what could be done. The labor and delivery nurses put me on an IV drip to stop labor, and I settled in for what we all believed would be a two-day hospital stay, followed by bedrest. 

On Tuesday morning, January 21, I woke up feeling calm and well-rested.  My contractions had basically disappeared, but the nurses became concerned about baby boy's heart rate. They brought in oxygen and called the doctor, and within a short time, I went from casually enjoying my breakfast to being prepped for an emergency c-section. 

It was an unexpected turn of events, to say the least, but we are incredibly thankful that Silas Jacob and Rebecca Eileen made their appearance with no complications during delivery. The doctor later explained to us that they discovered a small detachment in Silas's placenta, which is likely what caused the contractions. If they had sent me home, it would have continued detaching undetected and could have been very dangerous for him. Also, Rebecca had some meconium in her sac, which could have also been problematic for her. Although no one wanted the babies to come six weeks early, it turned out to be the best possible outcome.

For the next few weeks, we got to know the hospital very well. I was able to stay for a full week to rest, recover, and stay close to the babies, who were in incubators across the hall from my room. They were doing well but needed to gain weight, and Silas was having trouble digesting his food. A few days after I was released, Silas contracted a staph infection and had to undergo a fourteen-day antibiotic treatment. Rebecca came home during that time, and Silas was released when his treatment finished. 

We are very thankful for the incredible treatment that the babies received, and we are glad to have two happy, healthy babies home with us. We are also thankful for my mom, who came down immediately after the twins were born and spent seven weeks with us. My dad joined her at the end, and both went home March 11, as we prepared to settle into normal life. 

Of course, we all know now that nothing normal would happen in March 2020. The day after my parents left, Josiah's school closed due to COVID-19 and has not yet reopened. The borders were closed, and we heard rumors of flight cancellations. Wanting to keep our options open, we began to work on obtaining the twins' documents, just in case we needed to travel with them. Incredibly, we were able to visit multiple government offices and collect everything we needed in just a few days. 

As we talked, prayed, and kept an eye on the news, we ended up making the last-minute decision to return to the U.S. for a few months. Although Costa Rica has not been hit hard by COVID-19, their smaller health care infrastructure could more easily become overwhelmed, especially as the country enters its flu season during the U.S. summer. Being premature, our twins are especially vulnerable to influenza, and they cannot be vaccinated for it until they are six months old. We shared our concerns with good friends in Washington, who quickly offered to let us stay in their home while they spend the winter and spring in California. We hoped to wait at home in Costa Rica to see how things developed, but when the airlines began to put end dates on all out-going flights, we decided to leave in late March while we had the chance. 

Since then, God has opened so many doors to provide for everything we need and so much more. We have been able to stay in close touch with our office, pastors, and missionaries, and Josiah meets with his preschool class on Zoom. We are also enjoying an unusually sunny spring here in Washington, and we are thankful to be in a comfortable and familiar place when we need to go out.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers for our family as we navigate these unprecedented times. We continue to hold all of you close to hearts, as we know it has not been an easy year for anyone. People from Latin America are also very concerned about the the U.S., so please keep us updated and let us know how we can be praying for you! Our God is truly faithful, and while so much remains uncertain, we believe we will continue to see His hand of provision in our lives and in His work around the world. 

COVID-19 Update 

Like the rest of the world, Latin America is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the virus started showing up in the region, many countries knew that their healthcare systems were not equipped for a mass pandemic, so they went into strict lockdown fairly quickly. The rules vary somewhat from place to place, but, in general, restrictions mean that people can only go out for essential errands one day per week, which is often determined by national ID number and is sometimes gender-specific. In some places, residents can't drive at all, or they are restricted to traveling within a mile or so of their house. Borders are closed, and almost all commercial flights have been cancelled, so people are not traveling in or out. 

Like in the rest of the world, churches in Latin America have not been able to meet for a few months. Very few if any have the capability of receiving offerings online, so cancelling services means that the church will receive almost no income. If pastors depend on the church for their salaries, they will receive no income either. Even those who do have a way to collect tithes will not likely receive much. Most of our brothers and sisters have been unable to work as a result of the quarantine, and they do not have jobs that guarantee their income. They typically work one day to buy food for the next, so many families have vey little eat for the weeks they are locked inside. 

Still, we are impressed with the incredible effort we have seen across the region to feed the bodies and souls of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even very small churches have embraced technology, broadcasting their services on Facebook Live or other platforms. Pastors send devotionals to their congregations via WhatsApp, and one pastor told us that she even asks people to respond with photos to show they did it. Leaders are learning to host meetings or even worship services via Zoom. We have had the privilege of joining a leadership meeting in the Amazon region of Brazil, the monthly pastors' meeting in Costa Rica, and a joint worship service for the churches in Panama.

One of the most exciting developments has been the region-wide prayer services that the CIID has put together. During the first one, more than one hundred people on eighty devices from eighteen countries joined together on Zoom to worship, pray, and share together. Then they broke up into small groups and had the chance to pray together and to get to know one another on a more individual basis. The service went so well that people immediately requested another one. The second meeting had even more participants, so more were scheduled. 

To meet the growing demand and attempt to keep the meetings under Zoom's standard limit of 100 devices and avoid paying the $50 per month upgrade, the leaders decided to schedule meetings for specific groups, such as women and youth. When the youth meeting was held last Friday, we were all shocked when more than 400 participants signed in on 355 devices! The group was highly enthusiastic about connecting, and some stayed online to talk for nearly two hours after the event officially ended. We are very excited to see how God continues to use this generation's hunger for connection for the growth of His church in the region. 

Page 1 of 4 of the pastors. The youth had more than 14 pages of photos!

The leadership in our region has also started organizing efforts to support pastors and church members that are going hungry as a result of the pandemic. We are proud of the steps they have taken and hope to support their work with funds from the Church of God Ministries' hunger relief fund. We know that the effects of this pandemic and the resulting economic crisis will be felt in our region for many years, so we are grateful for the opportunity to respond when and where it is most needed. 

If you feel led to support the hunger relief fund, which provides some relief to the most needy in Latin America and around the world, please click here. One hundred percent of donations that come into this fund go directly to meet a hunger need connected with one of our churches. 

Thank you for your faithful prayers and support for the work God is doing around the region. These are strange, difficult times, but we firmly believe that He is working out something good that will become a part of the testimony of Latin America for years to come. 

Other Prayer Requests and Praises
  • Give thanks for Aron and Melissa Thompson, who are the newest members of the Latin America missionary team. They will be joining us in Costa Rica, focusing on supporting the work of the local churches, hosting mission teams, and serving as educational liaisons for our region. Pray for them as they begin the daunting task of raising support in this economy. If you are interested in learning more about them and their ministry, click here
  • Pray for Pastor José Martínez from the Church of God in Los Guido, Costa Rica. He suffered a stroke in January that greatly affected his speech. Although he has responded well to the speech therapy he has been able to receive, he is still working hard on the road to recovery. 
  • Pray for the outbreak in Peru, where Pastor Francisco Chiroque and his family are recovering from coronavirus. Another Peruvian leader has asked for prayers for the family of his friend Pastor David Valera of the Assemblies of God, who passed away this week at the age of 48 from COVID-19. 
  • Give thanks for forty years of service that our colleagues David and Barbara Miller have given to Church of God missions. This month they are transitioning to a new role in a disciple-making ministry. We are looking forward to seeing all the ways that the Lord uses them! 
A Special Thank You 

We know that the events of the past few months have been very difficult for many families and congregations that partner with us and with other Global Strategy missionaries and projects around the world. On behalf of all of our colleagues, we just want to say a very special THANK YOU to those who have given faithfully and sacrificially, especially in such uncertain times, to allow us to continue with the work the Lord has called us to do. In a time when we are all naturally inclined to turn inward and protect our own resources, we greatly appreciate all of you who have answered God's ongoing call to participate in His work around the world. 
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