As of last night, there are 264 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Honduras. There have been 15 deaths.
Lockdown conditions have gotten stricter. Last week, we were allowed to go to the grocery store, bank or pharmacy but only on the day assigned. We were given Friday based on the last digit in our ID number. The anticipation leading up to Friday reached a fevered pitch by Wednesday. The idea of actually getting to leave our house, even if it was just to go to the nearest supermarket, made me giddy.
The Grocery Store Excursion
Friday morning I actually got up early and brushed my hair for the first time in days. We sat at the ready waiting for 9:00 to strike and our permission to be out to go into effect. We were like children waiting to open presents on Christmas morning. We were so excited, we left about 10 minutes early!
By the time we arrived at the grocery store, the line was already formed. They only let a few people into the store at a time. Lines were painted on the ground every three feet out side the door. We each had to stand on a line, keeping a safe distance of others waiting their turn. Only one person per household was allowed to enter, so Steve waited in the car while I found my place at the back of the line that now snaked through the parking lot. I was the only person without a face mask (only because I couldn't find one!). I waited nearly an hour before I got to the security check at the door. Two guards holding large rifles checked my ID and directed me toward a table of hand sanitizer and a rug soaked in cleanser for the bottoms of my shoes.
To my surprise, the store was mostly fully stocked. The toilet paper aisle, meat counter and fresh produce area were especially encouraging. I was able to purchase nearly everything on my list including several "wish" items. When I finished, I left feeling happy and more secure. But my hope was quickly dashed.
I found Steve in the parking lot with the hood of the truck open shrugging his shoulders helplessly. The battery had gone dead. With our fresh meat rapidly spoiling in the hot sun, we searched for someone to help. Few would speak to us and those that did were either unable or unwilling to help. A young boy begging for food in the parking lot took pity on us and searched for help at the gas station next door. A delivery truck finally pulled up and Steve was allowed to connect our jumper cables. Nothing happened. The boy suggested we pour some of our Coke on the connections to clean them up a bit. I was reluctant to waste such a precious commodity, but I was outvoted. Still nothing. Finally the truck driver grew impatient and left us still stranded with my frozen chicken melting in the parking lot.
I made a frantic call to a missionary friend. He didn't have permission to be out of his house on Friday, but he took the back roads and arrived to rescue us in minutes. And he was able to get us going again. We gave the helpful boy some money and rushed back to our hidey hole at home again.
A Hopeful New Opportunity
Steve and I have been watching social media posts of our colleagues around the country trying to serve in our new circumstances. The most urgent need is getting food to the poor in the city and in outlying communities who are not fortunate enough to have resources to stock up for days at a time like we are. In good times, they scrape by with goods bought day-to-day. Now, with no work and limited movement permitted, more people are struggling to find enough food to feed their families. Missionaries have responded by delivering food in different communities. But, often, these efforts aren't coordinated and sometimes aren't even adherent to current emergency law. We certainly understand the need to "do" something to help our neighbors, but we were struggling with how to do it in the right way. Then we heard about a group of missionaries in a neighboring city who combined forces and decided to work together with government relief efforts. We were inspired by their example.
So last week Steve and I reached out to our fellow missionaries in La Esperanza. We are from different organizations, denominations and ministries, but we've decided to pool our resources and team up to have a greater impact on our community. We reached out to the city's emergency services who were thrilled to work with us. Between us, we scraped up enough cash to feed 50 families in need this Holy week. The city has given us special permission to work alongside their team to purchase and distribute the food.
The response team is well-organized, with a long-term plan for reaching the hardest hit. They've already fed thousands of people with the aid they've been given by the federal authorities. But they are overwhelmed by the need. The government funds aren't nearly enough to help everyone and they've had to make some very tough and emotional decisions to serve the elderly and sick first, leaving many families with young children with no support. We're eager to help them extend their reach, even if it's a tiny drop in the bucket. So far, the officials we're working with have been very transparent and have given us complete control of all donated money and resources. They've also invited us along to observe their operations in the field.
We are so grateful that God has opened the door to this opportunity. And we're humbled by our missionary co-workers, who are so selfless and generous. We're hopeful that this may lead to even further collaborations when the crisis is over.
We're looking for ways you can be involved in this urgent relief ministry. In the meantime, we're asking you to pray for God to miraculously stretch the resources he's given us this week.
A Bleak Week Ahead
Last night La Esperanza announced a complete and total shut-down of all business until April 12th at the earliest. That means no groceries, no banks, no pharmacies and no work for an entire week. The penalty of being out of the house is severe. Holy Week is typically a time of celebration and festivity for most families here. We expect the new rules are an attempt to clamp down on those who would rather risk infection than miss out on tradition. Still, these restrictions are going to be catastrophic for some families with no access to food or supplies. We are preparing ourselves for a very tough week.
Messages from the U.S. embassy in Honduras have become more and more urgent and disturbing. Many missionaries and NGOs have been already evacuated and those of us who remain are being urged to do the same. Steve and I have made the decision to stick it out here, for better or worse. For the moment, we are well-stocked, safe and healthy where we are. We know that could change rapidly, but we have faith that the Lord will use us during this time. We are relying more and more on God's promises. And we are leaning into the knowledge that He has not given us a spirit of fear.
Thank for your prayers and encouragement through this crisis. We know that you are also being stretched and even hurting today. We want you to know that you are not alone and that God knows and cares about every detail of your discomfort. Take heart and be joyful! This week is about the Promise of an end to ALL suffering. And we can rejoice the He lives and that He is coming again!