As I write this, a lot has changed since my previous newsletter.
In the UK, people are allowed to go out socially again and get a haircut. Prince Philip passed away, leaving a void in the life of the Queen. People are dreaming of summer holidays.
Here in Ecuador we have a new president-elect, who will take up the role on 24 May. He has promised that in his first 100 days in office he will make sure that two million people have had a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine rollout started in January and he is promising that by the end of August, 12 per cent of Ecuadorians will have been vaccinated. What a different story to that of the UK. He has pledged to make two million new jobs available, and to increase the minimum wage to USD500 per month. Please pray with me that he achieves these things.
I have still not completed the process of getting my ID card, due to a mild dose of COVID-19, landslides on the road to Quito and a breakdown in the government appointment booking system. I think I have until the end of May to get one. I did manage to get the paperwork I need when I travelled again to the coast in February. It was on my return from that trip that I lost my sense of smell and taste, and was diagnosed with COVID-19. I am very thankful that I had no breathing difficulties.
The Orchid Project has just restarted after a month’s break for end of year holidays. We are still unable to meet in person as virus cases are on the rise again, not helped by people having to travel to their birthplace in order to vote in the presidential election. The local bus terminal was overcrowded with people needing to travel, there was no social distancing, and some people were not using masks. The hospitals are once again full and there is a shortage of oxygen. As I write this we are starting a month of curfews where we are confined to the house from 8pm Friday–5am Monday, and from 8pm–5am during the week.
Several of my neighbours have had COVID-19 and I have been able to help them with shopping while they were self-isolating. I heard also that the daughter of one of them has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She has a tiny baby. I found out when I saw them buying a cylinder of oxygen to take to the hospital for her. Thanks to a donation from the UK I was able to give them something towards the cost. Sadly the daughter has since passed away.
As neighbours, we continue to cook for, or share with, each other. This had stopped for a few weeks while we had sick people in the block, to avoid spreading the virus. I recently received a pan of crab soup.
The church has continued to deliver food parcels to people in need, and the shower room and washing facilities at church have been in use. Unfortunately, the church had to close in April due to new restrictions by the local mayor, in his effort to curb the virus. He caught it for a second time and was in a clinic on oxygen for a while.
Pastor Rodrigo’s daughter Leidy was due to marry in February, but had to postpone it until March as she and her mum Blanca got the virus. Happily her fiance Carlos was ok. I was one of the 50 people invited to the wedding. (Numbers were limited due to the pandemic.) It was lovely to be able to celebrate with them. Please pray for them as they begin their married life. Carlos is a relatively new Christian, and was baptised by Pastors William and Rodrigo in the summer.
The parents of Jonathan, one of my students, split up while we were on holiday. They had been married for 23 years. I have not seen him, but I know he will be struggling. Please pray for him, as he is very close to his dad, who has left the family home. Two other students and their family members have had the coronavirus, and thankfully all are recovered.
Easter celebrations throughout Ecuador were not able to take place as people would have liked. The large parade in Quito was cancelled. Our services were held on Zoom. This meant that the usual 3½–4-hour Good Friday service was shortened to just over two hours. I loved being able to celebrate with some of my supporting churches through their Facebook and YouTube services, from Maundy Thursday through to Easter Sunday.
In April the local government social inclusion department gave materials to people with disabilities to enable them to start their own small businesses. I am excited to see that Marlon has already started making disinfectant, antibacterial hand gel and hand soap. Please pray that this will take off and that he will enjoy doing it. This is what I hope for for all the people who come to the Orchid Project. Jonathan also received materials, but it appears that his mum has taken it on.
Reflecting on the last 14 months, being able to join in a prayer meeting almost every Sunday with my home church has proved a real blessing, as has taking part in church services and meetings online. I thank God for technology. (That, coming from someone who never wanted to engage with it.) It enabled me to do a Zoom interview with the priest in charge of a group of churches that support me. If you would be interested in interviewing me over Zoom, please do contact me.
I want to thank you once again for all that you do to support my work here in Santo Domingo. Be assured of my prayers for you even if I do not get in touch regularly.