COVID-19 RELIEF FUND
(Project Coordinator Pastor José Archila delivering a grocery package to a family in Piedras Negras.)
So much has happened since we launched our COVID-19 Relief Fund campaign last month.
Each of us already has a story of some kind as a result of the countless closures and cancelled events, layoffs and furloughs, stay at home mandates, etc., and much sadder is when the pandemic hits close to home as most of us now know of someone who has become infected or perhaps succumbed to this dreadful virus.
Between financial support from our home church St. Matthew’s UMC in San Antonio, TX, our friends at Faith Community Church in Bayou Vista, TX, and the generosity of private donors, we continue to sow all our donations into food distributions in our local community, families in Piedras Negras, Mexico and families in Mumias, Kenya, Africa.
As unemployment continues to skyrocket, surpassing levels that this country hasn’t seen since the Great Depression, community food banks are under extreme pressure as the demand is spiking and the logistics of handling mass distributions is barely manageable.
(Volunteers stage a recent distribution in San Antonio for approximately 50 families.)
In a recent article published in Atlantic magazine, Vince Hall, the CEO of the nonprofit Feeding San Diego, put it this way: “People who four weeks ago were living middle-class lives now find themselves in debt, without cash, unable to pay for their most essential needs. This is a moment of incredible anxiety and fear in our communities, and the health crisis is the primary fear everyone has. But the economic crisis is equally terrifying to people, and they are despondent over the lack of a path forward.”
“But when you put a box of food in somebody’s car, and you look through the windshield and give them a wave, sometimes they’re smiling and sometimes they’re crying, but for many, it is the one hopeful, optimistic, compassionate thing that will happen to them that entire day. And food is the most visceral human need. Without adequate nutrition, we can’t expect people to address any other challenge.”
This poses a question to the local church: How should we be responding to this crisis?
Jay Pathak, lead pastor of the Mile High Vineyard in Arvada, CO had this to say in a recent Focus on the Family interview about his book “The Art of Neighboring”:
“The church has survived and thrived through wars and famines and epidemics of all kinds. And so, in a very real way, this is our moment. You know, it’s the moment to wake up and remember who we were always meant to be, especially when so many of the programs that we’ve depended upon – the worship service, Sunday school, Bible studies, those things that we’ve been great at over time, have been taken from us. So, this is a moment for us to exercise the most basic parts of our faith where we love God and we love people around us because we are the front line. We really are first responders. So, this is our moment, church, our moment to rise up and be who we’re meant to be!”
Although the logistics of helping others might not be easy, our call to help the poor and needy is a scriptural mandate that few would argue against. Deuteronomy 15:7-8 says:
"If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be."
This is just one of many passages in the Bible that show God's concern for the least of these. We, the local church, should be of the same mindset.
Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico:
We’ve been working closely with our Project Coordinator and long-time friend in Piedras Negras, Pastor José Archila. After we received the first donations to the Relief Fund, José and his wife Griselda went to work right away shopping together, assembling well-assorted family grocery packages and delivering them to the homes of those on our list. The first round of distributions included a total of 20 families. The packages, valued at approximately $80.00 US, contained enough to supplement a family of 5 for about two weeks. (The amount was almost doubled in pesos due to the current rate.)
Of the 20 families, 11 are pastoral families (Pastor José being one of them), all of whom are bivocational. With few exceptions almost all pastors in this area hold other jobs in addition to their pastorate. All had been furloughed or laid off, receiving little or no benefits, and their churches are no longer in a position to compensate them.
Additionally, we had José deliver a grocery package to the "Casa de Rescate," a Christian drug and alcohol rehab/mission center in Piedras Negras, and we were also able to help pay the mission’s electric bill.
The gallery below feature pictures of recent distributions in Piedras Negras:
Mumias, Kenya, Africa:
Further reaching, we’ve sent cash donations to our friends Pastor Martin and Patricia Indakwa in western Kenya, Africa, which they used to purchase face masks, mosquito nets and groceries to distribute to families in their community of Mumias. They also purchase testing kits for malaria and other water-borne diseases and often conduct the testing in their own home.
Between their home church, the Victory of Grace Center, and the sister churches they supervise, the Indakawas serve approximately 120 households. As this recent article posted on CNBC reports, Kenya is fighting a 'triple whammy' of crisis.
Mumias has been experiencing particularly heavy, flooding rainfalls. An important bridge in the Indakwa's community over the Nzoia river collapsed recently due to the flooding and has stopped traffic completely between various residential and commercial areas. Many hundreds are affected, and there has been a significant spike in the spread of dysentery and malaria in the region because of the stagnant waters.
The BBC recently reported that, according to the World Health Organization, as many as 190,000 people across Africa could die in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic if crucial containment measures fail. That seems like a lot, but in a continent of over one-billion people, the more deadly disease is malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease which continues to claim over one-million lives a year, 90% of those lives being children under 5 years old. (Read about the history of malaria and the CDC here.) The current coronavirus pandemic could 'turn back the clock' 20 years on malaria deaths in Africa, further warns the WHO. Providing testing to their community is one of the more important things the Indakwas do. (Also, read our blog about the Jiggers epidemic.)
To make things worse, a second wave of desert locusts, 20 times bigger than the first one that moved across East Africa in January, is beginning to ravage farms. According to estimates from scientists, the new swarms that are currently hatching will be 400 times bigger by June if successive generations are not eliminated. An outbreak on this level has not been seen in decades.
Currently, the Kenyan Shilling equals 0.0094 of a US Dollar. Their economy has been plummeting. Therefore, Pastors Martin and Patricia are able to do much with modest donations.
We remain committed to assisting the Indakwas as God provides, and together we are making plans to start a Clean-Water Project to install a desperately needed well in their community (details forthcoming).
These photos are from recent distributions & medical testing by Pastors Martin & Patricia:
We thank you for your continued support. May this world crisis reveal who we are called to be as Christians...
In His love and service,
Jeff & Veronica