Newsletter: God Is Our Fortress

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’ The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  – Psalm 46


Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, 

In my last update I was able to share with you the news of a growing church, pastor ordinations, a pastor installation, baptisms, confirmations, and the opening of a brand new church plant. The news I have for you this month is not as joyous and remarkable, but it is in times of adversity that we are reminded of the hope and promise of the cross. 

Pray for Venezuela 

“I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” – Isaiah 43:1

There are certain events that just bring us to our knees. As Christians, we grieve the loss of our Venezualan brother, Pastor Luis Coronado, who was murdered just before Christmas. I ask that you join us in keeping the family and congregation of Pastor Coronado in your prayers. 

Missing Venezuelan pastor found murdered

“We give thanks for the 25 years of faithful service on the part of Pastor Luis Coronado in Venezuela. We mourn his tragic death, but know that his suffering is wrapped up in that of our Lord Jesus. Advent hope comes even more into focus as we think of yet another dear one together with our Lord Jesus.” – Pastor Krey, Regional Director

Back in Belize

At the turn of the New Year, the regional leadership team from Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Belize for its bi-annual meetings discussing the continuing strategies for future work in and around our region.

The Puerto Rican Earthquakes 

My time this month has in large part been spent with disaster response efforts in Puerto Rico.

During the past month, Puerto Rico has had over 1,750 earthquakes including two over 6.0 on the Richter scale, which are the largest quakes the island has seen in a century. Most of the quakes have been concentrated in the southwest portion of the island, with the most extensive damage being right along the southern coast. We are blessed to have a team of missionaries on the ground in Puerto Rico who have dealt with disasters before including the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria, which are far from a distant memory. 

We have two churches on the island in Mayaguez and Ponce, both with mercy houses attached. The mission in Ponce just recently moved into a newly purchased larger campus. This new space in the center of town serves as Fuente de Vida church as well as the CARD mercy center, which aids in the spiritual and mental care of the people in Ponce. The first church service was held in December. 

This new property stands on the same block where the city of Ponce was hit hardest. Upon preliminary inspections, it has been deemed unsafe and cannot currently be used. The cracks in the structure and foundation grow bigger as the quakes continue. The neighborhood that was once filled with life and movement sits empty. The apartments towering around it have been evacuated and condemned. 

The search for an alternative short term location to hold church services and to continue spiritual and physical care is already in progress as the team works through approvals, funds, and contracts. We pray for the efforts of the team as the last strenuous search to find this most recent property and begin renovations ended only a short time ago.

Preliminary days

With disasters come opportunities to show mercy and compassion. 

As I arrived in Puerto Rico the hustle of the team had already begun. The days started early and the work stretched deep into the night. I accompanied my colleagues on damage assessments in the towns hit hardest. We immediately saw the reality and severity of what the largest quakes had done. Entire homes and buildings are in shambles. The streets are quiet, piles of rubble are everywhere, and long, deep cracks in foundations are visible throughout the affected cities. 

In surveying the reality of what people are dealing with, we begin to understand the immediate physical and spiritual needs of those affected.

Relief work  
Fear consumes thousands of Puerto Ricans and they leave their homes to retreat to camps and open air shelters. Thousands of people are sleeping outside in fear of walls collapsing around them in their sleep. Their lives are again disrupted in this latest disaster to hit the island. 

Having previously been through frequent earthquakes while living in Taiwan, I am familiar with the feelings and emotions taking a toll on these people. Being woken out of a dead sleep to your house moving and the window panes shaking is something you can never really get used to. 

With so many people fleeing and cities being evacuated, the whole southern coast of the island looks like it has “gone camping.” Tents have popped up in front yards, beside highways, in baseball fields, and in parking lots. Situations change so quickly from day to day, but as time goes on, camps become more structured, organized, and established as more awareness happens and aid begins to trickle in. 

Within a few hours of the first cots and tents getting set up outside, our missionaries and pastors were already in the camps assisting and offering God’s assurance. Pastors go from cot to cot talking with people and hear of their emotional state and pray with them. It is evident that the emotional and psychological damage from these earthquakes is almost greater than the structural damage itself. As tremors and aftershocks continue even now, anxiety remains high in the camps. People are afraid and feel hopeless. 

Each day our group shows mercy in action by setting up arts and crafts, coffee stands, and by distributing relief supply bags which are handed out in correlation with an uplifting service of the Word. They are also able to sing and worship with those who gather around. 

As the ground continues to shake in Puerto Rico, the long days and great efforts of our team is possible because of the strength provided through Christ. Each day the challenges and tasks look a little different. Please pray for our missionaries in Puerto Rico as they assist with people’s anxieties and work with changing situations. The need is great, but we are fortunate to have something much greater than a temporary fix to offer; it is the cross and the ever-lasting promises of our Lord. 

To read further on the situation in Puerto Rico, check out the latest article on our LAC website

Also, be sure to check out the latest story in The Reporter.

Even amidst disaster and calamity, the cross is lifted high and the name of Jesus is proclaimed. We are helpless without Christ. I see with each passing month how important the work of His church is. I am blessed to be a part of His work here in LAC and ask for your continued prayers. I am thankful to each of you for your support. 

God is indeed our fortress,  

– JH


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