Little did we think when we left Argentina for a short visit to the UK in February that we would still be here several months later. That was before the world fell apart. Now, like everyone, we are adapting to sharing a tiny house with close family (our daughter Stefi and her husband Rhys in Bradford). It is an unexpected bonus to be so close to some of the family for this time, but tantalising to be so close to some yet cut off from others.
We are constantly in touch with colleagues in Argentina. We are so grateful for good contacts and for initiatives being taken. We can’t say what the immediate or long-term future looks like, but here are a few recent bits of news and some prayer points.
In the months leading up to our visit to the UK we enjoyed involvement in various projects:
- a trip to Ushuaia with our two bishops and several from other countries to mark the 150th anniversary of the first bishop and mission in South America, which involved 48 hours on a tiny yacht in rough seas crossing the southernmost border of Argentina (with Chile);
- the recording of an audio New Testament in Chorote at the northernmost border of Argentina (with Paraguay);
- a retreat for parenting training facilitators in La Caldera, including a teaching day on Christian marriage for local churches, and a united service in the newly developed premises of the Creation Care Centre;
- two weeks teaching church leaders in Peru (especially focussing on what pioneers from our Anglican history can teach us today). The courses were in Lima and Arequipa, but we had a chance to visit the Colca Canyon for a weekend service;
- some of our young people set off overland for a youth congress, also in Peru, spending almost 10 days on the road, in addition to the three day meetings. The subject was “Sentinels” – passing on the missionary challenge of the church in Latin America;
- and we finally lifted the moratorium on ordinations, when Priscilla Breekveldt was made a deacon in Salta.
The mission where we live in Juarez needed some attention prior to our departure, and decisions about its ongoing use: for now the football club continues to use it, although that is under review. We were also planning a full programme for the year across the area, including training for leaders, further recordings, ordinations, discussion of the process of appropriate future leadership and various visits. That is until…
Our visit to the UK started well, with visits to some supporting churches, albeit somewhat curtailed by social distancing. We had planned a full programme in Yorkshire followed by time with family, but then the instructions for lockdown came and we stayed put! It has been distressing to follow the advance of this pandemic, and share the grief as the UK, together with the whole world, seeks the way forward.
In Argentina: although little evidence had been seen of the spread of the virus, the president took the decision to impose lockdown including full restrictions on going outside. So far the north has been spared, but people await with care, and we encourage them to stay safe, from the perspective of our experience in the UK.
We have been impressed by the way our friends and colleagues have responded to these measures, understanding the seriousness of the threat and adapting to new ways of “doing church” – including full use of social media and developing family devotionals at home.
Here in the UK we have had to adapt our lifestyle and activities in similar ways.
It is still unclear when we will be able to travel anywhere, let alone return to Argentina. However, we are making tentative plans and praying towards the future. We will need to resume many of the programmes for training and visiting, although some will be lost. It will be a big challenge to appoint the right leaders for the future, including new ordinands, incumbents, and bishops.
The vision we had for the Two Centres continues to present a challenge, as we long to develop these resources for the use of the wider church. We need funding, but more than that we need committed people who will develop the ministry of Creation Care and offer hospitality for those who attend.
In all that the coming few years might hold, we want to accompany the indigenous church in the most appropriate ways, encouraging the wider church to appreciate the wisdom of the hunter gatherers, who generally find themselves on the margins.
Points for prayer
- Give thanks for a new generation of potential leaders and missionaries in Latin America
- Give thanks for new ways of being church and doing discipleship in families
- Pray for the ongoing challenge of the pandemic, for resilience and courage among leaders, health workers and all those affected, and for wise decisions to help curb the virus
- Pray for us as we try to spend this time of lockdown well, and for when we should go back to Argentina
- Pray for the ongoing training of new leaders, correct decisions about ordinations, and an appropriate process of discernment for choosing a new bishop
With our love,
Nick and Catherine