Summertime in San Ignacio

Summertime in San Ignacio

As we get closer to the end of July, we are also coming to our one year mark here in Belize! I realize that most of my updates tell you how long we’ve been in the country, but I feel like this is the big one. One year is the one we’ve been waiting for! The reason one year is so important for the two of us is because when we officially hit that mark (August 2) I will be allowed to apply for my permanent residency! What this means (even though I probably won’t be approved for a few years) is that I, like David, will have more stability in the country to stay indefinitely as an actual resident. But it also means that we will be able to travel more freely in and out of the country. For those of you who don’t know, just to apply for residency you are not allowed to have left the country for more than a specific number of days in the span of a year. Once I’ve applied and sat through my interviews I’ll be allowed to travel more (which is good for reasons I’ll get to in a little bit). So anyway, what this means (our coming to this one year mark), is that we are starting to prepare tons of paperwork, get medical exams, and background checks. It’s sort of a stressful hassle, but it will be well worth it when we’ve finished the process in just a few weeks. Please be praying for us as we prepare all of the different requirements! Please also pray that we don’t miss/mess-up any of the steps as Immigration can be incredibly picky!

While that tells you a little bit about our immediate future, let me tell you about what has been going on this summer! David and I were blessed to be able to attend St. Barnabas, St. Hilda’s, and St. Andrew’s school graduations. It was great to see kids that I’ve really gotten to know in the past year, and David has watched grow up, graduate and get ready to start high school. Here in Belize it is not a requirement that kids attend high school, so it was a lot of fun seeing the look of accomplishment and excitement in these kids eyes as they finished this huge milestone and prepared to start the next one.

With school out for the next couple of months we are on a break from chapel services and strict school schedules. Youth choir takes a break for the summer, but piano lessons continue (I’m even continuing to get new students!). Yet, with school being out it also means that it is a little harder to recognize which children I know from the three schools we work with (as they are no longer wearing uniforms). Thankfully, kids here are much better at recognizing me, and a “Hi Miss Mary Beth” lets me know that I really do know the kid and I’m not just creepily staring at children as I try and figure out where I know them from! David is much better with names and faces!

The first week of summer vacation here St. Andrew’s held our Vacation Bible School (VBS). Our director of children’s ministries Ms. Perla Gonzalez, with Jordan Paris, worked together to throw an (almost) entirely Belizean lead VBS, with the theme of The Great Commission! Now, I say “entirely Belizean” because this was actually completely done with volunteers from and for St. Andrew’s Church. In the past for many years teams came from the States to throw VBS weeks for kids here, but just a couple years ago a team came from Christ Church (Savannah) and taught leaders and volunteers from church how to run our own VBS. And I have to say, it was a great success! Each day, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 to 11:30 AM we had between 36 and 46 kids show up to learn about Jesus’ call on each of our lives to “GO!” and make disciples. The kids were separated into three groups (Messengers, Fishermen, and Sheep) and rotated between the different workshops (Praise and Worship, Bible stories, Crafts, and Sports) throughout the day. While the plan had been to separate everyone by age, we had so many itty-bitties that the Messengers and Fishermen had some little ones, and the Sheep were entirely 5-7 year olds. Some many cute kids!

This really was a time for outreach for our church. Not only did the many of the kids come from different schools and churches, but we also had a variety of volunteers that really worked together to pull off a fantastic week of worship and workshops! While each day had the same basic format (with the kids rotating through the workshops), our final day consisted mainly of Praise and Worship and then a couple hours of Sports. One of my favorite moments with the kids was in that last day. We took the Sheep (the itty-bitties) and set them up to play water balloon games. One little boy, maybe 5 years old, let us know that his mom said he wasn’t allowed to get wet. We said that was fine and he could just sit off to the side and watch. Well, the little boy thought for a second, and then very sincerely looked up and said, “well it’ll probably be ok because my mom isn’t here …” Ms. Perla and I about died laughing! Needless to say we still had him sit out that game! At the end of that last day, after we sent the kids home, all of us volunteers were able to sit and eat lunch together, play football, and then have a very fast water balloon fight. While I did not join the water balloon fight, I did get soaked when some of the girls poured a bucket of water over my head! Overall, I think this year’s VBS here at St. Andrew’s went very well!

The same week that we had VBS, I started a Young Ladies’ Bible Study here in our house for high school girls. We decided to make it nice and official/fancy with invitations made out to each girl, and at the same time keep it comfy by having it on our amazingly fluffy couches with some kind of nice snack at the end (so far we have had chocolate cookies and frozen bananas with peanut butter and chocolate). For the summer we are meeting once a week for an hour in the middle of the day and studying through the book of James. I am loving teaching this Bible study! Pretty much none of these girls have attended a Bible study before and it is a lot of fun helping teach these girls how to really study the Bible. It is also fun (and challenging) to then answer the many questions that have started coming up in our studies. But I love that there are questions! Last week we went twenty minutes over just with questions! It has also been a good learning opportunity for me as I have never run a Bible study myself and have had to spend many hours studying the chapters, praying, reading Bible commentaries and study guides, as well as pestering David. I’m really looking forward to seeing what God has in store for this group as we go through His Word together. Before we break for a snack each week we go around and share prayer requests to then pray for each other before we leave. I think this group has the potential of really growing together in Christ and becoming a more tightly knit group. Please be praying for me and these girls as we study together, and work to better understand God and His call on our life as He reveals Himself in Scripture.

Last week, this week, and the following week we have seminarians from Codrington College in Barbados here with us in Belize. The three students are rotating between Belize City, Dangriga, and here in San Ignacio to shadow the priests in those respective areas and learn about the different ministries. We’ve had one seminarian finish his time with us, and we are spending this week with another one, before meeting the last one next week. I am loving this time getting to know these different students, and hearing their stories of how God called them into ministry.

This is also our last week with our SAMS intern Jordan before she heads back to the States. Today she arranged to take about eight kids from St. Hilda’s as well as some adults to the Belize Zoo as a fun summer activity. The kids had so much fun looking at all the animals! I think the cutest moment was when I said “the babies (referring to the littlest kids) are tired” and the little four year old girl looked at me very seriously and said, “no, the babies are hungry!”. It ended up being a very successful trip! We’ve really enjoyed having Jordan here working with us this summer! Please pray for her as she prepares to return home next week and as she transitions back to life in the States.

Let’s see, as I prepare to wrap up this update I did say I would mention why it will be nice to be able to travel more freely. My sister, who came down and visited us last Christmas, got engaged on the 4th of July! She and her fiancé will be getting married in November! I’m very excited to meet her fiancé and to be a part of this new step in their lives! (I know, lots of exclamation points). To add at least one more, in just a couple weeks (more or less) my brother and his lovely wife will be having their first kid! So many wonderful things happening right now! Please be praying for both my sister and brother, and their growing families!

All right, I should probably finish this update before it gets too long. I would also like to ask that you continue to pray for our ministry here in Belize. With many important things coming up, and going on, we could always use more prayer. Also, as we do come up on the one year mark here in San Ignacio we have to continue looking and planning for our financial support (so that we can continue to serve here long term). As many of you know, we came to Belize without being fully funded (with the plan of continuing to raise support long distance). While we have gotten new pledges of financial giving since we moved here, and we are very grateful for all of them, we are still not at the support level we need to keep things in the black. I would ask that you pray and consider financially supporting David’s and my ministry here in Belize. I personally feel most connected in ministry with the kids (youth choir, youth group, Bible study, piano lessons, chapel services), and we are really seeing God work in so many ways! David’s ministry with the kids, as well as the many church services, counseling, preaching/teaching, visiting parishioners, and the many other ministry opportunities that come just from being the priest of so many churches is really reaching people with God’s word and love. If you want to be part of this ministry (even from far away!) please not only join us in prayer (we can never have enough!), but please also consider supporting us financially. Thank you to everyone who prays for us, supports us, and sends us encouraging notes! We love and appreciate all of you! And thank you for making it to the end of a rather long and rambling update! =]

Ministry in the Rain

The rain is finally starting!

March, April, and May are said to be the hottest months here in Belize and that has definitely proven to be true. But it’s interesting because, while there are moments almost everyday where I feel like I’m melting, at the same time I really do think I’ve adjusted to the heat. While I wouldn’t call the low 90s a cool day, it would go on my list as a not so hot day either. The past three days we’ve consistently had afternoon thunderstorms and I think (at least for now) I can safely say I won’t get tired of rain. Gusts of cool air, house shaking thunder, and dark skies are making for some pretty pleasant days.

As a side-note, while the rain makes for pleasant days, it also makes for more bugs. I must say that my spider killing skills are growing (I don’t have to call for David as often), and I’m becoming quite the ninja killing mosquitos, but my cockroach killing skills are abysmal. We have now had three GIGANTIC cockroaches in our bedroom/bathroom, and each one has left me cowering in a corner calling David to come smash it to oblivion. Hopefully this is not a case of “practice makes perfect.” As far as finding these things in the house, I’d rather it be so rare that I continue being awful.

Well we have now been here for 10 months! Sometimes it feels like time has flown by and other times it feels like we have been in Belize for years. I think I’m really starting to get used to life here. We have settled into our ministry routines at this point and I’ve even started to make time to experiment in the kitchen. Turns out I love to cook! As some of you may know, David loves to eat beans. For the past year and a half of our marriage we have had some version of beans almost everyday, but the past couple of months I’ve started branching out a bit with baking and a little more variety in dinners (don’t worry, he still gets beans!). But by experimenting more with food I have also gotten a better idea of what it’s like to go shopping here in San Ignacio. Back in the States we would make a list of ingredients and then just run to Albertsons or something to get everything (for the most part). Here, while it takes much longer to buy everything, it’s also much more fun! My typical shopping will include, going to the market for all the produce, cross the river to get any chicken from the chicken store, pick up any canned goods from the Chinese-run dry-goods store, come back across the river to by any other meat or cheese from the meat market in the center of town, and then head up the hill to the masa shack to pick up queso blanco and masa, before heading home. It’s a rather exhausting process, but it’s fun knowing where to shop and feeling comfortable getting around town!

As far as ministry, our biggest new news this week is the arrival of a SAMS missionary bridger who will be working with us for the next two months! Jordan Paris is an education major from Texas and will primarily be working with kids in the schools and at church. One of the main areas she is focusing on is St. Hilda’s school in Georgeville. She’ll be volunteering at the school this last month of the semester as she builds relationships with the kids and teachers, then she will be helping develop and lead the VBS in the village in July! We’re hoping that as she gets to know the kids during the semester they will become excited/encouraged to come back in the summer for VBS. Once school lets out it’s harder to keep the momentum up through the summer, so Jordan’s ministry in the village is especially beneficial! She will also be working here in San Ignacio on St. Andrew’s upcoming VBS this summer, as well as helping develop a more extensive Confirmation class program. Besides being a very useful/helpful part of our ministry team here in Cayo, she is also extremely friendly and fun to have around! We are very excited to be working with her this Summer!

I should also update you on my youth choir! This semester has seen the youth choir grow to a solid 13 kids who have consistently come to rehearsals. Besides becoming more confident singers in a group, they have also been able to learn songs quicker, and even picked up some more complicated pieces. As a way of showcasing all of their hard work, last Saturday we had an almost traditional Lessons and Carols service at St. Andrew’s Church. Where that type of service is normally held in the Advent season with scripture readings and songs telling the story of the coming of Jesus, we decided to use the same structure but change the readings to focus on Jesus’ life from Easter to Pentecost. We had 9 readings that the youth choir lead, followed by special pieces from the choir, and songs that we sing at school chapel for the congregation. The kids did such a good job! We finished off the evening with a youth group lead bake-sale (which basically means really good cupcakes, cheese dip, and flan! …you all know I love food!). It’s hard to believe we’re already wrapping up another semester of choir. We just had our last official choir “rehearsal” for the semester, which was really just a time of games and food. I spent the day making cookies (because it always makes sense to run your oven when through the hottest parts of the day), cheese dip, and punch, before braving the coming rain storm to head over to the party. It was a fun way to wrap up the choir season, talk over a couple performance opportunities for the summer, and get people excited for Christmas music next semester. As whole I’m very excited about the potential this choir is continuing to show and I’m already looking forward to the next semester!

Pentecost was another big day here! Besides having lots of people come for worship at both St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s, we introduced the newest Christian into St. Andrew’s through the Sacrament of Baptism. This very cute little boy also managed to sleep through almost the whole baptism, before waking up by the “and the Holy Ghost” part (he was no longer impressed with having water poured over his head). After that service we headed over to St. Hilda’s. While there were no baptisms at that church the Standard I class did have a couple song presentations to commemorate our celebration of Pentecost! We finished off the day by heading to Belize City where David was invited to be the guest preacher at All Saint’s Church for their Confirmation service. They had 17 kids getting confirmed! It was amazing seeing so many young people pursuing a closer relationship with God!

The St. Andrew’s Youth Group is continuing to meet every Saturday evening, and while it’s a little smaller this close to the end of the semester, we’re looking forward to getting some activities going throughout the summer to keep the kids involved. Four of our youth will be attending a leadership focused youth retreat at the end of this month. A group from the States is bringing 25 of their youth and then 25 youth from the Anglican church here in Belize will be joining them for a week of worship and leadership training. We are looking forward to seeing both what they take away from this retreat and what they are able to contribute to the group!

Let’s see, one of the other new things that has started up in the last couple weeks is a different approach to pastoral visits. Normally, David and I will spend about three nights a week visiting people throughout the parish. In an effort to reach more people and increase church fellowship/outreach we have started making visits while taking other people from the church with us. The first visits started with the churchs Fellowship Chairperson (a good friend of ours) coming with us as we visited families. Then at each house the families were asked when they would have an evening free to join us as we visited more families. This is not only strengthening the sense of community in the church, but it is also helping get multiple people to reach out in fellowship and ministry throughout the church. 

Before I wrap it up here I want to give you a quick update on Hemry (the young boy with leukemia). He has been continuing to spend most of his time in Merida receiving chemo therapy and the doctors are very pleased with his progress. Honestly, it is clear this little boy is covered in prayers! Out of all the children in his ward, he is responding the best, his platelets are high, he has lots of energy, and the side effects to the medication have decreased. While he still has a ways to go, and it continues to be rough for him and his family, God is absolutely watching over this little boy. Thank you so much for your prayers! We have been able to visit him on few days that he has been back in Belize and he continues to be his cute/fun-loving little self! In fact one of the times we went to visit him we brought a foam-noodle squirt gun, and let me tell you, you would have no idea he was sick with the way he was running around squirting all the chickens, goats, and cats (even when sick, boys will be boys!). So again, thank you for your continued prayers for Hemry. We really love that little boy!

And thank you for your continued prayers and financial support for David and me! Some days are rough, but we are continuing to see God work here in Belize and praying for Him to use us to further His kingdom.

Ministry Blooms

At the moment, it is quiet. Finally. December felt like a sprint to Christmas. After Christmas it seemed like a mere hop-skip-and-a-jump until the whirlwind of Ash Wednesday. The marathon of Lent eventually gave way to the wrestling mat of Holy Week, and now, after a joyous Easter Sunday, I am collapsed here in our living room. Mary Beth is in the next room, sick at the moment with a stomach bug we’ve both picked up, she worse than I. At nights the darkness is saturated with noise from the yearly fair taking place a few blocks from the Rectory: incessant bass and random air horns announcing far and wide that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, and in the quiet of the noonday sun, I am able to take a step back and reflect, and wish you all a Happy Easter from me and mine!

So, to answer the question that’s probably on your mind, how have things been going for us? There is much to tell, and much to ask you to pray about. I may not be able to relay the juice of our doings and happenings like Mary Beth is able (and as she has this past NovemberDecember, February, and March), but even if my update’s all pulp I hope to leave with you a definite impression of where we’ve been and where we hope to go in the coming weeks and months.

 

On many fronts in ministry, things have really been moving along quickly. Last December we applied for licenses for ten new lay ministers for our two churches in addition to the four already serving: licenses for five new catechists to help with children’s ministry and preparation for baptism and confirmation, and licenses for five new lay readers to assist in worship in various capacities. This past Thursday those licenses were granted by Bishop Wright (N.B. the new website is still in development) and the Diocesan Commission on Ministry, and we’re excited to begin a new phase of ministry at St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s as we deploy them into action in the coming weeks and months. I am thrilled, in part because eight of these ten new lay ministers are under the age of 35, and in part because of my hope that they will help usher in a new emphasis on radical discipleship, outreach, and evangelism. Please pray that God will equip, empower, and inspire these new leaders of our little churches!

 

Also, as a side note: Mary Beth is one of those new lay ministers who just got licensed by the Bishop to serve! She was licensed for three areas: 1) to work in the schools as a lay youth chaplain, 2) to lead Morning and Evening Prayer as a lay reader, and 3) to administer the chalice at Holy Communion as situations may require it. She is insistent that her primary contribution in the life of the church is related to music, but music is taking her in all kinds of directions, and I am excited to see how God will continue to use her wherever, whenever, and however he wills!

 

As we license new lay ministers for worship, however, we are also in sore need of other kinds of leaders for our churches as well. At the beginning of this year we were unable to fill the Church Committee (i.e. Vestry) position of Outreach for St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s, despite some pleading from their concerned priest-in-charge at the Annual General Meeting. A congregation member has been serving informally as our head of Outreach since then, but she informed yesterday that her health is not allowing her to continue on in that capacity. Similarly, at the beginning of the year we had brought on a new Treasurer for St. Andrew’s, but due to changes in his employment he had to resign a few weeks ago. We are trying desperately to find new people to step up and take responsibility in these vital areas of the church. As is often the case on the ground here, only a few want to help out, and absolutely no one wants to be the individual responsible. Please pray that God would raise up new leadership to guide all of God’s people here to take on the full scope of ministry entrusted to us together as the church.

 

On a positive note, our two churches seem to be bouncing back from the relative instability of these past few years, punctuated by my prolonged absences. St. Hilda’s especially has been growing considerably, and God has not only brought two new families into membership and consistent attendance, but he has also been bringing people back to church who had left a while back! Please pray that the momentum that has been happening at St. Hilda’s will not only continue there, but also spread to our larger parish congregation of St. Andrew’s where growth has been happening, but remains a bit sluggish.

 

Still, taking St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s together, not only has our attendance been on the increase at our Christmas, New Years’, Ash Wednesday, and Holy Week services, but First Quarter attendance figures have recovered from the low point that they hit last year when I was gone. We thank God for everyone whom he has been bringing to our churches: each person who comes is a gift that we treasure, and we can’t wait to see what he will be doing in their lives! Please pray that God would continue to build up our churches and increase commitment: that those who are frequent attenders would become volunteers, that those who are infrequent attenders would become frequent, and that on top of everything else that he would give us encounters with total strangers that would bring them into the fellowship of Christ’s Body.

 

It was to this end that last February we helped begin a new English-language service at one of the Hispanic missions in our twin towns. One of our senior lay ministers has been leading a service of Evensong and preaching through the epistle to the Galatians, while Mary Beth and I have been helping to lead the music. Our hope is to recruit new people to help lead music over the next few months, and then do the same thing somewhere else, either in English or in Spanish, in another location. The service is slowly catching on, although for the last few weeks those attending have been mature believers from St. Andrew’s who desire more opportunity to worship the Lord. This is not a bad thing, though our overall goals for Evensong are wider and more evangelistic. Please pray that God would continue to grow, reproduce, and direct this new service, and continue to equip and empower the lay ministry team that is overseeing it!

 

Something similar could be said about our ventures in youth ministry at St. Andrew’s. Our youth group is going well, although since we started doing more worship at our weekly gatherings, we have seen some drop-off in young people casually showing up. Nevertheless, we are excited about the regulars that we have coming (around a dozen), and we cannot wait to see what God continues to do in their lives! Back in February we held a youth retreat jointly between four churches: St. Andrew’s, St. Hilda’s, La Anunciación and Santa Cruz, and it went really well! We are so grateful for all the young people that God has put into our lives and churches, and we ask you to pray that God would firmly root and establish them in the Gospel and in his Church, equipping and empowering them not only for ministry in the future but for service in the present.

Mary Beth has also been working hard with her youth choir, which has moved from having rehearsals every other week to rehearsing every week. The kids are enthusiastic (almost, at times overwhelmingly exuberant) and they are starting to sound really good! While she is inviting them to perform the occasional anthem at church, she is looking for a really nice opportunity have them sing an entire cantata or concert of some kind in the spring. When we have a date, we will let you know so you can be praying and, perhaps, even tune in!

 

The amount of proverbial food on my plate has also expanded a little since we first came back to Belize now almost nine months ago. Back in October at our Diocesan Synod I was elected to serve on the Diocesan Commission on Ministry, the executive arm of the Diocese that discerns and advises the Bishop on issues related to ministry, clergy, ordination, and lay leadership throughout our churches here. This has until now involved a meeting or two each month, sometimes a Sunday away from St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s as we travel around the country and visit with churches that need the Commission’s attention. However a few weeks ago, I was asked by the Bishop and the Commission to serve as one of two “examining chaplains” in the Diocese; that is, I am to help test candidates for ministry and discern their level of (mostly theological) preparedness for ordination. It is a large responsibility, and we already have two postulants before us to examine and guide through additional theological preparation. I ask that you please keep us in your prayers as we put together our rubrics, ask these tough questions, and make our recommendations with regard to these postulants and to others who may come in the future.

There is so much more to say about ministry at our churches, but I had better get down to telling you about how Mary Beth and I are doing personally. We have been sick a lot recently … a lot. If it’s not a cold, it’s the flu, and if it’s not the flu, it’s a fall or a sprain. These ailments are made more uncomfortable as the seasonal hot-and-dry season has finally moved into our neighborhood, and smoke and dust are everywhere these days. We have had incessant electrical difficulties with our truck (new battery, new alternator, two new regulators, etc.) and plumbing problems with our bathroom. But in the middle of it all, these have been months of drawing close to God and to one another, especially this past Lent. We are doing well, and we really are enjoying life and ministry.

 

And for me personally, it is especially exciting to watch Mary Beth growing into her substantial and weighty ways of serving in a place where I had been for years without her. I love watching her connect, sometimes slowly but always deeply, with the people we serve and serve with, and especially with the children and youth who look up to her and admire her. I love the transparent humanity and fresh perspective that she brings to our pastoral visits and casual encounters with folks here. I love that her music showers its beauty about our home, our church, our youth, our community. I love that she is here, and I am so grateful that we are here together in ministry.

And soon Mary Beth will be mentoring someone else: Bridger (medium-term missionary) Jordan Paris! Jordan is set to be an intern serving with our churches and schools throughout June and July. We are so excited that she will be coming to work with us during those months, and I am excited to see God use my wife in new and powerful ways as well. We can’t wait for her to come and serve with us! Please keep Jordan in your prayers as she gets ready for the transition to Belize!

At this point I’ve probably written more than I need to. Mary Beth will giving her own update soon enough, but until then I would ask that you keep us in your fervent prayers. Thank you for your prayers, for your gifts, for your encouragement, and for your faithfulness. May God richly bless you!

 
Two Very Special Visits

Two Very Special Visits

So instead of writing a regular update today I decided to go a different route and tell you what it’s like visiting different people’s houses every week … Which means a few less pictures, sorry! I was talking to a friend just last week about how different it is going to someone’s house here verses in the States. For instance, when I was living in California and wanted to go over and see a friend I would call and we would setup a day and time to see each other. Here in Belize we visit people three days a week in the afternoon and evenings. All it takes to go see someone is to show up at their house, shout, “Good evening,” and then we are typically invited in to visit with the family. Sometimes we do call ahead and make sure the family will be home in the evening, but most of the time it’s more spur of the moment. I think that is one of the qualities of Belize that I’ve come to really appreciate. People here are readily welcoming and happy to have us come visit.

I’m going to tell you about two different visits we have done recently that have stuck out to me.

A few weeks ago we went to Georgeville just to walk around and see who we ran into for visits. As we were talking to one gentleman these two boys from St. Hilda’s school ran up, all excited, and asked us to come to their house to visit their mother. We were happy to go and so they led us back along the path to their house, running ahead to hide behind bushes, shouting for us to keep up, and finally dashing up the steps to their home shouting to their mother that, “Father David is here!!” We knew the boys already, just from school, but we had never gone to visit their home. Their mom was happy to have us come in and visit with her, but her excitement was nothing compared to the boys. In pretty much every home we visit I enjoy talking with the family and getting to know people better, but what made this home stand out to me were these two boys. Right when we came into their home they played hosts. We were talking to their mother and one boy ran up and asked if we liked coffee (he’s maybe 9 years old), and then he ran back into the kitchen to try and make some. He would then run back out with a can of food that he was trying to open so we could eat. As he was out talking to us we watched as his little brother snuck back into the kitchen, grabbed a large spoonful of sugar and stuffed it into his mouth before running back out to keep asking us questions. These kids were excellent hosts, and extremely adorable … as well as having excess amounts of energy! Their mother, a very friendly woman, told us how much her sons loved the chapel services at school and how they actually remembered the different subjects and would come home talking about them with her. Her son then ran out with his Bible and wanted to read one of the passages David had covered weeks before in chapel. The boys wanted us to pray with them, read more Bible stories, and sing songs from church. They did not want us to leave! After we had prayed and said goodnight to everyone one of the boys came up to me asked me, “Can you sing me that one song from church that goes something something something something something something and sounds really pretty?” I laughed and said, “I’m sorry, I’m not sure which one that is.” To which he replied, “Just sing every beautiful song you know from church really fast.” It was so cute!  Sadly I did not have time to sing him every pretty song I knew as it was now well past sunset and time to go. It was fun to unexpectedly visit a family’s home we had never been to that not only had really cute kids, but a family where the kids primarily wanted to talk about things they learned in chapel. This visit was one of those encouraging ones where I really felt like we were getting to know these people and making a difference in the little boys’ lives.

Now every week we go on lots of visits, with some being good and some being really hard. The visit I just told you about was fun and easy. We got to know the family better and spend time with these kids outside of the school setting. But this past week has been one with very hard visits. We have visited a few people this week with very sick children. I didn’t know you could love kids you just met so quickly, but this week proved that you could! I’m just going to tell you about one of the boys today, but please pray for both.

Last week we were asked to go to Cristo Rey Village and visit a sick little boy from St. Andrew’s school. We hadn’t met the family before, but we went to their house right away to pray for him. When we got there the little boy was curled up on the couch and clearly very sick. As David talked with the parents I started to make silly faces at the boy. His fever would come and go in the evenings and as it started to fade he began making faces back at me. Eventually he got up and came over to me and we played for the rest of the evening. This kid is a pro at making silly faces. He would make one and then instruct me to copy him exactly, to which I apparently did not do correctly because he would repeat it over and over saying I still didn’t have it quite right! He then went back to his room and grabbed his book of truck stickers and then proceeded to plaster my body with lots of stickers. He told us all about how he missed school and so he decided to throw a party the next day (to the “oh reallys” of his parents) so we and all his school friends could come and eat lots of food and then spend the night in the living room. He then informed us that we would of course all have to sweep the house after as it wouldn’t be fair for his mother to clean at his party! He was full of ideas and plans to see all his friends again soon. He didn’t want us to leave ever and kept making sure we knew not to leave when he would leave the room for a minute. At the end of the evening when we were going to pray for him David anointed his head and when his mom went to brush his hair back after the boy panicked and said, “Don’t touch! That is where the special stuff is!” It was very important to him! This little boy won my heart so quickly!

After a couple days we went back to visit the boy and his family again. Right when we walked in the door, after giving us big hugs, he looked at me and said, “I know what you want!” He then ran out of the room to get his stickers and cover me again! After talking and playing for awhile the boy then informed everyone that he was going to marry me. David turned to him and said, “I’m sorry but she’s already married to me!” This did not convince the kid. He said he was going to build me a house and plant lots of flowers around it so we could get married. David informed him that those were fighting words, to which he laughed and then replied very seriously to me, “If you don’t marry me I’m going to take back all the stickers!” A very serious threat! Well, he finally settled with marrying our daughter if he couldn’t have me. Ha! He was so funny!

The next time we visited he immediately gave me a sticker (I think that’s a thing now), and we continued playing a talking for the hour or so that we were at their house. He even called us yesterday to say goodbye before going off to the doctors. While we could barely understand him on the phone, (he’s a rapid speaker!) it was a very cute gesture!

It’s hard telling you about that last little boy. While I’ve only known him for a week and half so far, he’s already, as David calls him my “little buddy.” It’s hard telling you about him because while I had so much fun visiting with him I know he is very sick: acute leukemia at eight years old. While I would play with stickers, make silly faces, and run around the house, David would sit with his parents and discuss his sickness, treatment, side effects, doctors, and every hard and horrible detail of what’s going on with this little boy. I got to grow attached to a very lively little boy full of stories and games, who, other than a few moments of clear sickness or pain during our visits, was otherwise ignorant of what lies ahead of him. David got to sit and comfort grieving scared parents and look over test results.

It’s hard to tell you about this. It’s hard because if I just left out the leukemia part it would look like another story of a cute little boy and an otherwise good visit with a very friendly family. But sometimes the visits we make here are hard. It’s never, ever easy to see sick children. I’ve been so angry this week at the sickness all around us. How incredibly unfair it seems to see children suffer. I already said I’m only telling you about one sick boy, but this has been a week of life threatening sickness with lots of people here in town. I don’t know why these things happen, but I do know God is still in control. We’ve already seen answers to prayers just this week with my “little buddy” getting admitted to chemotherapy faster than expected! While it has been really hard to love these families so quickly and then see them hurting, I’m happy God put us in a place where we can get to know them, pray for them, and minister to them in these difficult times.

So that’s just quick look at what our visits are like here in Belize. Sometimes our visits are just happy and encouraging, like the first one, and sometimes we visit families that we instantly love and still grieve with during incredibly hard times.

Please be praying for the sick here in San Ignacio. There are three families that we visited this week who are scared and need prayers for healing and peace.

Thank you for continuing to pray for David and me too!

Here’s What We’re Doing in Belize!

Here’s What We’re Doing in Belize!

One of the wonderful things about living in Belize is the weather during this time of year. December, January, and February here have cool pleasant days and even mildly “cold” nights. We’ve been here for six months now and one of the main ways I can tell it’s been that long is my adjustment to the weather. Want to know how? When we moved here it was in the 90s and very humid. I didn’t know I could sweat so much! But now if the temperature gets down to 75 (that’s right, I said down like that’s low … ), I’ll be freezing! It’s very strange to get to this point where I’m cold in hot weather, but fun to see how I’m adjusting. Anyway, with the weather being cooler, and wetter, David and I have been sick for a month and a half. It’s hard to want to write an update when I feel like I’ve been in bed for weeks. But here we are! The first week where, other than a cough, I’m healthy!

So, now that we’ve established relatively good health, and very nice weather, I can tell you what’s going on here with our ministry!

Right after the New Year David and I had a wonderful visit from his parents. They had not been to Belize in almost three years! I loved getting to spend time with both Brian and Roberta here in our first home. I also want to point out that it’s funny how our choices for food become more varied when we have guests. For instance, I got sick the last couple days that his parents visited and David and his mom made waffles. Waffles! We bought a waffle maker during our first month here and this was the first time it was used. Needless to say, Saturday is now waffle day! Whether we were taking them to one of the many beautiful places in Belize, or just spending time together at home, it was nice to get time with family. We don’t always know how often family will be able to visit, so it’s always a treat!

Since I already told you I was sick for the past month I’m going to skip the days/weeks where I was in bed and focus on the ministry.

By mid January things started picking up again. We were back in chapel with the school kids, making our regular pastoral visits, and starting back up with music ministry.

As you know I started a youth choir last year and after a break for a couple weeks we started back up again. I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having with this group of kids. Last year we had about eight kids coming, and it was great because they were all regulars, but this year we have all of those kids coming back plus more! I have to attribute my love for these kids, and youth choir in general, from my experience in choir as a kid. I had the most amazing choir director from my home church. Mrs. Segarra taught me to sing, to praise God through music, and to love singing! Well I’m working on the same thing with these kids. Last year we focused on Christmas songs for our Lessons and Carols service and now this year I’m teaching some of my favorite choir pieces from when I was a kid. I told them that the songs were going to start getting a little harder, but they were definitely up for the challenge. We’ve started having choir every week and have even had new kids coming to check it out! Youth choir has become one the highlights of my week. And this Sunday St. Andrew’s Youth Choir is joining another choir from Spanish Lookout to help lead worship for the morning service! The kids are very excited!

One of the new ministries I’ve started this year is teaching piano. It’s been just over a year since I’ve had students and I didn’t know how much I missed it! So far I have five students that I’m teaching each week and at least that many more looking into getting keyboards so they can take lessons too. This is really exciting! Not only is all the money from the lessons designated straight for the church’s youth fund (something we’re setting up for youth group, Sunday school, and choir), but I’m also getting to know a lot of the kids and their families from school.

What else can I tell you? This Sunday we are starting an English-language service of Evensong at our sister Spanish-language church in Santa Elena. Right now all the services we do are in English, with a lot of the pastoral visits in Spanish. We are excited to start this new service not only for a new outreach opportunity, but the plan is to have one of the Lay Ministers lead the service and preach while David and I lead music. Then in a few months we’re planning on replicating the Evensong service at St. Andrew’s Church, only that time in Spanish. As we look towards planting churches in different areas of Cayo this is our first step in that direction. I’ll be sure to let you know how this new service goes!

This Saturday we are holding our first youth retreat in Selena Village. The plan was to hold it right after Christmas, but David came down with a pretty awful stomach flu and we had to postpone. Well everyone is healthy and the plans are back on!

I’m going to take a side note here and say that boys are funny. This retreat for the youth group is going to have food, games, team building, music, and worship. So out of the blue a couple days ago David came up to me with this little boy grin and said he found something he really wanted, something that we could use for the youth retreat. Slingshots. He looked so excited just to tell me about these slingshots. Don’t get me wrong, I think slingshots are fun, but I didn’t know it could get anyone this animated. Here’s how I know it’s a boy thing though; I told one of the boys from youth group that David had us pick up a couple slingshots for the retreat (sort of as an offhand statement) and without even saying anything he walked over to David and just to give him a high five. Ha! So excited to shoot stuff! This should be a fun retreat.

 So I think I’m about coming to the end here, but I’ll finish it off with a visit we just had by a team from Texas. While David and I were raising support last summer we had the privilege of visiting Church of the Incarnation in Dallas. Not only was this church absolutely gorgeous, but also the people were incredibly friendly. This church has been sending a team here to Belize twice a year for many years. When we visited their church they told us about the mission trip planned for February and asked if there was anything they could do specifically for David and me. They wanted one of the many projects they planned (they send a large team) to be helping us, particularly our house and yard. Well they offered to help cut down dead trees and paint our house. As many of you know our house used to be baby pink … definitely not one of my favorite colors. A team came on a Saturday, and even though it rained off and on all day (and multiple times that week) these people helped us paint our house a nice bright blue, as well as cutting trees that had been burned. The rain ended up being more of an issue than planned, so it took us longer than we had hoped, but with the help of people from church later in the week (when we finally got sun!) our house is almost finished! David and I are so thankful for all the help we had this week! There are so many people that helped and our house is almost done! Thank you!

I think that’s probably everything for now. Please continue to keep us in your prayers! There are many new things starting up here that will require lots of prayers, and as you now know, we’ve been sick. A lot. I’ve been told that after a year you stop getting sick so much. Half way there! Please pray for good health, all of our new ministries starting up, and continuing new financial support.

Thank you for all your prayers!