Greetings to all of you who pray for us so faithfully. We hope the Lord is keeping you safe and providing for all your needs. We think of you and pray for you often. We want to thank all the churches, friends, and family that support us financially, especially through this difficult economic time in America. Some of you have sent some extra money, and we are incredibly grateful. We really appreciate your sacrificial giving.
It has been difficult for most Peruvians to be under quarantine for so long because they are a very social people. Peru is ranked second in South America for the lack of personal space and is one of the highest ranked in the world. It is hard for an American to get used to the constant closeness of strangers. Often, when standing in a line waiting for something, the person behind you is constantly bumping or brushing against you. Many times, there is no line. On our last flight during our move to Peru, while boarding in Mexico City, you could tell which airport gate was the one for Peru because there were 50 or more people clustered tightly around the entry to the lineated section for boarding. The other nearby gates had orderly lines. It has been difficult for them to adapt to the new social-distancing restrictions.
During the month of June, President Vizcarra kept extending the quarantine two weeks at a time. At the beginning of July, he extended the Health State of Emergency until the end of August. The country initially shut down on the 16th of March and has been slow to start the reopening process. In July, shopping malls and other stores were allowed to open, but only at 50% capacity. Twenty percent of the smaller stores have closed permanently, and another 30% are struggling to survive. Clinics and smaller medical facilities have just begun to reopen. State offices, federal offices, and the American Embassy are still closed.
Public meetings, school buildings, sporting events, church services, and all other types of social gatherings are not permitted at this time. The number of active cases has increased as the country has started the reopening process. The death rate is currently 4.4% and is rising. The most affected areas are the northern coastal areas, Arequipa in the south, and the Lima region. Because of this, we have seen the hearts of the people softening towards God, and many of them are more willing to hear and receive the good news of the Gospel.
The big challenge is in figuring out ways to reach them. Only 30% of the households in Peru have a computer. Many more do have cell phones but do not have enough data to stream church services. Gathering people for preaching is not permitted, but providing a service or giving them food is welcomed. With your help, we were able to work with the church in the city of Chorrillos, where we live, to provide enough money to put together 276 bags of food for needy people. The bags contained rice, potatoes, noodles, oats, oil, milk, lentils, and eggs. This was enough to feed a family for a week. Saturday mornings outside the church, people have been lining up half an hour before the doors were scheduled to open. Following the social-distancing and sanitary protocols, people would come in and were immediately ushered to a soul winner who shared the Gospel with them. After hearing the Gospel, they were then given one of the bags of food. In three weeks of giving out 100 bags each Saturday, we saw approximately 150 people trust Christ as their Saviour. Praise the Lord! The people of the church did an amazing job organizing everything. It has been great to be a part of their ministry in our part of the city.
Please pray that public meetings will be allowed to be conducted soon and that our church people will stay faithful to the Lord. Thank you again for your faithfulness.
In His service,
Chris and Irene Williams