All Good Things

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Can you believe it’s the end of December already? This year has really flown by (especially the past few months). I think the holiday season always tends to go by quickly, since there is so much going on here in the church, but I think it has also gone extra fast because I feel like being pregnant is a very fast nine month countdown (only four more to go!). Crazy, I know!

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Since this baby is the biggest thing on my mind these days, I’ll give you a quick update there and then fill you in on the many things we’ve been up to these past two months.

For those of you who may have missed my announcement on facebook; we’re having boy! David and I couldn’t be more excited to meet our son in just a few months. I can’t believe we can almost say our baby is arriving this year. So far at five months pregnant everything is still going smoothly. Other than being hungry and sleepy all the time, I’m feeling pretty well. We were a little concerned for about a month about some complications, but with extra progesterone pills and lots of prayers everything is now looking completely normal. One of the things I’m loving the most are my doctor’s appointments every month. My OBGYN always checks on the baby with the ultrasound machine just for my regular checkups. There is something amazing about seeing the baby move more and more with each appointment (and seeing so many extra details each time). The last appointment we actually got to see him sucking his thumb. So cute! If any of you are interested, I’ve put together a baby registry on Amazon of a few things we’re looking to have shipped to my parent’s house (all things that could pretty easily fit in a suitcase). While we’re still planning on having the baby here in Belize, some things are either difficult to find or just more expensive here in country.

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Ok, now for the many Christmas activities that have happened over the past few weeks. First, December started with St. Andrew’s Day and Confirmations. This is one of our bigger services for the year as we celebrate St. Andrew’s Day, the start of Advent, and Confirmations. It also adds to the day that we get to end the services, both at St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s, with a wonderful fellowship meal; pibil tacos and “Black Dinner” (yum!).

Now to share a little bit about the kids we work with here in San Ignacio. First, the youth choir. December is always the busiest time for any choir, but I was especially impressed with these kids as most of them were new this semester. The choir consists of about 14 kids and I was really happy that the majority of them participated in all the events. At the beginning of the month the kids were invited to sing at the town’s Christmas Variety show. While it took a lot of planning and organizing to get so many kids together for an outside evening performance, it was absolutely wonderful. I didn’t know it until the night of, but they were singing at the main show for the month (with the Christmas tree lighting, and surprise fireworks). There were lots of people in the audience and the entire show was even broadcasted live on the local network. It was very exciting for the kids to hear from family and friends who had seen them on TV!

The next big event for the choir and the youth group was going Christmas caroling during the last week of school. This is one of the highlights for the whole year for both the kids and us. Last year we had the opportunity to partner with Chaa Creek Lodge and their restaurant Guava Limb Café in our community outreach, and this year we joined in the same partnership. Basically between the two nights we had between 25 and 40 kids come together for a snack, provided by Guava Limb, and then to join on the Chaa Creek bus to drive all over town singing carols to people and dropping off food hampers to those in need. It is quite the event! I think caroling is always fun, but there is something about taking so many kids, singing on the bus as we travel through town, and bringing gifts to people in need that makes for a wonderful Christmas tradition. We can’t say thank you enough to Chaa Creek Lodge and Guava Limb Café for helping us again this year. It was wonderful!

Right as school finished we had our end of the year Christmas party with the youth group. The youth group has grown considerably this semester and we wanted to make sure we ended the year with something fun. While games and food are always a hit, the biggest highlight of the night was the white elephant exchange. It turns out these kids had never tried this gift exchange before and it was hilarious! We had to convince the boys not to bring bags of trash, but other than that, the gifts were awesome. I think the top gifts ended up being a fancy ledger and candy, while the funniest were a large Halloween leg, a troll head painted green, and my favorite, an empty glass jar labeled “a jar of nothing”. Granted, some kids were not thrilled with their gifts (a lot of side trading), but there was tons of laughter all around! I still remember white elephant exchanges I did with my youth group growing up and I think this will easily become a youth group tradition here in Belize.

To wrap up the special activities for the month the youth choir led the church in a service of Lessons & Carols. This is one of my favorite services during the Advent season as we get ready for Christmas, and I was so happy the kids could lead this service for the church. They were able to share 8 anthems that they had worked on this year, read all the lessons leading to the birth of Jesus, and lead the congregation in some of our favorite Advent and Christmas carols. It was a truly beautiful service! I’ve got to say I found this semester with choir to be so encouraging. I had a great time with the kids and I’m really excited start up the choir again at the end of January.

We finished the month up with a beautiful Candlelit “Midnight Mass” on Christmas Eve at St. Andrew’s Church, our Christmas Day service at St. Hilda’s Church, and river baptisms on Boxing Day. This is always my favorite time of year in the church and even though it’s busy, I wouldn’t skip a single thing. We’ll end the year with our “Watchnight Mass” on New’s Year’s Eve and start the new year with our New Year’s Day Mass.

Let’s see in other big news in our ministry life here in Belize, the Hansen family has officially moved down here to serve with us for the next year. We are so excited to be able to spend this time with them. Evan will be helping with leadership development, men’s fellowship, and even teaching guitar lessons (the kids are very excited!), Missy will be working as a counselor in the community and schools, and Annabel will be attending St. Andrew’s school. We know in the next year God will do so much here with this family; He’s already brought us some good friends! Thank you to everyone for praying for their safe arrival and all the details of moving to a new country.

As we wrap up this year and look to 2019 there are lots of things you can be praying for us:

First, our baby is due the end of April next year.

Please pray for a safe and healthy delivery and the rest of this pregnancy.

As you know we are planning on coming back to the States for a few months next year for our “home” assignment. We will be visiting lots of people and churches, as well as raising support for our next three years on the mission field, and adding a little person to our family.

Please pray that we will be able to get everything organized in the next few months as we plan to return.

Please pray that we will be able to raise the support we need for our baby and to return to the mission field.

Coming to the end of the year David and I are reflecting on our ministry here and how we can live healthier lives. This will take us being better at time management, dealing with stress in a more effective manner, and setting manageable goals.

Please pray for us as we figure out how to do all these things and get healthier.

And for a big praise report: I’ve finally received my permanent residency status here in Belize! This is great news, especially as we will be traveling a lot next year. Thank you for your prayers!

We want to say thank you again to all our supporters. We are incredibly grateful for your prayers and financial support. As we come into the New Year with so many changes on the horizon we are very aware that we are only able to serve here because God has given us partners like you. We hope you have had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends and may you have a blessed New Year. As always feel free to get in touch with us here on the blog, through email, or even a phone call. We are looking forward to seeing many of you in person again soon. And if you aren’t supporting us financially and would like to, or know someone who would be interested in partnering with us, please click on the link below. Thank you and be sure to keep checking back here to see more pictures and updates!

Our New Home and Work Photos

Home Photos and Work Update Edition

Hi all! This is Evan writing. As usual, this will be heavy on photos and lighter on text. We want to show you photos of our house now that we’re settled in. We also want to show you some photos of what we’ve been doing with St. Andrews. 

First, two notes for prayer: 

1) The deadline is approaching for Delta to find Annabelle’s blanket “Chewie.” Please pray they can find it and for Annabelle to take it well if they cannot. 

2) If you would like to support our work here in Belize, we would be most grateful. You can make a tax deductible donation through SAMS in order to do this. Here is a link to our giving page. 

Our New Home

This home has been such a huge blessing for us. We’re so grateful for our landlords who are also our new neighbors. They have been so generous and welcoming. We have been walking everywhere and are enjoying finding the closest places around. Sometime soon I’ll show you where we shop when we’re not at the market. These stores are pretty awesome. 

Back to the house. It’s small. Under 500sf small. It has 1 bedroom and 1 bath. The kitchen is TINY. The porch and the view are huge and as we’ve mentioned, it’s only a 5 minute walk to most places in town. The first thing we did was hang the hammock on the porch. It has been getting non-stop use. It’s taken us a while to gather all of the things we need, but we think we’re mostly set with pots, pans, towels, storage, etc, and we can finally stop feeling like we’re bleeding money! 

Be sure and look at all of the photos, including some of us moving in. You should be able to click one photo and see a slideshow with captions. 

 

Community Life

As we said before, much of our time thus far has been spent getting immigration stuff sorted and getting our family settled. We’re here for a year, so we’re trying to be patient. Tomorrow, Missy will go meet with local mental health professionals. I will start playing guitar for worship next week. 

In the meantime, we have been joining in with the life of the church as much as possible. Here are a few photos for you!  

SAMS Joins AGMP to Reach Young Adults at Mission Conferences

SAMS Joins AGMP to Reach Young Adults at Mission Conferences

Society for Anglican Missionaries and Senders (SAMS) joins the collaborative effort of Anglican Global Mission Partners at the Urbana Student Missions Conference, St. Louis, December 27-31, 2018

Dedicated to calling whole-life, whole-world disciples, Urbana is an eye-opening global missions conference, a sacred space for college and graduate students, faculty, and church leaders to hear God’s call.  SAMS will once again be at Urbana seeking to connect with young adults who are discerning a call for crossing cultures to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Additionally, the mission network Anglican Global Mission Partners (AGMP), that SAMS is a part of, will exhibit at the conference and for the first time will coordinate a collaborative exhibit in the Outreach Section that will bring together Anglican Frontier Missions, Global Teams, New Wineskins Missionary Network, and Trinity School for Ministry (in the Seminary Section).  The partners will be ready, eager to guide and pray for participants as they seek what God might be calling them to.  You may discover more at https://urbana.org/.

If you are coming or are sending young adults, please email Jenny Noyes at jenny@newwineskins.org, the AGMP Exhibit Coordinator.

AGMP will also host a Saturday night reception at Urbana.  All who have an interest in mission and how Anglicans are engaging in this mission around the world are welcome to join us at a meet and greet reception with food and drink at 9:30 p.m. on December 29.  We will gather at J.F. Sanfilippo’s Restaurant (in the Drury Inn & Suites just one block from the Dome at 705 N. Broadway) on Saturday immediately following the evening session.  Bring a friend!  Contact Nita at nitadempsey@sams-usa.org if you desire more details.

Urbana is letting students know about mission trips in which they can participate.  If you have upcoming mission trips planned that would welcome the addition of college students, please email Jenny at jenny@newwineskins.org with those details as well.

Following Urbana, SAMS will also be represented at the Cross for the Nations Conference, Louisville, KY, January 2-5.  “Cross exists to see our generation live for the most loving cause in the universe: bringing people from every tribe, tongue, and nation into the everlasting joy of knowing and worshiping Jesus.”

Please pray for the SAMS teams composed of missionaries, missionary Bridgers, and staff that will be representing the Society at these upcoming university student and young adult conferences:  Urbana Student Missions Conference, December 27-31; Cross for the Nations Conference, January 2-5; and Jubilee, February 22-24.  Pray also that many young people will respond to the Lord’s call to the nations.

God With Us

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The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
 the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish
.John 1:14

In our son’s Sunday School class, they speak of the three great mysteries of the church year: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. These mysteries are so full of wonder we need time to prepare to enter them. Advent is the time to prepare to enter the mystery of Christmas, the mystery of the Incarnation. This year, the Word’s flesh and blood have taken up residency in our lives in a new way.

Since their arrival in September, we’ve seen our missional fellows, at times beautifully and other times clumsily, become the hands and feet of Jesus to those whom they serve. Whether through building friendships through teaching ESL or making banana pudding for a homeless woman’s birthday, we see the Word taking on flesh. Kieran, a fellow from this year, reflected on how he sees this incarnational truth: “I can see the kingdom being built by us through literally building a house. What’s more, we’re not building up a castle for kings or anything. No, we’re building it for a family who needs it, who may have been outcasts. That’s how I imagine God is building his kingdom up as well. From building up relationships with children, the homeless, one another, to building up a healthy garden to even building up our bodies through embodied Spiritual disciplines, I see Jesus.”

But here’s the mysterious part: Christ Incarnate always ends up meeting us in those we have come to ‘serve’. Every Tuesday our family joins our cohort at Daily Bread, a lunch served for the chronically homeless, underemployed, or anyone who is hungry. We walk down stairs to the church basement, wait in line to receive the day’s food, and find a seat with a new or familiar face. We sit and share a meal together. Sometimes there’s conversations of Sunday’s football game or stories of childhood shared.

One Tuesday, we met Martin. He introduced himself as a “hobo” who rides the rails but we came to call him “Martin, the Holy Ghost filled hobo”. He ended up in Pittsburgh by accident having jumped on to the wrong train. But what started as an accident was quickly shown to be God’s provision. After sharing a meal with Martin, we invited him to stick around for the Bible study. His response was, “I haven’t cracked that book in 6 years. So, why not?!” We sat down to a study on Moses and Martin quickly jumped into the discussion. He shared insights that revealed he had a very deep understanding of scripture. As we got to know Martin over the next following weeks, he revealed that he hadn’t been listening to God for a few years. He was running. But, during his time in Pittsburgh he started listening again. He started studying Scripture again. And, he started praying again. And, before we knew it, he was gone; he found his southbound train. In his story and friendship, we met with Jesus. It was truly a one of a kind glory.

We are grateful for how you have been God’s presence to us as we respond to God’s call to Agape Year. We continue to walk in faith trusting God to provide for our material resources and also to provide future missional fellows. Would you consider an end of year donation to support our ministry?

Please pray for us as we trust and behold Emmanuel “God with us”. As you enter the mystery of Christmas through Advent, we pray that you will see the Incarnation being offered to you, wholly and fully in all its flesh and glory

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Getting to San Ignacio – The good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

Dear Friends and Family,

Annabelle was such a great traveller!

This is Missy writing. What a time we’ve had! And I mean that in every way.

We are thrilled to be here in San Ignacio with David and Mary Beth and many lovely Belizeans. Annabelle wrote in her journal that her “first day in Belize was fun, fun, fun!”

Annabelle Journaling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And before we left we cannot measure or count how many cards, gifts, emails, hugs, and prayers were given to us. We felt, and continue to feel, truly loved by so many. There are many stories to be told of generosity, unexpected goodness and kindness in those final days. And honestly, the months prior to leaving are a series of miracles small and large – like getting renters for our house without having to advertise and who were understanding of what we were facing with leaving the country for a year.

At the same time, the two weeks prior to leaving, and our trip down here, were fraught (and I do not use that word lightly) with challenges. They have and are costing us a lot of money, countless hours, and immense amounts of energy. I thought about listing them all out for you but I’ve decided to shorten this by combining them into categories:

The House Fiascos: Numbering 7 of significance and including everything from possibly losing homeowners insurance on the cottage, to dead HVAC, and bacteria in the well at the cottage.

Bye bye BMW!

The Motorcycle Fiascos: I won’t go into much detail on this as I don’t fully understand all that was wrong with it (except that it was a number of things and all quite stressful). In this case the end result is that it was sold to a good home, though for $2000 less than we hoped. We are extremely grateful that it sold!

 

 

We get by with a little help from our friends.

The Weather Fiasco: A foot of snow was unexpectedly dumped on Charlottesville the day before we were to leave. The prediction was 3-5 inches. This affected our leaving in a variety of ways – but we left!

The Travel Fiascos: Numbering 3+ of significance and including having our train to Baltimore be canceled, our rental car pick up office being closed due to snow, and almost not being allowed on the plane to Atlanta.

I kept saying all along that whatever happened it was going to be alright because we were getting on the plane on December 11th. However, that was truly challenged when we almost weren’t allowed on the plane and ended up being let on at the very last minute. Once we were on the plane in our seats, my eyes just kept overflowing. I have shed more tears in the last couple of weeks (for the good, beautiful, and true things and for the heart breaking, stressful, and difficult) than many other years of my life. I think it is fair to say our bodies are still weary but our souls are full. And we are so grateful to be here. 

We're here!

Prayer Requests:

– Please pray for our work permits, Annabelle’s dependent/student permit, my ministry of health application, and our immigration status. There are a lot of particular requirements, some of which are unexpected, and we need divine intervention to move things along.

– Unfortunately, we left Annabelle’s “chewie” (blanket) on the last plane. Please, please pray that Delta is able to track it down and return it to us. There have been many tears over the loss of chewie. 🙁

– Please pray for us earnestly. It truly feels as though there are forces at work that do not want us here and need all the divine help we can get, as we believe God does want us here.

We absolutely could not be here without you all. We are sending hugs and blowing kisses.

Thank you for reading. We love you!

Note from the editor (Evan) – I’m working on another post to give you an idea of what we’ve been doing since we landed.