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.