Here we are once again at the end of one year and standing on the precipice of the next. This transition from what has been to what will be, gives us the opportunity for reflection – to look back on the year that was and try to make some sense of it. Where has God been at work? What have we learned that we can carry with us into the coming year?
The year started off with a continuation of the old and the beginning of something new. I continued with my Spanish classes on weekday mornings and began teaching English at the Pan de Vida children’s home. Some days I was the student, other days the teacher. Teaching English gave me a way to contribute to Pan de Vida and a way to get to know the kids more.
As January gave way to February we began to hear distant rumblings about Covid-19. By month’s end the Covid wave had reached Mexico and the government began implementing lockdown measures during the first weeks of March. This coincided with the birth of our fourth child, a beautiful daughter: Juliet Ada. Due to complications with her oxygen levels and a resulting collapsed lung, she spent two weeks in hospital. I remember the odd feeling of driving empty streets every morning, noon, and evening to visit Juliet in the hospital. The lonely, empty streets outside and the little baby struggling to breath inside were stark reminders of the fragility of life and our utter incompetence to be sovereign over anything.
But God is sovereign and he is also full of grace. And he was gracious to us in preserving Juliet’s fragile life and bringing us through a difficult time. At the end of March we brought Juliet home to meet her siblings, and then, due to the lockdown, we had lots of quality time together. Blessings in disguise.
Our plan had been to transition from full-time Spanish studies into ministry around April, which would have marked one year since we arrived in Mexico. Covid obviously complicated that plan and for the first several months we tried to stay home, stay sane, and make the best of it all. Thankfully we could still study Spanish from home and it didn’t bother the kids to be home all the time either. However, as it became clear that Covid was here to stay for a while we began thinking about our immediate future. How does one begin the work of missions in the midst of stay-at-home orders and social distancing?
But God is sovereign and full grace, and he quieted our doubts and answered our prayers. Due to Covid and the lockdown, many people lost their jobs and, as is common here, many began going door to door looking for work, or food, or some form of help. We were getting people to our door almost every day and we tried to help as best we could. As time went on, we began to think about how we could do more. Our neighbours were collecting food donations to be able to distribute to those in need and we thought maybe we could do the same. The problem was we didn’t really know where to start or where to go. So, when people came to our door we told them that we had food parcels available and we could deliver if needed. There were several men who would stop by on a regular basis and they took us up on the offer of the food parcels. Now we had a start.
However, we didn’t want to just drop off a few bags of food and leave. We wanted to do more – to serve people with deed and word. So, when possible we gave a short gospel message and handed out bibles and other Christian literature as well. We returned to several locations multiple times and got invited in for a cup of coffee or a meal, and so we began to get to know the people we were serving. Over the summer months and into autumn we delivered food parcels several times a month and it kept us busy enough so we felt like we were at least doing what we came to Mexico to do.
God blessed the work and with the financial support of churches in Canada we have, to date, delivered approximately four hundred food parcels in six different locations across the city and have given out close to 50 bibles. While the Covid pandemic has caused much chaos in the world, for us, at least in part, it has given us unique opportunities to be the hands and feet and mouth of Jesus Christ. We have been able to speak into the lives of many people whom we would never have met otherwise, and for that we are grateful.
We have had to wrestle with how to balance a concern for Covid (and submission to governing authorities) with a concern for the physical and spiritual well-being of others. It has not been easy. Are we doing too much or not enough? Are we cautious enough? Are we putting people at risk? Tough questions for complicated times.
In October we started a bible study in one of the locations where we delivered food parcels. Our connection to that neighbourhood was a man named Memo, who came to our place back in the spring looking for help. He told me he believes God led him to our house that night and he shows an eagerness to draw nearer to God. During the time we were having guests over on Sunday to watch a church service, he always tried his best to come. When we suggested a bible study in the home of his in-laws, he convinced others to join and coordinated time and place. He has been a blessing to us and we are thoroughly enjoying studying the gospel according to Mark with him and his family and relatives.
Also in October, I was able to return to Pan de Vida to teach English again – I had to stop back in March due to the lockdown. I have been blessed again to get to know my students and be part of the Pan de Vida community. In November we were also able to attend the church located on site at Pan de Vida. We were not able to meet with our regular church because they normally meet in a small second-story room which cannot accommodate many people with the new Covid restrictions. The first time we attended the Pan de Vida church it had been close to eight months without attending a church service. Being physically present among God’s people and listening to a preacher who was in the same room as us just about brought tears to our eyes.
In December we took a three day vacation to the mountains located a couple hours away from where we live. It was good to be refreshed by God’s created beauty and to get away from the noise and garbage and masked-people. The first night we went outside and looked up into the black sky to see the millions of stars God had placed there. It had been a long time since we had seen that many stars and we were awe-struck by the big-ness and beauty of God. We remembered that the God who hung up each brilliant star in sky is also the God who counts each hair on our head. And that is a beautiful thing.
As we near the end of the year, we are thankful for so many blessings, but above all we are thankful for our God and Saviour. Regardless of what blessings he has given us, we are thankful that the Creator of the universe is our God – that he is who is he. That is the blessing above all blessings, and it is easy to lose sight of that truth. In the midst of a disorienting and difficult year for so many, God is our solid rock who never changes and is completely trustworthy. If this past year had been another regular, comfortable year perhaps we would not have been reminded of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty with the same clarity as we have. That is something to carry with us into the year ahead.
Not only is God sovereign and good, but he is with us. That is his great promise throughout Scripture and the birth of Jesus is proof that the promise is true. It is so good to take time at the end of the year not only to remember the past year, but to remember the meaning of our Saviour’s birth. If God had not entered into our dark and dangerous world to walk among us and show us the light we would have every reason to panic and despair during this past year. But God is with us and for us and by his light we see the bright skies now hidden behind dark clouds. That too is something we can carry with us into the coming year.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and God bless you all!