Bernardo and I were recently challenged with a question. “How has the Lord sustained you and changed your ministry throughout the Pandemic?”
This question brought the events of the seven month-long quarantine to the front of my mind. To my knowledge, the restrictions lasted longer in Guatemala than any other country.
The pandemic has been one of our greatest challenges as parents, which we consider our first ministry, as well as in our employment, our other ministry. There were so many questions, good questions, but not always answers. “Why did God allow this? How long will it last? Can we go back to school yet? Can we go visit our “abuelitos” (grandparents) yet? When can we go to the city again? May we have our friends over, pleeeease?” We felt the heavy responsibility of directing the children away from viewing the pandemic and its inconveniences as the focus. We wanted them to see that despite this event, God was sustaining us. This meant we had to carry this knowledge over to our daily lives and our work, which is normally very relational. We had to lean upon God for direction in our ministry, seeking guidance and strength each day to do our job efficiently and well. Some days were tougher than others.
One day I could not find Joaquin, our middle son. I searched around the home and he was nowhere to be found. I looked outside and found him sitting in our truck, staring out the window. I went to the truck and asked him what he was doing. He answered, “I just want to go out and hug people again”. Tears ran down his cheeks. Joaquin is a hugger! He even hugs strangers when he meets them. The pandemic was affecting his God given personality and his need for interaction with others. His heart was hurting. The pandemic was affecting us all.
The restrictions brought many times of family fellowship and games, more than usual that is. Now, these times did not come by chance, we had to seek them out. On many occasions, the boys were not interested in board games or long walks. Often, we the parents, were the ones lacking enthusiasm. But we had a clear concept in our minds: God will prove himself to us through this, so we kept going. We laughed and played and prayed together. We sang songs of worship together. The more we did it, the less the boys would complain. The less we felt frustrated. Isn’t this so true in all the circumstances of our lives? We must put our faith into practice, into action. In time we began to realize the opportunities we were being given. Opportunities to transform our family, our work and our personal ministry. Opportunities to bless others. God gave us outside of the box ideas to accomplish what we were being called to. We even had the opportunity of doing our first ever live video as part of Proyecto Fe online auction in November! In time, through the gift of technology, we saw doors open for Bernardo to preach outside Guatemalan borders. Praise God! These victories encouraged us.
Philippians 4:6,7 is a verse that the Lord has constantly brought me back to, even since my youth. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
I believe the most important lesson learned of the pandemic has been the lesson of gratitude. Things have not always gone as planned. Not everything has worked out perfectly, or even as we would have liked. Both now and in the future, things may even take a turn for the worst! But in all and through all, God has been there. We know he makes all things work out for the good of those who love Him. For this we are grateful, and we can carry this experience and lesson with us for the rest of our lives.
For Bernardo, his answer to the posed question was: “Isaiah 12:2. That’s my pandemic verse” he said. “It is what has sustained me and has kept me believing His promises”.
Maybe this pandemic has made you wonder if God is still there, if He will keep His promises or if He will make things right. Perhaps you have lost a loved one, a job or a once in a lifetime opportunity because of this event. Maybe this Pandemic has brought more tears and frustration than you expected. Maybe you have wondered if there was anything you could be grateful for at all during this time. If so, we believe this promise is for you:
“See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.” Isaiah 12:2
Bernardo & Carla Montenegro