We’re Going to Belize!

We’re Going to Belize!

Annabelle is always up for an adventure!

Hi! We are Missy, Evan, and Annabelle Hansen. We currently live in Charlottesville, VA. From December 2018 to December 2019 we will be working with SAMS’ missionaries David and Mary Beth Alenskis in Belize. This is Evan writing. I’ll tell you a bit about us.

Both Missy and I have been full time ministers in the course of our lives. We moved to Charlottesville 10 years ago to help start a church, All Souls Charlottesville, where I am an elder.

Missy was born to missionary parents in Zambia, has worked in women’s ministry, and is currently working as a Licensed Professional Counselor. I think she’s brilliant. She will be doing some counseling through the local church in Belize. There are no therapists in the region where we will be living and we are told the need is great. Please pray we will find a way for Missy to best use her time to help people well without being overwhelmed by the need.

I am a minister ordained in the Baptist tradition through All Souls. I studied theology at Gordon-Conwell and worked in College ministry at the University of Virginia. I currently work as a Realtor, but mentoring young leaders is something that has remained important to me. In Belize I will be mentoring, discipling, and equipping lay leaders in the local parishes. I’m a jack of all trades kind of guy and hope to put my mechanical, carpentry, and musical skills to use as well. Please pray for me to learn to slow my pace and let the Spirit guide my interactions. 

Annabelle is 5. She just finished Kindergarten and is currently taking swimming lessons. She loves all things science. She has a great imagination and is already planning archeological digs at local sites. She also saw a video where kids ate termites in Belize and she can’t wait to try that out. We’re all excited that she’ll have school uniforms so we don’t fight about what she’ll wear every morning. Please pray for her to form rich friendships. 

How You Can Participate – PRAY

Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.  – Mother Teresa

We know many things will be in flux and are anticipating challenges and adventures.Our preparations have already been going on for over six months but as our departure draws closer, they are escalating. Our lists already seem too long to possibly be accomplished. Please pray for our many preparations and especially for Evan’s visit in November to find a suitable house to rent.

We will blog here with general ministry updates. If you would like a photo card for your refrigerator, or if you would like to get regular emails with more detailed life and ministry updates, let me know at c.evanhansen@gmail.com.

How You Can Participate – GIVE

Our church, All Souls Charlottesville, generously supports us in this endeavor with their prayers and financial support. We too, are making financial contributions towards this mission, but we also need your prayers and gifts. We need to raise $30,000 in order to provide for our costs for one year including transportation there and back. We can share our budget with you if you so desire.

We look forward to sharing God’s love with the people we are going to serve and thank you very much for your support. We will keep you informed about your investment in our ministry and we look forward to sharing more about our experiences with you when we return.

With all our love,

Evan, Missy, and Annabelle Bright Hansen

A Trying Time

It has been some months since we have posted anything on our Prayer blog, and over a year since I (David) wrote an update myself. The fact is that Mary Beth has been giving such an powerful account and summary of our life and ministry here, and so many of you have told us you are enjoying her take on things. Honestly, in the end, I haven’t wanted to get in the way! The title of this post is A Trying Time, and I mean that in two senses: we are trying a lot of new things in ministry, and life and ministry feels a little trying at this moment. So, though things are super busy right now (as you can imagine) I’m going to try and find a way to break them down and give you a picture of what’s been happening with us, our churches and our schools!

1. How It’s Been Going For Us

Mary Beth and I have had a good year so far, by the grace of God, but it’s been far from easy. If you’re looking for ways to pray for us, let me share some of what has been going on.

Between the two of us, I have been the one with the majority of health issues popping up. Apart from my ordinary struggles with gluten, I began seeing the doctor for an injury that I had sustained in January 2017 when I slipped and fell hard on my right elbow. Even after a year, the pain had not gone away … to the point that I was unable to use long-sleeved shirts or jackets! In February, after another fall, I ended up consulting with a great orthopedic surgeon, it became clear that I had damaged my bursa and the tendons connected to my tricep.  In addition to oral and topical treatments using steroids and NSAIDs, the surgeon gave me three cortisone injections in my elbow over the course of a couple of months. I am happy to report that the vast majority of the pain in my elbow is gone, and I believe that my elbow is on the road to recovery! Praise the Lord!

Nevertheless, other health problems have emerged along the way. Not only did these medications provoke a hard response from my body in general, but over the last few months I’ve begun to experience other frustrating symptoms that last week drove me to consult a specialist in internal medicine. We may not have figured out what has been the cause of all my symptoms, but when they took my blood pressure it was sky-high: the first time in my life I have had problems with hypertension. I am currently under observation, taking my blood pressure twice a day over the course of two weeks, with the hope that my average blood pressure will stay down and I won’t have to go on medication. However, the long-term solution (according to the doctor) is that I need to lose 20–30 lbs. Fair enough. So, Mary Beth and I have been getting up early to walk hard and fast in the morning, and I hope by the end of the year to have gotten my weight down to the point that my blood pressure won’t be in jeopardy.

I also have to work on how I am handling the stresses of ministry, especially when they are compounded with happenstances of life and living. For example, earlier this year the hard drive of my computer crashed, around the same time that the screen of Mary Beth’s computer went caput. So I was able to cobble together the two computers and make one functioning computer. I ended up losing a lot of personal data from the 10 months prior (previous files had all been backed up), including some fundraising and supporter information (so, if I come calling asking for info that I should already have, that’s why!). But fortunately, our churches’ information had been backed up on the “cloud” and the local impacts of the hard drive crash were minimal. But I guess why I am sharing this is that things like this, and many others related to life and ministry begin to add up for me, and according to the doctors I’ve been consulting they can take their toll. I am trying to learn better how to give these things over to God in prayer, and trust him to handle them … and not pretend to take over God’s job by worrying about them.

On the other hand, Mary Beth is adapting incredibly well to life in Belize. Her piano studio is full (with around ten students), and they’ll be enjoying their end-of-semester recital next weekend. She has also been making friends, and even adapting to the heat (trust me, she is as surprised by that as you are!). Belize for her is starting to feel normal, feel like home, and this is a real gift from the Lord. Granted, she still doesn’t like bugs (stay tuned for another scary bug story!) but I can tell you I’ve never seen anyone that has a knack for killing mosquitoes like she does right now! And her Spanish is getting quite good these days too: she has even been reading the Bible publicly in Spanish when we have visited some of the Hispanic missions we work with, and folks are quite impressed!

And we have both been encouraged by you, by your prayers and your emails and your gifts … and in some cases, by your visits! When we hear from you, God himself is encouraging us through you, and it makes a tremendous difference. So thank you, and please (please!) continue to keep us in your prayers … even when it takes a few months for us to write an update.

2. How It’s Been Going for Our Ministry

Things are going very well for our churches right now, and it’s a pleasure to be able to share with a bit about it with you.

Our focus at St. Andrew’s has been to capitalize on the momentum we’ve had as our attendance has been on the rise by training new leadership. Our Church Committee for the parish is made up mostly of younger, newer leaders; what is more,  at our leadership retreat last month, we concluded by our adopting a new apostolic mission statement for the parish:

“To be a People connected to Jesus, connecting others to Him.”

ASA: Weeks 1–23

I love it! And people do seem to be finding that connection, about which we are pretty excited. Our church attendance at St. Andrew’s has grown significantly over the past two years (overall 14% last year, 12% so far this year), and most of this growth has been new families attending or even joining the church. We have to acknowledge that much of this growth has come about because of the support that we enjoy from our three schools: without the good relationship between them and our churches, we would not be enjoying this kind of increase in attendance whatsoever.

In fact, this growth is rapidly forcing us to confront an emerging (good) problem: space and seating at St. Andrew’s. As we quickly approach an uncomfortable number of people on a regular basis, often bumping up against the capacity of the sanctuary (especially during the Fall Semester), we have to consider ways of expanding. One way that seems like a possibility (and, please, pray about this!) is for us to add a youth-oriented, youth-run evening service on Sundays. We have some structural hurdles to overcome with regard to neighbors and noise, but we believe that this will be a better option at this moment than a church-planting effort: we tried to get an evening-service church-plant going for over a year, and the door seems closed at this time. So please, pray that a way is opened for us to hold Sunday evening services at St. Andrew’s and, if it pans out, that they bring glory to the Lord and bring more people to know his saving love and power!

St. Hilda’s is also growing in some pretty cool ways too. Last year the mission’s attendance grew by almost 50%, a massive increase after a few years of stagnation. Although our attendance has stabilized and not quite enjoyed the growth spurt of the previous year, what we are seeing at St. Hilda’s is an emerging leadership team that has the capacity of carrying the church forward. For the first time in years, St. Hilda’s has a Church Committee, a visible outreach, and the prospect of new ministries for the coming year. I’m enjoying seeing how God is bringing new life after a season of dryness, and I cannot wait to see what he will be doing in the months to come!

There are of course frustrations along the way. Two of our lay ministers at St. Andrew’s (a husband and wife) have resigned over the past year, and some of our new possible lay ministers at St. Hilda’s have not gone through with training. I am also even more aware of the necessity of a church having a dedicated treasurer, and we’ve had a turnover in that department at St. Andrew’s over the last month. Still, we see God doing incredible things, and we cannot wait to see what will happen by this time next year.

And of the many things that we do, our youth work has been one of our greatest joys. The St. Andrew’s youth group had its Spring Term outing back in April as a dozen kids joined up with youth groups from around Belize to paint the building of one of our Hispanic missions. Afterwards, Mary Beth and most of the kids went cave tubing (I stayed behind with the rest because of my elbow), which was an incredible experience! Mary Beth’s Bible study with the girls has also continued strong, and her connection with these young women is strong and bearing fruit for the Lord. It’s really wonderful to see. The children’s choir has had a rough Spring, with kids’ changing behaviors and attitudes, and there will be some changes in the Fall when it starts up again. And yet, it was still an overwhelmingly positive experience for the children and Mary Beth is looking forward to what this next school year will bring!

And of course, graduation season is upon us, and with it commencement exercises and a wistful look at what has come. It’s also at this time that St. Andrew’s chooses scholarship recipients, and in addition to the High Scholarship Scholarship Recipient that was chosen last year, the Committee chose one of the students from St. Barnabas’ to receive this same financial aid for the next four years. (N.B. High School tuition is not completely subsidized by the government … it can still cost USD $500 to send a young person to high school.) Our experience over the past year has demonstrated that such scholarship are not simply about money and tuition, but about supporting these teenagers in every aspect of life. And it may sound like a cliché, but it’s true: God has blessed us as a church by being involved in their lives just as much as we have been able to be a blessing to them. We are so excited to be able to dive into this next school year, ministering to and alongside of them!

There’s much more that we can say or share about all these things (and it may take one of Mary Beth’s updates to do them justice), but I want to move on to what is coming up over the next few months, and how you can be praying for much of it.

3. Things to Come Shortly

There are a lot of things on the horizon that we would like to share with you. We can begin with this weekend! Our predecessors, Fr. Juan and María are here in Belize with us right now, and it’s amazing. They have come to celebrate the Quince Años (turning-15-years-old birthday) of one of our parishioners, and we are overjoyed to host them. The Quince Años falls on Saturday, and the next day Fr. Juan will be the guest preacher at our Baccalaureate service for the graduating classes of our three schools. In July we are looking forward to our “Family Fun Day” in the park, as we hold services in public and then spend the rest of the day playing games and sharing in potluck food. It’s going to be quite the day! The following week, St. Peter’s (Tallahassee) will be sending a team to help us hold our Vacation Bible School for the kids that week, and it’s going to kick off an active but promising summer. Mary Beth and I are planning on going on vacation in August, and we’ll be back to kick off the new school year by September … hopefully inaugurating the new evening service at St. Andrew’s that I mentioned above. And then our year begins all over again! 

Let me add a couple of other things. Last month the Anglican Diocese of Belize held its 50th Diocesan Synod, with a focus on intentional discipleship and greater accountability for the leaders, churches, and other structures within our Diocese. It was a surprising weekend, from Mary Beth playing the organ at the Cathedral to what Bishop Wright shared at the concluding Solemn Eucharist. It appears that in the interests of structuring our Diocese a little better, the Bishop will soon be appointing a team of people with certain diocesan responsibilities and roles, with the goal of making things here run smoother and better, as well as passing on the torch of leadership (as it were) to some of the younger clergy. My name was among those mentioned, although without yet any definitive description of what will be entailed. I do think this is a very positive development for our Diocese, and probably for me as well, but I would ask that you pray for me and Mary Beth as we try to serve the Lord here in whatever way he calls us.

And as we approach to the second anniversary of our return to Belize (we came back in August 2016), we are also trying to figure out how and when we will be returning in mid-2019 to visit with our churches and supporters and raise the funds necessary to come back. Please pray that God will show us how best to do this within as reasonable an amount of time as possible, and please also pray that the Lord will fully bring us up-to-budget before then. We are so grateful that new individuals and churches have stepped forward to pledge their support, and we it’s true that we’re not in the red as we were last fall. But we are still looking for people to step forward and give to this ministry. Would you consider becoming one of them?

Again, thank you all so much for your prayers, for your gifts, and for your support. We are deeply grateful, even if it sometimes takes us a while for us to get out an update and express it! May the Lord richly bless you for all that you do for us and for the spread of his Kingdom in Belize!

Heating Up

Heating Up

So here we are already in the second week of March and I realized I’m way over due on updating you all about ministry life here in Belize! It doesn’t really feel like March yet. Normally we are solidly in the hot season by now (where you can barely remember what it feels like not to be sweaty and are trying to decide if taking a third shower that day would be reasonable … the answer is yes, by the way), but not this year. While we can feel the hot season coming, we actually had an uncommonly high amount of rain in January and February. Besides the fact that I love rain in general, it kept the weather here much cooler for much longer. So now, with the dry season officially setting in, the temperatures are rising, but it’s not quite hot yet (I’m still wearing sweaters in the morning!).

While it may still be coolish here (no complaints on my end!), we got a big reminder that we are in fact already in March with the start of the Ruta Maya this morning here in San Ignacio. The Ruta Maya is an annual canoe race that teams train for all year long. The race starts bright and early here in San Ignacio (this year with 53 teams) and over the course of three days the teams make their way down the Belize river until they reach Belize City. It’s a huge race that the country as a whole looks forward to every year. Last year we even had a team of students from one of our schools! Pray for safety for all those competing this year!

So all that being said, we are definitely in March! And there has been a lot going on these past couple months.

One of the big changes this year has been St. Hilda’s Church getting it’s own Church Committee, what some in the United States would call a Vestry. While that might not seem like a big deal (St. Hilda’s has been sending representatives to St. Andrew’s Church Committee meetings), with the growth of both churches over the past year it had become clear that St. Hilda’s needed it’s own comity to help implement the church’s vision. So with the election of leaders from Georgeville village, the comity has had it’s first meeting and they’re excited to see what God is planning for His church this year. St. Andrew’s (while it’s always had it’s own Committee) has also just elected new members to serve this term. It’s always exciting in a church to see emerging leaders step up with a desire to help serve with the gifts God has given them. David and I are looking forward to seeing where God is calling His churches this year, and how He would have us serve them, and the community as a whole, better.

Speaking of emerging leaders, we had the pleasure of hosting a team from St. Peter’s Cathedral (Tallahassee) for a week last month. We had been talking with this church since last August and were very excited to finally meet them in person. Wow! God really sent a wonderful group of people with hearts fixed on Him! While they were only here for a short time, they covered so much ground. They decided to separate their time here into three sections: service project (painting the inside of St. Andrew’s Church), VBS (after school at St. Hilda’s), and a leadership conference (for all emerging leaders that we are serving with here in our area of Belize). For seven days, this team really balanced their time well. It’s always nice to have some kind of project on a short trip, so both the team and the people here can physically see what was accomplished. And with that in mind, the church comity asked if they could paint the inside of the church (it hadn’t been painted in at least 20 years). The the sanctuary, sacristy, and Sunday school room are now bright and beautiful with their fresh coats of paint! While projects are good and necessary for teams that come to serve, they can never be the primary goal. The overall goal for teams that come is to build lasting relationship (both the teams with the Belizeans, and the Belizeans with the teams). So this team made sure they planned plenty of time to spend  with people while they were here. Besides making sure they all spread out and talked to different people during the many Sunday services, they also ran a VBS, and even got to the village early to spend time with the kids before it started. And if that wasn’t enough, they took two nights and focused on the diocesan theme for the year (intentional discipleship). They were able to work specifically with leaders and emerging leaders, from both churches and our schools to focus specifically on how to have small groups of fellowship, Bible study, and prayer, (and here’s the kicker) without having the priest leading each group. This was a great time for the team to get to know/build up leaders here, as well as for our Belizean leaders to get to know the team, and get excited about leading ministry groups themselves! The trip was short, but I think the relationships will be long and we are definitely looking forward to hosting this team again in the near future. Before I wrap up about the team, I want to give a special shout out to Isabella. Isabella is the daughter of one of the team members that came. She is seven years old and one of the most outgoing, excited to serve girls I’ve ever met. She was truly inspiring to watch. At each church service, school event, and meeting where Belizean’s kids were present, she didn’t hesitate to go over and make new friends. When there weren’t kids present she was working right alongside her dad to paint or prepare for the next event. Isabella was a joy to have present and we not only hope to see her again, but we hope that other teams that come will want to send kids as well to serve and connect with kids here in Belize!

As for our regular ministry things here, they are all going strong, thanks be to God. In the school chapel services David is taking the kids through the various sacraments of the church. While Bible stories are always important, a lot of these kids either don’t know what sacraments are or why they are important. So this series has proved interesting for both the students and the teachers (who also tend to have many questions). With the little kids, I’m primarily using Bible stories from a picture story book Bible and working to show how every story (from creation to Moses, that’s where we’re at this week) points forward to Jesus. When I first started teaching chapel I was so nervous, but now it’s one of my favorite things we do here! I love getting to spend time with the kids and worship together.

Piano lessons are continuing to go well (I’ve picked up two new students so far this year!). One of my new students is from Georgeville, so I’m getting to try teaching lessons on an organ for the first time. I told her it will be an adventure for both of us! We are also starting to use the money from the lessons to invest more into the youth group. As I think most of you know, I do charge for piano lessons (it tends to inspire more commitment), but all of the proceeds go straight into a dedicated church youth fund (used for choir, Sunday school, youth group, etc.). So tomorrow youth group will be having a bonfire (we’re burning our own Christmas tree, which has been out in the garage drying out). We’re hoping to keep using the funds to really invest in our youth in whatever areas we can.

Choir is also going really well! While the kids can be a lot to handle, they are sounding really good and even sang in church last week. Since most of my choir kids don’t attend St. Andrew’s, I have been hesitant to require them to sing in church too often (not wanting to take them from their own churches), but I think we’re going to shoot for at least once a month and maybe even try having them give special numbers at their churches. We’ve also added a new choir adventure this year. We have started a youth choir at St. Hilda’s! This choir is completely different from the one at St. Andrew’s. We have a much larger age difference, and a larger number of students at rehearsals, and in general it’s just a different dynamic. They are very rambunctious, but lots of fun. This choir is also led almost entirely by David. As we don’t actually have a piano at St. Hilda’s (and organ choir music wouldn’t really fit with this group of kids), we are focusing on upbeat “contemporary” pieces (like “Jesus Freak”) which David can lead on guitar. As a whole, the kids are loving choir! And since they all live right there in the village, we are focusing on having them sing in church more often.

Let’s see, we are solidly in Lent, so we have stations of the cross on Fridays (the first time in a few years), Bible studies, and Baptism classes. But we long for Easter. Have you ever noticed how things seem to be much harder in Lent? With eyes fixed on Christ, we keep going!

David and I have dealt with many health challenges the past few months that are only just starting to sort out. Back in December I hurt my back, it didn’t seem too bad at the time, but it got progressively worse until I couldn’t get out of bed (that basically took out January). Then as my back started to improve we got hit with the flu, one week on, one week off, one week on… Then to add to that (yes there’s more), David had hurt his elbow really badly about a year ago and has had virtually no relief. So we have been seeing doctors almost every weekend to work on treating the injury. Thanks be to God the doctor is confident he will make a complete recovery, though it is taking some anti-inflammatory pills, creams, and (steroidal) injections! We would appreciate your continued prayers for healing and good health!

I think that’s about everything new that’s happened in the last couple of months. We are very excited to have David’s parents come visit us next week! It’s been over a year since we saw them and we’re really looking forward to spending some time together for a week. I’ll be sure to post some pictures!

And what do you think? Before I wrap up should I give a short bug story? I can’t actually wait for your answer, so I’m going to go with yes! Would it really be an update if I didn’t’ tell you a bug story? So as I’ve said before, I’m getting really good at killing bugs in my house. Sometimes I don’t even call David to smash them, and some I even (briefly) consider saving before I stomp on them. Progress is being made! But a couple weeks ago I got up really early and, half asleep, wandered into the bathroom to shower. I’ve made it a habit to always check behind the curtain before I get in, but I had never actually seen anything in the corner. Until now. I casually checked, not expecting anything, and found a rather large tarantula! I might be getting better with bugs, but this was too much. David was called and asked to dispose of the spider. In hindsight, I do wish I would have saved it. But at the time it just had to go. Now normally when I kill spiders, there’s a splat and then they’re just a curled up ball under my shoe, but this spider was so big that when David smooshed it, it’s guts actually shot across the shower floor. Gross. I am now back to religiously checking all corners of the shower before stepping foot in there each morning! So there’s your bug story for the month!

We want to say thank you again for all your prayers and support! Sometimes we get too busy here to write you all super often, but we always lift you up in our prayers. If you ever want to talk to us more about our ministry or just life here in Belize, or would like to know how you can partner with us, please feel free to email, check out our website, or call us!

The Middle of the Marathon

In my last update I wrote about our coming back from Peru hitting the ground running, since Fall ends up being our busiest time of year. At the time of writing that update I don’t think I realized how true it really would be until sitting here now to write a new one … it’s already been a month and a half since I last wrote! Here we are in the second half of November and I didn’t even notice how fast time has been flying.

With so many things are going on right now, I’m going to try and highlight a few of them since there is just too much to get across in one update!

First a quick look at the youth choir. Now that we’ve had a few rehearsals, I can pretty much tell who my regulars are for this year, and while they are incredibly “energetic,” this group of kids is a lot of fun. It is truly a learning experience for me as I’m figuring out how to work with a mix of boys and girls. In the past semesters I’ve primarily had a girl choir, and it turns out girls and boys are very different! Who knew?! I would also add that God is teaching me patience =] These kids are working very hard to prepare for the different performance opportunities coming up next month and I think they’re going to do a great job. Besides their Christmas concert, they are getting excited to sing on December 3rd when the Bishop comes for St. Andrew’s Day for the Confirmation service! This will be the first time this group sings for people and they were very excited to have been asked to give a special presentation.

Speaking of confirmations, we have kids  both at St. Andrew’s Church and St. Hilda’s Church preparing to take their confirmation exams. For the past month and a half kids at both churches have been attending classes that teach them about Confirmation, The Lord’s Prayer, The Apostles’ Creed, The Ten Commandments, The Beatitudes, and the different kinds of Sacraments. While the kids have to be able to recite these different things in the exams, the most important part that they learn is what each piece means. David himself is catechizing at St. Hilda’s Church and even though it’s important that the kids practice The Ten Commandments, for example, in order to recite them (we even bribe them with brand-name, full-size candy if they can recite them correctly!), the actual class is focused on explaining what they mean and why they are important. So in the exam David will ask the kids to recite The Lord’s Prayer and then he will ask them what it means when we say, for instance, “give us this day our daily bread.” When I was younger I remember saying The Lord’s Prayer so many times, but not really understanding what I was saying. I would have loved a class like this! David is really great at breaking down these different aspects of our faith so the kids can really understand why they are important. We are really excited to see each kid confirm and renew their baptismal vows!

Last week we actually had five baptisms at St. Andrew’s Church, and St. Hilda’s has baptisms this week! It’s always exciting to see brand new christians welcomed into the church! At St. Andrew’s the service ended up being one of the largest for the year. So many people came to celebrate with these kids! And this Sunday when we have baptisms at St. Hilda’s we will also be celebrating St. Hilda’s Day, so it will be huge celebration for many different reasons! 

St. Hilda’s Day is officially on November 18th, so David and I went to the school and he led a service celebrating their paternal feast. The 17th also happened to be Children’s Day so the kids at St. Hilda’s were all dressed in bright orange getting ready for a day of games and sports. At St. Andrew’s School, Children’s Day also meant Culture Day. For Culture Day each class is assigned a culture group that is represented in Belize (Garifuna, East Indian, Mennonite, Kriol, Mestizo, etc.) to represent. The kids dress in the traditional clothing, make traditional foods, and setup stations to teach about the cultures they are representing. It is a really engaging way to learn about the different people living in Belize, and the kids are super cute! Last year David and I weren’t able to attend the school for the presentations, but this year we ran over right after the St. Hilda’s Day service. While we didn’t make it in time to see the kids dance, we were able to go into each classroom and see the different presentations. It was fun seeing these dressed up, nervous/exited little kids explain, from the perspective of what ever group they were representing, the different cultures they had studied.

There really are so many different things happening right now, it’s hard to pick things apart to tell all of you. Let’s see. Youth group, chapel services, piano lessons, and the girls Bible study are continuing to go really well, with the kids participating more and more with each event. We are excited to see what God has in store for all of these kids! While we work with many different people here in Belize, the majority of what God has us doing is directly ministering to and discipling kids. We are really loving watching these kids grow and seeing God’s hand in their lives.

Now that you’re fully updated on the ministry side of our lives here (although now that I think about it, I’ve probably forgotten plenty … God is doing so much!), I’m going to let you know a little more about our personal lives (even though everything ends up mixing together anyway). =]

As many of you know, David and I were able to fly back to California for one week to celebrate my sister’s wedding. It was absolutely beautiful! I had the privilege of being her Matron of Honor and I loved getting to spend that time with my sister and entire family celebrating her special day. It was a jammed packed week getting the final pieces ready for the big day, spending time with family, meeting our new niece for the first time, and running errands that could only be done in the States. This was actually the first time David and I had been in the states in almost a year and half. I think we got spared the worst of the reverse culture shock since the trip was so fast and busy for the wedding, but it was still very strange being back in the United States. While many things stick out as feeling strange, since we’ve been away so long, I think the biggest shocker for me was flushing toilet paper again. Ha! When I first moved here to Belize I thought throwing away toilet paper was something I would never get used to, and then going back to the States I freaked out every time I flushed the paper thinking I had messed up. It’s funny how you get used to things without even realizing it!

While it was hard saying goodbye again to everyone (especially since for the wedding we saw so many people in a short amount of time), it was made easier by the fact that my parents are coming to visit us in just one week! This will be their first time visiting Belize and we are very excited to show them around this beautiful country as well as getting to show them our lives and ministry here in San Ignacio. Not only are they going to be here for two weeks, but that also means they will be here for St. Andrew’s Day. What a fun celebration! I can’t wait util they get here!

As I’m beginning to wrap up my update here (these updates tend to get long if I’m left to ramble, and I should probably start thinking about dinner), I do feel like it has been way too long since I’ve given you a proper bug story! While I say it’s been too long, I really won’t mind if I never have to give you another bug story again … Well, last night I came home from teaching piano, David had left for a meeting, and the house was dark. In our house the main living space is upstairs and our room and office space is downstairs. I decided to drop off some things in our room before going up stairs to start dinner, leaving the lights off and only using my phone flashlight. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something large shoot under the laundry basket. I figured it was either a wolf spider or a gecko (since we get both in our house). Now this shows you I’ve been living here for awhile because without freaking out, I moved the basket just to check. I’m guessing it was a gecko since it was long gone once the basket had been moved, but either way, I could see what the gecko had been after. Turning on the light in the bedroom revealed a huge line of very big, mean, red ants. The trail went from the door in the office, into the bedroom, under the bed, around the wall, and into the bathroom. I’m talking THOUSANDS of red ants. The kind that leave big blood marks when you squish them.. I’ve gotten used to spiders, lizards, most other ants (we’ve had plenty come into the house during rainy season), but I could not handle these red ones. It took hours spraying with 409, flooding the nest by the door, mixing smelly concoctions, lots of bug bites, straight up squishing, and lots of praying until the invasion was stopped. I might have lots of animal friends here in Belize, but red ants aren’t one of them!

So there’s your bug story for this week. Hopefully I won’t be giving you another one anytime soon!

Ok, my growling belly is telling me it’s time to finish this update. David and I want to thank you all again for your continued prayers and support for our ministry. God is working here in Belize and we love getting to be apart of what He’s doing. And we love getting to share it with you!  If you want to partner with us and our ministry here in Belize either through prayer, financial support, or coming down to work with us, please click the link below to get more information! 

And really fast, we want to give a shout-out to the ABC kids in Richmond, Indiana! Thank you guys for always praying for us and reading our stories. We love getting to tell you about everything God is doing down here in Belize!

Happy Thanksgiving!

It all begins again!

It all begins again!

Can you believe it’s already almost the middle of October? For some of you that might mean that the nice cool fall weather is starting with crisp mornings, or maybe some changing leaves, but here in Belize fall means (admittedly pretty hot yet) beautiful days, new flowers, and even some crazy awesome afternoon thunderstorms storms. It’s interesting looking back at the past 14 or so months that we’ve been here and realizing that not only am I so used to the weather here that it really is starting to feel like Fall (two to three showers a day and all!), but I’m also already looking forward to the holiday season and the new traditions we have here in Belize.

For those of you who don’t know, David and I were blessed to be able to spend our first vacation together since we got married in Peru last month. We had an absolutely amazing time exploring the Andes and just spending time together! We came away with lots of stories and fun memories. But while we loved every part of our vacation, we were very happy to return home to Belize two weeks ago and get back into ministry. Basically, coming back at the end of September meant we hit the ground running!

The first thing we had to get done was immigration stuff for me. Before we left for our vacation I was able to apply for my permanent residency here in Belize (it was fantastic that we made the application before we left!), but since it is a processes that takes years to complete I still apply for a temporary work permit every year to keep me in the country legally. We got back home just before my work permit expired and are now in the process of obtaining the new visa. Praise be to God it’s approved and all we have to do is go to immigration to get the new stamp! For everyone who has been praying for my immigration process, thank you!

Now that we’re back home we’ve gotten to restart the different ministries that had sort of been on break for a few months, whether due to Summer break or our vacation. Our first week here had us right back at the schools restarting chapel services. I hadn’t realized how much I missed all these kids until we were back teaching them again! The newest thing that we started this semester with the children’s chapel is that we’re separating the ages more at our rural schools, St. Barnabas’ and St. Hilda’s. That means David is able to take the older kids and have a more focused service for them, while I now teach the younger ages. Now, this is not something I thought I would ever be interested in, but I love it! Basically I get the kids from about kindergarten to second grade. I’m taking the them through Bible stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible, as well as praying together, and singing lots of songs! We’ve only had one service so far, but I think I’m going to like teaching these kids!

The next thing that is starting up again is youth choir! This is my third semester leading this choir and every time I start it up it seems to go a little bit better. Since we launched youth choir at the beginning of October (which is later than normal) I felt it was perfectly acceptable to start working on our Christmas program. Besides the fact that I love Christmas music, the kids are super excited to get to sing Christmas music this early! One of the great opportunities with a children’s choir (particularly as we get ready for Christmas) is that I’m able to teach them songs about Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas. All of us like “Jingle Bells”, but now I get to teach the kids songs that are just as much fun with maracas, drums, and tambourines, that focus entirely on our Lord and Savior. Last year I had the kids participate in a traditional Lessons and Carols service with them singing a few traditional carols, but this year I decided to use a Christmas program that I was in years ago when I was in a youth choir (shout out to Robin Segarra). I’m really excited to teach them this program because I can involve lots of kids in all these songs that tell the story of Jesus as the Light of the World through the story of the Nativity. The kids are super excited to be singing this music and even getting to sing in French, German, and Spanish! At our first rehearsal seventeen kids showed up to try it out and see what they thought about choir. It was so much fun! And this week we had two more kids show up! We’ll see how many kids come next week, but I think they’re going to do really well with this program (and have lots of fun singing!). They’re already excited to get to sing for their parents in December!

Piano lessons are also off to a good start as the kids are getting back into practicing and we are starting to talk about the Christmas recital. I haven’t held a recital yet with the kids here, but I think Christmas music will be a good place to start, and I have yet to have one of these kids tell me they don’t like Christmas music!

Speaking of things starting up again, this past Saturday was the start of the High School girls’ Bible study. Over the summer I had started the Bible study as a sort of “test run” to see if the girls would be interested, and to see if it was something I could actually teach. We went through the book of James and it went so well that we’re going again, but this time through the book of Romans. I love getting to spend time studying God’s Word with these girls! It’s amazing both to get to talk through different questions they might have about the Bible and then to spend time just getting to know them better while we eat desserts (food is always a necessity!). As a whole I think the Bible study is going really well and I’m excited to see what God has in store for us to learn.

Let’s see … as far as big events happening in the church, it is officially time for Harvest! The next two weeks consist of lots of Harvest Festivals happening between the three schools where we serve. At St. Andrew’s, this service is easily our largest attendance for the whole year. I always thought it would be Christmas or Holy Week and Easter, but Harvest definitely tops all of those combined! Last year St. Andrew’s had over 700 people attend the church for these special services. For those of you who don’t know what this kind of service is, think of it like a GIANT Thanksgiving for the gifts God has given us. Each class processes up the aisle with decorated baskets of fruits, vegetables, pastries, etc. and then presents them to be blessed at the altar. Afterwards they give a group presentation expressing thanks, and then the next class will come up with their gifts and do the same thing. Church always packs out, with people standing in the back, crowding up at the front, and even standing outside the church because it’s not physically possible to get anyone else inside! Once the service is finished the items are then sold as a type of fundraiser for the school and church. At our rural schools, St. Barnabas’ and St. Hilda’s the church (or school) is packed and many of the gifts are collected and given to families in need. Yesterday was actually our first Harvest Festival service at St. Hilda’s. All the kids did so well with their presentations and their baskets were beautiful! As a whole, these services are incredibly important and widely attended by all the families of the school kids. Please be praying for David and all those serving! It’s going to get pretty busy!

While there aren’t really a bunch of new activities going on right now (except for boring-sounding administrative stuff, like how David’s on the Diocesan Education Board now), there are lots of good things starting up again! And since it’s been awhile since I’ve written an update I thought it would be a good idea to let you know what’s going on down here in Belize! As the holiday season starts it also becomes pretty clear that it can be one of the busiest times in the church year, but it is also my absolute favorite time to be in church! There is always so much going on, and so many extra things that come up. This is the beginning of a great season for ministry!

As I’m coming here to the end of this update, looking back over all these different ministries going on with us here in Belize, I get so excited! I’m so excited for the things that David and I are already working on, and the things that God has planned for us here that we don’t even know about yet! But while on one hand I want to just tell you all the good things that happen here, I also have to talk about the slightly uncomfortable stuff.

Mainly, I have to talk about money stuff. It almost seems like taboo to bring it up, but a big part of our work as missionaries is just raising the support to keep us here on the mission field. When we came back to Belize fourteen months ago (I still can’t believe it’s already been that long!!) we had NOT actually made it to our full monthly support. We were getting close, but after talking to our missionary society we all decided it would be better for us to get back to Belize to start our ministry here (and see what my ministry would be!), while working on raising the rest of the support. Before I go any further though I have to thank all those who have both been supporting us from the beginning, and those who have joined our ministry team since we’ve been back in Belize. We are incredibly grateful for all of your prayer and financial support!

But as we’ve passed the year mark here in our ministry in Belize we have had to assess our current level of financial support for the next year here on the mission field, and the following years that God calls us here to serve. While we have been living here for over a year, we have been, and very much still are living in a growing deficit between gifts to our ministry and the minimum budget needed to keep us on the field. By the grace of God we have had generous donors support us both monthly and in one time gifts (thanks be to God!), but if our current deficit in giving continues, we will have to return from the mission field much sooner than planned to re-raise support again in the United States.

So here’s what David and I are asking. If you believe in the ministry that God has called us to here in Belize, we would like you to prayerfully consider joining our team as financial partners. God calls each one of us to be a part of His Great Commission; if not to go personally, than to send others. We cannot serve with the people of Belize without people like you partnering in our ministry by sending us. Every person or family that supports us financially and through prayer is completely a part of our ministry here in Belize. So please consider supporting the work we’re doing here by linking up with us financially whether through monthly giving or one time gifts. Everything helps! I’m attaching the link at the bottom here that will take you straight to the page where you can make an ongoing monthly pledge or a one-time gift. And if you ever want to find out more about our ministry here, how you can be even more involved, or even come and visit us, please email or call us! We would love to talk to you! And as always, please continue to keep us in your prayers. There is always a lot going on here and we know that without God we could do nothing. Thank you!

Back in the States

Back in the States

I have officially been back in the States for a week. My time in Belize flew by and I can’t believe that two months passed by so quickly. Overall, I really enjoyed the trip. I feel like God was able to use me in many ways while I was there. One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to help at the school in the village of Georgeville. I spent a lot of time assisting in the classroom of the teaching principal and worked with the students that have special needs. The school lacked the resources to have a special needs program so it was a blessing that I was able to assist with tutoring those children outside of the classroom.

I also really enjoyed getting to know the families from St. Andrews church in San Ignacio. I was able to spend a lot of time with some of those families and even share details about my faith. Some people I met were surprised that I would go to church every Sunday, especially since I live on my own and have no one to make me go. I explained to them that I go for the community/fellowship and that I really enjoy going to church. While I worked mostly with people that were involved with the church there, it was still an opportunity to minister to them because not everyone goes to church for the right reasons. This is also a problem in the States that I have seen in the churches.

During some of my difficult times there as I was struggling with culture shock or missing friends and family, I really learned how to rely more on prayer and my time with God. I became a much more avid prayer during my time there and really experienced the joys that come from spending time daily with God. I was very blessed to have a host family that truly made me feel like a part of their family and that helped in many ways.

One of the biggest lessons I learned in Belize was about my future. My time in the schools has especially helped me to discern that God is calling me to be a teacher. I think that God is calling me to be a teacher somewhere abroad. I am not sure where he is calling me but I will continue to pray for God to reveal what his plans are for me following graduation in 2 years. I deeply appreciate all the support I had from my senders during my time in Belize and I ask that you also pray for me and for God to show me the ways he wants to use me in the future.