Dear Prayer friends,
When we wrote to you at Christmas we were in the midst of serious social unrest including the burning and looting of businesses and vandalism on a large scale. The military appeared on the streets provoking a secondary social reaction when crowds came out saying, “We are not at war”, meaning, “we don’t want to return to the Pinochet era, we want Chile to evolve”. Since then the strong discussion has centred on the need or not for a new Constitution. And then COVID-19 hit us three weeks ago. Everything apart from the urgent virus crisis has gone from any immediate national concern. And you, of course, know exactly what we are living through now. Lord, have mercy!
We recently lost our dear James Dixie, son of David and Pattie Dixie (ex-SAMS mission partners in Argentina), to bowel cancer at the age of 43. He died in his childhood home, having travelled to England with his family, wife Magli and six-year-old son Tony, on 7 March. Praise the Lord for his valiant life, spent latterly in Chile and for a good period in our house, during which time he committed his life to the Lord and later joined Ñuñoa church, where he served the Lord in much love.
But then we are also celebrating the birth of our sixth grandchild, Amanda, daughter of Dani and Mark. They are at present in our home as they recently returned from Bethel Church. She is a real beauty and Dani is a wonderful mother who prepared in every way for the successful birth on 15 February. We rejoice!
We were supposed to fly back to the UK on Tuesday 31 for three reasons:
1. To be with Ara and Jahnn as their baby Jessie was born on 15 April
2. To spend five weeks 2020 residency period at OCMS college in Oxford
3. To visit at least six churches, some of them in Ireland with Beryl and Gordon Whitehead
However, Oxford closed down, your churches did as well and we had nowhere to live as House 244 had to close down as well. Ara and Jahnn have very wonderful friends here and are at peace. We will experience an online birth!
Before lockdown, we did some travelling. First to the Haggai Ministry in Maui. We ministered to 60 leaders hailing from 28 Latfricasian nations. We shared fervently about evangelism and church planting in highly interactive classes, enjoying the exciting input from the fast-growing Christian communities around the world. It was remarkable how many churches are underground, in China, many Muslim lands, East Asia, and how they have learned to evangelise person to person as they live in the presence of God and “share the perfume of Christ”. The Holy Spirit came powerfully on us. Hilary and I enjoyed a bit of a holiday during the second week and I even managed to get up on the surfboard (sort of!).
Then, on 5 March our dear widowed friend Miguel Uchoa, archbishop of Recife, married again. His bride Juliane and he invited us to the wedding and we felt we must definitely go, especially since we had missed his consecration two years ago. So, again, we spent five days in Recife and enjoyed a Brazilian wedding with bride and groom blooming.
We got on the plane back to Chile with face masks on. Coronavirus was spreading everywhere and by the time we got to La Trinidad it was time to close the church and go online. We have developed an ambitious programme: three services on Sunday, healing nights on Wednesdays, pastoral devotionals and Bible studies all week, online doctors and Operation Joseph (providing for special needs). Our problem has now centred on how not to saturate our folk with too much internet church! One of the benefits has been that we have empowered all our people to become online mission partners, virtualising all the services and ministries to reach those around them. We are working out theologically whether a Communion service on Easter Sunday will constitute “two or three gathered in my name”. We may settle for an agape so no one is confused later!
We wrote to all the dear friends whose churches we were scheduled to visit, beginning Sunday 5 March at St Andrew’s Chorleywood, to explain the situation. They have all written back in similar vein, sharing their own quarantined situation and looking forward to the next visit. We will really miss the fellowship as we so enjoy the loving, praying concern we always share with you! It was so nice, for instance, to receive a phone call from Jenny Thornton this morning and a concerned email from the Gardiner Hopkins today. Oh, how precious is the love of Christ in his Church!
Until the virus is over, Maranata!
Alf and Hilary Cooper