Jersey City Spanish Member Ensures Work Goes On
Story by Anthony Baffi
While tending to her father in the hospital, Reina Zapata-Mendez, a member of the Jersey City Spanish church and volunteer for the New Jersey Conference as the Master Guide state coordinator, heard the news that the coronavirus had reached the United States via a cruise ship docked not too far from the hospital. Zapata-Mendez, and the rest of the world, could not imagine the whirlwind that was about to hit in the upcoming weeks.
As time passed, news reports talked about how the viral cases were increasing in the New York and New Jersey areas. Posters started going up, alerting people to handwash and disinfect surfaces. Zapata-Mendez’s job working at an airport did not make things easier. As people continued to enter the U.S. from other countries, co-workers were concerned about the level of contamination they may be unknowingly exposed to. Zapata-Mendez’s father’s care center was soon closed to visitors.
As the world began to “shut down,” pastors and church leaders scrambled to get their services online. The focus turned to bringing their congregations together via livestream. The conference needed virtual Children’s Ministries leaders, and Zapata-Mendez felt like she had to do something to honor everything her parents instilled in her as a young child. After putting together a team of willing Master Guides from around the New Jersey Conference, the online Children’s Sabbath School via Zoom was put into motion.
With other instructors, Zapata-Mendez ran a four-room children’s Sabbath School ministry in the morning and a five-room club ministry in the afternoon, teaching Discovery, Adventurer and Pathfinder awards and honors, as well as Staff Leadership Training, including Master Guide candidate training.
Not long after she began the online Sabbath School ministry, Zapata-Mendez’s parents, Raúl and Evangelina Zapata, who had recently celebrated their 50th anniversary (pictured), both passed away. With funeral services being limited to just 10 people during the shutdown, Zapata-Mendez held a virtual wake service on Zoom. Without missing a beat, the Zoom classes continued for the children. People often wondered what gave Zapata-Mendez the strength to go on.
“Knowing full well that the message was ingrained in me as a young child, day in and day out, it is my responsibility to share this experience with them,” she says. “I know with certainty that God is coming soon, if not in my lifetime, in theirs (referring to children today), for as the signs are coming true, signs that I have learned at home through Sabbath School and at church through club ministries, it is more important now than ever that they, too, have this message ingrained in them.”