February 27: We fly as a family to Monterrey, together with our mission colleagues, to celebrate FUNDEFAM’s 20th anniversary. This was a wonderful time remembering God’s faithfulness and transformative work to and through this amazing ministry, of which we had the privilege to be a part when we lived in Monterrey, 2005-2011. Here is where we hear for the first time from the regional coordinators for Latin American, our supervisors, Pia and Eugenio Restrepo that COVID-19 could change travel for all of us, and could affect us in Mexico. At that time, we had no idea just how much COVID would affect our next four months, what was to be our last four months in Oaxaca before returning to the US on home assignment. This was also the last time we would be together as a Mexico mission team, even though at the time we are unaware that our retreat in June would have to be canceled.
March 2-7: Matías and Lucas travel to Puebla with other students from their school to attend the annual Bible Camp for missionary kids from Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca. Several students return home sick with fever, strep throat and other symptoms.
March 5: Erika is on her way to Ecuador to participate in the Trauma and Healing course with North Park Seminary students and professors as well as other practitioners from Latin America, while at the Mexico City airport, she receives a call that the NPTS group was not allowed to travel due to COVID. She decides to continue with her plans to participate and join the now much smaller team in Guayaquil and Quito. Upon her arrival in Guayaquil, she is shocked to see all the anti-bacterial gel stands and people wearing masks. There are many changes to their plans that were made each day during her trip, but she is grateful to have been able to participate in the conference to 125 pastors and leaders in Guayaquil with a workshop on forgiveness and how to lead listening groups, as well as connect with some amazing ministries working in the areas of violence prevention, providing services to Venezuelan refugees, and a health clinic and home for vulnerable children outside of Quito.
March 8: Nils takes Maya to the ER because she has had a fever for several days and she tests positive for Influenza B.
March 12 (12pm): Nils takes Matías to the ER because he has been sick with a fever for several days and is having a hard time breathing. They find him to have low oxygen levels. He is probably one of the first in Mexico tested for COVID-19. Chest x-rays
show pneumonia and he is admitted to the hospital. (5pm) Nils finally gets a hold of Erika because she was up in the mountains on a visit to the clinic and children’s home. She starts looking for flights to return home two days early and after 3 hours on the phone with Aeromexico is able to change her return for the next day.
Nils spends the night with Matías in the hospital, while Maya and Lucas spend the night with our friends Patty and Lisandro Restrepo.
March 13: (11am) Lucas starts feeling sick at school and the Restrepos pick him up to rest at their house while Nils is with Matías. (8pm) Erika returns home and her dear friend Jess takes her straight to the hospital where she spends the night while Nils goes home with the other two.
March 14: Matías is doing much better and we are all finally home together. And Matías’s COVID test comes back negative, praise God! We decide to do a 14-day quarantine at home since there has been so much sickness in our family. Thankfully, Erika and Nils remain healthy.
March 16: Ecuador shuts down all of their airports due to a COVID outbreak in Guayaquil, where Erika was just a few days prior.
March 17: OCS decides to start doing school from home as the pandemic becomes more apparent.
March 23: Mexican public schools and Montessori, where Maya attends, decide to do school from home. We suspend all in-person ministry activities.
April 3: We receive an email from the Embassy informing US citizens that unless we are willing to stay in Mexico indefinitely, we should look to leave the country as soon as possible. Commercial flights were still available, though very few. Since our plan was to leave Oaxaca around July 1st in order to start our home assignment in MN, we start to wonder if we should move our plans up.
April 4: We buy tickets to return to the US on April 18th, leaving us only two weeks to pack, sell, or give away everything in our house while trying to practice social distancing. Saying goodbye is also hard and not how we had planned it to be.
April 6: We are relieved that our dear friend Lucy enthusiastically agrees to take our beloved Jojo, our 8 year-old adopted Mexican street dog. There are no options for traveling with a dog at that time, and Lucy has provided a fantastic home for her.
April 12: Easter Day, we watch our MN home church service online with boiled eggs and some candy at a coffee table in our living room and since we have sold all of our big furniture (beds, table, fridge, etc.) we move into an Airbnb we found only four blocks away from our home for our last few nights in Oaxaca.
April 16: The women’s group and MAEM (Ministering to the Abused and Exploited in Mexico) leaders figure out how to use zoom (some don’t have access to computers, smartphones, or good internet) to surprise Erika with an online goodbye party. The boys are also surprised with a drive-by goodbye from school and youth group friends.
April 17: We check-in for our flight only to find that one of our legs has been canceled and now we will need to spend a night in a hotel in Mexico City. We spend our last night in Oaxaca social distancing with our dearest of friends the Restrepos.
April 18: We fly to Mexico City and stay 20 hours in a hotel, exhausted.
April 19: We fly to Chicago and rent a car to drive to Sawyer, MI to stay at a home made available for us to quarantine. We stay there a total of 24 days. We are able to rest, relax, lament, cry, play, walk on the beach and continue with several zoom meetings with ministry in Oaxaca. We grieve not being able to see Nils’ parents as they are at Windsor Park Covenant Home and they are not allowed to have visitors due to COVID.
April 24-26: The national MAEM retreat that was planned for this weekend had to be postponed to an unknown future date. This was going to be a time of goodbyes with dear friends from all over Mexico.
May 15: We drive in a rental car to Cambridge, MN where we are staying currently until our house in Fridley becomes available on August 1. God has provided us with a home owned by Lakeside Christian Church on Fanny Lake.
May 22-24: We remember the Oaxaca women’s retreat that was scheduled for this weekend but was postponed. This is something we had been looking forward to for months as one last celebration of God’s amazing love in and among us before leaving Oaxaca.
May 25: George Floyd is killed and life in the Twin Cities is turned upside-down. We are challenged to grow in our own understanding of racial injustice and of being in solidarity with those who are suffering.
June 1: As the summer rolls on, we slowly start to see family, but everything feels so different and we still mourn leaving Oaxaca so quickly. We are enjoying country life, canoeing and swimming, even a trip to the Boundary Waters to camp and canoe. Until July 1, when our home assignment officially started, we were still involved in ministry in Mexico through zoom meetings. We continue to miss our dear friends in Mexico and are praying for them as more and more of them have family or know of someone affected by COVID and as Mexico is 3rd in the world for deaths from COVID.
Please continue to pray for us as we adjust to life and ministry in the US. There are so many losses we are still grieving, but our hearts are also filled with gratitude for God’s amazing provision and care for us shown in so many big and small ways over these last few months. We are grateful to each of you for your prayers and care for us as well. We are still unsure exactly how COVID will be affecting our church visits for this year of home assignment, but we hope to find creative ways to keep in touch and stay connected with you all.