I often say to the children or even to friends as a humorous goodbye, “Pórtate bien!” Behave yourself!” I certainly said it to my children as they grew up.
We have a pretty clear idea of what that means when we say it to a child, but what does it mean when we say it to an adult? The Bible tells us in the letter to Colossians,
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” – Colossians 3:12
What does it look like to clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience? Every Saturday, for me, it looks like the baggage guys at the Tegucigalpa airport. These are the guys who look out for the teams as they arrive in baggage claim, “Amanda?” they ask to locate my team. So many team leaders are relieved when they see those friendly faces ready to help! They have guarded baggage, helped a team member through the airport when they travel back alone, helped me personally many times. I trust them and depend on them for so many things. It is wonderful to have my airport family watching over me and the people I care about.
They also care about each other. This is a competitive business for little money, yet they operate like a family. This includes my other friends, like Roberto, Alfredo, and Patricia who are older, disabled, and unable to work. They come to the airport looking for help. Recently, Roberto was in the hospital. Every week I gave some lempira to Alfredo or one of the baggage guys to give to Roberto. All these folks are poor and could have used the money to feed themselves and their families. Guess what? Roberto received the money I sent for him!
The experience that moved me the most is one in which I did not behave well. It was one of those Saturdays. I was delivering a team to the airport and then picking up a new team. The new team was coming on an early flight so I had little time to get one team settled before receiving the new one. I was rushed and distracted. As I left the parking lot, hurrying to meet the team vans, I passed my friend, Antony. Antony lost both of his legs and has terrible scars from a horrible electrical accident. As I raced by, he said, “My son needs a hat for school!” It was National Indigeneous Week and I knew exactly what he needed and why it was important. I raced on, not even stopping to say hi. (Not a Honduran way to behave.) After getting the outgoing team settled, I was hurrying downstairs to wait for the incoming team. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the perfect hat for Antony’s son. I asked the sales clerk how much it was. “$20.” “That’s too much. Nevermind,” I replied. (Note: What was wrong with me? Seriously? I was not clothed with compassion and kindness. I was wearing selfishness and self-absorption instead.) “It’s for the guy with no legs,” I added. Immediately she replied, “You can have it for 50% off.” She looked lovely in her compassion outfit. Sheepishly I bought the hat.
However, when I got downstairs I couldn’t see Antony. Erick, one of my baggage friends asked me what I was looking for. I explained and he told me Antony was across the very busy intersection. Looking at the time, and knowing how hard it is to cross streets on foot, I said, “I bought this hat for him but I don’t have time to walk over there.” Not even hestitating for a moment, Erick took the hat and said, “I’ll take it to him.” This occurred during prime time for baggage handlers. All the US airlines were arriving with large teams with tons of luggage, yet he left his post to help me and Antony!
When he returned, he found me and asked me to come to the door. “Look!” he said, pointing to a young man with one leg on crutches. “He has one leg! And he has a little boy!” Erick had seen this young man (disabled people have an extremely difficult time finding work in a country with NO safety net) and brought him back to the airport to find help! I smiled, told him my son also has one leg, and helped him.
I think this is a wonderful story up to this point. The guys are helping each other, looking out for their fellow man, even at their own expense. But that isn’t the best part of the story…
Two weeks later, I was back at the airport to meet a new team. 4 of the baggage guys rushed up to me, all talking at once. They were so excited to tell me this young man had been back and HAD A NEW LEG! As they were telling me this, they were showing me how well he was walking with HIS NEW LEG! Imagine, these guys struggle every day to earn enough to feed their families and yet they were celebrating this anonymous young man’s victory! A NEW LEG! “You should have seen him walk!”
That is how we should behave. Toss out our clothes of arrogance, selfishness, pride, judgment, and cold heartedness. Instead, put on the clothes my airport friends wear – compassion, humility, kindness, patience, gentleness and, one more thing, joy.
Let’s all get a new wardrobe and behave ourselves from now on!
Special Note: We all want people to work instead of depend on government or others. So do they. So, when you are at the airport, or at a restaurant, or at the grocery store, or anywhere else where people are trying to eke out a living, help them! A couple bucks for a baggage handler or a bagger won’t break your budget but will mean alot to them. It doesn’t matter if you can handle the suitcases/groceriers on your own, let them serve you! A larger tip for your servers won’t put a dent in your wallet but will mean a lot to them. Support their attempts to work and be self-sufficient!
If you live outside of South Africa, you are probably not aware of the crisis at our universities. A little more than a year ago, university students started to protest, demanding no increase (or a very slight increase at worse) for the 2017 academic school year. Their rallying cry was #feesmustfall. At first, the protests were peaceful and limited to a handful of universities, but then some troublemakers got involved. A few months down the line, the protests turned violent. Now there are protests at all of the major universities in the country and at many of our minor ones. The students are demanding free tertiary education. Their protests have turned incredibly violent over the past few months and have escalated during the past two-three weeks. University buildings, including resident halls (dormitories), have been burned down; classes have been canceled; faculty cars have been set alight. Last week, at one of our universities in Cape Town, three security guards nearly died when the building they were in was set on fire. At another one of our universities, some students took a faculty member hostage. At Wits University in Johannesburg, some of the scenes between students and police/ security guards look like a battle zone. Yesterday, students marched on Parliament in Cape Town. The protest turned violent.
There are no winners in this crisis. Many people who were sympathetic to the students’ cause are no longer, due to the violent turn of the protests. The situation is complex, and many of the students are demanding more things besides free tertiary education. Personally, I think a lot of their demands and the ethos of their movement have roots in the injustice and racism of the past and of the current times. There are two sides to every story, but I think most South Africans would agree that the protests have gotten out of control. The violence is not justified and is only hurting the students’ cause, education as a whole and the country at large. Everyone living in South Africa is affected. There are no winners.
Wayne and I have several young friends either at university or who are preparing to attend universities who are affected by the turmoil. Please pray for our young friends, and please join us in prayer for the following:
All tertiary students and those preparing to begin university in 2017 (The South African academic year runs from January to December.) Please pray for their families as well.
Protesting students: For them to protest peacefully and for them to hold accountable those who are not. Please pray for their safety as well.
Police and security guards who have been called in. For them not to use excessive force. For their safety as well.
Faculty and all staff at the universities: Pray for their safety and welfare and peace of mind. For wisdom about going forward.
Prayers for all parties involved, including the government: For them to listen to one another, for wisdom on all sides and for a fair solution to be formed.
At our recent Anglicans Ablaze conference, one of the sessions was “Quo Vadis South Africa?”—meaning, where are you going, South Africa? In many ways, the country is at a crossroads. There are so many major things going on, things to either make or break this country in the future. The student protests are a major player at this crossroads. Prayer changes things. Thank you for joining us in prayer for our students and universities and for all of those who are involved.
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!
Kazangula is a small town (if it can be called that) on the watery border of Zambia and Botswana. A group of 12 of us from GLO had taken the long, hot journey to Southern Province for a 3 day mission trip. And this was our first day of evangelism.
Within a few minutes, our group of four came across two women building a mud house. We were greeted with kind but slightly skeptical smiles and mud-caked hands. Immediately the two older preachers we were with began to ask these ladies bombarding questions like “Do you know God?” “What do you think about church?” And I sat there a bit lost and helpless because I did not speak any of the 5 languages floating around the community.
As they continued the conversation impregnated with long pauses and open Bibles, I saw my friend Emmanuel move towards their house. He looked at the pile of mud they were mixing for the wall, saw that their two yellow water containers were empty, and with less than a word he picked them up and walked away. The preachers continued to talk as I watched him walk into the distance, the yellow containers getting smaller and smaller. He stopped to ask a man something and continued up the hill to a half-finished church building. After about 10 minutes he was coming back down to us, sweat beading on his forehead in the midday sun, water sloshing on his jeans from the containers.
In that moment, I realized that THAT is the kind of missionary I want to be. I want to be a sweating missionary. The people of this country hear lots of words—it is not uncommon for church service to be 5 hours long and school is notoriously lecture-based. So how many times do we come across someone who is not concerned with words but is willing to get down into the mud of life with us? It means being able to really see people and their needs, which, yes, does take a certain level of cultural competency that I am still working on. But maybe I can bumble, sweat, learn and love my way towards that goal.
So when the preachers turned to me and asked if I wanted to say anything. I shook my head. No. Emmanuel without even speaking had said everything I wanted to say.
We know that the church is not a specific building, but the people within that specific place. However, how do we go from just a building full of people, to a community of believers striving for one common goal; to lift each other up in the name of Christ?
Our SAMS missionaries strive to cultivate community through their ministry each day. Ron and Debby Mckeon who serve in Brazil are involved in community actives such as beach clean up. They hope to help the community while at the same time share the love of Christ with those in the neighborhood.
Mary Chowenhill in Uganda opens up her house to a Bible study in the hopes of creating genuine relationships with those on campus at Ugandan Christian University.
Justin Deeter is a pastor in North Carolina. He suggests six ways we can cultivate genuine community in the church.
1. Be Intentional
2. Be Hospitable
3. Be Available
4. Be Teachable
5. Be Forgiving
6. Be Vulnerable
How do you cultivate community in your church, or neighborhood? Visit Justin’s blog to read more about community in the church.