June 24, 2020
First, a note from Pastor Dan:
This week’s Oasis features a thoughtful and faith-filled message from a member of First Parish Church’s Mission Board, Phil Woodman. Phil has been a part of our church’s regular mission trips to Guatemala through a program called Common Hope, which serves communities in need in a variety of impactful ways. Serving those in need is a foundational element of Christianity, one that was close to Jesus’ heart and witnessed in his actions during his ministry. Phil’s message today is an important reminder of how lucky we are, a message of hope and goodness even in the face of struggle and uncertainty, and proof that we can all be a part of God’s good work in this world, whoever we are.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14
COMMON HOPE UPDATE – GUATEMALA and COVID-19
It is now over three months that we, along with so much of the world, have been restricted in our living by remote learning, working and worship, significant legitimate uncertainty and rears shutdowns, supply chain limits and social distancing. I have certainly had much more time to examine the walls of my living room and ponder why this all seems to be such a liability as I live in a country, even with all of its current problems, that is to blessed. I have been able to drive locally, connect with family and friends via the phone or Zoom and interact in person with a few masked intimates. Even as restrictions are slowly being readjusted and lifted, I sit in my living room and bask in its “Luxury”. I use that word because two brief, week-long, mission experiences with Guatemalan people etched into my memory, perhaps into the depths of my hear, the knowledge that some of their best days will never rise up to my worst days.
Each time I joined some of you on a Vision Team trip, together, we helped to build a two room “house” for a family. The house’s total square footage was not much larger than my 12’ by 16’ living room and it would become “home” for 3 to 6 persons of a multi-generational household. What a challenge to the concept of “social distancing”! The water supply could be a community faucet down the street and the bathroom might be just an outhouse (and I was concerned the store did not have my “favorite” toilet paper).
As it became abundantly clear that COVID-19 would be a world health crisis, the Guatemalan government acted swiftly. Travelers into the country (if they could even get in) were subject to a 14 day quarantine period, therefore, all Common Hope work trips have been postponed until at least August. Families in line for a new house now are waiting months longer. Along with many NGOs, Common Hope’s Antiqua headquarters was temporarily closed. That also meant families already living on the edge lost employment and the means to provide basic necessities such as food, health and sanitary supplies. The schools were closed and many families do not have computers or internet accessibility to facilitate remote instruction and learning. A strict curfew also limited movement within communities.
How is Familia de Esperanza coping to fight “new poverty, pivoting program delivery and meeting the needs of our affiliated families to provide hope in the face of uncertainty? The US Common Hope staff continue to work from home as many of you are doing. I learned from Avi Mylrea, our Vision Team Coordinator, that their main office in St. Paul, MN was spared damage during recent unrest. There are signs that the Antiqua site may be slowly reopening. Just after my conversation with Avi, I received an update from US office. “Sadly we are now seeing COVID-19 virus cases in the communities we serve, including two members of the Common Hope family”.
Through this all, the social workers have kept contact with families being served. “Hope relief baskets” containing food, face masks, hygiene supplies have been distributed to all 1,656 families. Education kites for families with preschool and primary students are being prepared for delivery by mid July. Materials to assist others keep up reading and math skills are part of this project. Whether working Guatemala or as part of the US support, all staff “will continue to provide food and other relief, provide access to telemedicine for physical and emotional health, create education and distance learning opportunities, and improve connectivity to better serve all the families.”
How can we, the family of First Parish Church, help? We already support two children and their families through our mission budget: Yahir Torres and Cecilia Benitez. You can learn more about the COVID-19 CRISIS RESPONSE by contacting www.commonhope.org. You can be a relief sponsor and donate at the same address. Not all are called to go, not all are able to give, but all are able to pray for Yahir, Cecilia, the Antiqua staff and the US support team.
Mission Team 2017 and 2019
Together, we can bring Christ's word and work to the world.