Healing Guatemala

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The COVID - 19 crisis continues to devastate the families of Guatemala.

Although the Guatemalan government has announced that the peak of the COVID - 19 crisis has passed in Guatemala, what I see is different. It is getting worse. Currently, according to the department of the Health of Guatemala, there have been about 75,000 accumulated cases of COVID 19 and about 2,700 deaths. Daily, new cases are added around 1,000 persons. Also, the Guatemalan government reopened its economy partially a month ago, which has not affected the increase of new cases according to the government. However, I believe this does not reflect the reality. The Guatemalan government performs about 2,000 tests a day for the entire country. The positivity rate of the exam is almost 50 percent. For this reason, it is hard to believe that the statistic tells the real number. Without having solid assessment of real cases, it is almost impossible to make a strategy to beat the virus, distribute the supplies and resources, and apply a patient’s treatment or isolation. In my understanding, the COVID 19 crisis in Guatemala will get worse until we have vaccines or medicines. 

Bethesda has shared masks to prevent the spread of virus with our neighbors. It is mandatory to put on a mask in a public place in Guatemala. Many Guatemalans use masks that they made on their own; but there are many neighbors who cannot afford to make or replace one. We shared the masks that were made with full love and prayers of our supporters. Also, we continue to donate the personal protection equipment, such as N-95 masks, surgical masks, isolation gowns, and examination gloves, to the Temporary COVID 19 Hospital in Xela. We are grateful to our friends of St. John KUMC in Boston, Boston-West Korean Presbyterian Church, Mid-Hudson KUMC in NY, and Westchester Korean Presbyterian Church in NY for their contribution and prayers. 

As for our food delivery project, by the grace of God and the power of your prayers, we could share the Life of our Lord with the poor families in Guatemala abundantly. By the end of this week (September 4), we will complete delivery of the fifth batch of the food. If we count the fifth batch as completed, so far we have provided 250,000 pounds of corn and 75,000 pounds of beans to 7,500 families in need. Our sixth batch will begin in the third week of September and will be completed by the first or second week of October. We plan to deliver food to 1,500 families in the sixth batch. As we are adding more batches of food delivery, I could feel a common emotion from the people who come to our food delivery project pick-up site - comfort and gratitude. I could see those feelings in their eyes although their circumstances are varied and their facial expressions differ. I believe that our reaching out for the past four months is a clear sign of assurance to them that the Lord never forgets. God remembers. When God remembers, then there is joy and salvation. I am grateful to all of you that you bring the light of our Lord to those who are most vulnerable and weak. 

After the sixth batch of food delivery, we plan to reach out to the poor who live mainly in the inner city on a smaller scale. So far, we have reached out to the needy in rural area as well as in the inner city. In Guatemala, the corn harvest season is in October. In rural areas, most people own corn fields, even if they are small pieces. They can sustain their family from their harvest. But the poor families in the inner-city areas do not own corn fields and have no jobs due to the shut-down of the economy. Please keep lifting them up in your prayers. 

 Bethesda also offers free prenatal care to those who are in need. We provided prenatal consultation, prenatal ultrasound, and prenatal vitamins to 30 pregnant ladies. Since Guatemala is such a poor country, many of the pregnant ladies cannot afford to get prenatal care, especially those from poor families. On top of the poverty, then COVID 19 crisis makes it harder for them to get it. Many pregnant ladies do not have sufficient nutrition during the pregnancy which causes a lot of low birthweight newborn babies. We pray that with our prenatal care the Lord will bless the expectant moms and babies in their wombs. We plan to host a free prenatal care clinic on a regular basis. Please lift the pregnant ladies and babies in their womb in your prayers. 

Lastly, we launched the Elderberry Jam project. Elderberry is a fruit that has antioxidants and an antiviral effect. They are everywhere in Guatemala, yet no one cares for or makes use of them. We began to make jams and sell them to enhance the health of people and to generate a general operation fund. Of course, the taste of the jam is fantastic! For now, it is available only in Guatemala. We plan to sell them in the US; but it will take a while to resolve the issues of an importation permit and logistics.

The bible passage that stays in my mind these days is the joy in the Lord from the book of Habakkuk.

 “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18.

 Just like the prophet Habakkuk found his joy in the Lord in the midst of a longtime cry of “how long,”

 I pray that the joy from the Lord covers your life and mine in the midst of the corona blues and the pain and suffering from the COVID 19 pandemic. 

I pray the joy of our Lord that will soak your soul and mine so that we may always rejoice in the Lord in this strange time.