As I’m writing this, we’re in the middle of a heat wave in Western Canada. I see some of the Bolivian pastors in my Zoom conferences wearing thick jackets and complaining of -8-degree mornings in Oruro, Bolivia, while I need a fan in my office to stay cool. I jokingly comment that they need to come to Canada to warm up. But, for those having lost homes and loved ones through fires and unrelenting heat, it really is nothing to joke about. Waves. Everything seems to come in waves.
The 3rd Wave of Covid in Bolivia
Imagine being knocked down by an unexpectedly large wave, struggling to get up, only to be knocked down by a larger wave; as you flounder, to be hit by an even larger wave. That’s been the experience of our friends in Bolivia and elsewhere. Since March of 2020, the waves of Covid-19 keep coming, and keep getting larger.
The third wave of infections peaked in the middle of June. I religiously check the official statistics every morning, but I’ve learned I can pretty much judge what’s going on in the country by listening to the stories. When one pastor in my small group has just buried his sister-in-law, another is in intensive care with Covid, the denominational administrator, the acting Vice-President, and their families all have Covid, I know it’s peaking. When the small church we attend via Zoom is praying for four families who had recently lost loved ones to Covid (one family alone grieving the loss of 5 loved ones), when we’re praying for the health and recuperation of thirteen others with Covid, I know, from the firsthand stories alone, that Covid is peaking.
Waves of Relief
With the help of vaccines and restrictions, the situation seems to be improving again. My friend was back in our Zoom meeting last week. He described not being able to breathe, not having the benefit of a ventilator, thinking he was going to die, but then being able to inhale a tiny “pop” of oxygen, and things turning around from there. Speaking of vaccines, we noted that he probably had immunity now. He replied, “Yes, but at what cost?” His eyes teared as he added, “I don’t know how I’ll pay my debt.” He is fortunate to be recovering, but incurred a seemingly insurmountable debt for medical expenses. Intensive care, even in Bolivia, can cost over $1000.00 CAD per day.
With every wave of Covid, CBM has responded with relief. Currently, plans are in place to help another 15 pastors’ families with funeral expenses, 65 pastors’ families with Covid related medical expenses, and 70 pastors’ families with a grocery hamper. Relief is also being directed to 120 mothers, most without work and with dependent children, and who are associated with CBM projects. Relief is, of course, not a lasting solution, covers only a fraction of actual expenses, but is a “relief” in the middle of a crisis.
Waves of Plans
It seems most everything is caught up in the waves. We make tentative plans, only to have them washed away by new restrictions. Circumstances have forced all of our ministry online. This actually has some advantages. I’ve (Bill) been able to continue to take part in weekly training events, and seen new discipleship and pastoral support groups begin in Bolivia, for those who have internet or a smartphone. Bolivian Baptist leadership wants me to keep promoting discipleship and pastoral support groups. I was invited to do the devotionals on discipleship at the recent meetings, where they chose a new President (Pastor Lucio Arias) and Vice-President (Pastor Jhonny Orozco).
The Currents Beneath the Waves
What is certain is that we remain committed to CBM, to Bolivia and Latin America, to working with pastors and church leaders, and to a focus on longterm results. I look forward to continuing to work with the new UBB leaders in supporting pastors and leaders during this difficult time and in the time of rebuilding that will follow. Janice continues to be in contact with Goretty from the Emmanuel Foundation (a ministry to children of prostitutes or former prostitutes). With restrictions, many children are falling behind in their education; this is especially true in Latin America and Bolivia. Staff at the Emmanuel Foundation have been diligent, going to all lengths, to keep their children engaged in their assignments and homework. This is part of the long-term focus.
Praise and Prayer
- Health. Bolivia is just getting over a third wave of Covid-19 infections. The pandemic continues to affect all aspects of life: it affects church leadership as offices close and key leaders pass on, education at all levels, economics, family violence, general health, etc. New cases were peaking even as vaccines were beginning to roll out. Pray for wisdom—wise actions. Pray for perseverance as new waves of infection keep coming and as vaccines roll out too slowly at times. Pray for hope as the end is still not in sight. Pray for God’s peace for those who have lost loved ones.
- Denominational leadership. Pastor Lucio Arias as he takes over as UBB President at this precarious time. Pray for perseverance, creativity, and wisdom as he leads the denomination through the pandemic and beyond. Pray for myself (Bill) as I build a working relationship with Pastor Lucio.
- Vaccines. Pray that Bolivians continue to get needed vaccines quickly and fairly. As of July 2nd, 16.7 % of Bolivians had received one dose and 6% were fully vaccinated.
- Janice and Bill. We have both been fully vaccinated. PTL! Our daughter, Marigan, continues to struggle with long-covid symptoms, 7 months after having had Covid, but we all remain positive in our attitudes and faith.
Thank you so much for your continued support!
Bill & Janice
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