And just like that 2023 is underway (and we're somehow already a month in)!
We are glad to hear that the Biden Administration is officially declaring that 2020 will end this May (the Public Health & National Emergencies terminate then) - who knew one year could last almost 40 months 😅 [credit to the Christian email news reviewers The Pour Over for that joke.]
In all seriousness though, it is very encouraging to be able to enter into this year without the uncertainty that has come with the restrictions and changing requirements in different places. Although we still see a number of people using masks, and socially distanced floor stickers remain in many places, there are no longer any obligatory guidelines to follow here in Guatemala.
We are, of course, intending to continue to take our beneficiaries' health seriously but it is easier to plan and prepare for ministry this year knowing those changing requirements no longer need to be factored in (and, Lord willing, nothing else will come up that might bring them back!).
Our team in Puerto Barrios has been hard at work since the year started. Officially, classes aren't required to start until the last full week of February and so that is when our tutoring program will start in full, but a few of the students have started already.
For all of them, our year starts with purchasing, organising, and delivering their school supplies. Each teen sends us, as soon as they get it, the list of needed notebooks, pens, mathematical implements, art supplies, etc., that their school has required of them and we put those things together in a package that we then take to them. For those who are new to the program and some of the others we buy a new backpack (they are expected to take care of it and won't get a new one every year, but if they wear down we may buy another). We have also purchased them shoes for this year and will similarly help them with uniforms as they become informed of what they need.
In preparation for the months ahead we have also had meetings with the parents. We use this time to clarify what the program will look like this year, to remind everyone (teens and parents) of the rules that they have signed up to and the expectations & requirements that we have, but also to encourage them that we are all working as a team with these kids (them the parents, the kids' teachers, and us as representatives of the church) and relying on God to lead and help each of us.
Please be praying for our teens as we continue to equip them physically and start to prayerfully consider and plan how we can equip them spiritually in the year ahead - that they may, as Jesus did, grow " in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).