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!

Easter by the Numbers

Easter by the Numbers

Holy Week by the numbers:

7 Days. 7 Services. 37 Songs. 

 WOW. Holy Week ended up being very full for me. Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, I played music at 7 services. I had to know 37 songs. I was already familiar with half of them; the others were brand new. 

I thought some of you might be interested in seeing what songs I’m playing down here. Since I had the list of songs for Easter Services handy, I’ll paste it below, along with links to sites where you can hear (and buy) them. I really like a lot of these songs. In a great twist, two songs I’ve been asked to learn and play down here were done by friends of mine who live in Charlottesville! I had not heard them yet and when Fr. David asked me to learn them I was very excited. One of the songs (not played during Holy Week) is a song featuring work by 3 fantastic Virginia folks I know. A video of me playing it is below. Produced by mastermind Isaac Wardell, Sung by the amazing Paul Zach, and featuring the insanely tasteful Orlando “IAMSON” Joel, the song is “We Abide, We abide in you.  Check out their version here

You can see my added notes down below – showing the songs I didn’t play or only sang and didn’t play. For two services, a wonderful local ex-pat musician joined me. On Good Friday Fr. David played 4 tunes. The songs by Judy Bailey are all songs we use in every service. She is amazing and has put together a Carribbean musical liturgy. 

One note: I have never learned this many songs in such a short time. It was a bit stressful, but I’m glad to have been stretched in this way. 

 

Palm Sunday – Catharine On Piano

Processional – All Glory, Laud and Honor – Not Playing

Gradual At the Name of Jesus – Red River Hymnal  https://redriverhymnal.bandcamp.com/track/at-the-name-of-jesus-feat-matt-mccloskey  3/2 time. (Tried to learn this one. Struggled and ended up only singing)

Creed – Judy Bailey

Offertory  – Palms of glory, raiment bright.  – Not Playing

Christ Jesus is Lord – Judy Bailey 

Blessing and Honor  – Judy Bailey

Lords Prayer – Judy Bailey

Agnus Dei – Judy Bailey

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross – Rockingham Tune 

All Hail the Power of Jesus Name  – not playing 

Ride on, Ride on in Majesty – not playing

MAUNDY THURSDAY: – Catharine on Piano

Processional  – Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.  Not Playing

Gloria in excelsis Deo – Judy Bailey 

Gradual – Brother Sister, Let me serve you.

Offertory – I Am the Bread of Life  – Learn guitar and melody

Christ Jesus is Lord – Judy Bailey 

Blessing and Honor  – Judy Bailey

Lords Prayer – Judy Bailey

Agnus Dei – Judy Bailey

We Are Standing on Holy Ground – Only singing

All praise to thee, my God, this night  – Wendell Kimbrough https://wendellk.bandcamp.com/track/all-praise-to-thee-my-god-this-night 

My God and is Thy Table Spread – A-capella Learn Melody

Watch and Pray – Taize chant https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCr2tn4yYKY 

Good Friday 

Gradual  – Jesus Loves me, This I know. 

The Old Rugged Cross

Trisagion  https://liturgicalfolk.bandcamp.com/track/trisagion 

Amazing Grace

My Song is Love Unknown   – Sam Bush https://loveandmercy.bandcamp.com/track/my-song-is-love-unknown 

There is a Green Hill Far Away – Not Playing 

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand -Not Playing

O sacred head, surrounded by crown of piercing thorn! – Not Playing 

Alas and Did my Savior Bleed – Key of D. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8XXrmHo-2I (learned but ended up not playing

It is Well With My Soul 

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross – Rockingham Tune 

Communion Instrumental Music – Arranged a medley of the more commonly known tune (in the states) to When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, with Oh Come Let Us Adore Him as a chorus. Played it in DADGAD and loved it. 

Holy Saturday 

Exsultet  – Liturgical Folk  (Worked up an arrangement but ended up not playing) –  https://liturgicalfolk.bandcamp.com/track/exsultet 

Who is like our God?  -Wendell Kimbrough –https://wendellk.bandcamp.com/track/who-is-like-the-lord-our-god 

O give thanks to the Lord – Wendell Kimbrough – https://wendellk.bandcamp.com/track/oh-give-thanks-psalm-107 

My Strength, my Song, my Salvation: Cardiphonia  https://cardiphonia.bandcamp.com/track/my-strength-my-song-my-salvation-ex-15-1-18 

O Praise the Lord for He is Good  – Luke Morton https://lukemorton.bandcamp.com/track/o-praise-the-lord-for-he-is-good 

Gloria – Judy Bailey

Gradual  – In Exitu Israel  – Arranged to a long meter tune

As I Went Down to the River to Pray  – Learn

Offertory – In Christ Alone

Doxology – Learn

Holy, Holy, Holy – Judy Bailey 

Christ Has Died  – Judy Bailey 

Blessing and Honor – Judy Bailey 

Lord’s Prayer – Judy Bailey

Agnus Dei – Judy Bailey 

Come Let Us Worship and Bow Down 

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God – Learn 

The Lamb has Overcome – Luke Morton https://cardiphonia.bandcamp.com/track/the-lamb-has-overcome 

Recessional  – To the tune of Ode to Joy – Learn 

Easter Sunday 

Processional – Jesus Christ is Risen today  – Learn

Gloria – Judy Bailey 

Gradual – O Praise the Lord – Luke Morton –    https://lukemorton.bandcamp.com/track/o-praise-the-lord-for-he-is-good

Creed – Judy Bailey 

Offertory  – Not me. 

Doxology 

Holy, Holy, Holy – Judy Bailey 

Christ Has died – Judy Bailey 

Blessing and Honor – Judy Bailey 

Lord’s Prayer – Judy Bailey 

Agnus Dei – Judy Bailey 

The First Place – Matt Westerholm – https://kenwoodmusic.bandcamp.com/track/the-first-place 

Who is Like Our God – Wendell Kimbrough 

The Lamb Has Overcome – Luke Morton 

Recessional – Not me. 

 

He’s Almost Here!

Hi there from Belize!

It’s been awhile since my last update, but we’ve also been a bit distracted as we get ready for this baby. So I’m going to do my best to let you know what’s been going on with us over the past couple months, and what are plans for the near future.

I’ll start off with this pregnancy since it’s the main thing on my mind lately. God has blessed me with a very smooth pregnancy, especially for my first one! I was a little nervous about going through this for the first time so far away from family, but not only has it been relatively easy, but God has also given me plenty of people here in Belize who are happy to help (and are also very excited for the coming of our little Belizean baby). We’ve been able to see a wonderful doctor for this whole pregnancy, and she has guaranteed us that she will be the one delivering the baby as well. It’s coming up fast now!

Last week the ladies at St. Andrew’s church threw me a surprise baby shower. I had been having a rather bad day, I’ll blame it on hormones, and David said we could go on a walk in the evening, but to wear something nice. I assumed he was taking me out to dinner since the day had been so crummy. When we got near the community center and saw that the door was cracked we went over there to check it out. Now on one hand that sounds suspicious by itself (the ladies were concerned that gave it away), but we always check when the door is left open in case someone forgot to lock up. We were greeted with loud shouts of “Surprise!” and a fully decorated room, lots of food (pibil, yum!), and fun games. It was a wonderful time with the ladies! So much laughter, baby stories, and good advice. Our son is going to be surrounded by his very large Belizean family.

David and I then took a couple days for a “baby moon” as a sort of last chance to get away just the two of us. It was so relaxing and nice to spend time together. It also came at just the right time! During that trip I started to have some complications that made us decide to go in and see the doctor early when we got back. Normally I don’t like going in before my appointments because it usually turns out to be nothing, but not this time. After checking on me and the baby (he is perfectly healthy, praise God), she found out that my body was in fact trying to have this baby a bit early. Right now I’m at 34 weeks, and while he could be born now, she said for his safety and the due to the facility they have available it would be much better if he holds off  for at least two more weeks, or longer if possible. So after some steroid shots for his lungs, anti-contraction medication, and house arrest/bed rest for the remainder of this pregnancy, we are now just praying and waiting for our son. Please continue to pray that he holds off for a couple more weeks. God has also blessed me with an amazing husband who has been not only doing all of his work, but also covering mine. Last night he even made brisket for dinner! Please pray for David as he serves here in his regular ministries, and helps me now that I’m stuck in bed. It’s a lot of extra time!

Unfortunately with this change in my pregnancy it has also meant discontinuing of a lot of my work here for the time being. Piano lessons are on hold, choir is on hold, David is now covering all the chapel services again, and since I’m not allowed out of the house, my church music ministry is also being covered. Thankfully God had already blessed us with the Hansens coming to live here! Not only are they thriving in their individual ministries, but they are also a huge blessing to us personally (willing to help whenever needed), and Evan has already been joining me on Sunday mornings for music, so God is making sure everything is covered. We were already anticipating this change in my ministry with the baby coming, it’s just a little sooner than we expected. Please pray that we can make all the transitions necessary with the coming of our son, as well as the transitions that will be necessary as we prepare for our “home ministry assignment” this summer. More on that in a little bit.

As far as other ministry things going on here, there’s a lot! We continue to have youth group every week, and while it can be a bit tiring, there are still lots of kids coming and we are planning our next service project, pre-summer fun activity, and youth retreat here in the next couple months. Working with youth has its ups and downs, but we can already see quite a few potential leaders growing in this group.

Earlier this month St. John’s Cathedral held a service for the licensing of lay minsters. While we had renewals of old licenses, we were also able to officially welcome two new young lay minsters for our churches. Both are doing extremely well in their work and are not only able to lead the service with confidence, but are also really leaning into ministry with extra services and pastoral visits in the community. Please pray for the whole ministry team in each church, but especially for these two girls. Pray that we can continue to build them up in their ministry, and that God will raise up even more laborers for the harvest.

As we’re coming to the end of March that has meant not only are we fully in the Season of Lent, but that we are already looking ahead to Holy Week and Easter. My favorite time of year in the church (it goes back and forth between Easter and Christmas). David has been working very hard to prep everything for Holy Week. Not only is it the busiest week in church, but with my due date being the following week, he has had to make sure that everything is ready in case he has to miss one or more of the services. We’re praying for that not to be the case, as it is also his favorite time in the church as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.

While there are many more things in ministry going on here, it’s also hard to cover everything in one update. So I’m going to jump ahead to our Summer and Fall plans as they more directly involve you. David and I are planning our “home ministry assignment”, or our time in the States raising support and recharging as it were, to begin in mid-June and go until the end of November. On the one hand that sounds pretty long, but on the other, we have a lot of churches and people to visit across the entire country, all while traveling with a newborn. We will be contacting churches and people directly to setup times when we can visit you and your churches in person. We are very excited to share more about our ministry here, and what we believe God has planned for us here in the future. Please pray for us as we organize a very complicated, but exciting trip for the upcoming months. While we are definitely looking forward to seeing all of you, one of our main priorities is going to be raising money for the extra addition in our family. I would ask that you prayerfully consider supporting our family monthly, even before we come to visit you. We have had to get more ministry reimbursements lately, and while we are 100% trusting in God’s provisions, we are also asking you to consider partnering with us. If you know anyone who would like to support a missionary family, please feel free to share our information with them. We love adding people to our team! We might be the ones serving here in Belize, but you are just as much a part of our ministry as Senders and Prayer Warriors. I would also ask, for those of you who are already supporting us financially, that you prayerfully consider increasing your monthly gift to help support our son joining us in ministry here in Belize. Again, we are very much looking forward to sharing so much more with you in person, but we also know our time in the States will be limited.

We will see you all very soon! And while things are going to get busy quickly when we have this baby, I’ll make sure to keep you updated on his arrival! Thank you for your prayers and support!

Love,
Team Alenskis

Update for February

Hi! This is Evan. The longer you live in a new place, the more you become accustomed to the small things which were initially surprising. Fewer interactions and sights seem noteworthy. For the most part, I think I’m still in the phase where I’m regularly taken aback by the unique beauty of this place. 

Things in this post: Chewie Update, Evan’s Work Permit Update, and Evan’s Work..  There are plenty of photos in this post, as per the usual! 

 

Chewie: The Final Chapter

Chewie made the journey! Below is a map of just how far Chewie traveled. Many thanks to Missy’s mom for making it, to Curt’s parents for holding on to it, and to Curt for traveling all over the world just to bring it here.  

We had a fantastic time with Curt. He rented a motorcycle and we showed him some of the great local places. He really wanted to visit a Mayan ruin, so we took him to Xunantunich. He totally fell in love. 

I have my Work Permit!

I applied for my work permit in November. I was finally approved. This is great, as it means I don’t have to spend money and time every month renewing my visa. I had to make several trips to Belmopan, and had to jump through all sorts of hoops, but it was finally approved after I wrote an appeal letter. To finalize things I had to drive to the capital, pick it up, go to another gov’t office, and then to immigration. I arrived at immigration before 8am and was told that the docket was already full for the day. I told the guard that I really needed to have this done by the next day or I was going to have to renew my other visa again. When he heard how long I’ve been working to get my work permit, he gave me his cell phone number, told me to text him at 6 the next day and confirm that I was coming. He got me in the next day. 

The photo above is of my jacket the first morning I rode. It was so foggy I couldn’t see, and was like driving in rain. I was soaked, but the ground was still dry, so my whole body ended up covered in mud. Maybe this is why the guard took pity on me. 🙂 

What I’ve Been Doing

I have continued to play a lot of music. I’m playing on both Sunday evenings and Sunday mornings. On Sunday evenings, I am selecting the music and handling the slides as well. I spend a ton of time practicing. Between the morning and evening services, I play anywhere from 12-14 songs on Sunday. 

 

Recently I worked with a missionary group from Texas (wonderful folks!) to paint the inside of St. Hilda’s. I’ll put before and after photos below. It was a not-great yellow, and now it’s a crisp white. Talk about rewarding work! 

We’re also making progress on one of the big projects I’ve been tasked with – Building a rectory for St. Hildas. We have had the land cleared of the brush that had grown up and are working with the government to purchase it. It has been leased for over 20 years by the church. The purchase price is only $800bzd ($400usd). Once that is settled, I will begin to meet with builders to get a sense of the cost of such a project. Then it is time to fundraise. 

I’ve also been asked to begin working with two young lay-ministers who are being asked to take more ownership of the evening service. Our plan is to meet weekly to work through planning and to use that time to help mentor them. 

Sometime this Lenten season, I’ll be leading a day-long retreat for the young lay ministers in our two churches. I’m really looking forward to this. 

Speaking of Lent, I have some great photos from our Ash Wednesday services. In the morning, I attended the service for the young children from the school. Fr. David wanted me to photo the service. Annabelle’s class was there. More about this later, but Annabelle has been asking about baptism and has been reading her Bible a lot lately. We’ve been having some wonderful conversations.

I added some photos of Annabelle helping me make her a swing under our house. It’s great!  

That’s it for now!

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. It means the world. I’ll be sending another update soon with more about Missy’s work.