Mexican Churches React to Flu With Prayer

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The influenza A virus that some have called Swine Flu broke out in Mexico and is spreading to other countries.

While deaths are still relatively low, fears that the outbreak could become a pandemic has global health officials on edge.

The World Health Organization is responsible for coordinating the global response to this flu outbreak.

It recently raised its alert level from four to five meaning they believe a worldwide pandemic is imminent.
"Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world," Margaret Chan World Health Organization said.

So far nine countries are dealing with outbreaks.

The bug is believed to have originated in Mexico where the country's president has now urged people to stay in their homes in an effort to combat the virus.

It is now being referred to as influenza A to avoid confusion over the damage posed by pigs.

In Egypt, for example, health officials began slaughtering pigs to stop the spread of the disease, angering Christian farmers who raise the animals for income.

The World Health Organization is urging countries to keep their borders open but some countries have suspended flights from Mexico.

Mexico's tourism industry is being affected with numerous cancellations to vacation hot spots like Cancun and Cozumel.

Mexico is also a popular destination for U.S. missions trips.

Some churches have canceled their plans, but Clint Bokelman of Adventure in Missions says missions teams from the 56 churches that his group is helping send are still planning to go.

"We have not had any churches to date that have cancelled," he said. "We believe that we are following the Lord into some of these fields and we want to come and we want to be light in a dark place which I believe is exactly what God commanded us to do and to be."

AIM monitors the situation closely through contact with the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and Mexican officials.

Health professionals are also on hand to help if anyone becomes sick.

While it is necessary to take precautions, Bokelmans says it is also important to trust God.

"We've seen where the government has been limited. Local authorities have been limited where policies and bureaucracies have been limited in being able to quell any kind of disease, any kind of violence or any kind of disruption," he said. "We've seen the power of the gospel come in and flex its muscle and bring peace and bring life and light into these situations."

Mexico's churches have been affected by the crisis.

Reports say that 98 percent of all churches in Mexico City have cancelled their meetings but some pastors believe it is more important to keep their doors open.

"I believe this is when we most need to get together and meet to support each other in prayer for their needs, for their fears, for their problems," Nesto Ramirez United Family Church said.

Services are held using recommended precautions: such as wearing surgical masks and no greetings with personal contact like a handshake or kiss.

Believers hope an attitude of faith and help may help counter the climate of fear.

Roberto Islas of House of Restoration said they are praying in the crisis.

"During the activities of the church and especially in our main service we'll spend some time praying for this situation," he said. "We will be praying for the church itself. Times of crisis are the best times of opportunity to see the power of God, but also to let the Lord be known."


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