Mark & Donna
June 2017 update from the Whiffen family, our missionaries to Mexico:
Recently our car spent a couple of weeks at the mechanic's shop. You never appreciate a working vehicle until it breaks down! There are certain parts of a vehicle that are essential for the car to function properly, and when any one of those parts stops doing its job, the whole car stops working. In a church, there are also certain parts, people, who are essential for the church to fulfill its function; when they don't do their part, it affects the congregation.
As I think about the church the Lord has helped us begin here in our corner of Mexico City, I consider just how important many of our people have become to the ministry here. Tito is a wonderful man that has become not only one of our most faithful members, but a true leader in the church. When Donna is not available for counseling, Rebecca is the lady that other women can go to for solid Biblical advice! Esther and her daughter Cici have recently taken over the children's' ministry for us. This mother/daughter duo have added so much to our ability to reach the neighborhood children. Yareli is 22 years old, and she is adamant about serving and helps us reach out to more children and teens. She and we believe that God is going to send her out as a missionary someday.
These are just a few of the "parts" God is using to keep His church running smoothly. Without their participation and desire to serve, this church could never truly meet its full potential. Satan hates when believers serve and will do all he can to discourage them. Pray that God will protect and bless them.
As always, we thank every one of you for your faithful prayers and support for us, and the work that God is doing in this great city.
July/August/September 2017 update from the Whiffen family, our missionaries to Mexico:
We have much to say regarding things God has and is continuing to do in our church, but in the wake of the recent earthquakes, we would like to take time to let you see the need in this already needy city.
Thirty-two years ago on September 19, 1985, a major quake hit the city, killing nearly 10,000 people. Buildings fell like dominoes. Many of the apartment buildings that are outside the city now were built to house the people who lost everything during that quake. Each year on the anniversary of the quake, memorial services are held around the city and earthquake drills done in most businesses and in all schools. Our school held our normal drill at 11am this past Tuesday, September 19. Just over two hours later, we experienced the real thing.
We were at a shopping center when it happened, standing on a pedestrian bridge on the top floor. The bridge began to move, as if someone were running across it. Then it began to move more until it was bouncing up and down and we were having to hold on tight to the railing. At first we contributed it to people walking heavily across the bridge until we looked and realized we were the only ones on the bridge and we were standing perfectly still. Suddenly we heard screams and looked up to see glass panels crashing to the floor all around us. I moved Donna out of the way into the middle of the bridge out from under the glass. There was no quick way to get out without being under the glass, so we decided to wait it out on the bridge. When it was over, I can only think of the word "apocalyptic" to describe the scene. Although no one was injured as we were about 15 minutes north of the center of town, confusion and chaos ensued. People immediately began to exit the shopping center, restaurants abandoned with food on trays and tables, elevators and escalators not functional and with no cellphone or internet service, and since communication was completely down, no one knew the extent of the damage elsewhere in the city. We were unable to contact Jessi, who was still at school. Thankfully, Joshua is studying in the States.
The news in the States has not begun to cover the devastation here in the city. People on all socio-economic levels were affected. Over 20,000 homes are uninhabitable as of the latest count. Over fifty buildings tumbled to the ground. The second quake of 6.1 this morning killed more people and caused structures that were weak to fall. However, time and space do not permit me to share every story with you. We know personally four people who lost their homes. One of our friends' cousins was trapped all week under rubble along with four other people. None survived. In our visits to shelters, we have met people who have lost everything and don't know where to begin. Hospitals are full and non-emergency cases have been sent home or rescheduled.
People came out in droves to help dig through rubble and provide food and water for the workers. Countries have sent brigades of help. Japan's team found six survivors and were able to rescue them. We began to collect food and water and other items that the Red Cross and other organizations were asking for. We also looked for opportunities to help and to minister in the long run, because we realize recovery from this is a long process. The top picture is of a neighborhood in one of the hardest hit areas of the city. Jessi was working with some friends in that part of the city when a lady came running up to her asking her group to follow them. Jessi followed the lady who led them to a set of islands in the canals that had been without power and water for two weeks since the quake of Sept. 7. When the Sept. 19 quake hit, they were in even worse shape. Jessi's group was able to get them water and supplies and put them in touch with people who could help. They were able to share the Gospel with people who otherwise may have never heard.
In answer to our prayers, God has given us a unique opportunity. One of our neighbors is a fire chief. He asked us to help him as he goes to different shelters throughout the city. Last night, we made our first trip to two shelters. In one of them, we met the lady pictured on the top row. Her name is Patricia. She was at the hospital picking up her daughter who was being released after a two-month stay. The quake hit while they were checking out of the hospital. When they arrived home they found they had no home to go back to. They are living in the shelter for now but Patricia told us she doesn't know where to begin. The shelters and the city are full of stories like Patricia's.
We have been invited to work in various shelters throughout the city, working with the fire chief and a group of paramedics and police officers. Our focus will be with children, as we've been invited to play with them, read to them and provide counseling. We have begun collecting toys and clothes to distribute to the shelters. Some of the shelters do not allow "anything religious" as they put it, but even last night they allowed us to pray with the victims. In other shelters and on the streets, we will have opportunity to speak freely and share the Gospel. Many people who have lost their homes are living on the streets in front of what is left of their home, as they are afraid of losing what little they have left.
Pray with us as we walk through this open door of opportunity to reach more of Mexico City with the Gospel. Luis, the leader of the second shelter we were at last night, also works with migrants from Africa and South America. He has also invited us to come to the migrant shelters on a long-term basis.
Our hearts are very heavy and we are tired, but also hopeful that God is going to continue to open doors and lead us to the people to whom He would have us minister. Thank you once again for your years of faithful prayers and support, and please continue to pray for the precious people of this great city.