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.
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!
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!
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!
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.