A few weeks ago, I was talking with my father Enzo (who is living in Buenos Aires) and he told me about his friend Daniel who is unemployed and had asked him for help. My father always tries to help friends with their problems and although we have all the businesses rented and worked by the tenants he thought how. We had been helping each other with the tenants of the coffee shop and my father thought to give Daniel a space in the coffee shop working in the kitchen to prepare dinner for the clients (an activity that the shop isn’t able to do now) giving Enzo a way to have a job and live. We would let him use the kitchen with a little help at the beginning buying the ingredients, then let him take over on his own.
Later, I had another call from my father and he told me that Daniel wanted to know about the coffee shop before moving definitely, so Daniel used his disability credential to get a ticket to travel by bus from Buenos Aires to Cordoba and back. So Daniel headed to Cordoba on the 15th of March just as the country started to focus harder on how to prevent the Covid-19.
I had to pick up Daniel at the bus station and began to get concerned. In these days it is recommended not to travel at all, with bus lines later being halted completely. I also worried about how dangerous it was for him as an older man with several health issues. I was also worried in some small way about my health and the spread of the disease which we knew so little about.
As it was, I have been praying for family, friends, and people I know, who don’t know the lord because they could die if the virus quickly spreads in the country. In the past, I have found it difficult to talk about Jesus to others because the few times I have they didn’t want to hear about him and sometimes I just don’t know how to do it.
However, I entrusted my life to the Lord and went to the bus station that Saturday morning. When we met, Daniel immediately asked me not to get too close. As we greeted each other he told me he was worried about his coming travel. He told me that a few minutes after he took the bus from Buenos Aires, there was a station where many passengers got on the bus including one with a face mask and hospital cap who appeared to have an illness. Daniel had a hard time sleeping because so little was known except scary stories the news told. Then the bus stopped at Villa Maria, most of the passengers were sleeping however, while they were entering that city he saw an ambulance and several police cars waiting for them. Daniel was really scared and thought that this passenger must have the virus. When they reached Cordoba several passengers asked customer service to know what had happened. Unfortunately, the person from the company didn’t know anything about it. The group was asked if they wanted to activate the COVID-19 protocol but were reminded that doing so placed all of them in 15-day quarantine immediately. While the group looked at each other, they decided not to activate and most swiftly left the station. (Remember this was in the early days of the pandemic.)
Daniel and I decided to at least clean our hands and spray alcohol (sanitizer) then went to see the coffee shop. We worked normally went to eat and talked about the business and how to get prepared if he decided to move to Cordoba. As we were talking Daniel received a call from his son about what he thought of the business. They talked for a time and then Daniel told him about his experience during the bus ride. Minutes after they hung up, Daniel received a call from his daughter terrified at the prospect of him traveling with a possible COVID patient. It was then that I discovered medical history. Daniel has had a lot of diseases in life, such as cancer, and problems in his lungs. His daughter in tears asked him to return home to begin quarantine. Then, as is normal for any sacred child, she scolded him. He had a bit of a sheepish look as they hung up with each other.
Unfortunately, Daniel was now scared of having COVID-19 and was scared for me as well. However, I wasn’t too worried, instead, I tried to help him to stay calm. (My thought at that moment was that, we are in the hands of the lord, what is done, is done, and we shouldn't panic.) Instead, we headed to the bus station to get Daniel home with his family.
At that moment, something gave me a boldness I have never experienced before. Not just because I was concerned about my life, but because I became worried about Daniel. I told him not to be worried about me because in recent years I had discovered my faith and that Jesus changed my life.
On our way to the bus station, we talked a lot about my experiences and the faith I now had. When we arrived at the station, I suddenly knew what to say and how to say it. Looking square at him, I told him, “brother if I don’t tell you this and something happens to you, I will feel horrible and repentant.” We talked about his understanding of death and what’s next for us when we leave this world. For the most part, he was silent. Then I simply asked him, “do you know that Jesus came to die for us and give us eternal life? He came to save us all. An amazing life exists after death for all for those who accept him.” We talked about this life and his fears as we waited for the bus to come. Then I asked him, “Would you like to accept Jesus as your savior?” Looking at me, perhaps seeking deception or perhaps pondering the future, he straightened and answered, “Why not!” Together we walked through prayer, asking Jesus to forgive his sins and to accept Him as his savior, entrusting ourselves to Jesus' care. As we prayed something amazing occurred. I could see his face relax, he was not worried anymore. He left with a smile on his face and joy in his heart that wasn’t there before. When I got back home he called to tell me that everything was ok, “thanks be to God,” he added.
This day he is home with his family until this situation passes. We talk on occasion and I am now sending him links online to sermons along with other video messages or bible verses, helping Daniel know more about Jesus and strengthening his faith.
Here in Argentina thanks to the Lord, COVID-19 has not attacked as harshly as elsewhere. The government, like many other places, has suspended many activities and events such as concerts, night clubs, schools, and unfortunately, churches. However, we remain hopeful, and our pastors and churches have made adaptions. Bible studies and sermons are online and music fills our homes. What I have learned, however, is that Jesus is always with us, and if we are faithful and open to him, he will use us in amazing ways to bring hope to people around us. He gave me words to say that changed Daniel's life, and mine as well. I thank God for the experience.
(Lautaro Vitale is originally from Buenos Aries but currently lives Cordoba, Argentina, where he takes care of several of his family's businesses. Renting out spaces in buildings to many entrepreneurs and business owners. He attends and serves in the Brethren Church, Nueva Vida in Cordoba, and also served as a translator for Scott Soden and Tom Schiefer during their trip in September 2019. He developed a great rapport and relationship with several of our South American partners and enjoyed spending time learning and laughing with Juan Carlos Poletti (Paraguay) Carlos Quiroga (Chile) as well. An amazing young man, Lautaro continues to develop his faith walk and relationship with Christ and helps out in the church wherever needed.)