“I thought to myself – they’re not going to die from COVID, they’re going to die from hunger” – Video Update from Margarita

“I thought to myself – they’re not going to die from COVID, they’re going to die from hunger” – Video Update from Margarita

SAMS is sharing missionary updates about ways ministry is adapting because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many missionaries are already called to areas of great need, and those needs are increasing in light of the pandemic. We invite you, as you are able, to provide these dioceses and communities resources through the SAMS World Relief Fund. More information is on our website.

[Video Transcript Below]

We have four shelters that care for about 150 children. I received a video from one of the administrators, that showed the Ministry of Health in Honduras talking about the first two cases of COVID-19. Shortly thereafter, like a couple days later, the country went on lockdown. It was very frustrating for me whenever I heard that the government had completely shut down. And I thought to myself, “They’re not going to die because of COVID. They’re going to die from hunger”.

For example, we have a case of a mother who prepares tortillas and she sells tortillas for the neighborhood. Well, under COVID 19, she can’t do that. So whatever little living she could provide for her family, it’s gone. She can’t do it. And that’s where we really felt like we needed to come in so that we can at least provide for food. So I became very concerned and, I, I’m always communicating with the administrators.

So I started a group chat with them in about how could we help them out? One of the shelters is in the mountains, which is a more remote area, and therefore not as affected by COVID-19. But they had the same lockdown as everybody else. The administrator of that shelter said that he and his wife and his family would prepare meals. And have the families come and get a prepared meal to take home. Because the country’s in lockdown, it was interesting trying to figure out how could they provide food for the children. I am so proud also of our young graduates. Some of our graduates participate and help each of the shelters buy food and put it in bags to provide for one or two weeks of meals. And we really have seen God at work in many ways.

We have an administrator that has diabetes and she has an elderly mom, so she was really scared to go out. So we brainstormed, and we thought about a graduate from that neighborhood. And it’s, it’s a slummy kind of neighborhood, and it’s kind of a dangerous neighborhood. And, this young lady who graduated with us from high school two years ago and it’s now going to university and working also volunteered to go ahead and go get the keys from the shelter. Her mom is a cook at the shelter, so the two of them, they like got it together to be able to get the food.

Goats, the Gospel, & COVID-19

Goats, the Gospel, & COVID-19

The van door slid open and as Dr. Mary stepped out, a deafening cry arose from the village grandmother as she hurriedly shuffled towards us, shaking her cane in the air in an enthusiastic greeting.  The other women quickly took up the welcome cry and soon Dr. Mary was engulfed in an excited swarm of villagers, all eager to welcome her back to St. Luke’s Church in Gulu, Uganda.  Two years earlier, Dr. Mary had taught an animal healthcare workshop and distributed female goats to parishioners as part of a revolving goat loan.  Villagers are required to return the first female goat offspring back in to the program as payment for their goat loan, and then they are free to keep all goat offspring after that.  The goats (and the knowledge of how to properly take care of them) provide a sustainable source of income for the villagers, empowering them to start climbing out of material poverty.  The income earned from the goats allows these villagers to buy enough food to have a daily meal, or pay school fees and provide an education for their children, or pay for basic healthcare needs, and so much more.  It is no wonder at all that Dr. Mary was received with such joy.  She had revolutionized this little community by encouraging them in their faith and by providing for their physical needs.  In front of my very eyes, she was living out Jesus’ words, “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) 

Our team was ushered into the church and greeted warmly by the men of the village.  As the day’s training lessons began, we had the wonderful privilege of hearing testimonies from community members who had received a goat from the previous distributions.  One lady stood proudly at the front of the church and shared how she had not received a goat during the initial distribution, but she had waited patiently for someone to return a goat back into the program for her to take home.  After much waiting, she was overjoyed to receive her very own goat kid.  Unfortunately, a few weeks later the goat broke loose from its rope and wandered into a latrine pit where it died.  The owner was devastated.  Patiently, she waited to receive another goat.  God was faithful to provide for her need, and she soon was given a new goat.  In less than two years, her goat produced eight goat kids!!  She was so deeply grateful for this gift that when her time came to pay back her loan, she returned two goats back into the program instead of just one!  Truly, the Lord loves a cheerful giver and has blessed her generosity.

We proceeded with the training, a repeat of the workshop we had done with the Batwa.  The Acholi people of this Gulu community sat attentively in their church pews, soaking up every word of instruction and laughing hysterically at our whimsical “goat birthing” demonstration skits.  Dr. Mary reiterated to this group that we are blessed in order that we may be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2-3).  The success of the revolving goat loan program depends on this concept.  If we hoard all the blessings we are given, the blessings cease to flow and no one else will benefit.  But if we bless others out of the blessings we have been given, the blessings continue to flow through us and reach many more lives.  The congregation of St. Luke’s understood this message and lived it out, as they had already given over 50 goats back into the program.  After the training workshop, we were approached by a young man named Boniface.  He had come to thank us for teaching him the basics of how to care for a goat.  “I have not received a goat from the program yet,” he explained, “but I think the knowledge that I received today is worth far more to me than receiving a goat today.  I will continue to wait for a goat, but even if I do not get one through this program, I know that I can now properly take care of a goat, and maybe one day I can buy one.  Thank you so much for teaching me!”  

“Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.”  ~John D. Rockefeller Jr.  

The story above is about the ministry of SAMS Missionary Rev. Dr. Mary McDonald. Her former student Lina Godine wrote this account after a mission trip to Uganda. Mary, a veterinarian and deacon, organizes a health and economic development outreach in Gulu, Uganda. Over the past ten years she has been doing goat revolving loans with the poor. In this picture, she and some women pray a blessing over a goat. During the training and the distribution of “Gospel Goats” the good news is shared. Many come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. As part of our World Relief Initiative, Mary and SAMS are helping the Anglican Diocese of Northern Uganda to provide food for families struggling under COVID-19 lockdown. Food relief enables families to continue to raise their goats for milk rather than for meat.  Also, funds are being sent to the diocese to provide more goats to needy families. In this situation, the World Relief Fund provides both short-term relief and long-term development.

Christ’s Love Made Known Through Maize

Christ’s Love Made Known Through Maize

A pandemic is difficult any place in the world. Yet, it is especially difficult in the towns and villages of rural Uganda, in East Africa. Uganda has been very aggressive in restrictions attempting to stop the spread of COVID-19.  Because the health system was inadequate before the pandemic and is woefully prepared for the disease now spreading here, the restrictions are very harsh: all public and private transport forbidden and all but essential stores and businesses closed.  The severe lockdown has left many hardworking people suddenly stopped from their jobs with little or no savings and no economic assistance from the government. There is some government distribution of food, but it is not enough and generally focused on the most urban areas in and near the capital city.  Our diocese, Masindi-Kitara Diocese, Church of Uganda, is upcountry rural, and people here are mostly expected to fend for themselves. So, someone who say runs a clothing, stationary, or sewing supplies store here or pretty much anything other than food stores, pharmacies, agricultural supplies and designated essential services has had to suddenly close their stores. People working in hotels, bars, clothing stores, and so forth have lost their jobs. Public taxi drivers (which function like busses in the US) and private taxi drivers have no work.  Further, while some people might have relatives in a farming village who would feed them, travel is virtually impossible for most people due to our health laws.   Even if they are willing to walk for days, a night curfew forbids this, too. 

As a result, many people are scrambling looking for food. The other day, I had an elderly woman at my house who couldn’t do her regular work. Her food pantry consisted of only one 2-pound bag of cornmeal. There are lots of people in such situations–trying to stretch what little food they have or going hungry. Many families here have a number of children to feed also. No one should have to face choosing between risking jail or getting shot for breaking the laws versus having their family starve. Family food stores have been used up. Many people have little to no food—surviving on handfuls of maize meal only, eating one meal a day, or even sleeping hungry. Food relief, basic survival food like maize, is needed. People here need help to live through the crunch of this pandemic, and later will need food to help them work back towards a normal life.

Through my SAMS Special Project and a grant from SAMS World Relief Fund, the Masindi-Kitara Diocese is receiving direct funding, in addition to what they have raised and are continuing to raise locally, to provide food. The diocese is purchasing basic foodstuffs, primarily maize meal, which is being distributed to the needy with the cooperation of the Ugandan Government COVID-19 Taskforce in the three government districts covered by the Diocese. The bags for the maize meal are marked as coming from the church so the community can see how the church is active in helping mitigate the hunger problem. The Diocese is eager to continue with helping to provide food relief should additional funds become available. Additionally, after the immediate emergency food relief is done, in order to assist children in educational institutions the diocese would like to provide food to church-related educational institutions for when they resume schooling. It is very clear that with the economic hardship many parents will be unable to provide lunches for their school-children. This has historically been a challenge and food aid will assist the children who are a significant part of the vulnerable population here.

A basic Biblical principle is that Christians are to care for other Christians in need and also for other people, especially the very vulnerable (James 1:27.) This is not limited to teaching or praying, though those be important, but also extends to the physical needs. (James 2:16) Indeed, real love is a hallmark of following Jesus and a key to evangelism. There is an old saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Every bag of maize delivered, labeled as being from the church, is showing in deed the love of Christ.  The love of Christ draws people to the Father. When the Church shows love in practical, tangible ways meeting severe immediate needs this makes Christ’s love known, leading to more people knowing God.

 

An offering of maize in church, during better times.

Ripple Effect Ministry in Mexico

Ripple Effect Ministry in Mexico

I live in an impoverished area of Mexico, where many people live day-to-day without any kind of savings account.  With the event of the coronavirus, more and more people are losing their jobs and sources of income, making it difficult for them to have enough money to buy food. 

At the beginning of April, our Kids’ Bible Club team decided we needed to do something to reach out to the families of our weekly ministry.  When trying to determine which families were in the greatest need, the answer was that all of them were in need.  Through various donations, we were able to provide 42 families with basic food and household supplies.  We also included Bible story books, coloring pages, colored pencils, and other little goodies for the children.  Attached to the packages was a card with Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge”, and we told the families that this was a gift from our church.

One of the results of that initial delivery of food and supplies was that we asked for people’s phone numbers so that we could create a WhatsApp group of the children who usually attend our Saturday Kid’s Club.  This past month our team has worked to record videos of Bible songs, verses, and lessons to send out to these families each week, along with craft ideas as well.  We are encouraged to now be more in touch with whole families and to see many parents helping their children to have their own Kid’s Club at home.  Our prayer is that the Lord uses this time to reach not only the children with His love and Word, but that He also reaches their families.

Two weeks after our first delivery of food, our church vestry decided that it was time for the church to also put forth money to continue loving our community through another delivery of food and supplies, this time to 100 families.  We decided to give packages to each family in our church, regardless of need, to the families we had been able to bless the first time, and to a number of other needy families in the neighborhoods around our church.  On the attached card we stated that if the family didn’t need the items, to please pass them on to someone else who did need them, and thus we encouraged our congregation to be generous as well and continue shining Christ’s light to those around them.  Once again, everyone was greatly blessed to know that God loves them and was providing for them; one family hadn’t eaten all day because they didn’t have any food left in the house. 

This is a unique time in our world’s history and we as Christians have the responsibility and privilege to share Christ’s love and His message of salvation to those around us.  I am excited to see how the Lord uses these tangible examples of His and His Church’s care for people to draw them unto Himself.  We don’t know who is watching our online Sunday services, but our hope is that some of these families who have received the invitation to join us are doing so and are hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Feeding the Mind, Body, & Soul in Ecuador

Feeding the Mind, Body, & Soul in Ecuador

SAMS is sharing missionary updates about ways ministry is adapting because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many missionaries are already called to areas of great need, and those needs are increasing in light of the pandemic. We invite you, as you are able, to provide these dioceses and communities resources through the SAMS World Relief Fund. More information is on our website.

[Video Transcript Below]

Starting in March, obviously, all of a sudden life changed drastically here in Ecuador, where the capital city of Quito – the entire nation – has been on lockdown. I think we’re on day 48 or 49. We have martial law from 2:00 PM until 5:00 AM. So you’re not allowed to step outside your door from those times – so the buses have stopped. Public transportation is stopped.

People are in desperate situations. People are being laid off, obviously, which means no income. But most of our students and their families are in – they were in desperate situations anyway. Their families are going out at night and going through trash to do recycling. And that’s how they make their money. They might make 100 or 200 dollars a month by going through other people’s trash to get out recycling, but with the martial law they can’t go do that. And they have they have no access to earning money and are in some really desperate and difficult places even more so.

The way E=H (Education = Hope) works is that we come alongside the church and we resource the church so that the church can take care of its people, [and] has the resources to take care of its people and they have their own … committee and they have their application process because they know who really needs help in their neighborhood and who is playing the system.

So it’s really an amazing system that God had set up from the beginning, using that same network to continue to walk with people.  But instead of just doing education now we’re doing a little bit more. As we have transitioned from development to relief – relief being that E=H funds are now available for groceries and for medicine, and of course for education – it’s the same system that’s working so perfectly because we are supporting the local priests and the pastors and they’re still connected to their community.

We have the incredible privilege of walking alongside them in relief. As we find the resources, we’re able to go buy 50 pound bags of rice, or two or three cases of oil, or lentils, or tuna, or fresh fruits and vegetables, toothpaste, disinfectants, soap, feminine products, diapers – those precious necessities that you don’t even really think about until you don’t have access to them and you can’t buy them. So we’re able to buy that in bulk and then we deliver it to the different ministry sites. Then they make packages for each family depending on the number of people in the family, depending what their families’ needs are. They’re able to then deliver the groceries or the supplies and do some pastoral care with social distancing with masks and, you know, talking to you from six feet way, but able to do some pastoral care and able to do discipleship along the way.

So they’re feeding the mind, the body, the soul, all of it together. I’ve gotten several texts from moms especially saying “thank you, you have no idea” – [pause] I get a little emotional – “You have not only fed us, but you’ve taken away my depression, my anxiety.”

SAMS Missionaries are offering practical help in the communities they’re called to during the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Relief Fund provides them the resources to keep sharing the gospel in practical ways.