Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

I can’t believe we’re at the end of the year already! Sitting here this New Year’s Eve I can’t help thinking back over the past year and the many things that have happened in our lives. I won’t force you to reminisce the whole year with me, but let me point out a couple of the big things. In just two days David and I will celebrate our first marriage anniversary! Without getting too cheesy on you I’ll at least tell you that I love being married to my wonderful husband. He is loving, supportive, and an incredibly Godly leader. We’ve had some pretty big adventures already in this first year (some good, some bad … I seriously. hate. bats.) and we are very excited for the many years to come!! We are also two days away from having spent our first five months here in Belize! Time sure is flying!

So let me update you on the past month … it’s definitely been a busy one!

I don’t want to spend lots of time telling you about Thanksgiving, but I have to at least tell you how it came together (since it was our first one together and everything). So at first everything seemed to be timed perfectly … and then we noticed our meat thermometer was saying the turkey was done three hours early. In other words, our thermometer was broken. This meant that we had to keep taking the turkey out of the oven (which was really awkward) and then stabbing it all over trying to get the proper temp. As a side note, the skin was perfectly brown! Well when we did finally pull the turkey out for good (after many phone calls with my dad) we decided to take it out of the pan so we could see if it was actually done. Turns out it’s really hard to pick up a 21 pound (yeah it was big) very hot turkey! With four different spoons stuffed all through that bird, one wing flying off, and a fair amount of turkey grease and stuffing all over the floor, we sat down to a lovely dinner. Good food and many memories!

Once we got to December things really started to speed up!

Not only did we have a team coming down to work with us, but we were also preparing for a wedding, confirmations, Lessons and Carols, my sister coming, and Christmas!

I’ll start with the team coming from All Saints’ (Bakersfield) and the Diocese of San Joaquin. This was my first experience having a team come down to work with us and it was a very interesting and encouraging experience. For this team’s first trip they wanted to build relationships with the people in our churches. In the five days we had with the team we spent most of them visiting people in their homes and talking about their lives and the needs of the church. They also got the fun experience of push-starting our car after dinner one night! There is always an adventure in Belize! One team member even said “I got to eat a rat and I saw an iguana. This is great!”.

For me, having this team come was very encouraging. Having a group come and work alongside us, see just a few of the things we do everyday, and get to know the people we have a chance to serve with was truly an uplifting experience. I loved both getting to know this group, who is planning on coming back, and also watching them get to know the people here in Belize! David and I love having teams come down to work with us and the churches here! If you want to come, please do!

The weekend after the team came David and I, a long with another SAMS missionary who had been staying with us for a few days, were able to participate in the Sunday church service at the Anglican Cathedral for the dedication of the new Spanish translation of the Book of Common Prayer (CPWI). This was a very important service and big step for ministry here in Belize. The demographic of people keeps changing here and there is definitely a need for more Anglican Spanish churches. With so many people coming in who speak Spanish there is a huge mission field right here with a need for more Spanish churches. We are blessed to have one Spanish church and two missions in our area that are run by wonderful priests! And now they have this new Spanish Prayer book to use in their services. One of the things we will be working to do here in the new year is to start an english evening prayer service in one of the Spanish Anglican churches across the river and then have a Spanish evening prayer service here at St. Andrew’s. As the country progresses there is an increasing need to integrate Spanish into our services to reach all of God’s people. And now with these prayer books, and the Bishop’s encouragement, we can start connecting more with the community around us.

I don’t want to go completely off track, but I did want to tell you that at the cathedral service for the prayer book I actually played the organ! Now that might not sound like a big deal (and that’s fair), but for me, someone who hasn’t touched an organ in years, this was huge!! Plus, the organ itself was huge. All in all, an exciting and nerve racking experience.

The following week we had a wedding. This was my first wedding here in Belize and it was truly a beautiful service. This was a couple we had been doing pre-marital counseling with for the seven or so weeks prior and then on December 17th they had a nice, intimate ceremony at sunset in the church. Now weddings can be very stressful (what with all the preparations, family coming into town, and getting yourself ready), but there is something truly special about the actual ceremony in church, something that makes all that other stuff fade. While you’re standing there making vows before God, vows to love one another, you get a glimpse of the relationship Jesus has with His church. After having gone through Ephesians with this couple, discussing God and His church, discussing all the expectations and promises that come with marriage, the marriage ceremony itself was extra special. It was like a refresher (a year later) for my marriage too.

I’m sorry if I got a little too mushy there, but like I said, I am reminiscing on this past year so you’ll have to bear with me!

Now if December didn’t seem busy yet, the following day was easily the busiest we’ve had all month!

In the morning the Bishop came for the Confirmation service at St. Andrew’s Church.  We had five nervous and excited confirmands that morning all ready to reaffirm their baptismal vows. As you can see in the picture, these kids were ready! It was another really good service with lots of friends and family for the kids and in the end we had five new communicants in the church! Please be in prayer for these kids as they learn to live out the vows they have now taken for themselves.

Right after our second church service we headed straight to the airport to pickup my sister! As you’ve probably seen from the pictures she has taken and put on Facebook, it was such a fun trip! I absolutely loved having her here! While it was a rather stressful day getting her, since we had to rush back home for the Lessons and Carols service that night, there were still many answers to prayer. For one, Caitlyn was bringing down my keyboard that I had left in the states. Well it turned out, in the chaos that is air travel, the keyboard had not made it onto the plane and the airline was responsible. At the time this was very stressful (as I said we were on a tight schedule trying to get back for church), but not only did we make it back in record time (right on time I might add), but the airport delivered the keyboard to our house the next day and we didn’t have to pay duty since it wasn’t our fault! God seriously took care of us!

That night we had our Lessons and Carols service and the kids choir that I started a couple months ago got to sing for the first time for church. They did such a good job! They not only sang songs on their own, but they were also the majority of readers for the service, as well as helping lead the regular service. It was so much fun getting to see them sing and work together. I’m very excited to start the choir up again in a couple weeks!

The following days were filled with preparing for Christmas and showing my sister around Belize. We had many adventures! She got to experience some crazy rain, we cut down our first Christmas tree, went to Guatemala, went Christmas caroling with the youth group, she got to ride in the back of our pickup truck (to her delight!), and saw many different creepy-crawlies! While there was some stomach flu in there for David and Caitlyn, it turned out to be a lovely Christmas celebrating the birth of our Lord. I can’t put all the pictures on here, but if you get a chance to look on Facebook you see more of our adventures. We had so much fun with Caitlyn and I can’t wait till she can visit again!

As I wrap this up I just want to thank you for all your continued prayers and support for David and me! It has been a crazy December, with little room to stop and breath, but we are loving the work we’re doing here in Belize and this first Christmas is one I’ll never forget. Please continue to pray for us this coming year. There are many new projects that will be started (e.g. I’m starting piano lessons in two weeks) and we can always use your prayers. We definitely and desperately need increased financial support. As you’re making plans for this next year please do consider financially supporting David and me here in Belize. Every little bit helps!

               

May God richly bless you in this year to come!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Busy but still good

It’s been a few weeks since I last wrote an update, so a new one is definitely overdue. Since it has been so long I can’t update you on everything that has happened here, but I can give you some highlights and some things we’re looking forward to coming up.

About two weeks ago we finished up baptism classes with a young boy who lives in the village and he was baptized into the family of God. You know, no matter how many baptisms I witness it never ceases to excite me to see another person accepted into the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Sunday morning that David baptized this boy we had tons of children at church. One of the things we do here that keeps the Anglican schools and churches connected is that we have “Family Sundays”. Each week one class grade is assigned a Sunday where they are expected to show up for church with their family. Usually it means that we have lots of kids who get to participate in the service while also representing the school. Well the Sunday when the boy was baptized was a Family Sunday for one of the younger classes (lots of little kids!). It turned out that there would also be no Sunday school that morning, which gave David the opportunity to call all the kids up to the front of the church for a children’s sermon where he could explain to them meaning of baptism. Now, at the two churches here where we serve the baptism font is at the entrance of the church (representing how when someone is baptized they are entering into the body of Christ). Well as I said we had a lot of little kids at this service and after a sermon about baptism they wanted to see the thing take place. At the end of his sermon David invited all the children to the baptism font (along with the family of the boy getting baptized) so they could see the whole. So many excited little faces! I love baptism probably as much as those kids, so I made sure I ran to the back of the church too so I could see (and get a picture!).

We also have about six kids undergoing classes to get confirmed in the next few weeks and they are just as excited! I remember when I got confirmed I was looking forward to it, but having grown up in a different denomination I had already been taking Holy Communion, so it felt more like I was getting received into the church. Well for these kids it will be the first time they get to take Communion and it is understandably a big deal! While the confirmations have not happened yet, I’m told that many of the girls will even be wearing white dresses and veils! While the clothes don’t matter for confirmations, I think the white dresses are a cool representation of the marriage of Christ and His church.

Since I’m on the theme of classes right now, I’ll keep going! We are also in the process of giving pre-marriage counseling to a couple getting married next month! This is my first time being involved in marriage counseling since going through it with David. While David is doing the teaching, I’m enjoying being part of the discussions. He says I’m there to keep him honest. Ha! That basically means I call him out when he exaggerates … hehe. This couple has been together for thirteen years, so while David and I can share some things about how marriage is going for us, we are also getting to learn from this couple and their family.

We continue to have chapel for the three schools every other week and the university every week. St. Hilda’s and St. Barnabas’ schools actually just had their Harvest Festival services a couple weeks ago, so I have now seen how each school celebrates Harvest. Not having celebrated Harvest in the California I would probably compare it to a much larger celebration of a Thanksgiving Day church service. Big service! All focused on giving thanks for the many blessings God has given us (specifically in the harvest).

Let’s see, how can I update you on the music front? Choir continues to go well. The children’s choir that I have started, while small right now, has gotten a little bigger and is beginning to have regulars. Right now we are working on Christmas music because we are planning on having a Service of Christmas Lessons and Carols next month with the youth choir helping to lead the singing. The kids are very excited! But honestly, who doesn’t love Christmas music? As far as piano lessons, I have not started giving lessons yet, but I’m in the process of figuring how to get teaching materials down here and I’ve started taking names of potential students so I can setup my schedule. I can’t remember if I told you last time, but all the money that comes in for giving lessons will be designated exclusively for the church’s youth fund to help offset expenses for youth activities like youth group, Sunday school, and choir. David and I are very excited to see the excitement of kids and parents alike over the extracurricular music activities we are working to put together.

Now for the more personal things that have been happening. I think the news that has made me the most excited is that my sister is going to come for almost two weeks over Christmas!! I’m so excited! I can’t wait to show her our life here in Belize! And just to see her!! AAHHH I’M EXCITED!! I’m sorry for the all caps … But while in our ministry things have been going so well, and we are very happy, I’ve been dealing sickness and culture shock for weeks now. Since my last update I think I’ve only had one week where I wasn’t sick. In case you were wondering, when you move to a new country you catch every single cold. As in, if one person in the country is sick I’m going to catch it too! Honestly, it became almost comical. It’s like clockwork. I finish one cold and the next week I have a new one. Well, maybe this means when we do have kids I’ll never get sick!

On the culture shock side of things it’s still pretty hard. While there are some days where I have my “I hate spoons!” response where I’m crying (and laughing at the ridiculousness of my reaction), there are other days where I’m depressed for seemingly no reason. It’s really hard to explain. I’ll have a wonderful day one day and then out of nowhere I’m depressed the next day. While I couldn’t tell you what was wrong, I’ll just be down for the day … and then fine again. Emotionally it’s quite the rollercoaster! Thankfully I have an amazing husband! I think I brag about him in every update, but I don’t feel bad about it because he is honestly amazing! He can tell when I’m having a bad day and immediately lets me know it’s ok to be down. Culture shock is awful!! But we have also had some really good days too. Besides the wonderful things happening with our ministry here in Belize we have been able to have some really good days off where (surprisingly) no bad things have happened! Last week we got away for two days to South Belize and the most amazing (bat-free) time! It was a great time to reconnect and get away!

I feel I have to tell you now, since I specifically said last week was bat free on our getaway, that our day of yesterday was not … When I was downstairs exercising last night, David calls down for me to close the door to our bedroom and stay down there. There was a BAT IN OUR HOUSE!!! You probably remember from our last bat story that I apparently have a very big fear of bats … Welp, it’s still there! Thankfully I still have a husband who just had lots of rabies shots! He was able to trap the bat in a room then open up all the doors upstairs so it could escape (all while I coward in our room … bawling …). After assuring me the bat was gone, and plugging up any holes where it might have come in, he then walked me around the house to show me that there was no place it could be hiding. Once again, Best. Husband. Ever. So, we will now be patching screens and having our attic inspected for more of the creepy little critters! Hopefully I’ll be able to get over this fear, but I’m more hopeful that the bats will go away so I don’t have to!

Thank you all for your prayers and your support for David and me here in Belize! We are so grateful for each of you! And as you know, we are still very much in the process of raising support (even though we are already in the country) to ensure that we can stay and continue serving. So if you would like to support us financially, or know someone who would, or would like to increase your gift, please click on the Connect button at the top of our page. Everything helps! And thank you for all your prayers! More than anything, your prayers are needed. I should also add, we would love to pray for you too! If you have any prayer requests let us know and we’ll be happy to lift them up in our prayers!

Happy Early Thanksgiving!!

P.S.  This will be my first Thanksgiving doing the majority of the cooking. Wish us luck!

A Normal-ish Week

So I’m going to see if I can write an update here without a completely crazy story. What?! Yep, we actually have had a pretty normal week!  

Two Sundays ago was Harvest for Saint Andrew’s church and school. I have never experienced a Harvest festival before, but let me tell you, it was awesome! Over the course of three services throughout the day all the kids from Saint Andrew’s school put together baskets of fruits, vegetables, and pastries, and then come to church with their families. Even though we had three services (two more than normal!) the church was overflowing! There were kids sitting on laps, kids sitting up in the choir area, and in each service there were TONS of people outside just because we had no more seats! While it was hot and crowded, what better problem to have in a church than more people than seats?? About halfway through the service the kids processed up the aisle by grade with their decorated baskets (parents standing up to take pictures) and then gave a short presentation about thanksgiving and harvest as they presented their offerings to God. After the service all the baskets got sold as a fundraiser for the church and school. Out of all the big church services throughout the year (Christmas, Easter, etc.), Harvest is probably the biggest here for St. Andrew’s as well as St. Hilda’s and St. Barnabas’ (whose Harvests will be next week). While it was absolutely exhausting (there were almost 700 people!), each service a wonderful experience and I can’t wait for the next set of Harvest services next week!

For those of you who don’t know what an average (not crazy) week for us would look like, let me give you a quick taste. Monday is our day to do house work, catch up on emails, Spanish class for me (I just started this week! Mondays and Thursdays), and run errands all before the evening when we visit people from the parish. Tuesday through Thursday consists of chapel at the schools every other week, teacher devotions, visiting people in the evenings, either adult or youth choir practice, helping with confirmation classes, and preparing for Sunday (sermon prep and baptism classes for David, and getting the music together for me).

Let me take a quick sidebar here to tell you about our new youth choir. 

I know David already told you how great it was, but I want to say I wholeheartedly agree! When we first started putting together our idea for the youth choir we didn’t know what direction it would take. Would we have young kids or old? Would it be a traditional choir or a praise team? Would anyone come? Basically the first night was an experiment even just seeing who would show up! Well that Wednesday we had thirteen kids come! Since it was an experiment (and the majority of the kids were pretty young) we had a mixture of things that were too hard and too easy, but overall they seemed to have fun. We have our second rehearsal this Wednesday and (now that we have a better idea of what we’re doing) I’m excited to teach these kids how to lead worship and praise God through music!

Another side note real quick!

Since getting here (and particularly since starting up the youth choir) I’ve had a LOT of inquiries as to when I will be starting piano lessons. So very soon here you’re going to here about that next step in our adventure here in Belize!

Back to our typical week. 

Fridays are our day off. Now if you’ve been reading my updates you’ll have noticed that our Fridays haven’t exactly been nice relaxing getaways (flat tires, bats, rabies shots, the flu lasting for weeks, etc.). A couple months ago on our day off we drove up to the mountains to try and go to a resort that lets you hike down to a series of waterfall on their property. Now you may also remember from that trip that we didn’t’ make all the way there since we slid off the road, got a flat tire, and then got stuck in a lightning storm. Last Friday we decided to brave the long and bumpy road and to try again, and in comparison to our other “adventures”, it wasn’t so bad. We made it to the resort (even with looming rain clouds), hiked down the crazy steep mountain (all carved out stone steps) and got down to the beautiful waterfalls. Like I said, it was almost a completely uneventful trip … Well we got down to the bottom of the mountain and a man with a young boy called out to (we were the only other people there) asking if we had a radio he could use to call back up to the resort. I had my phone, but no coverage. As we got over to him we saw that his foot was pouring out blood and the boy was sobbing. The man showed us is foot and there was this huge gash all the way down to the bone! He had been playing on the waterfall with his boy and slipped, slicing his foot open. You know when people talk about God’s perfect timing? Well this was one of them. There was no way the guy could get back up the mountain by himself with that injury (and it had happened right as we were getting down to the waterfall too). David was able to run back up the trail to the resort so they could send down the tram with medical help. While the nearest hospital was almost two hours away, they staff was able to get him back up the mountain and to some medical help. David and I then spent the rest of the day relaxing and looking at the waterfalls (we weren’t really in the mood to swim anymore).

Now Saturdays are a little different. Typically it is a full workday with meetings, more Sunday prep, and then youth group in the evening. This past Saturday was a little slower since I had a migraine all day, but youth group turned out to be even more exciting than normal. Back when I was in youth group in the states, many years ago, my youth pastor Paul Gibbons had us play this game that involved making ice cream sundaes … in someone’s mouth … while standing on a chair way above them … I had told that story to David and he was all for us trying it with our youth group here! So, while David played dodge ball with the kids I secretly got all the ingredients ready (’cause it’s way funnier if they don’t know what’s coming!). And then David asked for some volunteers who were willing to get a little messy. After we had made some fashionable clothing for them out of garbage bags we revealed the game. I’ve got to say, besides being absolutely hilarious, it was a HUGE success! Many laughs, a funny video, some pretty embarrassing pictures, and a winner later (the messiest person), made for a memorable night at youth group! And don’t worry, we were nice and made regular ice cream sundaes for everyone after the game.

So that brings us back to Sunday. After at least two church services and then baptism classes we head back home and start preparing for the next week! While what we do during the week can vary, that’s what a typical week looks like in our house (now that we’ve made it through a week that didn’t have anything too crazy!).

Before I wrap up this post I want to talk a little bit about culture shock (mostly because it’s been getting to me this week). Now since we got here two months ago I’ve had moments of culture shock off and on (mostly big, easily identifiable moments). Well this week I got to experience the little ways culture shock can affect a person. As I talked about above, the past week has been pretty uneventful. As a whole I’ve started to really adjust to Belize as home, and yet out of nowhere in the middle of last week I broke down sobbing. Why, you may ask? Because we eat with spoons! Sound ridiculous? I was fully aware of how ridiculous this was (I was even laughing and sobbing at the same time!), but just the same, I hated that pretty much all the food we eat required us to use spoons! I didn’t want any of it anymore! I knew it was crazy and yet I couldn’t get my lower lip to stop popping out and quivering over and over again … Culture shock isn’t always big things that set you off. It’s not always the obvious things that are different from one culture to another. For me this week it was spoons. Next week I could love spoons! But for now spoons are awful! 

Now you know what a typical week for us looks like! But I have one last thing to update you on. When we came back to Belize in August we were not quite at full financial support. We were around 80% when we got here with the intention of continuing to raise support (just from a greater distance). For David and me to be as effective as possible in our ministries here in Belize, as well as being able to stay in the country as long as God has called us here, we are going to need to reach full financial support soon. If you feel God is calling you to partner with us financially for our ministry here in Belize please click on the Partner with Us link below.  Any amount helps!

Thank you for your continued support both financial and in prayers! We love being able to share what God is doing here in Belize with you, as well as give you a taste of our many crazy adventures!

Building Momentum in the Small Moments

Can you believe it? Practically two months have passed since Mary Beth and I returned to missionary service, and during that time my lovely wife has been fantastic at giving you the color commentary that you deserve (and I tend to forget to write about). Nevertheless, though she is showing herself to be a fantastic writer, I should also add my own thoughts and give you a rundown on how things have been going on our end over the course of this jam-packed period!

Our short-term goals have been modest during our entry back to serving at our churches and schools: to strengthen the relationships in Belize we already had before I left, to begin new relationships here as God disposes, and to work as a married couple to create our new home and life together in Belize. So far, so good … very good, in fact. With regards to our new home and life here, I have to say that Mary Beth has been incredibly brave and strong as she adjusts to a far different way of life, far from family and friends; honestly, I could not be more proud of her, or grateful to her for her own ministry to me and alongside of me. Right from the get-go, Mary Beth has had to grapple with heat and illness (both mine and hers), travel complications, insects, flat tires and hurricanes, bats and rabies vaccinations (more on that later), and so much more. But through it all, she has been patient and courageous, and I am so awed at how God is caring for her even as he is using her as a missionary. With regards to all this, however we do ask for your regular prayers for each of us as we undergo that process of transition and suffer the very real “culture shock” that inevitably emerges in these situations. It will take many months before we are both fully acculturated in Belize.

For our re-start of ministry here in San Ignacio, we have been allocating our time first and foremost towards simply being with people … a Ministry of Presence, of Showing Up. We have aimed to visit with families in their homes two or three days a week, and now that primary schools are back in session, we have begun again our biweekly cycle of chapel services for the students and devotions for the teachers. Next week we begin again our weekly services for students and staff at the University of Belize’s College of Agriculture, and despite obstacles like a nation-wide teachers’ strike, in many things are returning to “normal” for me in my pastoral ministry here.

Sometimes “normal” can be heartbreaking: last month I was asked to lead a funeral for a young man who was tragically beaten and killed when he was mistaken for someone else. Sometimes “normal” can be great but overwhelming, for instance, as we hold our Harvest celebrations at St. Andrew’s this coming Sunday. But most days “normal” consists of small moments that, taken together, build missional momentum and herald Christ’s Kingdom: praying with a family in their home, teaching God’s word to school children, encouraging a local shop owner, or giving the invocation at an Independence Day gathering. Please pray that God would continue to open these doors for the Gospel, for building relationships, for moments large and small which will have an impact on the expansion of his Kingdom.

At the same time, these last two months have also brought more surprises and changes than we were first expecting. For instance, upon my return I learned that though our ministry team on the ground had served boldly and beautifully in my absence, many of our leaders had become exhausted during my almost eight months away, and many have had for various reasons to give up their positions of responsibility. While we may have found a fantastic person to be the Local Manager of schools (think of superintendent or liaison overseeing the three schools), and also have probably found an Outreach coordinator for the parish, we are still looking for a church Treasurer and a Secretary for the Church Committee. On top of this, we have identified an immediate need to raise up new Lay Ministers, train new Sunday school teachers, recruit new volunteers, and build the team that leads God’s people at our churches and schools … and to do all of this soon!

And this need to find and train new leaders goes beyond our English-language churches and schools: this past month the priest of one of the three Hispanic missions with which we work has resigned his ministry due to health, and the other Hispanic priests and I will be working together to insure that the mission (Holy Trinity in Frank’s Eddy, a village approximately an hour away from us) continues to worship and to grow. Please pray that God calls laborers into his vineyard, that the Holy Spirit moves in the hearts of our people to give of themselves and serve in greater and greater capacities.

Mary Beth too has been experiencing faster change and development in ministry than she had initially expected. In addition to accompanying music at church and accompanying me on home visits and school services, Mary Beth has already begun developing her own ministries with children and youth. Last Saturday St. Andrew’s youth group began meeting weekly once again, and Mary Beth has already started working closely with the other two leaders to make youth group not only fun but a critical space for discipling young people in our community. The opening bash that night went really well, and we’re excited to see how God will continue working in their lives.

And in what was even more of a surprise to her, Mary Beth was encouraged to begin a children and youth choir sooner than she expected. This past Wednesday she jumpstarted a group of thirteen children and teenagers into what we are praying transforms into a regular and experienced choir. Without knowing who was going to show up, without knowing what musical experience they would bring, without knowing the size or age of the participants, she crafted an amazing hour of music with the kids and we are so excited to see how God will mold this group in the weeks and months to come.

As Mary Beth has mentioned previously, we have also been experiencing some unexpected obstacles since we arrived in Belize. We have both been sick for the last couple of weeks with a terrible flu (or something with terrible flu-like symptoms), and for the two weeks before that I was required to receive a series of five rabies vaccinations after a nocturnal encounter with a wounded bat. We have had to repair our refrigerator, perform extensive repairs on our pickup truck’s engine, breaks, and tires, and purchase a new clothes washer and dryer. On top of everything, our digital piano seems to have become damaged, and no one we have consulted here is both able and willing to repair it. Truthfully, none of these problems has been cheap to address, and almost each of them has come at the wrong time (usually our day off together to refresh) or have affected us for far too long. But God has been accompanying us through it all, and often there are great victories along the way; for example, Mary Beth received her missionary work visa this past week, and she will be able to stay in the country legally for the next year! We ask your prayers for our ministry, that we would be patient in (what is admittedly mild) affliction, protected from the enemy, and useful for the Kingdom.

We also ask that you please pray that God would meet our financial needs. The unexpected expenses that I described above will put a higher load on our support, support which would need to increase by about 25% anyway. Please keep our finances and support in your prayers, and get in touch with us if there is any way you yourself might be able to help.

As I wrap up this update, let me also let you know that you can get these updates in Apple News!, Check out our channel and subscribe.

Thank you all for your prayers and other support: it means the world to us. May God richly bless you!

Routines and Scary Things

Can you believe it’s already September?! We have now been serving here in Belize for just over a month and we’re starting to get into a pretty steady routine. The past couple of weeks have been rather crazy, but things are starting to settle back down (while at the same time getting much busier … don’t worry, I’ll explain!).

So I might as well start with the craziness that has occupied a lot of our thought and time the past couple of weeks. As many of you know from my last update David and I have been trying to get away to spend some time just the two of us on our day off. Each week we had a setback that kept us from really having that time (our fridge breaking, termite issues, and then our lovely adventure in the lightning storm when our tire blew-out). Well, two weeks ago Friday David and I decided to try again and actually spend the night somewhere nice and quiet away from home. We had actually been saving up for an “away” date since the middle of June … needless to say, we were very excited. A nearby resort was having a summer discount package for locals, so David booked us for that Friday night. We got to the resort Friday afternoon (it was so beautiful and quiet), got to our room and then spent the rest of the afternoon in a hammock as we (finally) read the final book in the Narnia series. It was such a nice afternoon!  We finished the evening with one of the best dinners we’ve had since we got married, went for a late night swim to watch the stars, and then headed to bed. It was the perfect day. Easily one of my favorite dates with my husband.  But you’re probably thinking now that none of that sounds crazy … I wish I could say it wasn’t ’til a couple days later that the craziness hit, but no.

It’s funny, you don’t always know what you’re terrified of until after you have to face it. For instance, if you had asked me before our date if I was afraid of, oh I don’t know … let’s say bats, I would have said, “no, I think they’re actually kinda cute”. Ha. You probably can see where this is heading … 11:30pm. So it was a peaceful Friday night and the happy couple easily fell asleep after having spent such a lovely day together. 1:00am. David gasps and I wake up with a start. My first thought was that David must have had a nightmare (apparently we are both known to gasp in our sleep and wake the other person up). While I was very startled from being woken so suddenly I wasn’t expecting much when I asked what was wrong.  Maybe some mumbling and then more sleep? But instead, in complete coherency, David told me to get out of bed slowly. Alright, now I’m officially freaking out. So as I get out of bed I repeatedly ask, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong??”. The light flips on and there right in-between where we had just been laying was a bat.

A BAT!  THERE WAS A BAT IN OUR BED!!!

I wish I could say that was it … While that would have been enough excitement for the night (I was completely freaking out at this point), we look up and three more bats are swooping around our heads.

THREE MORE BATS!!!

Yeah, that was enough for me. I’m half screaming, half crying, “No, no, no!” as I throw my hands over my head and run to the bathroom. David held it together really well. He even worked on comforting me while he tried to deal with our bat problem. While I hid in the bathroom, David scooped the injured bat our of our bed in a blanket and tossed it outside. He then found a video on YouTube that made sounds that are supposed to scare bats off. Then David went looking for help. Here’s the problem, we were staying in a resort that didn’t exactly have people around at night. David went and found the CB radio, but it had strict instructions to only be used for medical or security emergencies. Neither David nor I felt that our bat problem counted for either … So David came back to the room. 2:30am. By now David had been going from the regular (a.k.a. bat infested) part of the room back and forth to the bathroom to check on me. Finally, he hadn’t seen any bats for a long time (this was after I had come out a couple times and one bat would come back). Well, he called me back out to bed and held me (I’m absolutely cowering under the covers at this point … pretty much positive sleep is not going to happen). David said he would hold me and watch for the bat until I fell asleep. We did everything we could. Bat scaring noises on. Ceiling fan on high making loud noises. Lights on. About 3:30am. We’re about to turn the lights off and call it a night. Starting to finally relax.

NOPE!

Bats (plural) are back! Flying super low, landing all over the floor, almost hitting David as he got out of bed to try and get them out. Well I had had enough. Shaking and crying I said, “I’m sleeping in the bathroom!” We grabbed the blankets and pillows, ran to the bathroom and spent the rest of our night on the floor. It turns out snuggling with a toilet is not that comfy … needless to say, I did not sleep that night.

7:00am. We got up and peeked out of the room (well, David peeked and I cowered in the bathroom waiting for the news). There was another dead bat on the floor by the bed, but other than that they seemed to have gone back to their nest for the day. As can probably be imagined, neither David nor I really wanted to spend anymore time there that day (seeing as how we hadn’t slept and even hearing birds chirp behind me was enough to get me shaking and crying again).  We had breakfast, packed up, and headed home early. 

So here is what we think happened. We had gone to this resort during the low season (so not many people). We had also gone pretty soon after the hurricane. Well we think the bats must have gotten into our room (it had a thatched roof) since no one had really used the room in a while. And then that night when they came out to hunt the ceiling fan was on and must have thrown off their radar … seeing as how they kept flying into the fan … and then falling on our bed. Having bats in your room apparently NEVER happens … we just happened to get lucky … Ha!

I wish I could say that is where the craziness and excitement ended, but of course that’s not true! If you didn’t know, bats have very small teeth (scrapes and bites are sometimes not even detectable). On top of that, bats have an anesthetic in their teeth so you don’t feel the bite. Well Sunday afternoon David started to be concerned about having touched the bat. You see, the reason David had gasped and told me to get out of bed was because when the bat fell into our bed that had woken him up. Then in the dark David had reached over and felt that it was a bat (which is when he gasped and I woke up). Well, there was a raised bump on David’s hand the night that we spent in the bathroom. While we didn’t think he got bit, rabies is nothing to mess around with … so we decided the safest bet (since you don’t know if you have rabies until it’s too late) was to get David the rabies vaccine. Better safe than sorry! It turns out though that this vaccine is very hard to get a hold of here in Belize. We went to two hospitals that said they didn’t have it and then drove to Belize City the next day to see if they would be able to give him the vaccine. Thankfully the doctor at the third hospital was very nice and said they could prescribe him the five shots. Thank the Lord! So we go to the pharmacy and they give him the first one. We ask if they can give us the other four to take back to San Ignacio to give David the within the following weeks so we don’t have to drive the two our twice a week back to the city … well, they informed us that they only had the one shot … sorry. We drove to another hospital and, for twice the price, were able to pick up two more doses. David has now received three shots, and other than a sore arm, is feeling great. We are still in search of the last two (we’ll try the city again tomorrow … David has already checked in Guatemala). So, I would ask that you pray that we can get a hold of the next two shots here very soon. David needs his next one this Thursday! God is good and we know it will work out, but please pray we can find them soon, relatively close by.

That’s a long story of the crazy that’s been going on these past couple of weeks, but I had to share about our bats! What would an update from me be without a creepy bug and/or animal story be? But in other news I have lots of stray dog friends! And apparently I’m terrified of bats … just thought I’d say it again … since they’re terrifying … you’re welcome.

So bear with me because I now want to tell you about the ministry stuff we have been settling into these past few weeks. David has gotten right back into serving at the two churches each week and I’m settling into playing the piano for each service (I actually play a for-real organ at St. Hilda’s!). Three nights a week David and I go out around the parish and visit people in their homes. We get not only to build relationships, but we also pray with the sick, and take Communion to those who aren’t able to come to church. Every other week the adult choir meets to go over the music for the next two Sundays (tonight is my first time leading the adult choir!). And in a couple weeks I will be starting a youth choir on the weeks that the adult choir doesn’t meet. This week school started for the three schools that David is the priest over. So we go to the schools and lead a church services for the kids in the mornings about every other week. Yesterday was our first day back with the kids. The kids are so cute! It’s such an amazing blessing getting to work with so many kids as they learn more about the Good News! Plus, David has such a way with kids. I’m posting a video (below) of one of the songs he led during chapel. It was so much fun!  Working with the kids also gets us more connected with the community. As we walk along the street it seems like every kid looks up and says “Hi, Fadda David!” I’m so excited that I get the chance to get to know these kids too! With school starting up, new choirs about to start, youth group getting started in a couple weeks, visits, church, chapel services, teacher devotions, and finding rabies shots, plus it being Belize’s independence month, we are starting to get very busy! But we are very happy to be here (especially with the weather cooling off just a little) working with the people in Belize sharing the Gospel.

I would ask your continued prayers for our ministry here as things quickly pickup pace:

  • Please pray that we find time to do all that we need to do in our respective ministries as well as finding time to spend just the two of us.
     
  • Please pray that we can find the rest of the rabies shots very soon!
     
  • Please pray the continued adjustment of living in a new country.  While I love being here, this will be my first time away from family for the holiday season.
     
  • And please also pray that we will continue to get new financial supporters so we can continue serving here in Belize.
     
  • Thank you everyone for your prayers and support!

Until next time!

Mary Beth