Hi everyone! I hope you are well and in good health. I think we all agree that these are strange times we in which we find ourselves. So much heartache and uncertainty and I would argue that no one on planet Earth has been unaffected by the current events. 

We as a community in the Amazon have been navigating these waters as best we can and trusting the Lord for wisdom and guidance each step of the way. I want to start by saying an emphatic “THANK YOU” to those of you who have GIVEN and PRAYED for our community throughout these last few months. Your support and giving have been crucial to help us serve the communities we minister to well. 

Here is a brief update, including some sad news in regards to The Donut Company.

When the pandemic and subsequent shutdown began in mid-March in Colombia, we had to make the call to temporarily close The Donut Company in accordance with the local and national guidelines. We were hopeful that this would only last a month or so and we could quickly resume our services. Unfortunately, Colombia continued to extend the quarantine, tightening restrictions more and more each time in an effort to curb the spread of the virus in an area with many at-risk people groups. We decided that we would try to open the shop for carry-out and delivery orders in mid-April in an effort to produce revenue for the shop. We saw very minimal movement as strict stay-at-home orders were in place and many if not most of the city is currently unemployed and tourism is non-existent with the travel bans in place. 

We had been hopeful that the Colombian government would offer help to small businesses in the form of rent assistance or exemptions. However, they made any sort of rent assistance optional for the landlords. Sadly, the landlords of the location we have faithful and consistently rented from for nearly five years (in July) decided they would not work with us to defer or discount our rent, even in light of the current pandemic. 

As a result of the lack of sales and the lack of assistance needed to endure the indefinite shutdown, we had to made the very difficult decision to permanently close The Donut Company after 4.5 of years of operations. 

Our employees and volunteers take down the sign to the shop where we have served and loved the community for 4.5 years.

To say that our employees and hundreds of locals who were regular customers of the shop were disappointed and deeply saddened would be an understatement. We received messages from dozens of customers expressing their deep love for and gratitude for the shop and even begging us to stay open. We had many offer to plead on our behalf to the landlords. Word even spread through the local news. Pricila, who has worked at TDC almost since day one, wept til she could hardly breathe. It was a big hit for many of us to permanently close the doors of a place so near and dear to us. 

However, all of this served to confirm in our hearts and minds that, although we did not anticipate the shop closing under such circumstances, we can have peace in knowing that the mission of the shop that we established all those years ago was indeed fulfilled by the grace of God: we created a space for community to thrive and for the love of Jesus Christ to be exemplified in this region and we provided a safe, fair-wage employment for many throughout the years. 

The shop stands empty, signaling the closing of a beautiful chapter. We are so grateful for the journey the Lord led us on and look forward to what the future holds.

Sam and Bea, who have led the shop faithfully for several years now, have worked hard along with a couple of volunteers and our employees to clear out the shop and return it to its former state. It is surreal to see the shop that was once thriving with people now just back to the blank white walls with which it all began. But, saddened as we are, we trust that the Lord will continue to guide us as we continue the ministry, shifting our focus to the more immediate and pressing needs within the community in light of the current circumstances. 

Baby Lois “helps” organize packets to distribute to local families
One example is the distribution of food packages to some of the neediest families that we know as a community. Thanks to the generous donation of Capshaw Baptist Church and others, we were able to organize and distribute these nonperishable food packages to help those facing unemployment and hunger. MANY people in this region lost their jobs and their livelihood and are literally facing starvation. We see that this needs to be our focus as a Body in this region for the foreseeable future and we are shifting gears accordingly. 

We will also continue to support our employees, all of whom are single mothers, by providing basic necessities and rent assistance until the local economy opens back up and they can find stable work once more. 

In accordance with local guidelines, Grace House remains closed until further notice. Rosa continues to work diligently to care for those children in close proximity to Grace House that have needs. We also are still able to pay our staff members thanks to the generosity of our donors. 

Sadly, there is much corruption and little enforcement of law in this small town and price gouging has become a serious problem. With supplies cut off except for occasional shipments by boat, local stores and vendors have been increasing their prices, sometimes by almost 50%. This makes purchases in an already impoverished area that much more challenging for those at greatest risk. Please pray for the families that are being hardest hit by this shutdown. 

Rosa, our GH staff, and her kids have worked to organize food distribution, using the funds that would normally go to Grace House, in order to help many of these high-risk families. 

Sabrina, Rosa’s daughter-in-law, helps organize food packets for distribution.

One of our dear friends who has been a huge help to Grace House throughout the years lost her mother to Covid-19 earlier this month. To make this loss even harder, she was unable to travel the thirty-minute boat ride to the city where her mother died because river travel has been shut down. Additionally, they do not allow family to bury their loved ones, but the loved one is buried by the hospital instead. Please pray for Aurilene and her family as well as the others who have lost loved ones in this region. There continues to be much fear and anxiety over the virus and the lack of medical care that was already an issue in this region prior to the pandemic.

I shared in our last update that Marcos and Josi were working diligently to get the indigenous boys that are part of their program back to their villages. They were successful in this endeavor, sending them out only after a 2 week shelter-in-place at their residence. They have faced backlash within the community from non-indigenous for fighting for the indigenous rights. Pray for them as they continue to work for indigenous rights in a country that does not as a whole value the lives of the Indigenous men and women. 

Several Indigenous men, women, and children make their way back to their villages. 

Josi has specifically asked for prayer for peace and rest during this season and for physical protection for the tribes that are at a higher risk of infection to viruses like Covid-19.

Additionally, Marcos Cocama and his wife Raquel, longtime friends and ministry partners of ours, are both suspected of having Coronavirus. They live in a very isolated region and it is difficult for them to get the testing they need to confirm. They also have six children, a son-in-law, and a grandchild that live with them and depend on them. Please pray for their health and the health of those in their small river village, Palmari. 

We are excited to announce the birth of Luiza Mirella!! This is the daughter of Pepeco (Rosa’s middle son) and Sabrina. She and mama are both doing great and we are excited to welcome this precious new life into our Amazon Network family! 

Luiza Mirella  Pray for this sweet new baby girl and her parents as they begin their new life as a family of three! 

Thank you SO much for your continued love, prayers, and support of the Amazon Network. We move forward in faith during this season of many unknowns as we work together as a Body to exemplify the love of Christ in tangible ways to this region of the Amazon. People are scared, hurting, and lonely. Pray that we can continue to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and that we can demonstrate His love in all that we say and do. Pray for our community’s health, both physical and mental, and pray for people to continue to give to the work that is happening. Pray for us to lean into this season, trusting God’s guidance and looking to the future with Hope that He is still at work in the midst of this challenging season and that joy comes in the morning. As always, if you have questions or comments, please feel free to write us! We love hearing from you.