Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. –Hebrews 10:25
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. —Matthew 5: 13-16
Not that long ago, just before this present darkness came to our shores, it must have been in early March, I got one of those calls to the Emergency Dept. that I find so sad. The tableau one could see from the door is always similar and tells the whole sad story. The patient is lying on a gurney, face ashen, holding their bloody bandaged hand to their chest like cradling a wounded bird. A loved one stands tentatively nearby, holding a small wrapped bundle or container as if it were the Holy Grail. More often than not it is a Wife or Mother standing holding the package. Inside the bundle are severed fingers. If it has been recent, within hours of the injury, and if the injury was clean, like from a machete, sometimes we will undertake the tedious and unlikely endeavor of trying to re-implant the fingers: pinning the bones, reapproximating the vessels, repairing the nerves, tendons, soft tissues, and skin in that order. Sometimes we even see miracles, and it was worth putting us all (particularly the patient and their family) through this tremendous effort and recovery. Sometimes we miraculously see better results than we deserve and it is successful to a significant degree.
But much more often the digits are too mangled, too dirty, or, more than anything, they have been just too long severed from the body to have any prayer of a chance. Much more often it is just not worth putting the patient through this terrible effort if doomed to failure. In this case, the patient was a ten-year-old boy. And, it was his Dad standing there holding his mangled fingers. The Dad had been working on his moto up on a stand. The boy had gotten just too curious and had gotten just too close; then the running chain had taken off those beautiful fingers between the chain and sprocket. The resulting injury was all of the above: too mangled, too dirty, and it had been too long to even consider trying to re-implant. It makes you sick to have to tell them this in the face of their desperate hope. The father’s grief and guilt were worse than his son’s shock. It all just made you want to weep. For a hand without fingers is just not much of a hand at all.
Now just a week ago, after 2 ½ months of 100 % Covid lockdown in Honduras and with no end in sight, it has become evident that in Honduras, this is going to be more of a marathon than a sprint.
With an eye to the necessary staggering of key personnel away at any given time, some of us took one of the very few flights out of Honduras, the return leg of a flight set up by the Honduran consulate in Miami. Together with a number of our colleagues and co-missionaries, leaving Loma de Luz at daybreak with our travel documents and permissions and required facemasks in place, we passed through all of the police checkpoints, exit screenings, new rules and procedures, and actually boarded a plane and landed in Ft. Lauderdale that same evening, not really very much the worse for wear.
Having thoroughly surpassed our minimum daily requirement of echoing cold airports, empty of everything but tentative travelers and the usual TSA suspects in masks, Rosanne and I rented a car and drove off into the heartland on the Great American Highway. Having lived so much of my life overseas, returning to the country of my birth has long come to seem most like stepping out of a time-machine to see what changes have come to pass during long times away. Long ago the discordance of navigating disparate cultures lost most of its shock and became compartmentalized, more akin to swapping SIM cards in my phone: “That was there. This is now.” Still, there are a few things which impress you every time. The USA truly is a great country: the fields and farms so productive, the cities so industrious, the suburbs so affluent. And, the highway system is the tenth wonder of the world. As we drove up through Florida and across the deep south admiring these things, we visited friends and family along the way. The countryside, for the most part, remained unimpressed by whatever the humans were going through; the only change in evidence was the passing of seasons. Unconcerned with human affairs, the waterways, woods, and fields had followed their age-old rites and customs passing from Winter, through Spring, and now into Summer. But for ‘We the People,’ it was clear there had passed an eon of change in the same timeframe. Like a race of bears who had long been in hibernation, they were just emerging from their isolated caves, first in the countryside, then in small towns and lastly in the cities. As they tentatively came out blinking into the sunlight, the bear-humans appeared disoriented and unsure, more so the further north we traveled and decidedly more so in urban settings. Still, at first there was a general sense that we had passed through a terrible time of shadow together and somehow, surprisingly, survived.
Then, just as that shadow seemed to be receding, we were unexpectedly overtaken by another darkness. A senseless and inexcusable killing set spark to the tinder in the fabric of society, and suddenly our cities were aflame. For me and Rosanne as we travelled along, the crossing of those two shadows was announced by curfew sirens on the edge of one of those great cities. The curfew was called not for Covid-19 (as it has been in Honduras), but for riot and arson, murder and mayhem. Once again, We the People seem to have been caught on our back foot, collectively shaking our heads like a beleaguered prizefighter, hammered and dazed by a sudden left hook followed by a right cross seeming to come out of nowhere. Still, the boxer knows instinctively that the one-two came from somewhere. He just didn’t see it coming. As I drive down the interstate, leaving that city in my rear-view mirror, its principle streets littered with the smoldering corpses of cars and the broken glass of shop windows, I enter the refuge of the countryside, its peace as yet unperturbed in dappled sunlight. And, I think about these shadows coming one on the heels of the other. Like the boxer clearing his head, I instinctively sense that there is conscious purpose involved. Whether material or spiritual I can’t say, but I sense there is malice and aforethought behind the blows. And, We the People were caught with our guard down.
A handful of days and several thousand miles down the road, the week had come to a close, and I was wondering where we might attend church. We were visiting our sons and daughter-in-law. The church they formerly attended, before the churches were all closed by the government….(a phrase I never imagined I would write about the USA)…was still not meeting in person. This was the case for every single church we had encountered, the case of nearly every church of every person we knew, despite the fact that for many of these churches, the governmental mandates—federal, state, and local…. had already been lifted. Now I understand the uncertainty of navigating a threatening and novel infectious disease, one that has been publicized as a plague of biblical proportions. And, I get the responsibility a church has for all of its members, many of whom are elderly and/or have other significant risk factors. But if we, The Church, see it as valuable enough, it seems to me that we could figure out ways to protect those at increased risk yet still meet together as the local Body of Christ. We have done so in Honduras. With far fewer resources and quantifiably far greater governmental restrictions, the Evangelical churches in Honduras at least have met to whatever degree the law allows. This has troubled me greatly since I first began to hear of it in Honduras, and I have pondered the matter even more so as the miles and the towns pass by in the USA.
Our boys knew of a little church that was meeting in person. It was a little church way out in the country. The pastors were friends of theirs: Logan—young, earnest, thoughtful, and soft-spoken; and Daniel—gray haired, yet dynamic and engaging with a great treasure of stories to tell; it’s an odd couple to co-pastor a church, but the amalgam worked. The church was little (our family of 6 made up about a third of the church body that morning). And it was waaaaay out in the country. I had a friend who always said she grew up “7 miles out from ‘Resume Speed,’ Mississippi.” I think this was farther out than that. We met and were greeted by each member (which didn’t take all that long, of course). The church was intriguingly diverse: different races and ages and outlooks, each with their own backstory. But each person was gracious and hospitable in their own way: a microcosm of the Kingdom of Heaven. The chairs were spaced farther apart than is common. But I couldn’t say whether that was in response to the pandemic or to more evenly fill out the space of the sanctuary with a small number of members. No one talked about Covid, or protests, or riots, or politics really. That certainly was refreshing. The music was recorded but nice. The message was more of a homily than a sermon. Logan telling the story of losing a part of his finger in unhitching a trailer the week before, how humbling that was, and Daniel telling of how badly he felt about that… that it should have been him since he had been struggling with the hitch too. I couldn’t really identify one particular thing that stood out to make the whole endeavor special. But it was. I think each person walked out of that church somehow a little better than when they entered it… and some little bit of the darkness had been pushed back. Greater than the sum of its parts, something special transpires with the gathering of the saints.
Now, I try to keep my purpose for writing these newsletters clear. It is to present what our Master is doing through the work of The Cornerstone Foundation & Loma de Luz. If in the process I can communicate something interesting, something encouraging, something uplifting, as He enables, well, I would consider that a win. I try to avoid politics and doctrines. I don’t see myself as any expert in theology and I’ll not pretend to be one here. But my perspective has been shaped from “la lucha,” the battle, at Loma de Luz. My Weltanshauung, my worldview, has been informed from a lot of years in places and among people not so sheltered from the harsh realities of life, places where the battle between the Evil and the Good is a lot closer to the surface than it seems in the developed world. In the un-sheltered world we know that we are not safe. We know that we have an “enemy, the accuser, who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” In the un-sheltered world we know that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” From that perspective I’m telling you: You close a nation’s churches at great risk. You keep them closed at its mortal peril.
These two passing shadows will not be the last. There will be more. And the veil of civilization which once separated the sheltered world from the unsheltered world has worn thin. We intend to return to Honduras as soon as we can find the flights. Together with our fellows called to God’s work at Loma de Luz, it is our intention to keep the light on for you there. And, it is our prayer that you will do the same here. For, the church must come together as a collection of “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world,” a beacon of Hope in a darkened world. So, talk about it. Pray about it. Figure out how best to re-open your churches with consideration for all of the saints. Then, “let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Come together as the body of Christ against this present darkness.
For a hand without fingers is just not much of a hand at all.
In Christ Jesus,
Jefferson McKenney, M.D.
News and Needs
Milestones: We would like to begin a Milestones segment of the newsletter to mark births, deaths, and other important milestones in the lives of Loma de Luz missionaries and Cornerstone administration. And I am happy to say that the first official Milestone is a birth. We welcome the newest and youngest MK at Loma de Luz, Hannah Faith Gilley, born to Bethany and Nathan Gilley at Loma de Luz Hospital on 28 March 2020.
Bethany and Baby Hannah
Hardships in Honduras caused by the Covid crisis and response:
1.) Governments are taking a wide range of measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Oxford (University) COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) tracks and compares government responses to the coronavirus outbreak worldwide, systematically collects information on responses governments have taken, scores the stringency of such measures, and aggregates these scores into a common Stringency Index on a scale of 0-100. (The most stringent response is quantified as a 100.) The USA on 15 June, for instance, is 73. For the Peoples Republic of China, it is 79. For Honduras, it is 100 and has been 100 since the 16th of March when the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Honduras, which is tied with El Salvador as the highest number for the longest period of time of any country in the world. Why? Of that we won’t conjecture in print. But these are the facts. And this response has caused an enormous amount of suffering in Honduras. People are not allowed to work, and in Honduras, like the rest of the unsheltered world, the equation is this: “no work, no pay.” People have been suffering greatly from hunger and from a systemic lack of health care in most parts of Honduras. (We at LdL are the exception rather than the rule, but, even so, due to severe movement restrictions, it is extremely difficult for people to get to us.) So it all comes down to this: A broken leg? A dangerous pregnancy complication? Cancer diagnoses? Diabetes complications? In many places these go untreated (except for those who can get to us).
SO PLEASE PRAY:
a.) The group of missionaries that left on the first shift out now needs to be making plans to return to Honduras so that other missionaries can get a break. Please pray that flights into Honduras will open up ASAP for missionaries with residency to return.
b.) Many of the teachers do not yet have residency, and school is scheduled to start staff conferences, registration of students, parent meetings, and teacher preparation July 27th. Without our teachers being able to get into the country for this, El Camino cannot open. Please pray that our teachers will be able to get back in plenty of time for this.
c.) Please pray that Honduras returns to normal ASAP. Normal was hard enough. The severity of these restrictions far exceeds the actual risk, and the entire country is really suffering from the world’s most stringent Covid-19 response far more than from the limited problem of Covid-19 infection itself.
Harvest Aviation & Shipping: We are planning to send in another Harvest Aviation Flight this month and probably again about a month later. This has been the only way we have been able to get materials shipped into Honduras since early March. This has been a Godsend, so please pray that we continue to be allowed to make these specially arranged flights. But we also need to send much heavier and bulkier materials and supplies and have at least one Conex Shipping Container ready to go and on the ground at the Cornerstone Office. Please pray that normal kinds of shipping will soon be allowed into Honduras.
As people find themselves “troubled on every side,” “perplexed,” and “cast down,” may they be “not in despair,” and may they know they are “not forsaken” (II Cor 4). Please pray for those in Honduras who are suffering. May grace prevail, and may the peace of God rest upon you and direct you.
–Sally Mahoney for Cornerstone