Most of you have been keeping up with our journey from Guatemala back to the States both by our driving to the States as well as our transition in ministries. First off, we would like to thank you all for your prayers, additional support and encouragement during this time. Thankfully our drive from Guatemala to Louisiana was a wonderfully, stressful, beautiful, boring, adventurous and scenic trip; we encountered friendly and helpful police and military agents with only questions about gringo's driving a Guatemalan car back to the United States. Most agents, after we began speaking Spanish, wished us well on our journey with a smile and a wave. During our many miles, 2087 to be exact (minus Sarah's route), we found ourselves on great toll roads, wide open gas stations with areas for our dogs to mark their territories, and familiar places to get lunch (when lunch meat sandwiches got old). We could not have asked for a better road trip and thank you all for your prayers each day, we definitely felt them and God's guidance every mile of the way.
Our transition back to live in the States is not without stresses as we now find ourselves in supermarkets with more options than could be imagined and while we have visited and experienced this before, it is a strange feeling to know this is our new normal and that we can't just deal with it for a short while. But the transition also has many bright spots as well; having holiday celebrations with family, and seeing friends. As it stands we are asking that you continue to support us as this transition has proved more difficult than expected. Our job situation which we thought was set is less than set and while there are opportunities the opportunities are not paying what we expected. Getting Coleman enrolled into school is proving just as difficult as we encounter roadblocks and hurdles. We know God has brought us back to the States, we know God walked us through every step of our decision, we know God has a plan and a solution for our anxieties and fears.
The button below is a link to a youtube video of a song that God put on my heart the entire drive from the Western border of Guatemala with Mexico to Sarah's parents driveway. The lyrics kept resonating over and over in my mind with every mile we passed, with every feeling of anxiety, with every strange sound from the car; the chorus states, "My God is bigger, better, stronger, greater than you" and that is what we must still cling to as we negotiate so many new situations. Our God is bigger, better, stronger, greater than all the detours and roadblocks we find in the path God has set us on. We are so thankful for all your prayers and ask that you continue to pray for us as we navigate this new journey of learning how to live in the United States again. Recently we have found ourselves feeling like we did when we moved to Guatemala; lost, confused, in familiar yet not familiar settings and learning the culture...all in a place we have lived before. We truly could not have done what we did in Guatemala without you or your prayers and so we ask that you continue to pray for us as we transition and that we give ourselves grace during this process. Thank you and Peace of Christ to You.
Teaching and tutoring…
It’s been a lot the past few weeks!
Things are getting real around here. We are down to 3 non-matching plates. We each have one that we wash at each meal. We are feeling very overwhelmed as we see new challenges with the move, sometimes daily as we continue our routines with school, tutoring, and ministry.
One major change is that due to circumstances we will now be driving back to the states thru Mexico in our car instead of flying. This is a blessing for a couple of reasons but does not come without a few concerns. One major blessing is that we are able to take our dogs with us via this route. Another blessing is that we can drive our car so we do not need to sell and buy a new main vehicle upon arrival. Some concerns are safety and ease at border crossings. We have been speaking with several missionaries who have made the trip thru Mexico so we are following advice and being as wise as we know how.
We continue to covet your prayers as we strive to finish well in Guatemala with our friends and ministries; especially as we navigate so many emotions. We would also like to encourage you to pray about year-end giving, we have many expenses moving back to the States, some expected some unexpected. While we trust God to work out the details we also want to provide an opportunity to serve through financial giving.
A few specific prayer requests
Peace of Christ to You,
Gerald for all
Does anyone really like change? I know I don't…which is probably why I enjoy teaching so much. Scheduled classes, scheduled breaks in the day, scheduled holidays, etc but change is inevitable and how we deal with that change determines how we respond to the following change. For 9.5 years we have lived in Guatemala ministering in a number of different areas ranging from pastors to abused women and children, teaching…and many in between. We have ministered to some of the most affluent in our city to those who only had the clothes on their backs. We cannot thank God enough for allowing us to invest in the lives of the countless people He has brought to us. And yet, God has more for us to do, still with Latins, still in Spanish but in a much more familiar setting.
This past summer, it was made known to us through many different people in many different ways; that God is calling us to transition into a new season. The need for Spanish speakers to minister in the states was made very clear to us. God has provided us with opportunities to use our Spanish learning experience to serve English Language Learners and their families in the public school system. While Sarah spent some time substitute teaching and summer school teaching in the ESL department she saw firsthand the need and opportunities not only to serve students but also their parents. This opportunity has also presented a very beneficial opportunity for Coleman to graduate from a Louisiana high school allowing him access to the Louisiana TOPS program for college. Plan A is for us to move back to Louisiana in late December before the Second Semester of this school year begins so that we can register Coleman for the second half of his Junior year. We do have a Plan B and even Plan C so please pray for us as we walk these steps over the next few months.
These decisions do not come lightly or easily; we love our life here in Xela and the work God has brought to us over the years but we are also seeing God opening doors for us back home in Louisiana. Sadly, COVID has affected many different parts of our lives (we are still under mask mandates indoors) but one of the biggest hits was to our shelter and prison ministries. Gerald is still collecting and delivering bread to the shelter every Sunday and has recently gained help from his Community Service students who meet him and help him load up and deliver the bread to the shelter. Please pray that someone in the school will take on this role when we leave Guatemala. Life and ministry here has changed and we have prayed and tried to adapt but it is evident that our time here is passing. God has truly etched Spanish speakers into our hearts during these past 9.5 years and we are excited and nervous as we follow Him into this next season of ministering to them in a different format.
One of our many prayers is that you will continue your support to us through your financial giving as we transition from Guatemala to Louisiana. We have many expenses in the near future such as
We hope that you will continue to support us through this season of change and that you may give more than you normally would to help us cover these costs. While we do have jobs within the Calcasieu Parish School System waiting for us in Louisiana many of our costs will be well before we arrive in Louisiana. Our mission organization has suggested we continue to receive financial support via World Outreach Ministries through the month of March 2023 to aid in this transition.
We are incredibly grateful for your many years of supporting the ministry here in Guatemala and ask that you pray for the following requests:
Thank you to those of you who responded to our most recent newsletter with financial gifts, prayers and words of encouragement. We have felt your prayers and we are encouraged!
Finances and Summer Needs
Sarah will arrive in the States later this week to work. She is excited for this opportunity to work with Spanish speakers in the Lake Charles area, and will be sharing a ride to work with Maddy for the month of May. There is still a need for a vehicle for her for the months of June and July as it looks like she and Maddy will be working different jobs for the summer. Please pray for the background check paperwork to process quickly so Sarah can begin working within the first week she arrives. Please also pray for details to be worked out for the summer school ESL position. Continue to pray for Gerald and Coleman as they are looking to join Sarah in the states for the month of July.
Franco Roca Family
For those of you who have been praying for our young friend whose mother has been seriously ill, please be in prayer for the Franco Roca Family as they grieve the loss of their mother. She passed away this past week, and it has been a very emotional time for us and our school family. Sarah was able to spend some time with our friend yesterday evening, and she is feeling very alone in the world. She did ask about attending church with us so we are thankful for this. Please pray for her heart as she grieves and pray that God would be very real to her and that she would pursue a relationship with Him.
Gerald and S.E.W. at IAS
Spiritual Emphasis Week is fast approaching. Please be praying for all the final details to fall into place, as there have been some last minute changes. Be in prayer for the teachers as they prepare messages as the scheduled speaker from the states is unable to come. Pray that the teachers will be able to faithfully and genuinely share from the Psalms as they address “What to do when I am feeling…” with both middle and high school. The committee Gerald is a part of is working hard to make this an impactful week despite all the restrictions in place. Pray for hearts of the students attending to be open to hear from God.
While Maddy may not be with us in Guatemala, God is working in her life and has given her an amazing ministry during her time in the States. She has been working as a Bilingual Paraprofessional in a Junior High School. She works with a group of students who speak very little English and her heart for these students is evident in the stories she shares with us almost daily. She will begin studying at McNeese University in the fall while continuing her job with the school. Please pray for her stamina and courage to work full time as well as study full time. She has gotten involved in a wonderful church and has become very active in the young adult ministry. She will be traveling with them on a mission trip to Arlington, TX working in an impoverished neighborhood with Spanish speakers. She will definitely be in her element. Please pray for her safety as well as her heart as she serves on this team.
Coleman will be spending much time working independently with Sarah in the States and Gerald at school. Please pray for his determination and perseverance to do his work well and with understanding. He will be having a few small adventures during these next few weeks, please pray that these will be fruitful and beneficial to him as he learns and grows.
A Recap of Prayer Requests
We are beyond thankful to those of you who faithfully lift our family and ministry up in prayer.
Blessings to you,
The career missionary must be skilled in many things, from being an expert driver and navigator to having excellent communication skills (including being a dynamic speaker), a talented writer, highly trained and skilled in their area of ministry as well as the Bible. They must have the keen ability to pick up on social cues they have zero frame of reference for, all while simultaneously losing the cues they once knew without even thinking; just to name a few. The least favorite of all of these is the humbling ability to ask for financial support over and over again.
It takes a lot to juggle and manage. We have failed in a few of these areas over the years. Life during the pandemic has been hard on everyone. It has been supremely stressful for missionaries trying to navigate simple life information, medical care and ministry in the midst of conflicting information and illogical restrictions in countries where we live. Honestly we will never have the same inherent response to tragic circumstances as those around us.. On top of all this, waning financial support due to many factors, the least of which is an unstable economic climate in all parts of the world. Gas prices have soared to the equivalent of $5 a gallon here in Xela as well as basic groceries rising significantly. All of this plays on the hearts and minds of missionaries serving.
Despite these trying times we were able to deliver gifts, food and a short Christmas message at the shelter in December. We were only allowed to drop off the gifts and food. Sarah was the only one permitted into the dining hall to speak with the girls. It was a bitter sweet time. It was wonderful to see so many eager faces but sad that it was so short and limited. We were extremely happy to be able to share this time with Maddy who was in Guatemala for a mere 10 days over her break.
We are also coordinating with the Community Service group at school to provide some basic needs at the shelter before the end of May. They are once again in need of basic toiletries, under clothes and socks. If you, your small group, your youth group, or your church are interested in helping us meet this need please let us know!
Gerald will continue at IAS to finish out the school year. Please pray for Spiritual Emphasis week coming up May 16-20 as there is a special speaker traveling from the States; as well as an attempt at a Lock In style retreat Friday-Saturday. This is a big undertaking with so many restrictions still in place and the school liable for any complications. Please pray that the hearts of our high school student body will be softened during this week and for revival among our teachers and students.
We have lost a significant amount of financial support over the past two years. We have been hesitant to petition for more support during this time of instability in the world as well as a major hurricane devastating the area of our main support base. However, our finances have reached a critical level. Sarah will be arriving in the States May 5 to begin work as a substitute teacher for the local public school system. She has also applied to teach Summer School. She is in need of a vehicle to borrow as well as any other work in the gap weeks between school and summer school. Please contact us if you are able to meet this need or know of someone who can. Also please pray with us that Sarah’s time will be fruitful in all areas.
Coleman will remain in Xela with several weeks worth of school work left to accomplish. Please pray for him as he needs parental support to accomplish school tasks. Sarah will attempt to provide this support online as much as possible.
Opportunities for you to get involved:
1 - A vehicle for the summer so Sarah can drive to work.
2 - Work for the month of July for Gerald
3 - Work for Coleman for the month of July as well so he can begin saving money since he is not able to work in Guatemala.
4 - Monthly financial support to increase
5 - For wisdom and discernment as we seek to know God’s will for our future in Guatemala.
6 - A renewed spirit and heart for the people and ministry here in Xela.
Please be in prayer with us for these needs. If you are able to help provide or have leads for any of these please contact us via email or WhatsApp (a free messaging app).
Sarah 011 502 4044 9860 email@example.com
Gerald 011 502 3034 8290 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wow! This year has been all over the place.
We started the year teaching online school with Inter American School of Xela. All four of us were in different rooms connected to our computers all day long. It was intense.
Ministry has looked different. But God has been faithful to us. We have all stayed healthy. We have all learned to thrive during this time and God used this time to refocus us as a family.
In May we watched Maddy graduate in an immediate family only, outdoors ceremony. It was memorable! We are so thankful this was able to take place at the last minute since there was no closure for the Seniors of 2020 due to country wide shutdowns. Maddy has since moved to the states and is working, taking exams for scholarships and getting settled into life in her old/new culture. The transition has had its bumps and setbacks but she has handled things extremely well and we are so proud of her. She is looking forward to attending McNeese State University in the fall of 2022.
Jerry continues to teach High School Bible Classes as well as Senior College Prep classes at IAS. He has been part of beginning a Men’s Discipleship group for teachers. Guatemala is still under many restrictions and many churches continue to not hold in person services. This discipleship group is an answer to prayer for many and for Jerry and Trevor (Secondary principal) as they have prayed for the past year for a way to reach these young teachers with the love of Jesus and encourage them in their walks with the Lord.
Sarah and Coleman have stepped back to return to homeschool for his last two and half years of schooling. This has been a huge blessing and we have seen Coleman grow and succeed academically with this change. It has also allowed Sarah to serve in the area of hospitality. From preparing a meal for a family from the school who had all contracted Covid at the same time leaving the teenagers alone in the house while the parents were both hospitalized to hosting dinner and game nights to provide a taste of home for single teachers; she has enjoyed being able to minister in this natural way. We are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and hosting a couple of guy teachers in our home.
Ministry has been much more one on one and personal this past year. We have been able to encourage and bless a few of the girls who lived at the shelter in the past. With Covid in this country came great economic hardship. A few families reached out to us for prayer and help. We were able to pray with each one and pay rent for some, provide several with groceries, as well as take care of other needs. We have continued to keep in touch with the shelter. We have not been allowed to enter the building so we continue to take bread every Sunday morning as well as provide fruit and eggs for them a couple times each month. We have also provided underwear and socks for all those living there. The support they receive from other ministries has dwindled and we have been asked to help more. We have done so by the grace of God and by you all giving. We will again be providing Christmas presents and a Christmas meal for all those at the shelter.
Please pray about helping financially with this need. We have a great beginning from a generous gift from Woodlawn Baptist church’s VBS but we lack enough to provide for everyone as well as Christmas dinner.
If you would like to give you may, as always
1 - send your tax-deductible gift to
PO Box B
Marietta, GA 30061
Memo: Gerald and Sarah Lastrapes #407
2 - you may send a check directly to
8049 Old Hecker Road Iowa, LA 70647
and it will be deposited directly into our account for us to access.
for the children and youth of Guatemala who have not been able to attend school for the past 2 years and have had little to no education during that time.
for those who are still struggling financially and have lost jobs due to Covid.
for our discernment and compassion as we continue to serve where we see needs.
for people like you to continue and begin to partner with us in prayer and finances.
We wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!
Peace of Christ to You,
It has been a time of pushing through and processing as we continue to live with many restrictions. It has been extremely hard to watch the devastation that our friends and family have endured in Louisiana and be so far away. It has been complicated to serve and minister. This seems to sum up our last few months. We apologize for not keeping up with updates. Life has been hard to put into words. Honestly, in one aspect we are doing well. We are all healthy and have things that keep up very busy. One the other hand, we feel more isolated than ever being stuck at home under many restrictions. We would like to pause and say Thank You to so many of you who continue to pray and give despite our lack of communication. It truly is what keeps us going.
We have been blessed to continue to serve and minister at IAS during this time. Gerald continues teaching Bible classes as well as taking on several classes for Seniors and as always, a boys discipleship class. Chapels have been complicated due to the limitations of being online so Sarah stepped into the High School English position as well as continuing with a monthly Chaplain Chat and a girls discipleship class. This has actually turned into an incredible opportunity to get to know the students more deeply. There was always a lack of connection not being in the classroom with many of them. This time of teaching them by grade, although online, has been a blessing in disguise. Please continue to pray for us as teaching full time online is exhausting, physically as well as mentally. Also, both Maddy and Coleman have felt the extreme stress of isolation and hours of online learning a day. It is especially hard for Maddy to be a Senior and watch each milestone date pass by with nothing to mark it by. Pray for us as well as we all try to make this year special for the Seniors during such a time.
Please also be praying for a young girl at the shelter. Erika arrived at Nuevos Horizontes three years ago with her younger sister, without their mother. Her sister was transferred several months back to an orphanage in another town while Erika remained at the shelter. She is a shy girl who has come a long way in her trust of people and God in the past couple of years. Each week as we continued to take bread and food to the shelter she appeared at the gate, with her mask on, ready to help tote things to the house. We recently learned that she was taken to the public hospital for weakness and low blood platelets. She contracted Covid while in the hospital, was sent to the temporary Covid hospital here in town, and has now been sent back to the public hospital. She is currently being tested for leukemia. No one is allowed to visit due to Covid restrictions as well as her immune system being non existent. Please join us in praying for healing as well as encouragement for her during this time of extreme isolation. She has always been easily prone to depression so we are very concerned for her.
We have begun preparations for Christmas at the shelter, although it will look very different this year. We will purchase gifts and Christmas dinner as always. We will also be sending Christmas activities and crafts to help fill their time. Even though we will not be able to be physically present with them to celebrate we will be sending a video of the Christmas Story for them to watch together before they open gifts. We truly miss the freedom to visit, share and pray with them. Please pray that God would be very real to them during this time.
We pray you all continue to be safe and are able to celebrate this season of thankfulness and the birth of our Savior with much joy in your hearts.
Much love to each of you,
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.
Guatemala was put on complete lockdown starting last night.
A week ago the president announced Guatemala would begin phase 1 of reopening the country. I actually went to Dollar City and bought some things to make gifts for the Seniors who will not be able to walk to graduate in two weeks. Jerry and I went out and delivered lunch to each of them. I waved from the car. It was wonderful to see them even from a "social distance". I even walked around the condominium several days to exercise outside.
As we took a tiny breath of fresh air, through a mandatory face mask, we began seeing some very disturbing news on social media. Day after day there were reports of the local markets full of people like it was a normal day. Police were having to close markets by force at the dictated hour because tienda owners refused to close and shoppers continued showing up after hours. People are hungry and they are doing whatever it takes to sell and buy. More and more white flags were appearing up and down the street with families who have no more food. Families are being evicted from their homes for not being able to pay rent or for having a family member be suspected of being contagious with the virus.
The number of positive Covid-19 cases were tripling by the day. A 200% increase. Two of the Covid specific hospitals "collapsed". This means that there was not enough medical personnel or equipment to serve the patients currently in those hospitals. Another major hospital in Guatemala City was placed on complete quarantine due to several Covid positive cases among staff. Guatemala is not equipped to handle this crisis and many of the people still do not understand or do not want to understand the importance of good hygiene and social distancing. Much less staying home and not hanging out in public places.
Last night the President addressed the country and stated that beginning immediately the country is on lockdown. No vehicles are allowed on the roads. Small community tiendas (like small convenient stores) are allowed open from 8-11am (Friday - Monday) and food delivery is available as well as pharmacy delivery. Beginning Monday grocery stores and local markets can be open for a few hours on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Curfew is in effect from 5pm - 5 am each day. Still no travel between departments(states) and masks are required. Beginning Thursday at 5pm the country will be shut down completely. Zero traffic (vehicle or foot) will be allowed and nothing will be open except for medical emergencies. The president said these next few days are for people to prepare for the complete lockdown.
Today people took to the streets on foot to buy food at small local tiendas. There was even a protest across the Pan American Highway of people who are unhappy with the president’s declarations. We have seen a couple reports that complete lockdown may begin as early as tomorrow due to the people not obeying the law.
We had a few grocery items delivered today and have our main shopping scheduled to be delivered tomorrow. We are unaware if it will be able to be delivered. We are also unable to pick up and deliver the bread donation to the shelter this week as the bread shop is closed to comply with regulations. We are hoping to be able to take them bread and some groceries next Thursday depending on Presidential decisions.
Please pray for Guatemala and those who are sick and those who are starving.
Pray for the President of Guatemala and the decisions me makes for the health and safety of all everyone in Guatemala.
Pray for us as we watch this from our living room and are in a little bit of shock and try to make wise choices about purchases and about how to help those in need.
We are also still continuing with a regular school schedule in the midst of all this craziness.
Pray for Maddy and Coleman to finish their final tests, projects and papers well.
Pray for Jerry to finish his year teaching well as well as encourage and help guide the Seniors as the end their year in lockdown.
And pray for me as I send my last chapels and Chaplain Chat next week to encourage everyone as we end the school year and begin summer completely isolated.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support.
With much love,
We have received several messages from people wondering how things are going in Guatemala concerning the virus and life. So here is a little of what we have been living.
The Lord has blessed Guatemala! Our new President (who just took office in January) is a medical doctor. After the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed schools were cancelled until further notice, public transportation shut down and large gatherings of 100 and more were cancelled. By week two gatherings of any size were cancelled and the country basically shut down. Here are scenes to help explain our last several weeks.
*Masks are required the moment you step out of your home (even in your vehicle) - this is enforced by a fine from $900 - $20,000 (yes, dollars)
*Curfew in affect 4pm-4am - this is being enforced by heavy police presence. Reports of police officers being shot and killed trying to enforce this have been circulating. The picture above is of police officers praying in Central Park before the curfew shift begins.
*All parks and public places in the country have been shut down.
*All malls and public and private businesses have been closed for weeks. With the exception of major supermarkets, fast food and restaurant - delivery only, banks (limited locations and hours), and pharmacies.
(local markets were closed during Holy Week but reopened this week from the hours of 4am-12pm)
*Anyone over 60 and children are not permitted to leave their homes for any reason.
*All public transportation has been shut down, no buses!
*There is no travel permitted between departments. (departments are about the size of counties or parishes)
*Police and Army are checking vehicles to make sure there are 3 or less people in the vehicle. They are also checking temperatures at check points around town.
*My temperature was checked before I entered a supply store in town yesterday.
Our local University has had some students design and make respirators for use at the temporary hospital set up in our local fair grounds. While this is true Guatemalan ingenuity at work we are a little freaked out by the idea. We are taking every precaution to protect ourselves from contracting this virus and we also have several students whose parents are doctors. In fact, the leading Cardiologist in town has assured the school that any teacher or their family who get sick will receive the best care as he has doctor friends all over the country. So we have that.
The prisoners have been put to work making masks for healthcare workers.
Needless to say, we have not left our house very often at all. Ordering groceries and items online does not work very well here. We have to call or message a very detailed list of the items we want to purchase (exact brand and size of each item). It takes anywhere from 24-72 hours to receive the delivery and items may be missing or different than what you ordered. We tried it once. For now we are planning on going to the store once a week Even our grocery stores have strict rules and only one member of each family is permitted inside at a time. There have been days where this is all very overwhelming and stressful. We are tired of these four walls and just ache to go outside and get some sun. However, we are beyond thankful we live in the land of eternal spring and open our windows to hear the birds and feel the breeze.
We have been kept busy during the week days with school. The school where we serve and the kids attend decided to go full on Goggle Classroom schooling. This began the week after classes were cancelled so we only missed one week of class instruction time. The school day is from 9am-4pm. Most days the kids are in front of computer screens that entire time. It is not ideal but works to get school done. Jerry is teaching all his Bible classes via that format and has been able to meet with his Senior class for Google live meetings. I have been recording myself reading missionary stories to the Elementary students and giving a small lesson. I continue with a weekly Chaplain Chat email including a devotional and questions to ponder for Junior and Senior High students. Jerry and I both meet with our Advisory/Discipleship classes weekly via Google Meets. Maddy and Coleman are both in the middle of writing a term paper with their teacher on the other side of the world in Australia. So, there have definitely been moments of Mom and Dad teaching in our house as well.
We are lonely but safe. There are waves of anxiety and stress of living so isolated but it passes and we are thankful that God has protected us.
Thanks to generous giving last month were able to purchase groceries for the shelter this week. We dropped the items at the outside gate and smiled (thru masks) at a few of them. As well as the groceries we were able to share some color pages with Scripture and crayons for them to help pass the time. There is no WiFi out there so there is no way to have video chats or even record Bible lessons. Our prayer is that providing groceries and Scripture color pages will encourage them and show them a small bit of the love God has for them even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
In our country where so many live day to day, what you make that day is what you buy your food with for that day, many are going hungry. There has been a notice going around social media for those who are hungry and have no food to eat to hang a white flag outside their door and the neighbors will help. The young people at our church have coordinated a food bank where members are able to purchase items on a list and they send someone to your home to collect the items and then deliver them to families in need. We were able to provide for three families this week thanks to you and your faithful giving. A young lady from church called me this morning to thank us and pray for any concerns we may have during this time. We are blessed to be a part of such a giving church family here in Xela.
Like many of you, we are also watching all our services online and long for the day we can be together again with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We love you all and are praying for you! We are saddened that our trip for the summer may be cancelled but we trust in God’s faithfulness to us as well as you all. Thank you beyond measure for your continued prayers and support during this time. We could not continue to be here and serve if it weren’t for each one of you.
Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.
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.