Coronavirus #5

Hello from Quito, where the sun is shining this morning. We’re in the heaviest part of our rainy season, so sunshine has been a rare treat in the last few weeks.

Quito and all Ecuador is still in a very strict lockdown, with personal car driving allowed only one day a week and a 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew. The government is preparing a “traffic-light system” of relaxing the restrictions province by province, but that’s still at least a week out.

We are physically healthy and have all that we need/ younger missionaries continue to pick up groceries for us each week. We’re working remotely and exercising. We feel supported by people’s prayers and we desire to be faithful in all that God is calling us to through this pandemic.

Nationally, there’s an increasing awareness that the count of confirmed Covid-19 cases is too low, as is the death count.

To illustrate, here are the official government Covid-19 numbers for Saturday, April 18:

  • 30,922     Persons tested
  •   9,022     Positive for Covid-19
  •   8,491     Negative for Covid-19

If you subtract the bottom two numbers from the top numbers, you get the number of tests which haven’t yet been processed: 13,109. Given the current ratio of positive to negative results, it’s likely that at least half of the pending tests will be positive.

The government acknowledges that the testing is too little and the processing is too slow, and they are working on improving both.

Concerning the problems with the death count, the government lists the current Covid-19 deaths as 456, but acknowledges that at least another 675 are suspected to be Covid-19. In addition, deaths by unknown causes have exploded in Guayas Province, the location of Guayaquil (Ecuador’s largest city). Normally about 1,000 people would die in the first two weeks of April, but this year over 6,000 have died. Some of these deaths were almost certainly Covid-19 deaths not included in the official count.

This NPR story on Guayaquil gives a good summary of the situation, By the way, Guayaquil is several hours away from us. It is on the coast and the climate and culture are very different than in Quito. The climate is hot and humid and the people are easy-going and spend a lot of time outdoors. The compliance with government restrictions has been much lower there than in the mountains where we live. What the NPR article is describing is not the situation here in Quito, at least not yet.

Here’s another Saturday to Saturday listing of the official government numbers. As you can see the numbers are continuing to climb.

  • April 11 (7,257 Ecuador cases) 315 deaths (606 Pichincha cases)
  • April 12 (7,466) 333 deaths (627)
  • April 13 (7,529) 355 deaths(634)
  • April 14 (7,603) 314 deaths (646)
  • April 15 (7,858) 388 deaths (674)
  • April 16 (8,225) 403 deaths (736)
  • April 17 (8,450) 421  deaths (779)
  • April 18 (9,022) 456 deaths (794)

Since it’s Sunday morning, we just watched our church’s Sunday morning service. If you’d like to have 90 minutes of Spanish practice, here it is! Here’s the scripture passage for today; we hope it encourages you as it did us:

The Lord is good,
    a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,.. (Nahum 1:7)

 

Posted in Ecuador, Quito | Tagged | 3 Comments

Coronavirus #4

Here’s another Saturday to Saturday summary of our Covid-19 numbers in Ecuador. One thing to note is that on April 9, Ecuador changed their method of counting Covid-19 cases, retroactively adding cases to the day that symptoms first appeared. Before, they were counting confirmed cases based on test results. This totally messed up our daily counts, but you can see the change between April 4 and April 11 (3465 to 7257).

We’ve started tracking cases in our province of Pichincha; we don’t have a way yet to track deaths here. So in the list the first and larger number is cases in Ecuador (in parenthesis), then Ecuador deaths, then Pichincha numbers (in parenthesis).

  • April 4 (3465) 172 deaths
  • April 5 (3646) 180 deaths
  • April 6 (3747) 191 deaths
  • April 7 (3995) 220 deaths
  • April 8 (4450) 242 deaths (404 cases in Pichincha Province)
  • April 9 (4965) 272 deaths (494  in Pichincha)
  • April 10 (7161) 291 deaths (579 in Pichincha)
  • April 11 (7257) 315 deaths (606 in Pichincha)

We continue under a strict curfew (2 p.m. to 5 a.m.) and strict driving restrictions. We continue to work from home, exercise, and keep contact with family and friends in the U.S. We really don’t see an end in sight to this situation here, as our Covid-19 numbers continue to increase. We’re going on four weeks of quarantine because of our age.

This weekend is the first weekend ever with no private vehicles allowed on the road; during the week people can drive their cars one day a week based on the last digit of their license plate. Nationally it is not clear if this applies also to taxis, but Quito is insisting that it does. We thought you would enjoy a few of the city notices from social media.

Driving Restrictions:

And here’s some encouragement to fly the Ecuadorian flag at home Easter Sunday (“ring bells of hope”):

Posted in Ecuador, Quito | Tagged | 2 Comments

Coronavirus #3

We are fine, still confined to our home because we are over 55. We’re able to do our work by vpn and can exercise too by using the multiple stairs and hallways in our home. Younger missionaries are picking up groceries for us every week or two.

We were encouraged March 29 and March 30 when the number of new cases was under 100 each day. But the increases jumped the next three days (new cases were 277, 508, and 415). The last two days of the week the increases have slowed (205 and 97), so maybe things are slowing again.

Ecuador has been making the U.S. news this week because of the situation in Guayas Province. It’s on the coast, contains Guayaquil (Ecuador’s largest city), and has about 70% of the known cases. With the quarantine, mortuaries were not picking up bodies, and the government has had difficulty managing the pickup and disposal of bodies. It makes great headlines but is a long ways from us. Our neighborhood is quiet and everyone seems to be staying at home.

Please continue to pray for Ecuador, for 1) the many people who live from day to day and currently have no income and 2) that the body of Christ here would be a light during a dark time.

The list below is for Saturday through Saturday. It has the total cases diagnosed (in parenthesis), number of Covid-19 deaths, and any government action that happened that day.

  • March 28 (1835) 48 deaths
  • March 29 (1924) 58 deaths
  • March 30 (1963) 60 deaths
  • March 31 (2240) 75 deaths
  • April 1 (2748) 93 deaths
  • April 2 (3163) 120 deaths – government extends border closing to April 30, extends other restrictions related to gatherings and mobility
  • April 3 (3368) 145 deaths – government announces that beginning Monday, April 6, private cars can only be driven 1 day per week (Monday through Friday, based on the last digit of your license plate) and no private cars can drive on the weekend
  • April 4 (3465) 172 deaths
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March 2020 Newsletter

(Want to read the print version? Click here.)

Covid-19 has altered our activities in Ecuador indefinitely. At 11:59 p.m. Tuesday (March16),  Ecuador’s borders were closed. On March 17, Quito was locked down with very limited exceptions for purchasing food and attending to health issues.  Unless work is essential (communication, utilities, health services, grocery stores and food markets, pharmacies, and banks.), everyone is required to stay at home (violations are subject to a $6,000 fine). Because we are over 65, we have been quarantined in our home since March 18 and are dependent on younger missionaries for our groceries.

But we are doing fine.  Uncertain times remind us that God does not change and he still loves and cares for us.  So enough about the coronavirus; let’s think about something lighter. In our March 2015 newsletter we described  how life is different here than in the U.S. Now, five years later, here are a few more (pre-Covid-19) differences we’ve noticed:

  • Greetings (both hellos and goodbyes) typically include a kiss on the cheek (woman to woman, woman to man) or a handshake (man to man). It is expected to greet co-workers both in the morning and upon leaving at the end of the day. Outside of work, friends and acquaintances are greeted warmly, often with an added hug.  You kiss or shake hands and say “hello” and “goodbye,” even if the conversation only lasts half a minute.
  • Everyone having a job is a higher cultural value than being efficient. So most employees do their job and nothing more.  No one makes suggestions for improvement because less work could lead to someone losing their job.
  • Labor is cheap and materials are expensive (if you can find them).
  • In the U.S. our missionary salary and lifestyle probably wouldn’t meet middle-class standards, but here we are wealthy.
  • We can go anywhere in the city by bus for 12 cents.
  • We can afford to have a housekeeper come in once a week.
  • Our cell phone plans (with data) are $5.00 per month; our high-speed fiber optic internet is $30 per month; our other utilities are about $40.00 per month.
  • Our apartment doesn’t have insulation or weather-stripping; no one has air conditioning or central heating (yes it gets cold at night); we can hear the rain on the roof.
  • We can see a 16,000 foot mountain from our dining room table (Scott has climbed it 11 times).
  • Even after six plus years of study and living in Spanish-speaking countries, our Spanish still needs improvement (we’re glad we didn’t know how hard it would be).
  • For the most part our Spanish works, but there are still times when we whisper to each other, “What did he say?”or “Why is she crying?” or “What just happened?”
  • But we are encouraged when we have an interesting conversation with a new acquaintance and afterwards say to each other, “We couldn’t have had that conversation a year ago.”

How to Pray for Us (and Ecuador)

Thank God for who He is, that He’s in control, and for His many promises of protection and provision.

Ask God to work out His plans world-wide through this pandemic, that His church would be light and hope in this dark time, and that our leaders will make wise policy decisions.

Check out our new blog posts: Coronavirus #1 & Coronavirus #2

Once again, thanks for sharing this journey with us. We are blessed by your interest, prayers, and financial support.

Scott & Jody

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Coronavirus #2

Here’s an update on the coronavirus here in Ecuador during the last week. The list below has the date, the number of total cases diagnosed (in parenthesis), total deaths, and any government action that happened that day. All actions are by the national government unless it says otherwise.

Thankfully the rate of increase of Covid-19 has slowed some. For awhile the numbers were more than doubling every two days, while now we’re adding about 200 new diagnoses a day.

Please continue to pray for Ecuador, especially for those who have no resources and live from day to day, that they would have food. And for all of us here that we would know that Jesus is the only hope for the world.

  • 21 March (532) 7 deaths – national curfew extended to 7 p.m. – 5 a.m.
  • 22 March (789) 14 deaths
  • 23 March (981) 18 deaths
  • 24 March (1,049) 27 deaths – only 1 person aged 18-55 per household can shop for essentials no more than twice a week (determined by last digit of national i.d.)
  • 25 March (1211) 29 deaths – national curfew extended, now 2 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • 26 March (1403) 34 deaths
  • 27 March (1627) 41 deaths
  • 28 March (1835) 48 deaths
Posted in Ecuador, Quito | Tagged | 2 Comments

Coronavirus #1

Personal Update

We are doing fine. As seniors (65+) we are not allowed to leave our home for any reason. We’re figuring out how to exercise, work remotely, stay connected with family and friends, even thrive in this situation. God is good and we have younger people to help us.

Ecuador Update

The first known case was a 71-year-old Ecuadorian who flew from Spain to Ecuador February 14. She had no symptoms at that time, but became sick, was diagnosed February 29 and died March 12 or 13.

Below is a timeline of the coronavirus in Ecuador. This, of course, will be outdated tomorrow since things are changing so fast. For the latest numbers visit this web page.

(If this web page doesn’t automatically translate to English, scroll down to “Las Cifras del Covid-19 en Ecuador.” You’ll see four numbers which are continually updated. “Cerco epidemiológico” I think includes both confirmed cases and their known contacts who are in isolation and being monitored. “Casos confirmados” is confirmed cases. “Personas recuperadas” is recovered patients. And “”Personas fallecidas” is deaths.)

(Another useful site is here. Its first paragraph will have the total number of tests administered and the number of confirmed cases. It will further break down the number of patients as to whether they are at home, in the hospital, recovered, or dead.)

The list below has the date, the number of total cases diagnosed (in parenthesis), and any government action that happened that day. All actions are by the national government unless it says otherwise.

  • 29 February (1)
  • 2 March (6) – Incoming airline passengers screened for fever or other symptoms
  • 3 March (7)
  • 4 March (10)
  • 5 March (13)
  • 6 March (14)
  • 8 March (15)
  • 10 March (17)
  • 11 March (17) – Declaration of national health emergency, no gatherings over 1,000 people
  • 12 March (19)
  • 13 March (23) – Classes suspended for students of all levels, no gatherings over 250 people
  • 14 March (28) – Borders closed , no gatherings over 30 people
  • 15 March (37) – Movement within Ecuador restricted beginning 17 March, along with closing of restaurants except for take-out and delivery
  • 16 March (58) – Work suspended except for essential services
  • 17 March (111) – Quito imposes additional restrictions (no city or intercity buses, no being outside except to buy essential supplies or get medical attention, curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.)
  • 18 March (168) – Quito restricts all seniors (65+) to their homes
  • 19 March (260) – Three patients have recovered who were diagnosed March 2, 2020
  • 20 March (426) – National curfew extended to 7 p.m. – 5 a.m. beginning 21 March

Violating curfews or quarantine carries a $6,000 fine and a threat of jail. It’s unreal how quiet the city is, although right at this moment our bored downstairs neighbor is blasting country western music (in English) as he works in his yard!

Ecuador has many people who live from day to day. Please pray for provision for those who need it. And that we Christians would somehow be a light and encouragement in a dark time.

Posted in Ecuador, Quito | Tagged | 4 Comments

December 2019 Newsletter

(Want to read the print version? Click here.)

The most notable event of 2019 in Ecuador was one that we missed. As we were wrapping up our four-month Home Ministry Assignment in the U.S., Ecuador’s government discontinued 40-year-old fuel subsidies. The price of diesel doubled and the price of regular gas increased 24%. From October 3 through 13, Ecuador was rocked by strikes, road blockages, protests, sabotage of oil pipelines, and violence.

About a week before our scheduled return on October 16, our mission emailed suggesting we consider delaying our return a week or two. Two other couples were returning the same week, and the mission didn’t want any of us to return if things got worse and all of the missionaries had to leave the country.

We put off changing our flights until the 14th, since the situation was changing every day. But we packed up, put our pickup in storage in Eugene, and caught a ride to the Portland area on Saturday the 12th (we were flying out of Portland). Things were worsening in Quito that day, with the airport closed, more protesters arriving from the jungle and the mountains, a curfew imposed, and violence spreading into our neighborhood.

That evening we learned a new word, cacerolazo (banging on pans for peace), to go along with paro (the general term for the protests and strike) and toque de queda (curfew). All over the country people stood outside their homes and banged on pans for hours. A friend who has served in Ecuador for 39 years says this was the third cacerolazo she experienced, but the most widespread. It was a peaceful protest, the people saying, “We’ve had enough. Fix this.”

On Sunday the airport was still closed and the curfew still in effect. Food was becoming scarce since people had been stocking up and the protesters had successfully blocked all access to the city. That afternoon the government met with the protesters in a televised discussion. Scott listened via the internet and a resolution seemed hopeless. After several hours the two sides took a break and, when talks resumed, the government announced it was reinstating the fuel subsidies! Both sides agreed to cooperatively work out austerity measures which would protect the poor.

We returned as planned without problems and were very thankful. As we have talked with friends here, our general impression is that people are bruised, shocked and traumatized. A very common comment from both missionaries and Ecuadorians was, “This was the worst than it has ever been.” Civil unrest is not new to Ecuador, but this paro was more widespread and better coordinated than anyone could remember, probably because of social media.

Another new word for us was minga, a Quichua word meaning a community project or work party. As the protesters left, people turned out to clean up parks and repair damage to buildings. Companies donated materials, delivered them to waiting volunteers and much was accomplished in a few days.

The economic recovery will take longer. Much economic activity stopped for eleven days. In addition, tourism is very important here and Ecuador’s reputation as a destination has been damaged.

Another challenge is psychological recovery. Our mission has coordinated debriefings for our missionaries and staff, along with individual and group counseling.

We’re praying for all those affected and for the government and citizen groups as they try to chart a way out of crippling national debt. And we’re praying for all of South America, as violence has erupted in Chile (and is still continuing), Bolivia’s government was overthrown, and citizens are protesting in Colombia. Plus Venezuela continues to have extreme turmoil, resulting in 4 million Venezuelans fleeing in the last four years, about 260,000 of them to Ecuador.

Is there an upside to this? Certainly there was more fervent prayer in October than usual! People realized their need for God to intervene. We are confident God is working out his plan for the region and we want to join Him in what He’s doing. He has always been faithful and someday we will look back and see His hand in these events.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us. May your Christmas and New Year be blessed as you celebrate the Word becoming flesh and moving into our neighborhood.

*************

Want to donate to Reach Beyond on our behalf? You can mail a check to the address below with a note that it’s for account # 110563 or you can click on this link to donate on-line.

Reach Beyond
PO Box 39800
Colorado Springs, CO 80949-9800

Posted in Ecuador, Quito | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

October 2019 Newsletter

(NEWSFLASH: From October 3 through October 13 Ecuador experienced widespread strikes and civil unrest after the government discontinued long-standing fuel subsidies. We did not know until today (October 14) if we would be returning October 16 or rescheduling our flight. But late last night the government reached agreement with the protesters. Quito is returning to normal and we get to return. Please pray for Ecuador’s recovery from this difficult time.)

(Want to read the print version? Click here.)

Our HMA

Our four-month Home Ministry Assignment (HMA) has flown by and our October 16 return to Ecuador is quickly approaching. Here’s a partial list of our happenings:

    • Time with family
    • Connecting with fifty supporters (so far)
    • Speaking to four small groups about our life in Ecuador
    • Enjoying Oregon’s gentle summer sunshine, abundant fresh fruits and vegetables, and Eugene’s wonderful riverside bike paths
    • Visiting the Oregon coast and riding around Crater Lake (Scott made the circuit by unicycle for the fifth time)

Our hoped-for week of debriefing in Colorado didn’t happen but we’re planning to register for a July 2020 session. We hope to spend two weeks in Colorado and two weeks in Oregon.

Thank you for praying for us during this time and as we head back to Quito. We’re enjoying our last days here AND will enjoy being back in Ecuador for our normal lives.

HMA Photos

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How To Pray For Us

Thank God for:

    • A great place to stay in Oregon
    • Good times with family and supporters
    • Time for reflection and rest
    • General good health

Ask God for:

    • Adjustment back to Quito life
    • Wisdom about upcoming changes with our organization in Ecuador

New Blog Posts

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Eugene’s Riverside Paths

I (Jody) have been walking almost every morning on Eugene’s lovely Ruth Bascom Riverside Path System. The system covers both sides of the Willamette River with 14 miles of bike and pedestrian paths. Five bike-pedestrian bridges cross the river (Owosso, Valley River Center, Peter DeFazio, Autzen Stadium, and Willie Knickerbocker). Hundreds use the paths to bike to work each day, including two of our sons.

The system includes several city parks, some ponds, an extensive running trail system (which used to be the city dump), and habitat for wildlife. It is a wonderful asset to the community. Here’s a map of the whole system.

Because we’ve been living about 3/4 mile from the path, I cover only about 1 mile of path in my hour-long walk. But even this short stretch is diverse and beautiful. Last week, on a chilly, 40 degree F. (4 degree C.) morning, I tried to capture some of the beauty I see each morning.

The Walk

The Signs Along the Way

The Solar System Path (more info here)

 

 

 

 

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Oregon Coast

We made it to the Oregon coast twice during our time in the USA. In August we made a day trip with our friend Tyler Burgess, walking on Hobbit Beach, hiking up to Heceta Head lighthouse, and even slipping and sliding our way up and down some sand dunes.

Heceta Head

In September we took three days of vacation at a beachfront cottage. Besides enjoying the view, we drove north and climbed Cascade Head, one of the ocean capes. The six-mile hike took three hours and gained about 1,300 feet in elevation. It was a clear, sunny day with wonderful views of the coast.

The Cottage and Beach

Cascade Head

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