The task facing La Sierra University’s Pre-Medical Society last fall was daunting – take an annual mission trip to Guatemala that provides badly needed aid, spiritual connection and compassionate outreach and reproduce it all online.
For 16 years the society, a student club of La Sierra University led by associate biology professor Eugene Joseph has spread the love of Christ in Guatemala each Christmas break by distributing food and shoes to those in need, bringing toys and friendship to sick children, praying with families, and providing hands-on assistance such as vaccinating farmers’ livestock and helping medical and dental professionals care for hundreds of patients in rural areas.
It was all upended this year. The global COVID-19 pandemic threw a curve ball into the plans of university missions and outreach including the annual Guatemala trip. With foreign travel suspended, the Pre-Medical Society decided to brainstorm ways of continuing their work in Central America where suffering has been compounded by the impact of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the illness named COVID-19. During an early October video conferencing call between Joseph, Pre-Medical Society President Kay Kim and Guatemalan contacts and Adventist church members Sergio Ortiz and Manuel Argueta, it was decided the club would forge ahead with a virtual mission activity, a feat that would require significant coordination and planning. Club leaders emailed an invitational application to the campus and ended up with a team of 25 students led by nine club officers.
The group held an online fundraiser in January and together with funds from the club brought in $3,800. Ortiz, Argueta and their contacts used the money to purchase 48 pairs of children’s shoes and 2,100 pounds of food to provide 60 large food bags containing black beans, red beans, rice, sugar, corn flour, cooking oil, soups, and noodles. They also bought items for 40 gift packages for children at the Casa de San Jose AIDS hospice that included brightly-colored blankets, baby wipes, baby shampoo, soap and purchased other items for nursing home resident care packages.
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