Psalm 75:2 When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.
Greetings to all our faithful supporters,
The year 2020 began with many plans and ideas for ministry. When we sent our letter to you in December of 2019 (Next Steps for HBM 2020) we were full of focused vision for this new 2020 year. Like you, little did we know or anticipate the road that was ahead. When the pandemic hit in full force this past March it was very tempting to pull back to wait and see what would happen. But our God is not a God of wait and see.
Although we wondered how the ministry would endure in Guatemala, we clung to God. HOPE has always been guided by the principle to Help Open Paths to Evangelize. Read about the Founding of H.O.P.E. Bible Mission
A Time to Pivot
The pandemic caused our ministry paths in Guatemala to be turned upside down as the mountain villages were cut off to any travel to spare them from COVID outbreaks in a region with so little medical support. Our team pivoted and did their best to reach out virtually and by telephone in a region that doesn’t have strong internet infrastructure. Just when things seemed to be opening up a bit again for our teams to go back out in person, Central America was hit by two hurricanes.
When Hurricane Eta hit, we saw video clips of key bridges to rural communities being wiped out. Eight days later Iota came to Central America causing even more devastation and we cried for mercy for our brothers and sisters who were cut off from food supplies, who lost homes and water systems due to mudslides. We have been clinging to the One who holds the pillars of the earth firm even when we are shaken.
It is hard to even express all that has happened this past year, but we can only say it is through God’s abundant grace and amazing provision that our team in Guatemala stands firm, that they have remained faithful, and that they are using every resource available to continue to provide support and solid Biblical teaching in the midst of this year of great instability.
With the faithful prayer and financial support of our partners in ministry, our team has been able to achieve more this year for the Gospel than we could have imagined.
In the following brief report we want to share with you how God has worked and held our ministry pillars firm.
The AGAPE Partnership, Biblical Training
The foundation of ministry is the local church and our passion is to train and disciple leaders to minister in those churches. This has presented unique challenges and opportunities. Due to the pandemic travel has been extremely limited. As you can read from our update “Adjusting to the Changes” our team has adjusted to teaching and mentoring virtually. None of the programs have ended and we have started a new program in Samococh.
It has been a challenge due to the limited internet in the rural areas. Many of the pastors and leaders only have access to cell phone coverage. But our team has been diligently working using the internet that is available and phone calls to ensure that our leaders continue to progress in their understanding of the Gospel. In 2021 we will continue with the programs in Samochoch, Chajul, Chiguatal and la Taña.
In Chel, Ilom, LaPerla, and Polmbose where the programs have finished, the team continues to work with the church leaders to grow discipleship in the local churches. We partner with these leaders in community outreach and with our other ministries of Run:Hope and Salud que Transforma with resources and accountability.
The AGAPE Partnership, Ministry Flying
The AGAPE ministry has continued to fly during these challenging times. You can read about this in our update, “Flights During Difficult Times.” Eri Alas has done the majority of flying and for the past few weeks he has been joined once again by Ludin Reyes in response to the Hurricane crisis in Central America. They have flown thousands of pounds of food and resources in Guatemala and Honduras (Update from Honduras). This year the plane has not been able to produce enough income to help support the ministry programs as usual, however, God graciously has provided the funds for us to make up that difference.
The Run:Hope Ministry
As with the U.S. education in Guatemala has been deeply affected by the pandemic. The most significant difference is that the vast majority of children do not have access to internet service in their homes. In the rural mountain areas that problem is even more severe and the reality is that for these children the year has been lost.
The 28 teachers registered in our Run:Hope program have worked diligently to overcome this challenge. At the Luz y Vida school in Salquil Grande the teachers have followed up with every student either through cell phones (via Whatsapp) or going door to door handing out assignments and discussing the lessons with each student. The determined dedication to their students demonstrates the core values of the Run:Hope ministry.
This year we held our first virtual Run:Hope Education conference (First Virtual Run:Hope Conference 2020) with the focus on equipping our teachers with tools for virtual learning. Because this was a virtual conference we were able to include teachers from other parts of the country who are not at this time part of the Run:Hope ministry. The seminar was led by an experienced Christian educator.
Unexpected Ministry during the Pandemic
H.O.P.E. Bible Mission is typically not focused on being a relief ministry but in this unusual year God has provided us with unexpected resources to help during this time of crisis. A few churches and a number of individuals gave money to be used for those in great need during the pandemic. Our team has used 100% of those resources to help feed 325 families for six months. We partnered with local churches and pastors to identify those in greatest need. Through this ministry, we were able to minister both physically and spiritually during this pandemic.
Central America was hit especially hard by hurricanes Eta and Iota. The communities of Chel, Ilom, and Salquil were especially hard hit.
Read about Hurricane Eta
Once again God provided unexpected resources to come alongside the church leaders to help support and show love to others in the community. In Salquil Grande, we are working in partnership with the community to rebuild the water system that was destroyed in a mudslide. Carlos, the director of Light and Life school, has been key in coordinating with community leaders to rebuild the water system. As of today, the community is still without water and it is a work in process. In Chel, Polop and LaPerla, we are coordinating with local pastors to identify those in greatest need and will be working to help rebuild homes that were lost to landslides. Our projection at this point is to help rebuild up to 30 homes.
Looking Forward to 2021
After the year that we have just experienced, there is no reason for us to look forward to 2021 with any fear. God has taken care of the trouble of today and provided for every need that we have faced. One of our church partners in response to the needs of the ministry tripled their support for HOPE. Not one of our supporting churches has decreased their support.
We stand in awe of God’s mighty provision during these difficult economic times around the world. We are historically a faith mission and do not make a lot of financial pleas. We have been shaken and have cried out to God like never before, but God has held the pillars of his ministry firm!
We simply want to share what God has given us to do in 2021:
The AGAPE Partnership, Biblical Training
What we have seen powerfully in 2020 is that the education and discipleship of Biblical church leaders is vital to sustain the ministry. We need strong local churches to evangelize their communities and we need strong Biblical leaders to partner with to meet the needs of the local communities. Our hope is to see the ministry grow in three ways.
The Run:Hope Ministry
You can read more about this ministry at Run:Hope. The need for this ministry has become even more crucial due to the pandemic. In 2021, the need is not simply to open the schools. There needs to be a plan to make up for the lost months of schooling during the pandemic. This is difficult with limited resources and no government support or direction. We need wisdom and educational resources that are beyond our present team to provide. Please pray specifically for this great need!
This time of pandemic has shown opportunities to incorporate virtual learning into the Run:Hope program. We will use the tools that God has given to us to address these education needs. Our focus in the coming two years will be to strengthen our teachers and expand the program to more communities. Our prayer and desire is to see this program grow as we know the need is so great in these rural mountain communities. The goals are bold but please pray with us!
Viala Clinic and Training Center
Last year we shared with you about the Viala Clinic and Training Center. When the pandemic began we had to put this project on pause so that we could focus our energy on the Biblical training programs and the Run:Hope education ministry. As we enter 2021, we will be waiting to proceed with this project until the middle of 2021. The property in Chel had minimal damage during the hurricanes and we are thankful that the work that has been done was not impacted.
We end this update where we started by emphasizing the foundation of this ministry which is to share the Gospel of Christ. God has held the pillars of H.O.P.E. Bible Mission strong this year through:
Please pray specifically for:
A Time for JOY!
May your hearts and minds be filled with the JOY the humble shepherds felt the night the angels announced the good news of the birth of a Savior, Christ the Lord. Christ came to the “least of these” so that they could experience the fullness of God’s incredible grace!
This season, we feel the same! We are humbled as we experience God’s incredible grace to our small mission and the privilege of being able to continue to share the good news of great joy in the rural mountain communities of Guatemala.
We thank you for your partnership in sharing the joy! We pray that together our JOY will be multiplied in each of our partner churches and communities where God has placed us to proclaim the good news.
With humble and full hearts of Thanksgiving to God,
Rick and Deb for our entire team in Guatemala
We appreciate your prayers for our team as Ludin, Eri, and Juan Carlos are still in Honduras delivering aid. The weather has been difficult and slowed the process. So far they have 67.7 flight hours and have delivered 16,747 lbs of cargo along with 64 passengers. Please keep them in prayer as they are there for 10 more days.
Praise God for the generous support that we have received to provide water for more than 2500 people in the community of Salquil Grande. The landslide that destroyed the homes in Polop also destroyed the water supply for Polop and Salquil Grande. Through a partnership with the community and HOPE, they will be able to purchase sufficient pipe to bring water to the town. As you can see from the pictures below the pipe is small, but it is able to provide water for many people.
Greetings everyone. I want to give you an update on the effects that the Hurricane has left in the rural areas where we have served our brothers. In the village of Chel, thank God, we have not had human losses, only materials since the river Chel overflowed its banks, taking out three houses that were on the side of the road almost reaching to the School. In the village of Ilom, they were not as severely affected by the heavy rains. In Salquil Grande the teachers and director of Light and Life School are well thank God. In the village of Palop above Salquil, they had a landslide, taking the lives of eight people. For now, there is no electricity in Chel. The bridges have collapsed and closed the passage on the route from Chajul to La perla, Chel and Ilom.
Please pray for many affected families who have lost everything. Thanks for your prayers. God bless you.
Many of our partners in the ministry have provided funding to help those in the greatest need because of the pandemic. For the last four months because of this partnership we have been able to provide basic food supplies to sustain 34 families with a total of almost 200 people. We prayed daily and like with the five loaves of bread God's people keep supporting these families. We want to thank those of you who have had the opportunity of praying or financially supporting. God has used your servant heart to help these families survive during a very difficult time. Please keep them in prayer.
Many years ago, a good friend mine was instrumental in starting and leading a school in the South Bronx. God gave him a calling to provide a quality education for young people from one of the poorest communities in NYC. There is one phrase that he has repeated continually, “whatever it takes.”
The phrase exemplifies the dogged determination of our team in Guatemala to continue in the ministry in the face of a pandemic and lockdown. They have exercised the “whatever it takes” attitude to address the educational needs of the rural communities in the churches and the schools. They are not allowed to travel outside the city at this time but they are allowed to travel virtually.
In July we held the Virtual Run:Hope education conference. We had 35 teachers attend receiving instruction in “Developing a Learning Management System,” How to Teach the Bible in the Classroom,” and “Teaching with Virtual Tools.” Mr. William Carrillo who is an expert in the field of education led the conference. Not only were the teachers equipped they were encouraged as they sometimes have to even go door to door to teach their kids.
We deeply appreciate each one of you who have also done “whatever it takes” as you faithfully support during these uncertain times. Together we will continue to share the hope of the Gospel with your partnership in prayer and financial support.
Partnering with the Church to Spiritually and Physically Sustain the Communities during the Pandemic
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
As our communities continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and cries for justice sweep the United States and the globe, I find strength in the words of the Apostle Paul. Our faith compels us to testify the good news of God’s Grace in the midst of hardship and suffering. This does not mean we do not acknowledge the pain of the world and make space for grief. The crisis of COVID-19, even as it has impacted us all in many ways, has also laid bare social inequalities that existed long before the pandemic. Paul’s words are a call to live out the gospel through tangible actions of learning and love for our neighbors, as Christ taught us to do.
As in many parts of Latin America, COVID-19 cases are steadily rising in Guatemala, particularly in the capital. While curfews, travel restrictions and social distancing are meant to bolster an already stretched public health system, the large portion of the population that normally makes a living through informal work is unable to make ends meet.
How our team is responding: Our team in Guatemala City is still restricted from traveling to the rural areas, so they are splitting their time between communicating with church leaders in Quiché by phone and working in local relief in the capital. Through the generous gift for relief work from one of our supporting U.S. churches, we have been able to coordinate with local churches in the capital to provide food and medicine to 130 families in vulnerable neighborhoods. We work with local churches because they know the context of their own communities best and together we can work to address both spiritual and physical needs.
The current funds are sufficient for three months, but we anticipate the impacts of this crisis to last longer. If you would like to contribute to this ongoing relief work fund, please donate here. To learn more, please feel free to reach out to us directly.
Status of pastoral training programs & education: Our Biblical training program is currently focused on retooling our programming through other means of communication. While the internet is not an option in most of the rural areas, we have been exploring other ideas via phone and WhatsApp. Throughout the country, schools are struggling to stay connected with their students. Luz y Vida, the school we partner with in Salquil Grande, is using some internet, phone, and written communication to try to keep the kids up to date in their studies.
Our first and foremost request is for prayer. The ministry is changing each day and we are seeking to follow the next steps God has for us. The relief funds received go 100 percent to the families in need in cooperation with the local churches.
During this time we have not reduced salaries of any of the team members based in Guatemala, meaning we still need support so they can continue to adapt our usual programming to a new technological and social landscape.
Thank you so much for your love and support. We have been humbled and encouraged by the prayers and gifts of God’s people as no one has been immune to the challenges of this worldwide pandemic. Praying for all of you that together, we will keep a singular focus on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ that our broken world needs now more than ever.
Sending our love and prayers,
Rick and Deb for our entire HOPE/AGAPE team