In a previous article, we talked about how much we aged during our first six months as missionaries in Uruguay!
They were difficult months, especially having to contend with the effects of Covid19 just six weeks after we arrived.
Looking back, the shut down of our son’s school in March 2020 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It happened less than two weeks after Mark had started school. All of a sudden, Pedro found himself in the driver’s seat of Mark’s (Spanish) schooling. It was only 30 minutes of Zoom class each day, but stress levels were through the roof.
Communication between the school, teachers, and parents was done over three different platforms. And often the really important information was buried under a lot of other stuff. It took hours to sift through all the foreign words and concepts, and we were always left with the feeling that we’d missed something crucial. So it’s really no surprise that this brought on a really severe IBS attack for Pedro. There were definitely moments in those early months we were ready to pack up and head home. Thank God there were no flights!
So in March this year, we felt a strong sense of déjà vu when we heard the government decision to shut down schools after just two weeks of term. This was almost exactly how things had unfolded the previous year. School had got off to a promising start, and then suddenly everything was moved online. Very quickly, last year’s feelings of stress and dread came flooding back. Pedro could sense his stress-triggered IBS knocking on the door. We literally felt it in our stomachs.
But wonderfully and unexpectedly, the initial sense of déjà vu did not continue. One year on, Mark had 4.5 hours of school each day… but all we had to do was help him log-in and be there with him in case any technical issues came up. It was amazing to see how much Mark was able to understand and participate in class, all by himself. Hearing him giggle at the jokes was something special. He’s far from fluent, but he’s definitely come a long way!
Although it had its (big) challenges and frustrations, online school also was a blessing in disguise; it gave us a glimpse of how much Mark had grown, in answer to the faithful prayers of God’s people for us. And thankfully, as we write now, Mark is back at school! After three months of closures this year, the government reopened schools for preschoolers and early primary. Mark has absolutely loved being back at school with his teachers and friends.
And this isn’t the only answered prayer we’ve seen in recent months. Here are some other highlights.
Since February 2020, we have asked God’s people to pray for our visa/residency situation. After an eventful 17 months of applying and waiting, we now have a two-year temporary residency permit to work as missionaries in Uruguay! The next step for us now is to get our Uruguayan ID cards, which we have upcoming appointments for.
Joy is now pregnant and, in recent months, the risk of getting Covid and developing fatal complications from the virus had risen sharply for her—both because the number of new daily infections were alarmingly high and because the variant from Brazil was particularly dangerous for pregnant women. Due to our (then) unresolved residency situation, we weren’t able to get her vaccinated and asked God’s people to pray for a way to open. Just two weeks ago, a friend who works in health told us that a vaccination clinic was about to open exclusively to vaccinate pregnant women—no appointments or Uruguayan ID necessary! All that was required was a pregnancy ‘yellow card’, which Joy had received only three days earlier. So Joy went on opening day and was able to get her first dose!
Covid19 in Uruguay
Since April, the pandemic has impacted the lives of many people in Uruguay we know in a very personal way. Not only have many become sick, our friends have lost loved ones to the virus. And so we’ve asked our prayer partners to pray that the Covid situation in Uruguay would improve—quickly. In recent days, we’ve seen numbers falling, with fewer patients in ICU and fewer fatalities. There’s still a long way to go, but this is good news nonetheless.
Church is still almost completely online, and although there’s currently no government imposed lockdown, we’ve decided it’s not safe to meet people in person because the risks are still fairly high (and grave) for us. Yet despite these limitations, we’ve been encouraged by Bible catch ups on Zoom. For me (Joy), a highlight has been reading Colossians with K. For my sake, we’ve been going rather slowly, but K is a patient sister, always eager to make sense of my Spanish and help me understand her better. Together, we’ve been amazed by how excellent Jesus is, and how blessed we are to be in him. Meanwhile, Pedro has started going through the basics of Christianity with A, a brother who is quite new to the faith.
Another joy has been to see S, a student leader Pedro is discipling, eager to share his growing knowledge of God with others. One Sunday evening, Pedro chanced upon a Facebook Live video of a church service in which S was leading music. Pedro clicked on the video out of curiosity and saw, to his great encouragement, S teach others at his church the very things they were learning through reading the Bible together. We didn’t expect the pandemic’s restrictions on church to encourage us in this way!
Covid19 has certainly placed unforeseen road bumps in our path—it has not been the start to missionary service in Uruguay that we had planned or prepared for! But as we reflect on why we committed to serving here, our reasons and our confidence remain unchanged. There is a great harvest, and the workers are few. But praise be to Jesus, who is the Lord of this harvest. He has promised never to leave nor forsake us. And so far our time here has shown us just that.