COVID strikes again. As I write this letter, our area of Peru – Villa El Salvador, Lima is on extreme alert as the cases of COVID have sharply risen. Efata is in total lockdown again. That means that one person per family can go out for only one hour a day between the hours of 6am to 6pm. No use of personal vehicles is allowed without special permission and again, no services other than virtual.
Two families on the Efata compound recently contracted COVID-19 but have recovered well. I have been in the States for medical reasons which I will explain further below.
The tax issue with the city is ongoing but there has been very good progress as I mentioned in my previous letter. As of right now, we have paid down approximately $6,000.00 of the $20,000 bill. We have had several churches help with this and our own church in Peru, Efata Baptist Church was able to raise over $1000 for the initial payment. We continue to solicit the city to unfreeze our bank account. Pray that this happens soon. Please pray that we can raise the final $14,000 to pay this off. Once that is done, we will be able to maintain the new regular monthly payments with the provision of the Lord.
Until we were shut down again, we were still seeing people saved and baptized, having weddings, and baby dedications, and receiving new members into the church. Currently, my staff of National pastors and leaders are preaching, discipling and having Sunday School via Zoom or live stream.
Joel and Jessica had birthdays recently, with Joel turning fifteen and Jessica thirteen. It so wonderful to see our children grow. Joy has completed her High School and has applied to Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, to begin classes this fall. We are so proud of the wonderful young lady she has become. Jared is now in the Space Force and Judson is still overseas with the Marines. Joseph and James and their families are currently on deputation and Julianne and family are doing well in LaBelle, Florida. The kids at home—Joy, John, Joel, Jessica and Jennifer—are doing well.
I have been in the States for a few weeks being attended by the VA for some upper and lower back issues. After consultation with my Primary Care doctor, the VA has referred me to Community Care where I am currently being attended by a local surgeon. He has ordered five weeks of intense therapy, a lower back MRI and has referred me to another doctor for my shoulder pain. Due to this, I have decided to bring my family back to Fort Myers so Lisa can help me with this and the family can be together.
I will not be able to travel far from Fort Myers during this time as I will be in physical therapy two to three days a week. After the therapy, the surgeon will determine if I need surgery.
While I am here, I will be in constant contact working with my national leaders via Zoom meetings. I will also be filling in for the Pastor at LaBelle Baptist Temple for a few weeks as he has just undergone hip replacement surgery and will be out of the pulpit for several weeks. What a blessing to be able to return to the church where I was the assistant pastor before being called to missions and serve them in this way. I will also be filling in for another pastor in March for a week and visiting local supporters and reporting.
Bro. Joe & Lisa, Joy, John, Joel, Jessica, and Jennifer
Like most of you, we are still dealing with the effects of the COVID issues here in Peru. It has changed so much of our lives and ministries. However, one thing that cannot change is God’s perfect plan for the ages, which we are witnessing unfold before our very eyes.
It is vital for us to be thankful to the Lord for His care over us and recognize that He truly is in control no matter what is happening. This strengthens us spiritually. We should be thankful despite politics or pandemics of the day. As the verse above teaches, we must be thankful for God’s enduring mercies and goodness.
School is out now. We did not have any high school graduates from our Deaf school this year, but several hearing students in our English home school group graduated. This included three of our children. Joy graduated from high school, and Jessica and Joel from middle school.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, issues with the Peruvian Ministry of Education, and the reduction of students and teachers, we are suspending our deaf school after 50 years of service here in Peru. We are suspending in the hopes of reopening again within two years. This is not a given. First, we must wait for the elections this year and see if we can get a meeting with the new Minister of Education and convince him or her to allow us to reopen under a special pilot program that will allow us to continue to successfully teach deaf children.
Peru changed to an inclusion program that mixes the Deaf in with the hearing but without the qualified interpreters and teachers necessary for success. Thus, they closed our high school and have been moving to close our primary grades as well. They are creating a new generation of Deaf students with a tragically low literacy rate all in the name of inclusion and self-esteem – a one-size-fits-all education system that has failed the Deaf. Pray that we can be successful in advocating for our methodology and school. This school has been the gateway for the Gospel for thousands of Deaf here in Peru. The government also closed our orphanage/home program, forbidding us to take in new children. We still have six deaf children and young adults for whom we are caring.
Regarding the battle with the city over our tax situation, we have exhausted all avenues of appeal. Fortunately, the new person in charge of this area has been extremely helpful. The final determination is that we need to pay about $20,000 in back taxes (down from $65,000) for the school and church property. We began to pay this down this month and were able to pay about $3800.00, so we now owe about $16,200.00. Our people in the church are giving what they can, and we are thankful that they are stepping up, but this is not in their power to pay off. We would be grateful for any assistance in this need.
When we made our first payment, they saw that as a good faith effort and exonerated the 2012-2014 taxes which lowered the debt by about $1300.00. What a blessing and help from the Lord! Once the tax debt is cleared, we will keep things current as we had been doing until they wildly increased the taxes without proper notification or consideration.
In November, we hosted the first International Baptist Deaf video conference. It was a great blessing, Deaf from all over the world tuned in and there were several good results from the meeting. Around twenty Deaf and hearing leaders in Deaf ministry preached from four different countries.
Services opened up again in November. Although some who are at higher risk are still staying home, our outdoor services have been full. We are so blessed to have new Christians being discipled. We had a tremendous Christmas service the 27th with the Lord’s Supper as well as a live nativity scene. We had 299 present.
Thank you to those who have sent offerings for food provisions. This has been a great ministry help and hundreds were comforted and helped. We are still seeing fruit from this in new visitors, salvation decisions and baptisms.
The family is well. As I mentioned before, Joy graduated from high school and is preparing for college in the Fall.
I will be returning to the States in January for physical therapy for my lower back and further care and analysis for my upper spine issue, as well as my normal yearly check-up at the VA. Please pray the doctors have wisdom and I can get the help I need right away in order to get back as soon as possible to Peru.
Prayers and Thanks
Thank you so much to all the churches and friends who sent Christmas blessings! We are so thankful for all of you and your support during this unforgettable year.
A Song of degrees of David. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. 2 Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. 3 Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: 4 Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD. 5 For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. 6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. 7 Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. 8 For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. 9 Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.
These have been interesting times for all of us, especially here in Peru. COVID-19 has brought a multitude of challenges, and political turmoil has run rampant not only in the U.S. but also here in Peru, where this month the congress impeached the president, pressured the resignation of the following president after 5 days, and selected a new caretaker president until next year’s election.
All of this has had a direct impact on Peru. However, there is some wonderful news for us, as we can now have services at church, albeit with strict protection protocols in force.
On Sunday, November 15, we rejoiced and worshipped God together in person for the first time in over 8 months, and we enjoyed the same joy as David did those thousands of years ago: We were glad when they said unto us, let us go into the house of the LORD! We had three services, one for our mission church in Tablada that is without a building, one for our Deaf, and one for our hearing and Deaf.
Altogether, we ministered to over 200 who came out to the services, in addition to those who could not be there in person and instead joined us online.
One of the blessings is that JJ, my grandson, was baptized as well on this wonderful day.
We also continue to distribute food supplies to those in need as we are able. Thank you to our supporting churches and friends who have helped in this vital ministry during this time.
I was just back in the U.S. for care from the VA Clinic, which I will share below. However, while there, I had the blessed opportunity to report to several of our supporting churches and preach a Mission Conference for the Deaf Department of Falls Baptist Church in WI. What a great blessing and encouragement that was.
At Efata, we are still battling the city over the taxes. Continue to pray that God will give us wisdom in so many decisions that will impact our overall ministry here in Peru as a result of the many changes we are facing here with the school, home, and overall ministry. We have some really exciting plans and are looking for clear leading from the Lord.
We rejoice that souls have been saved and several baptized during these past few months. We even celebrated a wedding for a couple in the church.
At the end of November, our church will be hosting the first-ever International Independent Baptist Deaf Preachers Conference online. We have well over 20 deaf pastors, hearing pastors to the Deaf, and missionaries from around the world who will be preaching and encouraging one another. Pray that God will use this conference in a mighty way to strengthen and encourage those who work with the Deaf as well as the Deaf themselves.
Our family is in good health and those of us who had COVID have fully recovered.
Regarding my VA appointments for my back and other needs, I had X-rays and an MRI for pain in my lower back and upper body with tingling and pain with numbness in my arms. I will need to return in January for physical therapy for my lower back and further care and analysis for my upper issues as well as my normal yearly check-up. Apart from that, all is well.
While in the States, our 10th grandchild was born to Julianne and Frank. Her name is Katlyn Joy. I was also able to see my 8th grandchild, Jimmy, born to James and Ann. That makes ten grandchildren so far, three of whom were born this year.
Jared and Judson are well in their respective duty stations and services. Joy is practically finished with high school and is now preparing for Bible college for next year.
Prayers and Thanks
Again, thank you all for your prayers, support, and care for our family and ministry during this unique time. We are honored to partner with all of you in missions as we continue to serve the Lord.
3And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8All these are the beginning of sorrows…
What an interesting time we live in. I have never seen such a unity of end-times events in my life–pestilences such as locusts in Asia, exponentially more dangerous natural disasters (fires raging, hurricanes, tornados, forty-mile-wide land storms such as “Derecho” in Iowa, earthquakes in unusual places, volcanic eruptions) pandemics, wars and rumors of wars, many false Christs and prophets (just peruse YouTube), right turned to wrong and wrong turned to right, children against their parents, irresponsible parents, love waxing cold, etc. All these are converging at this point in history.
Just remember the words above, “be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” We do not know when Jesus is coming, so all I can say as I look forward to the “Blessed Hope” is, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” Until then, we will be busy about our Master’s business.
We will not let the circumstances of life around us discourage us. Persecution, already present in a large part of the world, is coming our way. This too must come to pass. Regardless, we have this promise from our Savior:
35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Not much has changed here since our last prayer letter regarding the restrictions on gatherings. There was some relief, but then the government clamped down again when the number of new cases of COVID-19 began to rise. They have imposed martial law restrictions again on Sundays, when no one can be out except with special permission. International travel continues to be restricted by the government, and public services are limited. Several pastors have died because of the pandemic. One, Luis Navarro, was only forty-two years old. He was a friend. Several members of our church have experienced losses of loved ones.
We continue to minister through social media for all our services, Sunday school meetings, and programs for teens and children. We also continue to distribute food to many in need. We are seeing souls saved despite all the restrictions. Pray for these new Christians as they grow.
No in-person meetings will be permitted this year. Schools will continue to teach online until next year as well. This is a horrible situation for students and especially for the Deaf and children with special needs. Our teachers continue to work hard to teach those who have access to the internet.
As you know from our last letter, several of us tested positive for COVID. Lisa was the hardest affected, with headaches, breathing issues, pain, and discomfort in her chest. The rest of us appear to have been asymptomatic if our tests were accurate, although I have my doubts about that. The blessing is that all of us are well now. Lisa is doing great, and none of us have any residual issues or side effects. The same goes for our son Joseph, who works with us here.
Joseph and Zulema are expecting their third child. Because theirs is a high-risk pregnancy, they have a C-section scheduled for September 8th. We are looking forward to their little addition to the family. Please pray for them that everything will go smoothly. Also be in prayer for Julianne, our daughter who lives in Florida, who is expecting her fifth child in late September or early October. When these two children are born, Lisa and I will have ten grandchildren. What a joy!
James and Ann and their two little ones are doing well. God was very gracious to them with His presence during this time of trials. A complicated pregnancy with extended hospitalization ended in little Jimmy’s premature birth, requiring him to be hospitalized for about two months. Some churches canceled as well due to COVID restrictions. Please pray for God to fill their schedule again and for God’s continued protection, provision, and guidance for their precious family on the deputation road.
Our Marine, Judson, was recently promoted. He is now a corporal, having just completed Embassy Security training, and is waiting for his first deployment overseas. Jared is doing great in the Air Force in Florida.
Prayers and Thanks
We have enjoyed hearing from many of you as you have written and called to inquire about our well-being and the well-being of the ministry here in Peru during these crazy months. Thank you to all of you who remember us in your prayers and who support us in our work.
Bro. Joe & Lisa Joy, John, Joel, Jessica, and Jennifer
Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High. 3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. 4 In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. 5 Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. 6 They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.– Psalms 56:2-6
These last two months have been incredibly challenging for all of us. We have been under these very rigid restrictions that have finally loosened up a bit now in July. We are looking forward to when we can meet in church again.
As the Psalmist above declared his trust in the LORD, we also declare our trust in God. Though our enemies may be different, the need to trust God in all things and at all times remains the same for the child of God. God has NEVER failed us and never will. This does not mean that the outcomes will be to our liking all the time. Our goal and desire with our lives is to react in faith and trust so that God will be glorified in and through our lives and that others will see Christ in us- the Hope of Glory!
We are still under meeting restrictions. We cannot open church up and it looks like we will not be able to do so for some time yet. The government still has decided not to allow the schools to open again until next year. Our teachers are teaching via video but that is not very optimal for our deaf students. We are praying for God’s leading in this area as we are seeing many changes that will greatly affect us.
We continue to preach on-line. We have conferences, services for Deaf and hearing on Sundays and Wednesdays. We also have on-line programs for young people and children. We continue to do all we can to be flexible and creative in these unusual times.
Several of our church family have been affected with deaths related to COVID. We do all we can to comfort, but not being able to have funeral services is very limiting in this. I have done funeral services on-line, but it is not the same.
We have also continued to feed hundreds of people who have little or nothing on Thursdays for our church people and Fridays for the public. We would like to thank all those who have given to help us buy the food. We give them a tract and use a megaphone to preach to the people in line waiting for the food. We will continue to do this as God provides.
We continue to be blessed by seeing souls saved and ones ready for baptism during these times as well.
We are all using masks in Efata. Several health officials came to give anyone here who wants one a test to see if there are more people who are positive, and a total of seven people tested positive for the virus. Unfortunately, we will have to suspend the food program for a few weeks until this all works out.
Lisa tested positive for coronavirus almost two weeks ago. Fortunately, it was caught early, and Lisa is dealing with it well. She is taking various medications to help her with the virus. She has a lot of headaches, a sore throat and tiredness. She has asthma, so she must be careful and is under a doctor’s supervision. A week or so later, I tested positive as did John and Joel. We are staying in the house to keep away from everybody except for me going to my office which is isolated as well. So far, I have not had any symptoms or issues, nor have most of the kids. John had what appeared to be a cold and cough, but it went away. The rest of the kids are showing no issues whatsoever even though we are all in the house together. We were detected fairly early in stage one so, so far, so good, the Lord being gracious to us.
Joseph also tested positive, and he will have to be very careful as Zulema, his wife has been going through a difficult pregnancy. We do not want her to get the virus.
Please continue to pray for our family and the ministry here in Peru. You are our spiritual support and we love you for it. Thank you for uniting with us in prayer and support during these uniquely challenging times. We are praying for you as well. We are keenly aware that you all are experiencing challenges as well and do not take for granted the incredible sacrifices that are being made by all of you to keep supporting your missionaries.
Bro. Joe & Lisa, Joy, John, Joel, Jessica, and Jennifer
For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? – Esther 4:14
These weeks have been unique for all of us around the world – a once in a lifetime event. The blessing is that God truly is in control and I believe He has a plan for all of us during this time as he did for Esther in her time.
I want to say that you and I are here for “such a time as this.” We are the ones that God has chosen to have the privilege of serving Him in these unique days. It is not Paul’s time. It is not Peter’s time, It is not Roger Williams’ time. It is not Whitefield’s time. It is not Spurgeon’s time. It is not Bob Jones’ time. It is not Lester Roloff’s time. It is not Lee Roberson’s time. It not Richard Riley’s time. IT IS OUR TIME. It is for us to serve our God and do his will TODAY. For tomorrow belongs to the Lord and our children.
We as God’s servants need to look forward to the opportunities that God is presenting us in our unique time, not looking back in nostalgia but looking forward in expectation as to how God will use us today.
What exciting times to be a Christian and see God work!!!
As you know, like many other missionaries around the world, we are in a state of emergency quarantine. For us here in Peru, it is akin to martial law. Our movement are very restricted under penalty of arrest and massive fines. Only one person in a family can go out during certain hours of the day to go to the store to buy food. As an example, my son and missionary Joseph went to the store to buy food and a pair of shoes for his son JJ’s as his shoes were torn and worn. They would not let him buy the shoes.
They have extended the quarantine to at least May 10th and they will probably extend it further. There are some days were no one can go out at all.
There are some special permissions for those who are involved in providing food supplies for the elderly or others. We have two of our pastors who have this special permission and thus they are allowed to go out in our vehicles to the food bank program and get donations which we then add to what we purchase for our church people and others who are needy and once or twice a week we are able to provide food for over 75 families on a weekly basis. When we hear of a special case, we put together care bags of food and take it to families in need. We are thankful for the sacrifices of some in the States who, in the midst of their own needs, like the Philippians, have abounded to ours by providing funds for us to purchase needed food for others.
Our school is shut down and we are doing virtual teaching to those who we can reach. We are preaching online which is posted to our church’s Facebook page (Iglesia Bautista Efata). We are also hosting weeklong virtual Bible Conferences for both the Deaf and hearing in the month of May. We went virtual for our Bible College and also our Bible Institute, as well as a children’s program.
We have had as of now seven Deaf people saved through the virtual out reaches and some hearing. One hearing lady was saved at our front door when Lisa was distributing food.
Several of the families of our deaf children have been greatly affected with family members struck with the virus. One deaf young man, Eddie, lost his mother last year and recently lost his father to a medical condition. Because of the lockdown, he is all alone. One of our Deaf pastors, Frank while talking with him via WhatsApp, was able to comfort him and inquire about his salvation as he was a student contemporary with Frank when they were younger here at Efata. Eddie said he was not sure, and Pastor Frank was able to guide him to the Lord in Salvation. We rejoice that not only are we able to meet his physical needs by way of food, but we are able to meet his spiritual and emotional needs through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our family is safe and doing well. We are thankful to the Lord for the safe birth of our eighth grandchild, James Raymond Kotvas who was born to James and Ann after a difficult pregnancy. They are doing well. Please pray for our Daughter-in-law, Joseph’s wife Zulema. She is having an exceedingly difficult time with her pregnancy health wise. This will be their third child. Julianne is also expecting number five, so please continue to pray for her also. When these two are born, that will make 10 grandkids – What a blessed heritage!
At Efata, we have added a donkey and two goats to the Efata family here from a petting zoo that was closed due to the virus. They add some spice to the complex. John is enjoying his new “charges”. It is a great addition to all the birds, rabbits, dogs, ducks, chickens and fish that add some beauty and life to our complex. The Deaf and staff children who live here LOVE to feed and watch them. How many kids in America living in a big city can say they have all those animals to enjoy and learn about? We are blessed.
Thank you once again for everything you do for us in your prayers and support. We do not take for granted that many of you are making sacrifices during these days to be able to maintain your support for the work of the Lord here in Peru. We also are assured that those who have not been able, due to the financial hardships, are still lifting us up in prayer. We love all of you!