Missionaries Curtis and Diane Steward report from Chile:
No doubt about it, the last few months have been DARK around here. For one thing, winter moved in with early sunsets, overcast skies, and a 9 or 10 p.m. curfew. Then on July 28 a full lockdown quarantine was declared for our city and province. The initial two weeks stretched into two months to the day. Restrictions meant we could only leave the house for a few hours each week for medical attention or essentials (groceries, medications) and only with a laboriously obtained virtual permission.
What did that mean for daily life and ministry?
DEATHS: Since August, we have experienced the passing of several people connected to the church. Not all passed due to the virus. Most of the families don’t know Christ and have had to deal with their grief without much support or even normal funerals. And for a small church, a case of appendicitis and two emergency gall bladder surgeries in one month seem like…a lot?
DELAYS: Of course our house project has been on hold until just this week. Church finances took a nosedive as unemployment affected more and more households, and the congregation had to negotiate a lower rent for the building we’ve only used as storage space since March! Second semester Bible institute classes were cancelled, along with our January mission conference. Still waiting to hear about summer camps…
DISCOURAGEMENT: The Sept. 18 patriotic holiday, the biggest of the year here, was severely curtailed—a blow to Chileans. As masks become second skins and hugs are history, the temptation is to give into irritation, frustration, and despair. BUT…
Thank God for the LIGHTS in this present darkness:
• The Church Online: Sunday school on YouTube, Zoom prayer meetings, the new men’s group (Men of Courage), and our Ladies’ Time—all very valuable.
• The new families are growing and participating in virtual meetings.
• The bonds of friendship have strengthened. For example, the church overwhelmed us with birthday blessings recently.
• The faithful ongoing ministry is amazing. Everyone is doing their part!
• 2-weeks-early lifting of the most severe lockdown restrictions, though restaurants and malls are still closed. We can at least have small home get-togethers now and go out on weekdays. Curt and I celebrated our 41st anniversary by visiting a store!