Dear Friends and Family,
Dear Friends and Family,
I cannot believe that we are already halfway through the first month of 2024! This past year was one of the hardest, and longest, we have had as a family, and I want to start our year-end report with a big thank you to all those of you who supported us, prayed with us and kept calling and sending messages or emails during each new trial! Thank you, and God bless all of you for your care!
The country suffered during 2023, and since it was election year there was a tremendous upset at the polls. Protests were a daily event (there were almost 8000 protests last year), and inflation was on course to be 120% prior to the elections. After the elections, which went “extra innings” because we needed a runoff vote between the final 2 candidates, we finished the year with the OFFICIAL inflation numbers at 211.5 %. Yes, you read that right. People are losing jobs left and right, and there have been so many changes in the laws that it is tough to keep up. For a few weeks in December it was actually illegal to meet with 3 or more people in a public venue without notifying the Ministry of Security! Obviously, a number of these laws are being challenged in the courts, and thankfully that particular one was repealed, but Argentina is a difficult place to live at the moment, and a number of my acquaintances regularly make comparisons with the years the country lived under the most recent dictatorship. Many stores have closed down for the month of January because they cannot price the goods they sell with any confidence that they will earn enough to pay for restocking the merchandise, so they have sent their employees off on vacations and are waiting to see if the situation stabilizes.
In the midst of all of this chaos, God blessed us enormously. I am not making light of the challenges we faced. As I wrote above, this was undoubtedly one of the hardest years we faced as a family. We started off the year with COVID, had our furlough cancelled because United Airlines (supposedly in conjunction with Customs and Boarder Patrol) didn't recognize Vanesa's paperwork as valid, had major issues with the car, and then further health problems during July and August, when Vanesa was also diagnosed with a benign tumor on her right ovary that requires surgery.
On the positive side of the ledger, however, God led us through all of this and blessed us in the process. We had something of an advance warning that inflation was going to take an even steeper turn as early as September this year, and were able to buy beef and store it for the leaner times at year's end. We were also able to buy a new car in September, a 2018 model Chevy, and that car in turn helped us move forward with all of the medical and visa related tasks we had to do to satisfy the health insurance (re: the operation) and the Embassy (regarding Vanesa's actual status).
Furthermore, Zoe graduated from high school this year, and we were able to do all of the scheduled activities even with the additional costs because we froze prices by paying ahead of time, and Vanesa became one of the “representative mothers” who facilitated communication between the students, the families, and the school administration. In fact, a number of the activities would not have happened without Vanesa's participation, because she not only helped the different groups communicate with each other, she got permission from the administration to organize fundraisers and then helped the kids organize those. She was amazing! Zoe finished first in her class, and also completed the last virtual semester of her online college courses. Lord willing she will physically attend the University of Buenos Aires this March with a full year's worth of courses already accredited towards her degree as a Public Translator. She spent her free time with friends, studying the 9 plus languages she has determined to learn, and joined her mom's karate class!
Vane managed to finish up a few more courses towards her Business Administration degree in spite of all the time she dedicated to the high school and the bakery. She and her youngest sister, Sofia, also redesigned the bakery's logo and oversaw some upgrades to the building. She was also the intermediary for a lot of the ministry work we did this year (more on that below) because of the contacts she made at the school and working in the bakery. Folks, she was just everywhere this year! The one downside to her schedule is that we did not have time to actually have her operation, so we are hoping and praying to be able to do that this month (January).
This is a new header for these reports, but one that is necessary because of the changes in our ministry required by situation in the country. I will deal with the “regular” ministry categories a bit later in the letter, but I think it is important for you all to understand how much ministry gets done "as we go".
The economic situation was compounded for many by the closure of public health centers or the termination of some of the programs that provided help for those with certain health conditions. Vanesa, through the contacts at the bakery, was able to find donors for many of the medicines that people needed, and we would take those directly to the folks at their home. On a few occasions, we couldn't find a donor, but we did find a supplier who would sell it to us in order for us to be able to donate the medicine to the people involved.
When we were not delivering medicine, we were delivering food. Vanesa worked out a deal with her dad, and the bakery made regular donations to folks who were living hand to mouth, or to churches with soup kitchens and, towards the end of the year, to a children's home. In fact, our big Christmas donation turned out to be the majority of what the kids received this year, since the storehouse for the rest of the meal was broken into the night before and the rest of the goods were robbed. We had delivered our donation that same evening to one of the women in charge of the program whom we have known for some time, so that food was at her home rather than at the church on the night of the break-in!
Finally, we did a lot of counseling. There are so very many people dealing with sequels to the quarantine it is hard to describe. Suicide attempts, depression, grief, divorce, drug abuse, inheritance squabbles and the like are common, everyday happenings. It has always been normal to do a lot of this type of work in conjunction with the church and in the discipleship group, but this year we were talking to people who had never heard of the group and never attended our congregation and they still sought us out. Please pray for all of these people we touched in the name of Jesus this past year, that they will truly seek Him and His Lordship in their lives. Some of them we are still in contact with, others came, talked with us and we have not seen or heard from them since.
Eyes on Jesus Congregation
As you all know, the congregation lost the building that we were using for worship in August of last year. We are still without a building, and there are no real options on the horizon because of one of the new laws in place with the current government, that allows owners to update the cost of the rent daily, and to ask for it in whichever currency they choose! Renting a building for worship under these circumstances will require a major act of God, so please continue to pray for the congregation and for a place for us.
In the meantime, we have done a lot of the same type of ministry noted above with the members of the congregation: counseling, food and medicine delivery, and short times of prayer or the reading of the Word. For those who are still interested in meeting, we have met either virtually or at Arturo's home, and will likely continue with all of the above during the Summer. In fact, some of the neighbors have specifically asked for Arturo to visit them in their homes because they have people living with them who are mortally ill and want to make things right with the Lord before they pass. Again, it is hard for me to explain to you all how important these requests are, particularly for Arturo, since they are such common things in the life of the church in the USA. For now, please take my word for it that this is a HUGE answer to prayer for Arturo, and it is a major indication that people are beginning to open up their homes and lives to him in ways that are unprecedented in his ministry thus far. Praise God!
Discipleship Group and Radio Ministry
I am dealing with the two of these together because, as I indicated earlier in the year, one of the functions of the radio ministry has been to provide the discipleship ministry with some talking points, and then the application of those studies in the different groups feeds back into the radio program. I have enjoyed working with my groups this year, as well as the opportunities to collaborate with the groups started by the other men. This year I have been asked to provide some very specific content as part of the collaboration with the groups located here in Varela (run by Vicente), and so I will probably be using recordings from the radio program in a variety of different locations during the year. The reach of the discipleship groups hit a new high this past year, with people ministering in the province of Cordoba as well as here in the metro area. Mayra, the young lady to whom Daniel is engaged, seems to be an enthusiastic witness for the gospel as well as an accomplished musician and vocalist, and the two of them plan on getting married in May of 2024, the Lord willing.
Please continue to pray for the radio station, ZOE, and for Samuel, the young man who is running the programming this year. Samuel took another job in Oct/Nov. of 2023, and was having trouble coordinating the responsibility for the radio with the new hours. He tells me he has worked through all of that now, and that the station has hired another young man with whom he will be sharing the soundbooth, but obviously that drives up their operational costs significantly, especially since basic utilities like gas, water and electricity are among the items that have gone up the most in recent weeks.
Let me close by thanking all of you again for your prayers, messages, calls and cards during this past year. They were particularly helpful when I was so sick in July and August, and I thank the Lord for all of you who took the time to drop a note, however short it may have been. Truly, we felt God's grace, love and mercy in your care for us. Thank you all again for your love and commitment to the work of the Lord here in Argentina.
Envoy Christian Mission