I arrived at the airport near the southern tip of St. Lucia, in the afternoon of Sunday, November 7. The passenger intake through the COVID screening and customs was smooth and well-organized. My transport to the Mission House was there waiting for me, even though my flight was over an hour late.
Upon entering the Mission house in Castries, the capital, I was pleasantly surprised to find the place sparkling clean, bedding, towels etc. all washed. No sign of the volcanic dust which had recently blanketed much of the island following the huge eruption on the island of St. Vincent, about 75 Km south of St. Lucia, from December 2020 through April 2021, and which had come into the house in quantity. Before leaving for his final medical treatment in Trinidad, Brother Andre George had left the windows open a few inches to keep air circulating, normally not a bad idea but due to the volcanic eruption, it turned out to be counterproductive to say the least. It must have taken a tremendous effort to get things as clean, neat, and tidy as they were when I arrived.
The following update on the recent volcanic eruption in Tonga was provided by the Asia-Pacific Christadelphian Bible Mission. Please keep our brothers and sisters in your prayers.
Update on Tonga Volcano 17 January 2022
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is a brief update from Bro Alan Struckman, our Tonga Area contact, on the recent undersea volcanic eruption with tsunami significantly affecting Tonga.
Kingdom of Tonga – Undersea volcanic eruption with tsunami
As reported in the news recently, the Kingdom of Tonga has once again experienced volcanic activity (undersea) in the area, but this time the volcanic eruption and resultant tsunami was significant – Saturday 15 January, late afternoon. There was much flooding on the northern coastal margin of the mainland (swamped residential areas) and some of the smaller neighbouring islands totally swamped.
Currently there are four brothers and sisters living in Tonga, Bro Dicky and Bro Ralph living on the mainland (Tongatapu) and Bro Manase and his wife Sis Talitha and three children, living on an outlying island (Utu Vavaʻu). It is understood that Sis Talitha is currently doing some seasonal work in Australia. Brother Dicky has wife Lisia and three children.
Around 2pm on Saturday 15 January, contact was made with Bro Dicky. He reported that heavy clouds of volcanic ash covered the mainland on Friday. He also mentioned that due to the larger volcanic eruption they had received a tsunami warning on Saturday, to take precaution and stay away from coastal zones. Both Bro Dicky and Bro Ralph live more inland, away from the coastal margin.
Late afternoon on Saturday, Tonga received much of the tsunami flooding and as a result all communication networks went out of service and is currently the status quo, but remedial work is now in progress. With communication networks down, we have not been able to make any further contact with any of the brothers or sisters in Tonga.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported Sunday 3pm that “there were no official reports of deaths or injuries in Tonga, but communications remain limited”.
It appears that the Island of Utu Vavaʻu, where Bro Manase and family live, was also less affected by tsunami flooding.
We are continuing to attempt to make contact with our brothers and sisters to understand their wellbeing and needs. We ask that our brothers and sisters of Tonga be remembered in prayer.
Imagine sitting down for afternoon tea at someone’s house, and as you lift your hot drink to your lips, you glance around the room and notice a human skull staring back at you. In Bolivia, this is a very real possibility.
With great joy we report the baptisms of 3 new sisters in Christ. On September 4, 2021, Phoebe Cuadra, daughter of Sis. Edyth Melgar and great-granddaughter of Bro. Carlos and Sis. Margarita Perez, was immersed into the saving name of Jesus. Phoebe developed a great love for the Scriptures while growing up in our Sunday school and CYC. She is one of probably very few Christadelphians to have received the right hand of fellowship from their great- grandfather—while sitting beside him in a Zoom meeting!
Then on October 2nd we had the pleasure of baptizing two long-time students, Edith Bolaños and Cecilia Maldonado. Each had spent 10 years faithfully doing postal courses and having telephone Bible classes. They are delighted to be part of the family of the faith. It has been wonderful to welcome three new members into our meeting and the worldwide Christadelphian community. May God bless and guide them in their walk to the kingdom.
I had been putting off this trip for quite a while—a year, in fact. With all of the restrictions brought about by COVID, and “Do Not Travel” advisories on the American Embassy website in Costa Rica, I decided to hold off visiting the country. In fact, I was able to participate in the Costa Rican Virtual Year-end Conference in December through Zoom, that amazing application we didn’t even know existed two years ago. However, although there is still an advisory in effect, I decided that since I am vaccinated, and the curve is definitely on the way down in Costa Rica, it was time to visit the brothers and sisters in person instead of virtually. The trip was much easier than I expected, and the airport and airline did a wonderful job to make travel as pleasant as possible. And the Costa Ricans were as warm and accommodating as always.
Returning to Jamaica seventeen months after finishing our two year stay in was a bittersweet experience. My husband David and I were overjoyed to see our friends again, but our time was over far too quickly. As anyone who has ever uprooted to live in a new place knows, you leave a piece of your heart behind when you say goodbye to the people you’ve grown to love. We never expected to be away so long, but the arrival of Covid on the worldwide scene was an unanticipated barrier to travel after we landed in the US in early March 2020, just ahead of massive lockdowns in both countries.
Over those long months while we adjusted to a more isolated lifestyle, I did my best to keep in touch with my ecclesial family in Jamaica. Several of our sisters in isolation in the Port Maria area became my close friends while we lived there, so we kept in touch regularly during lockdown. We were able to encourage, comfort and advise each other during the rapidly changing, anxiety-inducing progress of the pandemic. Whenever my energy for communication was flagging, I could always count on Sister Carol Bingham from the Broughton ecclesia to reach out to me and see how I was doing. Even when calls had trouble going through, she would keep trying until she got through to me, and that diligence warmed my heart.
This has been going through our minds for the last month or so, but instead: ‘there is no water!’
If we start the story back at the beginning of November, two lovely ladies, Ilda and Dalia of the ecclesia here in La Paz, had their interviews for baptism… only for us to discover shortly thereafter that there were still no pools open due to all the Coronavirus restrictions! We spent a few weeks looking at different options: bath was out (as Ilda is going on 84!) so we were trying to work on a heated paddling pool option – that was going to be difficult, although doable. Private pools at hotels were also proving to be troublesome as there were a bunch of biosecurity measures preventing us from using them. Both Ilda and Dalia were very patient throughout all of this and finally thanks be to God, the government ruled that public pools could open again!
Our current efforts at electronic preaching began about six months before the pandemic began. They had been working on getting sufficient software to be able to put our classes and breaking of bread online live and recorded for those who were unable to attend in person. They use Uber Conference, as they are easily available with a single phone number that never changes and without need of a PIN number. Anyone can call the number Sis Cynthia Paiva de Lopez will be alerted when someone in online. In Mexico, the Internet service and data prices are still quite high for most of the population, but unlimited cell service, which includes the US, is readily available by all cell companies and not at high cost. Most brothers and sisters and students access with a Smartphone to listen to the classes. They also project the material being presented visually for any who can access by Internet. They choose not to show themselves in the videos, as it uses much bandwidth and too many are unable to sustain connection due to poor Internet services here.
Bro. Mark Carr asked me to accompany him this past January for a two-week pastoral visit to Guyana, South America. When we landed at the airport outside of Georgetown, the memories came flooding back of the time some forty years earlier, when I first set foot in the tropical mission fields of Central America and spent over two years living in El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama.
The Guyanese have right-hand drive vehicles and drive on the left-hand side of the roads, opposite of what most North Americans are used to. They also make very good use of their horns! I was thankful to be driven around as I, personally, would not venture to drive in Georgetown on my own, not knowing the area and especially due to the traffic and condition of many of the roads!
On Thursday, May 7, www.thisisyourbible.com student, Tom Davis, was baptized into Christ and became a member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Ecclesia.
Behind that flat statement of fact lie some unusual arrangements. You see, Tom lives 2,100 miles or 3,300 kilometers from our meeting place in Kitchener, Ontario. His home is in Fairmont Hot Springs, British Columbia, a spectacularly beautiful town located in the South-East corner of British Columbia, on Columbia Lake. The nearest Ecclesia is at least a 4 hour drive away. In any case, due to the present necessity to “socially isolate”, it would have been just as complicated to have arranged a baptism at that Ecclesia. Tom eventually plans to relocate to be near an Ecclesia, but he is not sure yet just which one. Until that decision is made, we in the Kitchener-Waterloo Ecclesia, are very happy to have him as a member.