Andrew and Julie Halbert - March 2020
Important Update from Costa Rica
Greetings from Costa Rica!
I write you today with the purpose of sharing important information regarding
how events related to COVID-19 are developing here and the impact on our ministry and life. The confirmed cases are growing and in about a week's time we went from 26 confirmed cases to around 90 with one death. The government keeps us updated about the spread of the virus every day or two by giving the new totals of confirmed cases.
On the 16th the government decreed a national state of emergency resulting
in the temporary suspension of classes in all public and private schools until April 4th. On Wednesday the government closed the borders which prevents the entry of additional people into the country with the exception of citizens, permanent residents and diplomats. Last night (March 19th), the U.S. State Department issued a level 4 advisory for international travel. We were sent the following excerpt from that advisory by United World Mission:
"The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel."
We have been advised that the decision to stay or to return to the U.S.
is ours and we have been given complete freedom by United World Mission to make the decision that we feel is best for our family. After speaking with other missionaries, seeking advice and prayer we have decided that we will remain in Costa Rica. There are a number of reasons for our decision but, in the end, we feel like this is where we should be during this pandemic - helping the Costa Rican church which God has called us to serve.
I would be lying if I said we did not have concerns. How long will this last? What will the impact be on our family? What will the economic implications be? Will there be social unrest here? These and many other questions come to mind. A.W. Pink provides some timely words. Writing on the solitariness of God he says, [God] is solitary in his majesty, unique in his excellency, peerless in his perfections. He sustains all, but is himself independent of all. He gives to all, but is enriched by none." (The Essential Arthur W. Pink Collection, Prince Press, Peabody, MA, 2002; 11).
In times of uncertainty we must remember the unchanging nature of God and
take comfort in his goodness, mercy and love.
Impact to Family and Ministry
Social distancing and the mandatory closing of schools and businesses has
taken its toll. While the public schools are "borrowing" time from the summer break in December, our kid's school has chosen to continue their classes through online education. The kids receive work each day which they must complete and return at the end of each week. They will be working in this new format until at least April 13th.
A week ago ESEPA made the decision to suspend all on-campus classes and
make them virtual classes. Four of our courses are being offered with the option of Zoom, so those courses will continue their regular meetings but will be attended exclusively through the Zoom application (no on-campus presence). Yesterday we made the decision to close the office and continue suspension of our on-campus meetings through April 12th. We will make adjustments as new information is available. Our staff is currently working from home in an effort to keep our trimester moving forward.
This coming Monday we open registration for the second trimester. Students
are able to register and pay for courses online, which is a great benefit. We also have a number of new admissions who will have to do their admissions interviews via Zoom. We are confident that we will be able to continue offering courses without much trouble
in the coming weeks and months (or longer, if necessary). Of course, with the school closings and now the office closed, everybody is at home and because of social distancing we can't go anywhere (they actually roped off the local parks so people wouldn't gather). We will adjust to this new reality but trying to get everyone's work done is going to prove challenging, especially initially.
Julie continues to offer her exercise classes but is also doing so remotely. Today she offered the class via Zoom and was very encouraged by the participation! The technology available is of great benefit in continuing to interact with people on a regular basis and is limited only by our own creativity.
Churches are offering their services online via a number of different platforms.
Our church will be meeting online this week via (you guessed it) Zoom. I will be preaching on the second chapter of the book of Jonah.
You can be in prayer for each of the above items. ESEPA, Julie's classes
and the church all generate some degree of cash flow that is important to people. The suspension of activities can have a detrimental effect to so many people so please pray that:
1. People would continue to give to the church
2. ESEPA can continue to generate income via classes
3. Julie's Refit classes continue to generate revenue for the gym.
We are grateful to all of you for your prayers. We know that all of you have been impacted in some way due to the spread of COVID-19. We are praying for you and we would love to pray for you more specifically. Please let us know if you have things we can pray for!
Andrew, Julie, Ana and Bryan
United World Mission - Costa Rica