“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20
Dear friends, family and partners in ministry,
Grace and Peace to you in the Name of our Risen Lord Jesus!
This Easter as we were exchanging resurrection greetings over text messages with friends and family, we were most taken by one friend’s sharing what she saw in Gospel writer John’s account of the resurrection day. Jesus’ disciples were behind locked doors because they were scared. Jesus comes in any way to make Himself known in their midst. He doesn’t say “I told you so” or “Why are you scared?” or even “I’m alive!” Instead, He offers these words full of grace, “Peace be with you!” He even says it twice, knowing that more than anything they needed peace. And so that is our prayer for you during this season of both pandemic and resurrection. May the peace of Christ dwell richly in you! Not a peace that denies anything serious is happening or that there is deep ache in the world. But a peace that reflects that Christ holds all things together and that He has conquered the grave.
Like many others, we have found ourselves working and schooling from home during this COVID-19 lockdown. We have found a rhythm, while it has it’s challenges, is doing the best we can with the current situation. For Carmen’s work with MAG, Zoom video conferences were a regular tool to connect with missionaries in the preparation to serve process and also those who have had interest in serving with MAG. So it was nice to have that as a “known” as most of life has moved to Zoom. Carmen has kept up her MAG mobilizing work from home, and instead of hosting the MAG ladies evening at our home we have met over Zoom. An advantage of that for this season has been to engage with some speakers who are not local. Carmen also continues to interface with our Honduran staff so they can keep basic operations happening while travel has ceased. Thankfully, there have been no COVID-19 cases in the remote area of La Misquitia! This has been an instance where being so remote has been a huge blessing for this area. While operations at the Burlington airport have temporarily ceased for MAG, Sean continues flight instruction over Zoom, focusing on getting the apprentices ahead on ground lessons to prepare for flight work once we can resume work at the hangar.
We know many ministries are meeting in new ways during this social distancing season. It has been sweet to connect with some of our supporting congregations in new ways as worship, and meetings are happening differently. If there is a way we can connect with what you are doing online, please ask!
At the end of February we welcomed a new apprentice family into our midst! Ryan and Mary Hokuf, along with their two children, are already a wonderful addition to our life together. Both Ryan and Mary were mechanical engineers prior to their entrance into the world of mission aviation. Ryan is already a private pilot and has started working on his instrument rating.
The last month brought reports of our large medical brigade that occurred at the end of February at our Rus Rus base in Honduras. This team from International Health Services in Minnesota brought in more advanced medical and dental care to our small hospital. Many people travel from a great distance for this yearly opportunity to receive care. Over 70% of the patients seen traveled from Nicaragua. In total the team had 1,431 patient contacts! The people who came were also ministered to through prayer and evening worship services. This year we were also able to distribute food that was donated through Feed My Starving Children. While we were not present in Rus Rus for this event, we still felt significantly immersed in it through months of preparation that we were involved in and then trouble shooting from a distance when needed as the event was unfolding. We are thankful that all this care was provided before travel was suspended.
Another special thing that happened during the same time as the International Health Services brigade was getting a teen from Rus Rus out to a special eye clinic in the interior of Honduras. Merelie has been on Carmen’s heart for several years as we have gotten to know her on VBS trips. She struggles with crossed eyes, and Carmen’s best guess was that she had strabismus. Carmen’s heart was drawn to her as that is what our daughter Lilly has, and she has been greatly helped through her glasses. During Lilly’s annual ophthalmologist appointment we were able to get connected with a team that would be in Siguatepeque at the end of February to perform strabismus surgeries for children in Honduras. Having personally undertaken the trip from Rus Rus to Sigua recently, we knew that it was a huge undertaking, but worthwhile for Merelie to have the chance for her vision to be corrected. We are so thankful how many came together to make this trip possible for her. For instance, a family friend volunteered to travel with her as Merelie’s mom only speaks Misquito, and Spanish conversation would be necessary for a trip to the interior of Honduras. During the evaluation appointment at the clinic in Sigua, it was discovered that Merelie’s issue wasn’t strabismus, but more likely damage occurred at birth to her optic nerve. This was disappointing news that Merelie’s vision could not be fixed at this clinic, but that she would need further testing such as an MRI or CT scan and glasses. While these things are relatively reasonable to find in the US, it is a much more daunting process for someone from La Misquitia. So please keep Merelie in your prayers, that resources needed to help her condition would be available to her.
During this global COVID-19 shut down one of our biggest challenges has been trying to understand how these delays would change the plans we had for training our four new MAG families who are headed to Honduras. Our plan was to bring them all to Burlington this summer for two months of training. We were planning for one month of team building (Carmen’s role to plan) and one month of pilot standardization (Sean’s job to plan). This would be the culmination of several years’ efforts of mobilizing and training. Each family is coming from a different place- Honduras, Ohio, Georgia and Austria. Arranging everyone’s schedules to converge around other critical timing windows and visa issues has been no small feat. With current travel restrictions, the Hochenburger family who had been with us and needed to go to Austria for two months due to visa and other requirements have gotten “stuck” there longer than anticipated.
A key component of mission aviation that Sean teaches is the importance of “abort points.” This involves picking a point in your take-off procedure or landing procedure where various aspects of flight haven’t met the required goals, and you can safely stop the take-off or landing, then go around and try again. In normal aviation these parameters exist, but they are extra critical in mission aviation where runways have very little margin and there are more significant terrain features to navigate. And so we have been learning to identify “abort points” for events as well. And so with our summer team building and pilot standardization we’ve had to go around and try again for another landing. This time we are aiming for fall. This involves rearranging the lives of four families so we want to make good decisions and do the best we can for everyone. So please pray for wisdom as we negotiate an immense amount of details, and for the Hochenburgers to be able to return from Austria this summer.
Another component to planning has been the completion of our Cessna 206 up at MMS in Coshocton, OH. God provided in a huge way when a donor provided the final $120,000 for the engine in the fall of 2019. Here are some pictures of work being done on the plane. This plane will be mostly identical to the current 206 we have in Burlington and will be deployed with the team to Honduras. One of our new MAG staff pilot mechanics has spent this last year at MMS gaining more maintenance experience. His last big project has been to help with the MAG 206. This is fantastic because it will be the plane he will be flying in Honduras. He will know it inside and out! We also need this second Cessna 206 airplane for pilot standardization. Please pray that once Ohio is opened back up that the plane can be completed well and in good timing.
We are so grateful for such a great team of churches and individuals who give so generously to see God’s Kingdom go forth. Even in times of uncertainty, Jesus reminds us to invest in what does not perish, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). We pray for each of you, that God would keep you close to Himself in this time of crisis and richly supply your needs.
In Christ’s Love,
Sean and Carmen Garrigan