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GLOBAL REPORT: COVID-19

NEW YORK CITY
Most of you are probably following the news here as things continue to grow worse by the day in NYC.  We now have dozens of people in our church that have either tested positive or were diagnosed remotely as positive.  Several members have passed away.  Others have had family members, co-workers or neighbors who have passed away.  Some are starting to lose their jobs or being put on furlough.  Our medical team has reported more of their colleagues getting sick.  One of our medical team leaders said she had 9 doctor colleagues become sick.

I have been talking to various people who are trying to help here in NYC.  There are potential volunteer opportunities for those willing to serve.  Please be mindful that these are not Brooklyn Tabernacle-run initiatives.

NYC Relief

I was talking to my friend Juan Galloway, the president of one of the homeless ministries here called NYC Relief, and he said many homeless services have been shut down and they’ve lost many volunteers due to the crisis.  The homeless here are probably the most vulnerable Americans – they have nowhere to go to isolate and do "social distancing."  The Dept of Homeless Services just announced the largest male population in their shelters in history.

Deut 15:11 - "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land."

If you are willing and able to volunteer with NYC Relief, please email volunteer@newyorkcityrelief.org.  All volunteers will be given masks and gloves as well as a safety protocol orientation to help protect them as they serve.

Samaritan’s Purse

I’ve also been talking with our friends at Samaritan’s Purse.  Usually we talk about global projects, but this is the first time we’ve discussed working together here in our backyard.  Samaritan’s Purse has set up a Respiratory Care Unit (RCU) in Central Park.  They are also preparing to deploy a Step Down Unit, Convalescent and Palliative Care Units.  They are currently looking for physicians, nurses and other medical professionals who are licensed in the US and who are available to serve for a minimum of two weeks.  If interested, please sign up on their website: https://www.spvolunteer.org/project-response/236

  • Please pray for our most vulnerable citizens, first responders, medical people and those who are sick.  May the Lord have mercy upon us.
     

GLOBAL REPORT
Although America is having one of the most difficult times in our recent history, as a nation we will have the resources to do far more than the Majority World.  When the poor in those lands have lockdowns and businesses close, or they have little to no healthcare, they have no backup plan except to call on the Name of the Lord.

  • Please continue to pray for our missionaries and especially the many thousands of people that depend upon the spiritual and humanitarian services that they have always provided.


BELIZE
There are reportedly 3 cases now in this small Central American country of 400,000 people, all brought by travelers from the USA.  Belize went into lockdown mode with schools, most stores, restaurants and churches closed, flights grounded and most gatherings banned.

Many families here struggle to keep up financially even during good times, and the lockdowns have exacerbated this greatly.  Working together with Belizean partners, our missionaries Ron and Edna put together family food packages consisting of rice, beans and eggs and gave them to families that they knew were struggling.  They also dropped off food for the men at Freedom House (halfway house for ex-convicts or ex-drug users). Part of their income is making and selling artistic items, but this business has closed. 

With the lockdown in Belize, unless a person is on their way to an approved location to conduct approved business, the person who is out can be stopped and arrested. Please pray that God would make a way to distribute the food.  It's not a big program, but it is big to those receiving the food, and it shows the love of God.

In the meantime, all of their ministry projects, such as the Tutoring program, Men’s Halfway House ministry, Prison Chapel ministry, and men and women’s ministry programs, have all been temporarily suspended.  


Figure: Tutoring Program Prior to the Pandemic

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The DR has essentially gone under martial law.  There is now a curfew from 8pm – 6am except for essential people like healthcare workers; those who are on the streets past curfew have been arrested.  Commercial flights and ships have been suspended and most businesses have closed.  This will have a devastating effect on the tourist industry, which is one of the major industries in the country.  The last report has 72 infected and 2 deaths. 

Pastora Cristina, Pastora Milly and the church are doing well.  They’ve had to shut down their services, and they’re now using Facebook Live to broadcast their Sunday and Tuesday messages.  Everyone has stocked up on supplies, similar to when there’s a hurricane alert.  The church is maintaining contact with each other over Facebook and Whatsapp.

HAITI
Haiti announced that several people tested positive for the virus (a Haitian returning from Paris and a Belgian volunteering at an orphanage); and the president closed the airports, schools, factories and seaports.  Large gatherings have been banned, but some churches defied the ban and those pastors were actually arrested.  Panic buying set in as everyone bought up food, water and cooking gas and cleaning supplies.  Haiti’s health care system is extremely inadequate to handle this crisis, so they need a lot of prayer.

Sister Elsie is with her daughter Stephanie, and they are safe inside the mission house.  However, they’ve had to stop all church services and even the food program temporarily.  They are handing out food care packages at the gate for those that still come.

Sister Bonite was able to purchase enough food and toiletries for the 29 children at her Children Care Center for at least the next few weeks.  She had added 2 more children whose parents had died recently.  This is a serious concern for her, as she has to provide all the children’s ongoing meals.  She also purchased food for her regular food program (for 150 children), but as the country went into lockdown, she also had to suspend her food program.  People still come to her ministry, and she hands out food care packages.  She’s helped at least 30 families so far.  

Figure: Sister Bonite's Orphan School

We had to shut down the Haiti ESL/Computer Life Center temporarily until schools can reopen.

  • Please pray for the poor families who have depended upon Sister Bonite and Sister Elsie’s food programs. 

GUYANA
Guyana announced that they have at least 4 officially confirmed cases officially, but there are many more that are suspected.  One woman who arrived from the USA was diagnosed, and she died.  Guyana closed its airports, schools and other businesses.  Their healthcare system is not much better than Haiti’s.

The Smiths—our missionaries in Guyana—and the children, are at A Sanctuary grounds and doing well.  Their location is very isolated to begin with.  They have a small school for their children on the grounds; and this continues to run, since it’s isolated.  They currently have a primary school teacher, and Romeo and Glennis Smith are currently teaching secondary school.

They house and care for the children 24/7, so this is a serious point of prayer.  They have a reasonable amount of soap and sanitizers, canned milk, bags of rice and flour, all donated by Food for the Poor.  They also stocked up with additional flour, oil, etc., from the support from The Brooklyn Tabernacle.  They are preparing the children to be ready to conserve everything—water, food, other supplies—in case this situation is prolonged.  

Figure: Girl's room at A Sanctuary

Beverly’s food and tutoring ministry is tied to the school system’s schedule. Now that the schools have closed, the program has had to be suspended for now.  

KUR*N/MIDDLE EAST
Kurdistan is reporting more than 100 cases as of this writing.  The government has started a curfew that is being enforced by police.  All public places, including mosques and the handful of official small churches, have been closed.  Only essential businesses, such as groceries and bakeries, remain open.

Our worker here reports that she has been in complete lockdown, so everyone is staying at home.  Most ministries are temporarily suspended.

LEBANON
Prior to the pandemic, a financial and political crisis was crippling the country.  This led to shortages of medical supplies and an inability to pay healthcare workers.  Now the COVID-19 outbreak has placed new strains on the healthcare system.  As of March 23, there have been at least 267 cases and 4 deaths.  All schools, universities, churches, and many "non-essential" businesses such as restaurants, are now closed.  Travel bans and curfews are now in place.

Jamie and Sandra’s family are doing well, but it’s been challenging, as they have 2 small children that they are homeschooling while they continue to minister as well as they can.  Jamie is now doing remote sessions with the church youth as well as remote counseling sessions.  Sandra continues to serve as a nurse at our Nabaa Medical Life Center.

The North Medical Life Center has had to close temporarily due to the government and travel restrictions.

The Nabaa Medical Life Center is still operating, but they’ve had to drastically change their protocols to safely work with patients.  The situation for the refugees and migrant workers is even worse than before.  The Life Center is providing critical services at such a time.  We pray that it can stay open as long as possible.

Figure: Sandra at our Medical Life Center

  • Please keep the family and the safety of the Life Center’s personnel in prayer.

MALAWI
Unfortunately, Malawi has now reported their first confirmed cases of C-19 in Malawi.  Prior to this, the country still went into lockdown, as an estimated 100,000 Malawian migrant workers go to South Africa, which now has hundreds of cases; so the government didn’t take any chances.  The airport is checking everyone that comes in.  The government has closed all schools and colleges and restricted public gatherings to less than 100 people.  Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, so any outbreak would be devastating.

Pastor Moffat reports that they are splitting their church into 2 services to comply with the gathering restriction.  Their more recent struggles were with a food crisis where their maize prices had skyrocketed.  This caused some of the church’s poorer families go without food; but now that this is harvest time, the food situation is stabilizing, thank God.

At the more remote lake location, the Medical Life Center that we started some years ago continues to run well,and people are being treated.  The school is running well.

NAVAJO NATION
The Navajo Nation (and other Native American Reservations) have already had some of the poorest healthcare and other social service access in the nation.  C-19 cases continue to rise, and at least 39 Navajos have been officially infected.  Hospitals and healthcare facilities are facing major shortages on equipment and PPEs.  "Stay at home" orders have gone into effect as well.

As of last week, all the churches have shut down their services on the Reservation.  Our missionaries, Mark and Gail McKeller, have been reaching out to church members.  They are figuring out how to stay connected to their youth and young adults via social media, but the older Navajos will be very isolated.  They also experienced panic buying where the local shops were all out of water, toilet paper, hand sanitizers, etc.

On the positive side, a major construction project to expand their summer camp facilities is almost completed. This is being made possible by a grant from a Christian foundation.  

Figure: New Kitchen

In addition, Theresa Fewell, one of our Brooklyn Tabernacle church members, was preparing to head out permanently to the Navajo Nation to serve under the McKellers in the church there.  The pandemic has added many hurdles for her, but she was able to get there as scheduled on April 3.  She will be self-quarantined on the Reservation for 2 weeks; then, God willing, she will start getting settled with job interviews, finding a car, etc.

Figure: Theresa with Navajo Youth

PHILIPPINES
President Duterte has been given emergency powers to manage the COVID-19 spread, and it continues to surge.  To date there are 552 confirmed cases and 35 deaths.  Half the population has been ordered to stay home, and there are now checkpoints set up on Luzon, which is the main island, where the Ildefonsos minister.  All schools and most businesses are now closed.

Prior to the lockdown, the Ildefonsos were able to visit families that had been affected by the recent Taal volcano eruption.  They were able to provide humanitarian supplies, such as food, toiletries and soap, as well as tracts and Bibles.  They combined forces with a local pastor and reached 137 people.

Figure: The Ildefonsos' church handing out relief packages

In addition, they were able to put together simple food care packages for 1,000 families in their neighborhood, on behalf of their church, as the crisis was growing.  They had prepared hundreds more packages for a neighboring town, but they couldn’t personally distribute those as the lockdown became more restrictive.  Those were given to the municipality, which distributed them.

In the meantime, Pastor Alland Ildefonso has started broadcasting his church services online for those church members that have access to online video. 

RWANDA
Rwanda was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to impose a lockdown.  As of this week, the country of 12 million people has at least 41 confirmed cases of C19—the most in the region.

In an incident that made international news, a man who ignored the lockdown went fishing and was killed and eaten by a crocodile.  In addition, 2 men were shot and killed by police for supposedly breaking the curfew.

When the lockdown started, many people started panic buying similar to what we’ve experienced here.  Food prices started spiking.  A surprised shopkeeper said, "It is as if people were preparing for war"; as all the basic foods— rice, cooking oil, flour, etc.— were bought up quickly. 

Unfortunately, the panic buying was a privilege that most Rwandans (and Majority World citizens) in general cannot join in with.  Literally billions of people have barely enough to buy food for a day, let alone a week.

Linda had traveled back to the USA earlier in the year to organize different exhibits for her ministry students prior to the start of the pandemic.  She is unable to return to Rwanda at the present time.  In any case, the ministry school has been suspended, as all the other schools.

Figure: Ministry Children Learning to make Rugs

Figure: Prayer Time

  •  Please pray for the poor in Africa, who will inordinately pay a heavy price for all the lockdowns, and the economic damage this will cause.
The Prayer Center