By Chris Moon
After a yearlong travel hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the leaders at Amor Ministries are hoping they can begin leading short-term mission trips again in June.
“We feel like we are getting closer,” said Gayla Congdon, CEO and founder of the missions organization based in San Diego, Calif.
Among its offerings, Amor leads trips into the U.S.-Mexico border regions to build homes—thousands of them over the years—for families in need. The 40-year-old organization partners with Mexican pastors to identify and help families there.
In a normal year, Amor would lead 200 groups—totaling 8,000 to 10,000 people—across the border. That all came to a halt in mid-March of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down international travel.
For a group that’s mission is so wrapped up in the ability to move people from place to place, the pandemic has been difficult.
But Congdon said the stoppage was understandable. She said Amor worked with a particular pastor and his wife—both in their mid-50s—who caught COVID and died within 24 hours of each other. Neither was able to get a hospital bed.
“We recognize the fragility of life,” Congdon said.
ADAPTING TO THE SITUATION
Despite the travel stoppage, Amor has continued moving forward.
“After we got over the shock, like everybody else, we adapted,” she said.
Amor has continued raising funds for building projects in Mexico. Many groups that were slated to travel in 2020 donated all of their funds to Amor, even though their trips were canceled.
That enabled Amor to go ahead and build 55 new houses using work crews already in place in Mexico.
The group also has worked to strengthen its relationships with its church and financial partners in the United States and elsewhere. U.S. churches have continued to send funds to support the work.
“The capacity for donations continues to blow us away all the time,” Congdon said.
Still, the pandemic led to some difficult times. Had 2020 been a typical year, Amor would have hired more help in Mexico. Also, due to COVID-19, some U.S. staffers who left have not been replaced.
Amor has received two federal Paycheck Protection Program loans to help it manage the crisis.
EYEING A RETURN
Now, the group is eyeing a return to offering short-term missions trips in early June, so long as the Mexican government allows the work to move forward.
Amor has its annual “family camp” planned for just before Father’s Day, where families come together to build homes in Tijuana.
“We’re going to plan like that’s going to happen until we’re told we can’t,” said Jon Wilson, the group’s chief operating officer.
He said Amor is hoping to lead 50 short-term mission trips between the summer and the end of the year.
Those trips will look a little different than they have in the past—considering the pandemic.
Wilson said at this point, it doesn’t look like Amor will be requiring vaccines in order to participate in its trips. But participants will wear masks and socially distance when necessary.
“We’ll respond to what the local government requires of us,” he said.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.