Reaching into the Future…

Reaching into the Future…

In his second letter to his disciple, Timothy, Paul wrote: “…what you have heard from me…entrust to faithful brethren who will be able to teach others also.” Like our Lord Who fully anticipated the continuation of what He had begun to do and teach through the medium of His trained disciple makers, Paul fully expected an apostolic succession in respect of what he had passed on to his protege.Indeed, if we do not pass on what we have learned to others who are able to train others also, our life work will end with us. Unfortunately many have not learned this basic Gospel lesson of training to train…and so it is no surprise to see the church in decline in spite of the frantic busyness of the clergy. What has been received must be passed on if we are to survive.

This past weekend, Louise and I had the privilege of passing on what we have received to those who are, in many ways, our future. 30 Youth Leaders from the Diocese of Cape Town met together to be trained in Strategy. There are so many other things they could have been doing on Friday evening and on Saturday and yet they came.

As always Louise and I pray before, during, and after such training sessions, basically to ask that the Lord, who knows all hearts and desires and secrets, give us the words to say what the unique group needs to hear. As such, even though the material remains the same, the manner in which we present it, the stories we include, and the timing of each segment differs each time. This time we found that family matters, the role of parents, praying for your spouse to be, peer pressure, among other things often came up in our discussions.

At one point, we spoke about the Early Church being accused of ‘turning the world upside down’ and it soon became apparent that our group’s desire was to have that same “accusation” levelled against them! May the Lord bless them and prevent that flame from being snuffed out!

A few came up to us at the end and asked when we would be available to help them train others in their parishes…how exciting! Pray for these young people, dearest brethren…pray that nothing stops them from growing into a mighty movement for Jesus!

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!

Send Those Who Go

Send Those Who Go

Familiar words given to us by the physician Luke, All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (Acts 2:44,45)

These words give a sentimental idealism to our idea of the early church.  Yet, in this era of local to global, these words are more prophetic than nostalgic.  Today, Senders, those who respond to God’s call to mission through prayers and donations, sell property and give sacrificially just like those early believers.  Throughout the history of the church, those who journeyed out cross-culturally always had need of spiritual, moral and physical support.  Today’s cross-cultural workers are the same. So, how can we provide spiritual, moral, and physical support?

  1. Spiritual: Prayer, prayer, and more prayer! This is something that anyone from anywhere can participate in. Not sure how to pray? Visit the prayer page to discover a prayer calendar.
  2. Moral: Let them know you are listening. SAMS Missionaries love to know that you are keeping up to date with their ministry. When you read their newsletters, reply and let them know you care and are praying for them.
  3. Physical: Give financially.  Acts 2:45 tells of people giving up their own property and possessions for those who were sharing the Gospel. We can give in some way too so that others may know the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Are you one who gives so that others might go? Maybe you never realized that you are a member of the Acts 2:44-45 club.

Love, Hope, Joy: Returning to Madagascar

Love, Hope, Joy: Returning to Madagascar

Come with me and I will make you fishers of men” and at once they left their nets and followed him.” Mark 1:17-18

At the Women’s Center in the Diocese of Toliara, Madagascar

Needlecraft, embroidery, crochet, and culinary arts are fulfilling hobbies for many of us. To women in Southwest Madagascar, skills gained in these crafts enable them to launch small businesses and lift their families out of poverty. God is using SAMS missionary Jacky Lowe to provide them the training that makes these transformations possible. Jacky first served in Madagascar as a Bridger. She was called to serve after hearing SAMS Missionary Rev. Patsy Mcgregor speak at the Diocesan conference in Flordia. Now, she will return there this March to serve long-term. Jacky will train women in these crafts in the Diocese of Toliara.  When she was first there she says of her time, “For five weeks I lived in community with people who have nothing and are full of joy. I hope to carry that joy with me every day.” Now, carrying out that Joy, she prepares to return. Teacher and students give what they have – knowledge and joy, willingness to work cross-culturally in community – and grow what they have established. Workshop students “go back to their parishes and teach the women there,” Jacky says. Since last summer, new crafts are being taught. One, in particular, is bead and jewelry making. One young mother is able to take care of her child with the money she earns from making the beads.

Jacky (left) with Rev. Patsy McGregor

“A committee of women in Toliara, with SAMS Missionary Patsy McGregor’s help, sets standards and prices paid to women,” Jacky adds. “We hope, with time, that women throughout the diocese of Toliara will be able to develop work and leadership skills to provide for their families.” As she prepares to leave very soon, you can visit her SAMS page and consider praying and supporting her. “Join us in a journey of hope, to empower the women and children of Madagascar to overcome poverty through education and the love of Jesus Christ.” Support Jacky here. You can also support by check: SAMS USA, PO Box 399, Ambridge, PA 15003 Checks should be payable to: SAMS USA; memo:  Jacky/women by Howard McClellan, SAMS Staff
Lessons for Leaders…and Followers

Lessons for Leaders…and Followers

Whoever has said that the Old Testament is no longer relevant to Christians today has not read Kings and Chronicles!
Looking just at the lives of Solomon, Rehoboam, and Jeroboam, one can see how leaders today still make the same disastrous mistakes even though they have the advantage of, not only the Scriptures, but also of history.

While Solomon starts his reign on the right foot, asking for wisdom rather than any other desirable thing, he ends his reign by forsaking God’s wisdom and following the political practice of the day, namely allying oneself to other nations through marriage…in this case multiple marriages…unequally yoked marriages. Rehoboam, his son, does not even consult God in matters of the State and he disregards the counsel of those who had learned wisdom through the observation of the consequences of Solomon’s bad choices. Rather he seeks advice and direction from those as ignorant as himself in
matters of government…his wet behind the ears peers! When world leaders (or church leaders for that matter) seek to curry favour with others for whatever reasons…whether to gain their applause or their votes or their money…they embark on a journey that will ultimately lead to division or destruction, even of that which they seek to build or maintain. 
And Jeroboam! One would have thought that if ever there was a man who would have learned valuable lessons from watching the folly of his leaders, it would be him! Oppressed and exiled by a jealous leader, rebuffed by an immature and arrogant and insecure leader, told by a prophet that he would lead in their stead because of their collective lack of godly wisdom…one would think that he would seek to govern in a way that would bring unity and would foster humility and righteousness and justice…but instead he stumbles even further away from that which would bring peace and stability and prosperity to the people!
Surely our leaders in both the political and the spiritual sphere ought to read Chronicles and Kings! If they refuse to learn from Scripture or from history…if they turn a blind eye to the consequences of bad decisions – and they are not hard to find, in fact just a border crossing away…they will surely follow in the footsteps of countless others who have chosen to lead their own people into the abyss of ruin and poverty. Why is it always so difficult to bend the
knee and to seek what is good to the Holy Spirit? Is it pride? Is it stupidity? 
Is it sin? Are our leaders blind? Compromise leads only to more compromise.
Where is the backbone? Where is the wisdom? Where is the bravery and the boldness needed to stand when all others fall? 
But then, dear brothers and sisters in Christ…where are we? Are we praying for our leaders as we are instructed to in the Holy Scriptures? Really praying for them? Or are we just pointing fingers? Are we lifting them up daily - hourly - to the throne of the King of kings and the Lord of lords? Asking God to grant them true repentance and His Holy Spirit as Guide – or, indeed, asking God to remove them and replace them with those who will learn to listen? Does He not say that He holds the hearts of leaders in His hands? Perhaps we receive what we deserve…perhaps our hands are not as lily white as
we like to believe…