As I begin wrapping up my time here I cannot believe that 2 months has flown by so fast. The last few weeks have been incredibly busy. One of my goals in coming here was to use my time to build relationships with the people and children here to bring them closer to God. One of my biggest events while I have been here was the Vacation Bible School at St. Andrew’s Church here in San Ignacio. The VBS went very well. It was Monday through Friday for 3 hours in the morning. We had about 36 to 46 children come each day. The VBS was run by an almost entirely Belizean team made up from members of the church and some other locals that were able to help out. I really enjoyed working with the director of Children’s Ministry at St. Andrews, Ms. Perla, to help plan and complete the VBS. I helped run the Bible story station during the week. I enjoyed getting to teach the children all about the Great Commission and ways they could go out and make disciples. VBS was a great opportunity to serve the children and the families of this community and to show them God’s love, as well as teach them about God. One of the my favorite parts was the last day of VBS where everyone played sports and had a water balloon fight. After VBS was over Friday all of the volunteers had a lunch and another water balloon fight which ended in all of us throwing buckets of water on each other. It was so much fun.
Soaked from water balloons!
Water balloon fight! We are soaked!I was also put in charge of doing something fun for the children that attend church regularly at St. Hilda’s in Georgeville. I planned a day at the zoo for about 10 children. It was the first time many of the children had been to the Belize Zoo. We had a lot of fun getting to see the animals. The Belize Zoo exists of animals local to Belize and were rescue animals. We got to see really cool animals but my favorites were the jaguar, the tapir, and the toucan.
I got to plan a fun day at the zoo for the VBS children.
The weekend before VBS I was blessed with getting to show my parents around Belize. David, Mary Beth, and I met my parents for a couple of days off in Caye Caulker. I got to go snorkeling with my parents and we swam with manatees, stingrays, and nurse sharks. After an incredible couple of days in Caye Caulker, we all drove back to San Ignacio. I was able to take my parents to my favorite restaurants in town and introduce them to my host family and some of my new friends here.
Blessed to meet new sisters in Christ.
This past week has been a bittersweet one. I have started to say goodbye to some of my friends here. I went to the fair last weekend with one of my friends, her boyfriend, and her younger sisters. I rode a kiddie roller coaster with one of the sisters and even won one of the carnival games. I think my favorite part was driving back with the windows down and singing along to Despacito. I went to a pool and spend an afternoon with a few of the girls in youth group that I worked with in VBS. I will be very sad to leave these people in a few days. I have also been getting excited to come back to the States. I am looking forward to getting to see my friends and family. Overall I have loved my time here and hope I am able to come back to visit all the people I have met here.
When we toured the Eastern Cape area a week ago, our first stop was in the Diocese of George. The evening prior to our meeting with the Bishop, Canon, and Archdeacons, Lyndon Du Plessis, our GtC coordinator, showed us around the city of George and, more especially the areas where he and he and his wife Corine work. It is mostly a poor to impoverished area…some folks live in shacks and cook outside around campfires. But we were so blessed when he took us to meet his choir…made up of people from all walks of life, none of them professionally trained…but oh! What a heavenly sound! I think even the angels were commanded to be silent and listen…
As we get closer to the end of July, we are also coming to our one year mark here in Belize! I realize that most of my updates tell you how long we’ve been in the country, but I feel like this is the big one. One year is the one we’ve been waiting for! The reason one year is so important for the two of us is because when we officially hit that mark (August 2) I will be allowed to apply for my permanent residency! What this means (even though I probably won’t be approved for a few years) is that I, like David, will have more stability in the country to stay indefinitely as an actual resident. But it also means that we will be able to travel more freely in and out of the country. For those of you who don’t know, just to apply for residency you are not allowed to have left the country for more than a specific number of days in the span of a year. Once I’ve applied and sat through my interviews I’ll be allowed to travel more (which is good for reasons I’ll get to in a little bit). So anyway, what this means (our coming to this one year mark), is that we are starting to prepare tons of paperwork, get medical exams, and background checks. It’s sort of a stressful hassle, but it will be well worth it when we’ve finished the process in just a few weeks. Please be praying for us as we prepare all of the different requirements! Please also pray that we don’t miss/mess-up any of the steps as Immigration can be incredibly picky!
While that tells you a little bit about our immediate future, let me tell you about what has been going on this summer! David and I were blessed to be able to attend St. Barnabas, St. Hilda’s, and St. Andrew’s school graduations. It was great to see kids that I’ve really gotten to know in the past year, and David has watched grow up, graduate and get ready to start high school. Here in Belize it is not a requirement that kids attend high school, so it was a lot of fun seeing the look of accomplishment and excitement in these kids eyes as they finished this huge milestone and prepared to start the next one.
With school out for the next couple of months we are on a break from chapel services and strict school schedules. Youth choir takes a break for the summer, but piano lessons continue (I’m even continuing to get new students!). Yet, with school being out it also means that it is a little harder to recognize which children I know from the three schools we work with (as they are no longer wearing uniforms). Thankfully, kids here are much better at recognizing me, and a “Hi Miss Mary Beth” lets me know that I really do know the kid and I’m not just creepily staring at children as I try and figure out where I know them from! David is much better with names and faces!
The first week of summer vacation here St. Andrew’s held our Vacation Bible School (VBS). Our director of children’s ministries Ms. Perla Gonzalez, with Jordan Paris, worked together to throw an (almost) entirely Belizean lead VBS, with the theme of The Great Commission! Now, I say “entirely Belizean” because this was actually completely done with volunteers from and for St. Andrew’s Church. In the past for many years teams came from the States to throw VBS weeks for kids here, but just a couple years ago a team came from Christ Church (Savannah) and taught leaders and volunteers from church how to run our own VBS. And I have to say, it was a great success! Each day, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 to 11:30 AM we had between 36 and 46 kids show up to learn about Jesus’ call on each of our lives to “GO!” and make disciples. The kids were separated into three groups (Messengers, Fishermen, and Sheep) and rotated between the different workshops (Praise and Worship, Bible stories, Crafts, and Sports) throughout the day. While the plan had been to separate everyone by age, we had so many itty-bitties that the Messengers and Fishermen had some little ones, and the Sheep were entirely 5-7 year olds. Some many cute kids!
This really was a time for outreach for our church. Not only did the many of the kids come from different schools and churches, but we also had a variety of volunteers that really worked together to pull off a fantastic week of worship and workshops! While each day had the same basic format (with the kids rotating through the workshops), our final day consisted mainly of Praise and Worship and then a couple hours of Sports. One of my favorite moments with the kids was in that last day. We took the Sheep (the itty-bitties) and set them up to play water balloon games. One little boy, maybe 5 years old, let us know that his mom said he wasn’t allowed to get wet. We said that was fine and he could just sit off to the side and watch. Well, the little boy thought for a second, and then very sincerely looked up and said, “well it’ll probably be ok because my mom isn’t here …” Ms. Perla and I about died laughing! Needless to say we still had him sit out that game! At the end of that last day, after we sent the kids home, all of us volunteers were able to sit and eat lunch together, play football, and then have a very fast water balloon fight. While I did not join the water balloon fight, I did get soaked when some of the girls poured a bucket of water over my head! Overall, I think this year’s VBS here at St. Andrew’s went very well!
The same week that we had VBS, I started a Young Ladies’ Bible Study here in our house for high school girls. We decided to make it nice and official/fancy with invitations made out to each girl, and at the same time keep it comfy by having it on our amazingly fluffy couches with some kind of nice snack at the end (so far we have had chocolate cookies and frozen bananas with peanut butter and chocolate). For the summer we are meeting once a week for an hour in the middle of the day and studying through the book of James. I am loving teaching this Bible study! Pretty much none of these girls have attended a Bible study before and it is a lot of fun helping teach these girls how to really study the Bible. It is also fun (and challenging) to then answer the many questions that have started coming up in our studies. But I love that there are questions! Last week we went twenty minutes over just with questions! It has also been a good learning opportunity for me as I have never run a Bible study myself and have had to spend many hours studying the chapters, praying, reading Bible commentaries and study guides, as well as pestering David. I’m really looking forward to seeing what God has in store for this group as we go through His Word together. Before we break for a snack each week we go around and share prayer requests to then pray for each other before we leave. I think this group has the potential of really growing together in Christ and becoming a more tightly knit group. Please be praying for me and these girls as we study together, and work to better understand God and His call on our life as He reveals Himself in Scripture.
Last week, this week, and the following week we have seminarians from Codrington College in Barbados here with us in Belize. The three students are rotating between Belize City, Dangriga, and here in San Ignacio to shadow the priests in those respective areas and learn about the different ministries. We’ve had one seminarian finish his time with us, and we are spending this week with another one, before meeting the last one next week. I am loving this time getting to know these different students, and hearing their stories of how God called them into ministry.
This is also our last week with our SAMS intern Jordan before she heads back to the States. Today she arranged to take about eight kids from St. Hilda’s as well as some adults to the Belize Zoo as a fun summer activity. The kids had so much fun looking at all the animals! I think the cutest moment was when I said “the babies (referring to the littlest kids) are tired” and the little four year old girl looked at me very seriously and said, “no, the babies are hungry!”. It ended up being a very successful trip! We’ve really enjoyed having Jordan here working with us this summer! Please pray for her as she prepares to return home next week and as she transitions back to life in the States.
Let’s see, as I prepare to wrap up this update I did say I would mention why it will be nice to be able to travel more freely. My sister, who came down and visited us last Christmas, got engaged on the 4th of July! She and her fiancé will be getting married in November! I’m very excited to meet her fiancé and to be a part of this new step in their lives! (I know, lots of exclamation points). To add at least one more, in just a couple weeks (more or less) my brother and his lovely wife will be having their first kid! So many wonderful things happening right now! Please be praying for both my sister and brother, and their growing families!
All right, I should probably finish this update before it gets too long. I would also like to ask that you continue to pray for our ministry here in Belize. With many important things coming up, and going on, we could always use more prayer. Also, as we do come up on the one year mark here in San Ignacio we have to continue looking and planning for our financial support (so that we can continue to serve here long term). As many of you know, we came to Belize without being fully funded (with the plan of continuing to raise support long distance). While we have gotten new pledges of financial giving since we moved here, and we are very grateful for all of them, we are still not at the support level we need to keep things in the black. I would ask that you pray and consider financially supporting David’s and my ministry here in Belize. I personally feel most connected in ministry with the kids (youth choir, youth group, Bible study, piano lessons, chapel services), and we are really seeing God work in so many ways! David’s ministry with the kids, as well as the many church services, counseling, preaching/teaching, visiting parishioners, and the many other ministry opportunities that come just from being the priest of so many churches is really reaching people with God’s word and love. If you want to be part of this ministry (even from far away!) please not only join us in prayer (we can never have enough!), but please also consider supporting us financially. Thank you to everyone who prays for us, supports us, and sends us encouraging notes! We love and appreciate all of you! And thank you for making it to the end of a rather long and rambling update! =]
I have been seeing a lot of news, opinions, memes, etc about people entering the US illegally. I read about a variety of actions the US government could take from programs to legalizing certain types of people (those with jobs, “dreamers,” etc) to building walls and deporting thousands. I have a
different solution to the immigration situation. Instead of “keep them out” I will call it “keep them in.” By that I mean keep the young men and women in Honduras.
Homes with bags of plastic bottles to sell
for 25 cents a pound, their only means of support.
In my 6.5 years as a missionary in Honduras, I have seen that people don’t really want to leave their families and their country (and the Honduran food!) What they do want is to provide for them to “sigue adelante” or move ahead in life. However, the conditions in Honduras are desperate. There are no jobs, only 13% of children finish high school, urban children live in dysfunctional homes in violent neighborhoods. The government offers no help or relief. People will do anything to provide for their families, even risk their lives to go to the US and find work and support for their families.
At LAMB, we want to keep the youth and the hope they represent here. They are Honduras’ greatest resource. Consider these contrasts:
Emanuel is a scholarship student at our school who was being trained to be a drug mule by his gang parents. Here he is leading a prayer at the school devotional. He is also a member of our Alonzo Movement and now living with his grandmother, safe and loved.
This is a gang member sought by the police for robbery. Boys from impoverished barrios and from dysfunctional families are prime recruiting targets for gangs. In a country with over 50% unemployment the offer of a “job” (drug running, extortion, robbery) and a community of “family” (the gang) is irresistible.
Eduardo (an alias for his protection) was abandoned by his mother and bounced around state run children’s homes (nothing like ours) until he finally ran away. Somehow, at 15 he arrived in LA without documentation or any education. 15 year old Eduardo fights for his life in ICU in Los Angeles. He has never experience a stable home, a loving family, or hope for a bright future. If he survives, what will his future be?
Mirza, a beautiful young woman from our Children’s Home, is studying medicine with a scholarship as part of our transition program. One day, Dr. Mirza will be helping her fellow Hondurans.
Michael is 11. He sells nuts along the highway for food. His clothes are dirty and he only wears flip flops. What are his prospects? Graduating from high school, learning a trade, going to university are not realistic options for him and children like him.
These boys pray at their Alonzo Movement Club meeting. We encourage them to dream big, have goals, and work to achieve them. The Alonzo kids are choosing life over gangs and drugs.
Help “keep them in” by providing hope through education. At LAMB, our daycare program gives life to the highest risk toddlers and pre-schoolers. Our school provides outstanding academic and spiritual education to poor children. The Alonzo Movement provides a loving community, spiritual formation and scholarships to high school and university to teenagers. Our Children’s Home protects and loves children whose families can’t. All these children are on a path to stay in Honduras and lead Christ filled, productive lives, start and provide for loving families, and one by one, break the cycle of despair and poverty.
Click here to have your gift doubled in our Dream Big campaign. Donations up to $10,000 will be matched for scholarships for our children.
Keep them in and help make their dreams come true!
Suzy had been longing to get back into urban ministry. Not long ago, she was driving down the main street in Flor del Campo, a route she takes often to go to our school, when she saw a small house for rent right across the street from the “cancha” – the large soccer field. She stopped to write down the phone number on the for rent sign, drove home and called the number. Next thing she knew she had rented the small house. Why? She didn’t really know. All she knew was she had to rent that small house. In April, Suzy wrote:
Arely and Evelyn met me at the Little Green House. We walked through it (which takes about two seconds), talked about possibilities, and then prayed together that it would be a place of peace and joy and growth. We invited the Holy Spirit to make His home there.
Suzy had already told the children at the Children’s Home about the house and invited them to participate in the transformation of the house.
I shared with them how I feel that it is a Kingdom initiative because so many of them came to us from Flor del Campo, and now they can go back as God’s ambassadors. Now they have the best Gift of all to offer others. We are going to paint murals on the front of the house.
Now the house is inviting and draws attention to itself with the message, “Something beautiful happens here.”
Finally we were ready to have the grand opening of the newly named “Casa de Oracion.” (House of Prayer) The open invitation to the grand opening was for 5 – 8 pm. We got there early to get everything ship shape!
Julio and Sallie mopped the floors
Ladies prepared a ton of naca tamales
Debbie and Steve brought a huge cake
We had no idea who or how many people would come. We joked that the party was scheduled to start at 5 but, knowing the Honduran culture, people would start arriving at 6! Imagine our surprise when the room started filling up at 4:45!
Soon both of the rooms in the house were full and the front porch was too. I was moved that most of the women there were from La Cantera, where the poorest of the poor live, where the gangs rule and where prayer is much needed. Ladies from David and Evelyn’s church, Amor Fe Vida (Love, Faith, Life) made a huge tub full of delicious naca tamales. No one knew how many people would come. As people arrived, we delivered plates of naca tamales and a drink. I started to worry that we would run out. Some (mostly men) were too shy to come in the house so we fed them just inside the fence or on the street. The naca tamales kept coming. Then, the big blue bus with the Children’s Home kids arrived. Uh,oh, I thought, we won’t have any food left for them. The naca tamales kept coming! As I went to get more plates I commented to the ladies, “this is just like the loaves and fishes!” They agreed! We ended up having exactly enough to feed everyone who came by for food. Miracle!
The program was wonderful. It wasn’t planned minute by minute and beautiful spontaneous worship, prayer, fellowship and music happened. Suzy’s message that the House of Prayer is for everyone, not one church or another, that we all love Jesus and we are here to listen, to pray, and to be community resonated with all.
Suzy and Evelyn invited the Holy Spirit and He came…and remains