I have a combo team in house. Part of the team is a medical brigade and part is a construction team. Yesterday the construction team set off to a rural, mountain site to build a house in a day. We have finally gotten rain, thanks be to God, which made the dirt road leading to the site a muddy road. The truck carrying all the wood and supplies got stuck. Finally, it made it to the site. The team had just started unloading when a man showed up and announced that HE, not our beneficiary, owned the tiny plot of land. We can’t settle property disputes in the moment so the team had to leave. The wood truck got stuck in the mud again and almost slid off a small ledge. So, now what? We have wood for a house and team to build it but no beneficiary. Fortunately, my assistant, Edson, is on the ball. He had already begun scoping out beneficiaries for the houses we will build in October.
Meanwhile, a woman in Flor named Felicity, was reeling from the day before. Her daughter had been mugged. In the middle of the night, the heavy rain was too much for her fragile, makeshift roof. It collapsed. Felicity was relieved they had survived the disaster but at a complete loss. Everything she had was gone. They literally had no roof over their heads. She does the only thing she can do. She begins to pray, beseeching the Lord to intervene, to somehow provide shelter for her and her daughter. Please, Lord, help us.
Then the wood truck and the team showed up. The team jumped out of the van and began unloading the wood. Edson explained to Felicity that, if it is OK with her (!) the team would build her house right then and there. Just a few hours later, Felicity and her daughter had a new, waterproof,strong house, built to last!
During the house blessing, Felicity shared how overwhelmed she was that the Lord had heard her prayer and answered it..immediately. Her daughter cried. The team was equally overwhelmed to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a real, bona fide miracle for this faithful woman and her daughter.
So, which was it? A mess or a miracle? The day sure started as a mess but the Lord has a way of making a mess into a miracle.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
It’s hard to believe we’ve already been in the States for three months. I don’t know if time is flying because of all the traveling, or if it’s flying because my son is now five-and-a-half months old (how did that happen?). I’m sorry for not updating you all sooner on our Home Ministry Assignment. Right now our little family is on its last days of a two-week vacation in Lake Lure, NC. I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been looking forward to this vacation for over a year. Three-and-a-half years ago David took me here for our honeymoon, so it’s especially fun to be back now as we reflect on how much has changed in just a few short years (it still amazes me that we’re parents!). This vacation has also been a nice time for us to just take a break—just us—before hitting the road again. We have been incredibly blessed in our travels to have so much family living that we’ve been able to stay with while visiting churches all across the United States. We were kind of dreading all of this cross-country travel with an infant, but the generosity of family and new friends to host us has been truly incredible. Thank you to all those who have opened up your homes to us so far on our journey!
At this point we are just over halfway through our time here in the States. We started off this adventure with about six weeks staying with David’s parents in Indiana as we visited churches in the Midwest (Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky). Not only did we love getting to spend time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but it was wonderful getting to see so many of our supporters as we shared about what God has been doing in Belize. We want to say thank you again to Alliance Bible Church (Richmond), Christ the King (Dayton), St. Barnabas’ (Covington), and St. Peter’s (Frankfort) for hosting us.
After our time in the Midwest we packed up the car (I don’t know how we got everything to fit!) and headed down to Texas. Texas actually reminded us of Belize with the very hot weather! Once again we had amazing hosts who were perfectly happy to take our family in as we visited churches in the area. Thank you again to our host family and to Church of the Incarnation (Dallas) and Christ the Redeemer (Rowlett). We loved getting to spend time with all of you!
Next we took Austin for his four month vaccines before heading out the same day to drive to Florida. Surprisingly that was actually Austin’s best day in the car, praise be to God! In Florida we were able to stay with David’s aunt (whom we hadn’t seen since our wedding), and then an amazing family from church took us in while we visited St. Peter’s (Tallahassee). Thank you again for your wonderful hospitality!
After our time in Florida we headed up to Georgia for the next few weeks. Thankfully I have tons of family in Georgia who were only too happy to host us. I had an especially good time as my sister, brother and their families, and even my dad, came down to see us while we were in town. As a whole, it was a wonderful stay. We enjoyed getting to visit new churches, see family, and have a nice place to stay while getting a lot of work done. Thank you to everyone: we loved getting to see you!
So now here we are in North Carolina for our two weeks of “down time” before attending the SAMS’s All Society Retreat followed by the New Wineskins Missions Conference next week. We are very excited to be back for these events (they only happen every three years), so that we can reconnect with missionaries from all over the world as we come together to worship and learn. After that we will start the long trek West to visit more people and churches (Colorado, Washington, new Mexico, California, and Arizona). I ask your continued prayers for our little family as we travel, share about Belize, and raise support for the future. Austin is not a huge fan of his car seat, and the longest part of our journey is yet to come. If we’re coming to your area and you want to get together please feel free to get in touch with us! There are more churches to visit than we have Sundays for in the last couple of months here in the States, but we would still love to see you and share about everything God is doing. Let’s get coffee! Thank you again to everyone, and if we haven’t seen you, hopefully we’ll see you soon.
We have been praying for rain. The rainy season has not been panning out as in past years. It has been quite dry and hot. The next few days thunder storms are called for and we have had a couple of doozies, but they have been relatively short-lived. Sadly for us, it has meant many less mangoes than everyone had talked about. But the more important reality is that many people here rely on rainwater for everything in their home and that fruits and vegetables which are normally quite reasonable are increasing in price. Still, we are so grateful that we have water that comes through our taps (most days) and is relatively clean (with the exclusion of days where it has been muddy/green). We are also grateful for the trucks that drive around tooting their horns so we can buy 5 gallon jugs of purified water (at least most of them are mostly purified). And we are so glad that we can afford to buy them. They only cost $1.50US/jug but many locals cannot afford it and have to drink whatever they can get from rain or the tap or the rivers. The need for rain is a constant reminder of our reliance on He who commands the winds and the rain.
Since the initial slowing of summer, we have had increasingly busy weeks with the exception of 6 glorious days we spent on Caye Caulker. My younger brother, Nathan, traveled again from the U.S. to join us and we spent our days relaxing, swimming, eating, walking around, and one day snorkeling (at the reef, shark ray alley, coral gardens, and in Hol Chan Marine Reserve). It was glorious and so important for us to have that time away. In many ways it felt like being in a different country. San Ignacio where we live does not exactly feel like a tropical tourist island although it is both tropical and touristy in parts.
Some highlights and prayer requests:
Unfortunately, we were not able to obtain Annabelle’s student visa because we went “too early” to immigration to apply for it. It’s a bit of a long story, but it means she is currently living on a tourist visa which is quite expensive at this point, has to be renewed every month, and is a hassle. They had told us when to schedule an appointment and then changed their mind and said it had to be right before school started. We were not able to go when they said we needed to, so I have another appointment to try and get it sorted. I dread going to immigration and it is usually a grueling process. Please pray that getting Annabelle’s student visa is a smooth and quick process next Tuesday, September 17th.
After being asked by one of the principals, I did a bullying training for the teachers of the three Anglican schools (Saint Andrew’s, Saint Barnabus’, and Saint Hilda’s) of which Fr. David Alenskis is the manager, 3 weeks ago when the teachers were getting ready for this year. It was a full time we had together and we were not able to even get to everything. One challenge is that bullying and physical discipline (at home and sometimes in the schools) is something that they all grew up with and is relatively normalized here. As I have expressed before what is considered abusive here is extreme, so trying to work with the cultural understanding of things was challenging. No one wants to be bullied, but many find it difficult to recognize when they are bullying others. Of course, this is no different than realities of bullying all over the world. I think there was some headway and I certainly hope it was beneficial. We are really trying at St. Andrews (where Annabelle attends) to address the bullying problem. Social, emotional, verbal, and physical bullying are all issues and often teachers and family members do not address it or address it too late and sometimes in unhelpful ways.
I am starting St. Andrews Committee for Kindness and Safety, or StACKS, and I’m hoping the leadership will be taken over by some teachers, parents, and maybe even some students once we leave in December. We are trying to address the issue in a variety of ways and personally, I’m trying to emphasize not just stopping bullying but being kind. Please pray for me as I try to work on getting this anti-bullying and kindness campaign off the ground and handing it off in the midst of counseling students, taking care of Annabelle, etc.
I have jumped back into counseling students more quickly than I anticipated. I have been calling parents and guardians and so far the vast majority still want me to work with their students unless they moved away. I was able to meet with 7 students last week at least briefly to get back into the routine. This is a different kind of work than I’m used to as my time will be so limited. Please pray for every student and every session that I have.
While I know you all care about Evan and me, I know what you really want to hear is how Annabelle is doing. As you can imagine, she had a wonderful time on the island especially with all the swimming and was a champ at snorkeling even though the water was deep and a bit rough in some spots. She is with the same classmates as last year. She still hasn’t really connected with anyone which she finds very hard. She is homesick and talks about how much she misses her friends. We have had quite a few video chats with her friends over the summer, but she says it is not the same because you can’t “feel” them. We continue to remind ourselves that making her life “easy” is not all it is cracked up to be and that learning resilience and coping and how to be loving and kind in the midst of challenges are more important than everything going her way all the time.
There are innumerable other things I could share: How there is a student going for his Master’s in Counseling who wants to work with me and take over some aspects once I leave (although we’re still waiting to find out the protocol and legalities on all this); how I’m attending beginning of the year PTA meetings about bullying and counseling; how the churches are faring while the Alenskis’ are away and given that neither Evan nor I are ordained in the Anglican church, about how we have now received one more piece of mail… By the way, don’t mail anything else unless you really don’t mind that we most likely won’t ever receive it. We have now received 7 pieces of mail. And I’ve been told of dozens of pieces that have never made it. Remember my post last time that included the stealing issue? I don’t know what people think is in the letters or what they are doing with them, but someone has all those letters.
We are so grateful for each and every one of you. Those who read these long communications and for each and every one of your prayers and kind emails. I truly sense that we are living here by prayer alone. So much of what we do feels like an exercise in futility (and there were times I had this sense in the States too) and it is futile without God’s work. Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. To those of you who have financially supported us – we are deeply grateful. I have tried to write thank you notes and I know many of them have made it out. Hopefully all of them have found their way to you. At least some things in the postal service seem to be working. 😊
Hopefully Evan will send out an email with lots of photos soon.
May the love and peace and joy and hope of the Lord surround and fill you today and every day.
I recently saw this posted on Facebook; it’s a fabulous aerial tour of UCU, showing how beautiful the campus is. As I watched the first time, I was struck at not only how gorgeous the environment is, but of the memories it evoked, both from being a student, and a member of staff.