Dear Friends and Family,
Let me start off by apologizing to all of you for the lack of reports over the course of the last few months. I had spoken to so many of you about everything that was on our plate that I simply did not remember that I had not summarized everything in a report. Please forgive my memory lapse, and let me share with you what has been happening in Argentina in the meantime.
The biggest and best news is that we are IN THE NEW HOUSE! Praise the Lord! There are still some minor cosmetic issues, especially with the staircase, but we have moved a decent amount of our stuff and are making some order out of the chaos. We are all sleeping better, meals are more comfortable, and most of our existing furniture is still serviceable, in spite of the mold (the big exception being our bed, which we had to replace last month. A big thank you to those of you who helped with that, especially Anchor Christian Church). Yes, that also means that the long saga with the gas company has come to an end, at least for now. The gas meter passed what should be the final, third party inspection just 2 or 3 days ago (on Nov. 3rd), so we have hot water and gas for cooking again.
We are also happy to be able to report that Zoe has had her first vaccine, and Vanesa and I have both doses. That means that Zoe has been able to return to school, and our schedule is a little more "normal" these days. Zoe has happily re-connected with a number of her friends and classmates, and finds classes even easier than she did previously, since she actually has access to a teacher who will explain the homework! Vanesa continues to work at the bakery and is in the home stretch of her classes at the university. One of our biggest challenges as we start the month of November, however, is my father-in-law's lack of interest in continuing with the bakery, so we are not sure what the future holds there. Please pray that we will make wise decisions regarding our own participation in the business, whether or not Walter decides to continue.
The other big challenge for us over the past few months has been health related. Vanesa's mom, Sara, is having trouble with the wound on her leg again (same one we prayed about a year or so ago--it has re-opened), and her youngest aunt, Graciela, has been diagnosed with cancer and started treatment in October after a long, drawn out argument with insurance reps. Vanesa herself has been feeling poorly and went in for a series of tests over the course of the last 3 months. The initial results scared us badly, but turned out to be an exaggerated reading of the data. Further tests and consultation with her ob-gyn have confirmed that 1) her diabetes continues to be under control, 2) her fibroma has actually shrunk slightly, and 3) she is suffering from anemia and has been for some time now. I am summarizing what has been weeks of anguish on our part as we dealt with the initial, conflicting reports, but I am so very relieved that she continues to do well that everything else matters less! The doctor will be following up with more studies over the next three months, but is generally very pleased with her progress.
I am also due for follow-up work for my thyroid condition, and we have had serious issues with our own insurance company during this whole process, so we may need to pay for this one out of pocket. The problem is that the combination of the labs' schedule and the new requirements our insurance has imposed on us means that it is almost impossible to actually find a date that you can do the lab work within the time frame allowed by the insurance company. I have gone back to my doctor 3 times in the last 3 months, asking for extensions on his original order, only to have it expire AGAIN before everything cleared the insurance company and I could schedule the work! It is incredibly frustrating, and turns what should be a fairly routine blood draw and analysis into quite the odyssey. We have considered changing insurance companies several times, but all of the companies with a better reputation than the one we use have all of their providers out of town, anywhere from 5 to 30 miles away. We would appreciate your prayers for our health and the whole insurance situation.
Eyes on Jesus Congregation
The death toll continued to mount during the winter months, and in September we lost the oldest regular member of the congregation, Elvira. Elvira was mother, aunt, or grandma to 85% of the rest of the congregation, and her loss hit everyone hard, including Arturo, the pastor. I have been effectively ministering to the congregation alone for the past 2 months, while trying to provide some help for people to work through their grief. I praise the Lord that Arturo has come through the worst of his doubts about his ministry, and is willing to both continue virtual services and provide in-person services before the end of the year. He is aiming for November, and I will be happy if we make that deadline, but I think early December is probably more reasonable, given the fact that we not only have to satisfy all the municipal protocols, but show the owner of the property HOW we will be satisfying them in order for him to give us permission to use the property for public meetings again (he suspended permission during the resurgence of the virus over the winter). Please be in prayer for our re-opening, for the protection of the congregation, and for our ability to continue to provide all of the materials necessary for meeting the city health protocols, given that we still have several members who are unemployed or underemployed.
Radio Ministry/Discipleship Ministry
The "Scripture interpreting Scripture" series has done so well for me that I have decided to extend it through the end of the year. This is one of the most practical sermon series that I have attempted via the radio (always a challenge when you cannot see first hand the problems people face with putting the Word into practice), and I am pleased with the results. I have even sent some of the recorded sermons to other people for use in their congregations.
The members of the Discipleship Group have not, however, participated in this series as I had hoped. Instead, illness and deaths in their own family and/or ministry circles has kept them all pretty busy with work in their immediate areas. One of the young men, JM, is now the senior pastor at the church where he was serving because the previous pastor passed away in August! We have been in pretty regular contact as he meets all of the new challenges of being "the" pastor in a church, shepherding the congregation through their own grief process, and investing 60 hours a week in his "day" job as an electrician! While the COVID situation has added some new wrinkles, the "tentmaking" pattern is pretty common for pastors here, and I have been blessed to see what the Lord has done through him so far.
As most of you know, Vanesa, Zoe and I had planned to come home for furlough back in 2019, when Vanesa was originally diagnosed with diabetes and forbidden to travel for medical reasons. We have been, slowly, planning a possible trip for early 2022, but are facing another outbreak of COVID in the region that may change travel permission again. For now, we have a green light for travel but we still do not have the final okay from Vanesa's doctors (pending the results of the tests mentioned above). We will continue to keep you all posted as we get closer to the possible travel dates. Please keep these travel plans in your prayers as well, since it has been far too long since we have been able to see all of you.
Finally, as I was writing this we were informed that Zoe's school has abandoned the staggered entry format they had been using in favor of a "everyone enter at the same time" strategy. By itself, that is not a huge problem, but they have also abandoned the process of taking temperature and obligating students to clean their hands upon entry. While I am sure this is both easier and cheaper for the school, there will be many families who will struggle to provide the cleaning supplies that were, up to this point, provided to the school by a government subsidy. Your prayers for all of the families and their children are appreciated.
Again, thank you all for your support and your prayers. God bless each and every one of you.