“WE HAVE DIFFERENT MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS BUT WE SHARE THE SAME SUN, MOON AND SKY.” – Quote from a Chinese poem
How are you???
It’s been a crazy month these last few days.
Every time I sit down to write an update, I feel like the words are stuck. I never think I’ll be able to convey life in Guatemala the way I see it through my eyes. And then, when I’m done writing, I just hit SEND and hope for the best.
Wednesday, March 11, Guatemala shut down flights entering the country from Spain, Germany, Italy, Korea, China and Iran.
Karlie asked if we thought the US would be next.
“My guess, by the end of the week.”
On Friday the 13th Guatemala had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Cecilia and I were driving one of our teachers to a doctor appointment in Guatemala City and were on our way home when we heard the news.
“Crap. It’s here Ceci.” The truth is, I knew it was here. And I knew there wasn’t just one case. It was just the first case they knew about. “Within the week, there will be 3-5 cases. Within two weeks, 10.”
On Saturday morning, Vonda and I talked about cancelling classes. “The government will shut schools down within 2 weeks. I think we should do it.”
Later in the day, the government announced that no flights from the United States would be allowed to land in Guatemala after Sunday midnight.
A missionary friend and her daughter were scheduled to fly back on Wednesday, March 17th, two days too late. It was impossible to get through to the airlines to change flights. We worked with her late into the night and at 4am, she was finally able to buy new tickets so she could fly back and be with the rest of her family. She landed and was immediately put under house quarantine.
On Sunday, March 15th we went to the grocery store to buy enough food for a couple of weeks. We’re a family of 9 who still buy diapers so it looked like a lot. It was a lot. Gabe and I kept as much distance as we could from other shoppers. At this point, there was no panic. The store was actually fairly empty in the middle of the day.
As we were leaving, the mood had already changed. We saw people in line with 3 or 4 large packages of toilet paper. I questioned myself, “Should I have gotten more toilet paper???”
We drove to the pharmacy and picked up enough prescription meds to last 2 months.
On the way home we stopped by a warehouse that sold dry corn. It’s a staple in Guatemala. “How many 100 lb bags can I buy?”
The young man looked at me and let out a little laugh, “As many as you want.”
“I’ll take 10 bags.” They loaded them in the back of the truck. The thing is, we don’t eat corn tortillas. The 1,000 lbs of corn is for our community who will surely need it.
When we got home I met with Adalis, who’s taking over a lot of the administrative responsibilities. “Contact the students and tell them school is cancelled until further notice. Tell the teachers to stay home and that I’ll call them later in the week. I’ll be depositing their pay for the month, TODAY. They need to go to the store TODAY to buy food. Tell them to get rice, beans, corn and pasta. Tell them to get medicine. Tell them to buy something for their grandparents.”
That afternoon Cecilia and I drove to Elvira and Francisca’s homes. One is a gramma who’s raising her teenage granddaughter by herself and the other is a single mom. They work in our kitchen and are the only two who don’t have bank accounts, so I hand delivered their checks.
“Cash your checks TODAY. Don’t wait. Buy food that lasts.” I also gave them Q500 cash because they both work part time and I knew the extra money would help them get by.
Ceci and I then visited Julia. Julia is a sweet 60-year-old widow who’s raising a boy who was basically left at her doorstep 10 years ago. CRAZY. He attends our academy and is THE MOST KIND KID I KNOW. So respectful. AND SO SMART!
“Julia, the storm is coming. The virus. You need to buy food and try not to go anywhere.” I gave her Q800, about $105. It’s a lot of money in the villages of Guatemala and has a lot of buying power.
She began to cry, “God bless you. May God multiply what you have and what you give.”
“God bless you Julia. With God, all things are possible. The storm will pass.” The people of Guatemala are incredibly kind, gracious, humble, hardworking AND RESILIANT.
On the way out of the lower part of El Rosario, I saw one of our students. His family is poor-poor. They sometimes go to the market at the end of the day to see if the vendors are throwing out edible fruits and vegetables – kind of poor.
I gave him Q500. “Go buy food that lasts. Use ALL of it on food. TODAY. I’ll see you when this passes.” As I looked in the rearview mirror, he and his little brother were running to their house.
On the way home we had one more stop. We have an employee who just started working for us 3 days ago. Rene is building a greenhouse so we can grow vegetables to use at the academy.
“Rene. I’m sorry to tell you, you can’t come to work tomorrow. We’re closing the school down.” He looked worried. “I’m going to pay you for the month. There’s a storm coming…”
I handed him Q1,500. It was probably the most money he’d ever held at once. He didn’t take it at first.
“Es mucho pisto!” “That’s a lot of cash.” He just shook his head, “I haven’t worked for it.”
“Rene, you’re part of our team. You have to take it. We take care of each other.” He was still hesitant. “I’ll call you when this passes. I’ll call you when you can start work again.” He took the money.
“Thank you. When you call me, I’ll be there.”
“I know you will. God bless you and your family.”
The people we love and serve in El Rosario don’t live month to month. They don’t even live week to week. Most people we know live day to day. They buy food 2 and 3 days at a time.
The President took a bold step in shutting down most of the transportation system and most non-essential businesses. Unfortunately, that means our neighbors incomes…STOP.
In the last 24 hours we’ve had 3 mommas come to the door. We’re going to need prayers and guidance from the Holy Spirit, to discern who, when and how to help. We’ve started a list of older people and single moms who we’ll check in on. We’re going to help the most vulnerable first.
We’re praying for specific families in our little village. If you’d like to join us, I’ll send you the list as it updates. Just email me directly.
If you’d like to help feed families, CLICK HERE to make a donation. Click “Feed a family in crisis” in the dropdown menu. You can donate any amount. The suggested donation is $75, which usually feeds a family of 5 for a month. We’ll earmark that money and buy food as it becomes available. We’ll distribute it safely, when it’s appropriate.
* Currently, there are just 9 cases and 1 death in Guatemala. Antigua Guatemala is generally saturated with tourists from all over the world including Italy and Spain. I expect those numbers to start climbing quickly. I hope I’m wrong.
All our love,
George and Vonda
Christians. Guatemalan missionaries. Mom and Dad to EIGHT!