Since our last update we have continued to live under severe restrictions only leaving our house for groceries and necessities. We have been under curfew during the week starting at 5pm to 5am and weekends starting Friday at 5 pm until Monday at 5am for months. Our family continues to be healthy and safe. Our morale swings periodically having such little contact with others as would be expected. This week the President issued a plan to reopen the country based on threat levels in each municipality. Where we are in Xela remains in the maximum red area so we do not have many changes except that curfew is now 9pm and malls are opening with limited stores being allowed to open and limited numbers of people being allowed to enter. All public areas remain closed including all parks and beaches in the country. It is strange living in a third world country during a time such as this.
We hear stories of people getting beat up by neighbors and even family members for testing positive for Covid. We hear of people getting blockaded in their homes with no food or supplies because they have contracted the virus. Hospitals have been full and overflowing with people being set up in hallways. Doctors and medical staff are protesting the poor conditions with insufficient protective gear and no paycheck since this all began. Several respected doctors in the country have died recently due to Covid. We are surrounded with negativity. We honestly have no idea if the medicines they are using here are working to combat this virus or not. It is such a surreal time as we drive around with bags of rice, beans and money ready to pass out to those standing on the side of the road with white flags expressing their hunger.
Ministry equally looks extremely different during this time. All non-essential personnel have been prohibited from visiting homes such as the shelter and the prisons. The shelter has continued to receive girls from all over the country which puts them all at a high risk for contracting the virus. There has been zero public transportation since all this began in March. As a result the Nannies at the Shelter have been working a full week shift instead of 24 hr shifts to cut down on contamination. They also made this change to limit having to rely on someone to bring them out to or pick them up from the shelter. There are many needs during this time so we have been able to help in different capacities. We have been providing boxes of fruit and eggs for the shelter every other week. We are also sending Bible Studies that we have written along with crafts, activity pages and supplies. A couple of the Nannies have been filling in reading the lessons to the girls and kids. With some of the restrictions being lifted, like weekend shutdowns, Jerry was able to resume the bread delivery this Sunday also.
We have had a few girls reach out to us who have left the shelter years ago. Some have lost family members to Covid and are seeking encouragement and a friendly voice. It has been a blessing to reconnect with some who we thought we may never hear from again and continue to share the love of Jesus with them. Most recently we received a Facebook Message from a girl who we met our first year at the shelter. She is now 14 and 8 months pregnant. She is now taking care of her mother who recently had surgery and her 10 yr old brother. While she has older siblings, they are married and have their own families of which to tend.
She contacted us initially to be in contact but as the conversation progressed she told us of her mom’s recent surgery and that they had no way of getting food or working. We are in contact with people in Guatemala City who could help her but in the mean time, they needed food. We prayed and each had the same amount of money we thought would be sufficient in our minds. Yesterday Jerry went out and made the deposit into her account and shortly afterwards she sent Sarah pictures of what all she bought. While we contemplated asking for pictures, we decided not to ask. She willingly sent those pictures to us and greatly thanked us. She was so appreciative and thankful. It is times like these that we are most appreciative of your support. To be able to help this family with whom we invested years ago, we are still able to invest. We thank you for your commitment to us and the lives of people God has called us to, especially for such a time as this.
Jerry continues to keep in touch with his small group from the prison via phone calls and texts several times a week. Samuel had a scare with a severe cough that would not leave for weeks. We were able to send him funds to purchase the medicine he needed and he has recovered. Several in the prison have tested positive for Covid and have been isolated together. They have not had access to medical care and have had some deaths. One of the men in Jerry’s small group, Adan was showing symptoms of Covid and was under quarantine but has since recovered and is doing much better.
We will be serving at IAS again this year. School will begin on Aug 11 and will remain online the entire semester. We are praying and hoping to be back on campus in January. We lost about two thirds of our staff since last school year with many returning to their home countries and not desiring to move back to Guatemala. Due to this, Sarah will be teaching High School English as well as remain Chaplain. She is excited for the opportunity to get to know the High School students on a deeper level being in the classroom. Jerry will continue with Bible Classes as well as teaching College and Career Prep and Community Service. School has been a blessing to keep us connected with people and busy with planning so we have not been bored. We have been encouraged how God has used us to share the truth of Jesus through serving at the school.
Even though life and ministry look different these days we are encouraged by the ways the Lord has allowed to minister and encourage those around us.
Gerald and Sarah Lastrapes
Along with their two children are missionaries in Guatemala. They will be sharing stories of discipleship through prison and shelter ministries.