October Update and Funny Things

First, if you haven’t checked out Evan’s last blogpost which features Annabelle as a “Pom Pom Girl” in her school parade – go check it out! Being here in September, a month filled with national pride and festivities, was fun and interesting. I have never lived anywhere that has so many parades. In our town alone there must have been at least six separate parades. We caught bits of at least three and heard many of them. We got to see a wonderful array of cultural traditions and it was grand.

We are currently in the season of Harvest. It is a beautiful time of thanksgiving and is celebrated in the churches and schools. In the services, the children present poems, songs, dances, and process up to the altar with gifts of fruits, vegetables, and sweet baked goods. Even the children who do not normally care for church or chapel services seem to love Harvest time. There are quite a number of children who have to literally fight to have food in their homes and who are hungry frequently – many of whom are developmentally behind and physically stunted due to lack of nutrition. It is a joyful remembrance and a reminder for all of us that God is the One who provides from His bounty and that we must be grateful for what we have. Even with the drought this year the altars were overflowing.

Annabelle and I got to travel on a bus to Diocesan Day (a day for the entire Anglican Church of Belize) in Dangriga. It was a very long day and by the end we were both unbelievably dirty. But it was so much fun too! We got to participate in a huge church service in an outdoor basketball court. We also got to meet the Bishop of Belize, the second topmost politician, and Annabelle got to play some games and we spent a lot of time with our dear friends who go to the village church and have two children about Annabelle’s age. I’m so glad we got to be here for that event.

There are truly countless stories of tragedy, and hope, and beauty, and laughter, from my counseling, from conversations with people in the street, from all around. There are many reasons we came here but the rhythm of life we have here is slower and simpler and we are still relishing being able to be present here. We are going to soak up what we can over the next two months before we head back.

Another Installment of Funny Things

If you say, “Hey Babe” or “Good afternoon Beautiful” to me when I pass you on the street, I have resolved to be rude (which goes against every grain of manners I possess). I do not look. I do not respond. I pretend as though you have said nothing. If you call to me a couple of times and when I ignore you, you say, “My friend likes you and wants your number,” I will respond, “Oh, ok, my husband will be interested to hear that.” And I continue on my merry way with a smile on my face. When I arrive home, I will inform said ‘husband’ that such an interaction just occurred. Honestly though, I don’t relish these moments, but they are far better than the 4.5 months I spent in Sierra Leone back in my early twenties. I had wondered how it would be here in Belize and it is much better. Back then I easily got dozens of marriage proposals every day from strangers on the streets of Freetown and I found it exhausting and frustrating by the end of the day.

We have all been dewormed. In the Fall and the Spring at St. Andrews School they deworm all the children. Evan and I have been meaning to get dewormed for months now… and we finally did it this week. They are some intense pills for adults – six different doses. Anyway, it was overdue! I feel a bit like a dog or a cat but that’s just life here. We’ve been told this particular medication is not available in the U.S. so we’ll be buying some to bring back with us for a session after we return. More deworming to look forward to.

Speaking of worms… one of the things I miss a lot from the U.S. is our compost pit. Ever since we moved to Charlottesville we have had compost piles. The one when we had pet bunnies was a particularly good one, but I liked not having all that vegetable and fruit and eggshell waste going to waste. 😊 It’s been difficult for me in a place with significantly depleted soil to be throwing all our good vegetation scraps into the rubbish. So, several months ago I started a compost bucket. However, since where we are renting, I didn’t have a good spot to dump the compost and eventually it got maggots (an unbelievable amount of creepy, crawly, slimy pale buddies) and it started to smell awful. After Evan disposed of it and we still smelled it for days he put his foot down. Alas, that was the end of composting here. If we lived on our own land or even just had more space around our house, I’d be a crazy compost lady. Maybe one day my dream will come true…

Last, but certainly not least for funny things, Evan had to go back to the States for a funeral last week. He did a video chat with us from the Atlanta airport. He flipped the camera around and said to Annabelle, “Look where I am!” (meaning the airport). Annabelle immediately said, “Woah, look at all those white people!”

And so dear ones, it is going to be an interesting few months. With each passing day our minds turn more and more to the winding down of things here, making an international move, and readjusting to life back in the U.S.A. For Annabelle, of course, a year is a seventh of her life and this has been no small adventure. While she is anxious to get back to the U.S. and especially anxious to see all those she loves, we know she will miss things about life and people here. We had another rough patch with school a couple of weeks ago. However, after processing what happened and working through it, I think she seems to be better and happier at school than she was previously, and I think there are little friends she will miss quite a lot. Please continue to pray on the school-front for her.

Please also continue to pray for us as there are so many things that will be happening here. Starting tomorrow, over the next five weeks there will be two different priests visiting from the States and the Bishop of Belize will also be joining us one Sunday. We are so glad they are coming and it will certainly be a change of pace!

We continue to be so grateful for each of you. I’ve heard from so many who continue to read these writings and who continue to pray for us. Thank you!

Photos and Video from the Hansen’s Fall Term

Hi everyone! I have some photos and video for you.

First a quick update:

I have been leading chapels at three different schools this term. It has been fantastic. We sing and pray and I teach through the Fruit of the Spirit. Basically we’re talking about character formation. God gives us the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us to live well. And God wants us to live well so 1) Our lives will be good and joyful, 2) Our lives will be evidence of God’s character and power, and 3) so we will live as natives and not foreigners in the world to come.

I’m teaching 6 chapels every other week. I have a time lapse of the St. Andrews students. Each school is a different experience. I’ll try to grab some video of the different schools and elements of the service. Below is also one of the songs I’ve taught them.

 

Independence Day (Month!)

September is full of celebrations and parades for Independence Day. There were so many holiday days, half school days, and parades that it was amazing we were able to get anything else done. Every school has a parade. There are town parades, church parades, etc… I have some video of Annabelle’s parade and a late night church parade. The church parade was super fun and the video is of a new friend of mine singing on the back of a flatbed semi trailer with a full band and sound system. It was crazy!

Caye Caulker

Missy mentioned our trip to Caye Caulker for Annabelle’s 7th Birthday. Here are some photos from that trip!

Annabelles First Day of School

 

Halfway Through

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. 

July update from Belize.

Evan here: I’m linking FOUR! videos at the bottom of this post. One is a longer video I shared on Facebook about our favorite jungle swimming hole. It features a lot of Annabelle. : )

Just before our last email, Fr. David and Mary Beth had left for home for the remainder of the year. The same week of the school graduations, our community experienced a great tragedy. A dear member of our church was stabbed and killed. A priest from Belmopan was able to come perform the the funeral and I arranged the music and slide preparations for the service. It was a sad but beautiful time. Please pray for our church as her close friends continue to mourn.

One day,  Missy and I were working at the rectory and a man walked up from the parking lot next to the church. I was on the phone, but when I got off Missy said he was talking about a fire at the church. She thought it was something that was already done, but as it turns out, a bag of burning clothing had been tossed over the wall and up against the back wall of the church. I was able to beat it down with a green branch until the neighboring business tossed a hose over the wall. No photos. 🙁

There is a Maya site near our house on the border of Guatemala called El Pilar. I have wanted to go there in part because you have get to drive 7 miles of really bad dirt road to get there. I haven’t gone because I was told it was too dangerous and that people get robbed at gunpoint there. I was telling that to a tourist one morning when Anabel Ford,  the archeologist who discovered the site 30 years ago, walked by. She started yelling at me. I calmed her down and she said the events were much more rare than people say and that she’s up there nearly every day. She was upset because no one comes to visit. So I went! It was amazing. I’ll add a video featuring the monkeys and anteaters I saw there.

I went to help some friends who are members of one of our churches lay out a deck and pour footers. When doing that, it rained and I caught it on video. Link at the bottom. Please pray for more rain here. This is the rainy season and we’re not getting as much as we need. (IT STARTED RAINING WHEN I TYPED THAT SENTENCE) Climate change is a VERY common topic of conversation here. Belize is feeling the effects.

Annabelle is in a summer program at the local library. She’s learning about plants and having a great time. We’ll get you photos later. In the meantime, watch a video of our family at our favorite swimming hole, Monkey Falls.

That’s most of what’s happened recently. The fall will be much busier for me and I’m preparing sermons ahead of time for the school chapels. I’ll be doing a series on the fruit of the Spirit. If you have any good and accessible resources for me as I prepare, please let me know.

 

Graduation Week in Belize- Photos and Video

This message has a bit from both Evan and Missy. Missy’s update is first and Evan’s short update is at the bottom along with a video of kids singing that you don’t want to miss.

Hello, Missy here again.
I spent Friday, June 7th and Thursday, June 13th conducting retreats for the soon-to-be high school students of St. Andrews, St. Barnabus, and St. Hilda’s Anglican schools. Thank you to everyone who prayed for these times, for me, and for the students. I felt it was a privilege to be able to lead the retreats. They were long days but fruitful in a variety of ways. And I am prayerful and hopeful that some of the things we discussed will continue to bear fruit in the coming years.

St. Andrews is certainly the largest school (around 400 students) and there are about 40 students in the graduating class. The other two schools did a combined retreat and there were about 20 students all together. We did everything together including taking breaks and eating lunch. There is no air conditioning at the St. Andrews Community Center so the first day (which was over 100 degrees) was particularly sweltering. The few fans that were there couldn’t keep up with the weather or that many bodies. The second retreat was significantly cooler (still in the 90’s) but there was a rain storm that beat down on the roof which meant we had to take some breaks, because no one could hear above the din. Needless to say, my voice was worn out after both retreats.

We primarily focused on deepening their understanding of the things they will experience as they attend high school. While primary school is highly subsidized by the government (although it isn’t free), high schools are all private and expensive. One student even asked what to do if their family was telling them not to go to high school. The struggles many of the students have faced – from not having enough food to eat, not having shoes that fit, not having much support at home for school work, etcetera – are significant and discouraging.

So many of them have faced real and significant social issues like bullying, being encouraged to skip school and steal, lying, cheating, doing drugs and so forth, that the conversations we had during the retreats seem long overdue and yet still essential for their futures. High school means even more autonomy and the peer pressure seems to increase. Of course, the high schools also tend to be much larger than the primary schools, because there are fewer of them which means that even if they did well in primary school they are now a little fish in a big pond and many students get lost.

After the first retreat, I changed some things for the second which proved to be helpful. At both retreats they conducted skits about how to respond in a variety of situations including everything from discrimination to bullying to being offered drugs. This seemed to be a highlight for most of the students. There was a lot of laughter which bothered the teachers, because the subjects were so serious. However, I think they still got a lot of value from the skits they prepared and presented, and often the laughter was just a way to try and cope with the magnitude of what they face every day and the enormous transition they will be facing soon. Most of them don’t feel they can talk to a parent about almost anything and certainly not the things we were discussing. Most of them have social media accounts and access to the Internet but their parents voluntarily don’t monitor them or the students hide what they do from their parents. There is a significant disconnect. It’s the opposite of helicopter parenting, for sure.
During the second retreat I had the students write down any questions about high school or about mental health issues and tried to answer as many as I could throughout the day. This was an insightful practice for me and also seemed to be quite beneficial for the students. Some of their questions were quite sad, honestly. Hopefully, prayerfully, seeds were planted which will lead to growth and some more ideas of how to respond in difficult situations.

Anyway, I’ve droned on enough.

Please pray for Father David, Mary Beth, and Austin as they have returned to the States for support-raising. They will be away for several months.
Please continue to pray for us here as we transition to summer and to the Alenskis’ departure. We aren’t really sure what things are going to be like but there’s a lot going on. Evan’s workload has increased, although not as much as if he were an ordained Anglican minister.
Thank you for your support! We are grateful for you!

 

 

 

OK, now from Evan:

Hello all! This graduation season has been plenty full for me, but I’ll focus on the work I did with the same students Missy was working with. I was asked by two of the schools to teach the students a song and help them perform it at graduation. One of the assistant principals chose the song: “Great Things” by Phil Wickham. I hadn’t heard it, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a fun song to play. Below is a video of the performance from the St. Andrews kids. There were around 200 people in the audience. I think they did wonderfully! They do something like this every year, and one of the parents said she thought this was one of the best performances ever.

Part of the culture here is that the teachers are often very hard on the students. When I first began working with the kids, teachers were yelling at them even while practicing. The kids expect this sort of thing, but I could feel their enthusiasm draining and ended up requesting that the teachers allow me to handle things my way. It was clear the kids liked the song and I did my best to make it fun for them, encouraging them in the things they were doing well.  I think they responded to that approach very well. I know I had a blast. 🙂

All About Austin

Austin David Alenskis is ten-weeks-old! It’s high time that we write you an update, and tell you all about how he arrived, how he’s being doing, and what the plans for Team Alenskis are for the next few months as we seek to serve the Lord faithfully here in Belize!

1. Austin Arrives

As you may remember from Mary Beth’s last post, she began having far too many contractions, and was already starting to dilate when the doctor placed her on bedrest on March 18. By that point, she was only at 34 weeks, and we were praying that she could hold off going into labor until April 1, when the baby would be at 36 weeks. During that first week we made due, my taking care of cooking and running errands, and Mary Beth trying desperately not to go crazy from sheer boredom. My mother came for a week during that time, and her presence was a help and comfort to both of us.

April 1 arrived and the doctor was encouraged that the bedrest had done its work: Mary Beth and the baby were doing fine, and the baby’s lungs were sufficiently developed that a delivery at that point would not put the baby at overwhelming risk in our part of the country where there is no NICU. Nevertheless, the ongoing contractions, and corresponding distress to the baby and risk of meconium inhalation, made an early delivery imperative. The decision was made to take Mary Beth off of bedrest to try and induce labor naturally, and if the baby did not come in the week, Mary Beth would be induced at her appointment the following week.

It did not take long. After only a few days of being off bedrest, the day in fact after my mother went back to Indiana, Mary Beth’s water broke. Some bookshelves were being delivered, so we waited for the carpenter, and then headed to the clinic. Although labor had started, Mary Beth was not having regular contractions, so the doctor made the decision to chemically induce Mary Beth. And so began the toughest 3 hours of Mary Beth’s life up until that point.

With only a couple dozen microdrops of oxytocin, Mary Beth dilated rapidly from 3 cm to 9 cm in less than two hours. The poor OBGYN had to be pulled out of another C-section to deliver the baby: the doctor without her white coat, and Mary Beth without any painkillers. They could not have waited any longer. The delivery took only minutes, and Austin arrived in this world a little bit blue (the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck), but with a powerful set of lungs and an overwhelming desire to sleep (a desire that has lessened in the passing weeks since). We give thanks to God for a safe delivery, a healthy baby, and a happy mama and papa.

2. Austin Begins Life

Austin only wanted to sleep at the beginning, and that includes not quite figuring out the whole eating thing. Born at 36 weeks, he struggled to coordinate the suck-swallow-breathe pattern, and to associate breastfeeding with food. Waiting for Mary Beth’s milk to come in, and our concern for Austin’s hydration in the middle of Belize’s hot season, produced some incredibly stressful moments for Austin’s parents. Mary Beth’s mother arrived the week after he was born, and with her calming support and prayers we finally reached a point with Austin right around Easter Sunday when he was able to breastfeed without supplementing. With that, Mary Beth and I began to relax a little more into parenthood.

Since then, Austin has grown from a birthweight of 6 lbs 0 oz all the way up to 10 lbs 1 oz at the two-month mark. Mary Beth and I are learning new things about our son all the time, and just about the time we’ve figured out what he likes or does not like, he’s grown and changed and we’re back to “square one” again. But in general, I can tell you that Austin loves eating (he loves it so much!), music and dancing, the outdoors (even if he can only see it through the window), and recently he has started enjoying playing games. He’s a real joy! Some of our big struggles with him have been related to his issues with colic, waking him up or keeping him fussy as he tries to eat. But when his GI track is working right, he’s a handsome happy young man and we could not be prouder of the person he is becoming.

In addition to keeping alive this Bundle of Need, one of our big concerns has been to get his paperwork squared away for his dual-nationality, particularly because our time of deputation (raising support) in the United States has been looming on the horizon. We were anticipating difficulties in this arena even before Austin was born: our experience with the various government bureaucracies here in Belize had not encouraged optimism, and the documentary requirements for establishing U.S. citizenship abroad were steeper than we were expecting. Nevertheless, we dove into the Sea of Paperwork and emerged with wonderful results. Within a month, we had received Austin’s official birth certificate from Vital Statistics in Belize City, and a couple of weeks later we had his official Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) and his U.S. passport. After another couple of weeks, Austin received his Belizean passport and is set to be welcomed back into either country.

The greatest joy for us has been to believe God’s promises on behalf of Austin, plead his grace and presence, and finally last Sunday (on the Great Day of Pentecost) to present him for baptism at St. Andrew’s. Ordinarily I would have requested another priest to perform the baptism, but given the shortage of clergy in the area, I hesitantly – and yet joyfully – assumed the responsibility. It was a powerful moment, and we were so grateful to have the presence of my father and many other friends there to pray for Austin and put him in the hands of his heavenly Father, wash him in the blood of his Savior, and seal him by the power of the indwelling Spirit. He is now a full member of this missionary crew, and although he demands that we make many adjustments, Team Alenskis is richer, stronger, and (we believe) more effective because of his presence here with his.

3. Austin Is Coming to Visit

Austin (and his parents) are coming to the United States this month for our regular (every three years) period of deputation and support-raising. All three of us need this time to regroup, recuperate our energy and focus, and to seek the funds that will allow us to continue to serve in Belize. We will be visiting supporters and churches first in the Midwest, Southeast, and Central areas of the country before attending the New Wineskins missions conference in September, and afterwards we will be crossing the country to visit with our sending-diocese and supporting churches on the West Coast. Our goal is to return to Belize to continue ministry on the ground by the end of November.

In our absence, our churches will be stretched. I have reached out to a number of American priests to see if they might be able to come and cover our Sunday services for a few weeks. I have heard back from a few, and I’ll continue looking for others to cover as much of the time we’re away as we can. In the meantime, are team of lay ministers will be covering services and attending to pastoral needs, and in this they will be assisted behind the scenes by Evan and Missy Hansen (and their daughter Annabelle) who will continue their medium-term ministry while we are away. In addition to encouraging and coaching, Evan will still be helping with music as well as leading chapel services for the three schools. Missy’s counseling ministry continues, and not only has she made a considerable impact on many lives, but as she and I have reflected on her experience I have received a lot of perspective and wisdom that will be useful for my pastoral ministry. We look forward to seeing them when we return, even if it only shortly before they themselves return to life in Virginia.

With respect to our financial needs, we are facing significant budget increases as we envision ministry in Belize from November onward. Some are basic and essential in the short-term, and others are more critical for the long-term ministry that God may have for us on the mission field. As we begin to ask for more pledges and donations, allow me to explain by placing these budget needs into three thresholds:

Threshold #1: Funding for Austin

As we continue to serve, there are basic adjustments to our missionary budget that come with time and wisdom: gradual salary raises, additional ministry expenses that emerge, etc. More importantly, adding Austin as a member of the team mean modest but significant increases in health insurance and the base missionary salary. In order to return, at a bare minimum, we would need to raise a sufficient amount of pledged support to cover these combined changes in our family’s salary and health insurance.

Threshold #2: Housing Allowance

One of the top stressors for Mary Beth and me this past year has been dramatic increases in the noise pollution created by the neighborhood around the Rectory. While our house has always been in a noisy area of town, we have had to grapple with the reality that our street is less and less a residential area, and more and more a retail and “party” zone … up to and including a hostel/outdoor bar across the street. Although we love this house, we are finding it harder and harder to relax and spend time together with a family, and the stress we have experienced has not only led to anxiety and a difficulty focusing, but even diminished our effectiveness in ministry.

We have spoken to the Bishop and the parish’s Church Committee, and there is a consensus to allow us to move out of the Rectory upon our return, with the hope of using the downstairs as a parish office while renting out the upstairs as its own apartment. While this would allow the parish to chip in for a rental home for us, it is unlikely that the income from the Rectory would be able to subsidize entirely the rent of a new home. SAMS allows us to include a housing allowance in our budget, a housing allowance that we have not asked for since moving into the Rectory five years ago.

But now we are asking for our supporters’ assistance in covering a housing allowance to supplement St. Andrew’s contribution to the rental of a quieter, more adequately located house in the San Ignacio area. Based on this past year, we believe that this move is important for our long-term mental and physical health, as well as for our long-term effectiveness in ministry.

Threshold #3: Continuing Education

As Mary Beth and I have considered how the Lord might continue to use us on the mission field, based on the ways in which he has gifted and prepared us, for the last few years I have been feeling a call and push to seek further education, probably by pursuing a part-time PhD in Theology online (that is, while still serving as a missionary in Belize). My reason for undertaking a doctoral program would not only be personal (that is, there are indeed areas of research interest that I would like to explore), but also to better and more fully equip the saints for lay and ordained ministry and leadership in the church.

Reflecting on my experience in Belize, one which parallels my broader experience in South America and other areas of the Majority World, I have been overwhelmed by the scarcity of opportunities for thorough theological formation and ministry development in these regions of the world. Looking to the years and decades ahead for us in ministry and on the mission field, my heart has been moving in the direction of involving myself more directly and more deeply in that formation and development, and for this reason, I need to educate myself more fully.

To this end, I have been communicating with potential PhD advisors and conducting academic research on my own in order to put together a convincing Research Proposal, all with an eye towards applying for such a program before the end of this year. My hope would be to start the program in Fall 2020, well after returning to Belize and re-establishing ourselves in a new routine of missionary life and pastoral ministry.

Both Bishop Wright in Belize and SAMS have been very supportive of these plans, and almost all of those who have counseled and prayed with us can envision the use to which God would be able to put further academic study and professional credentialing. However, while the funds required to fund a part-time PhD online are fewer than I had long imagined, they are still substantial. I will definitely be applying for financial aid in any form that I can, but such financial aid depends on many factors, and we cannot be sure that I will receive much if any in the way of grants or scholarship.

However, continuing education is one of the areas for which SAMS encourages missionaries to use their funds, and we are asking that our supporters prayerfully consider giving to our ministry to a sufficient degree that we will not have to dig too much into our family’s savings to cover these educational expenses.

4. Prayers for Austin and His Family

So, to sum up, we have so much to be thankful for with Austin in our life, and we are so thankful for your continued support and constant prayers. Our path these last few months has been wonderful, difficult, stressful, exhilarating, lonely, and fulfilling, and your little notes and prayers and gifts have kept us going many, many times. So thank you, and please know that we are praying for you too.

As we transition to our timeline in the States raising support, please keep the following needs in your prayers as you are able:

  1. Refreshment. Please pray that the Lord would give us spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical refreshment as we spend time with family and friends in places that are familiar. We are counting on this as we debrief and process our time in Belize and future vision for ministry in Belize.

  2. Raising Support. Please pray for us as we reconnect with our existing supporters, whether churches or individuals, and please pray that we are able to build on and expand our existing support network to include others that might be willing to partner with us in ministry.

  3. Research. Please pray that my ongoing theological research can be bolstered by access to libraries and other academic resources, to the point that I can make successful application both for admission to a doctoral program and for financial aid.

  4. Health, Safety, and Lodging. Please pray that the Lord would keep us healthy in the United States, and safe on road as we move from place to place, and that he would give us receptive families who would give us temporary lodging as we travel around the country.

Again, thank you so much, may the Lord bless each of you, and probably see you very soon!