Greetings from Santo Domingo. I hope that you have been able to enjoy Christmastime together with families and friends. I pray that 2021 will be a blessing to each of us.
I want to thank you for your continued support, emails, prayers and generosity as I continue to serve the Lord, in different ways, here.
Thank you for your prayers regarding my visa. I decided to apply for a permanent residency visa on 24 September. I had to email documents to the visa office in Manta, which is on the coast, a 4–5 hour drive away. After a lot of chasing, I had an appointment there on 6 November, and then eventually heard on 5 January that my visa had been approved. I just needed to go back to Manta to pay for it before they would email it to me. I now have to go through the process of getting my ID card.
The church here reopened on 4 October for a service on a Sunday and a time of prayer and testimonies on a Wednesday evening. Due to there only being a few people on a Wednesday, Pastor William decided to invite some of the Venezuelan people still living on the streets to come and enjoy a meal and a short message. This has become a regular event, sometimes with a snack instead of a meal. One couple who came initially now lead singing every week. There are on average between 30–40 people each week. Please pray that this ministry will lead to people coming to know the Lord.
The church has decided to make the church building available to this group all day Wednesday so that they can come in from the rain and have a coffee and a chat. An area has been fitted with a shower room as well as a donated washing machine and dryer for them to use. Hopefully, as you read this it will all have been plumbed in and be in use.
Thanks to generous donations, we have been able to continue giving out food parcels, reuniting some people for the first time in months. At Christmas we made up 400 bags of sweets (a traditional Christmas present in Ecuador) for the children associated with the church. We also made a special delivery of food supplies to the Orphaids Orphanage on the outskirts of the city.
One other thing to thank God for is that, during the past 12 months, William officiated at 10 weddings (there are normally 4–5 a year), several of which involved young people from the church. Please pray for them as they start out on their life together in these difficult times.
I continue to teach the youngsters in the Orchid Project via WhatsApp, and still meet up with the parents on a monthly basis to supply homework. With the celebrations for the Day of the Dead (in November) and Christmas being curtailed, we had a competition to see who could make the best colada morada in November, which is the traditional fayre for the Day of the Dead. Then another competition to make a Christmas decoration out of some pretty basic materials that I gave them.
Please pray that God will open up a way for me to do the training for four new Orchid Projects in Quito, that was postponed in March. Those churches are only now beginning to open up again, so it will be quite a while before they will be ready to think about new projects. However, I believe God still has a plan to expand the work I am doing.
Apart from that, I have continued being involved with my home church in England, as well as with CMS, through Zoom meetings and Facebook. I am sure many of us were thankful for the technology that allowed us to see family over the Christmas period.
Like many of you, we too had new restrictions over Christmas and New Year, so the church here had to go back online for two weeks. Many people ignored the restrictions, however, and that has led to an increase in the number of COVID cases here in Santo Domingo at the beginning of 2021. To date the government have managed to get hold of only two million vaccines, 50,000 of which were available in January, and the rest by the end of March. Nowhere near enough for the population of 17 million people. Please continue to pray that the hospitals will be able to cope with the continuing need for beds, for the overstretched staff, and for wisdom in distributing the vaccines.
As we move on in 2021, I want to thank you for your continued support in its many forms.