Starting the Year Right

Life Update – Christmas Break – First Day of School

Hello Friends! 

 We are now in the second full week of January and we’re getting a better sense of life rhythms. There are a few things I really wish I had taken photos of, but alas I did not. In this update I’ll share photos from our trip to Dangriga, Annabelle’s school experience, updates about our work permits/visas, and how our work is shaping up. 

 1) Chewie Update: Chewie is lost forever. Annabelle is sad, but handling it well. Fortunately her chewie wasn’t a stuffed animal out of production, but a blanket made by Missy’s amazing mom, Naomi. This was actually Chewie#Twoie. I’m sure Chewie#Three is nearly born and will be on it’s way to a loving, chewing home here in Belize soon. 

2) No work permits yet. I applied for mine on November 8th! Once I get my work permit, we can apply for Annabelle’s Dependency Visa. The good news is we were granted Visa extensions, and were able to do that  at the border in Benque Viejo. It’s much easier and faster there than the capital, Belmopan. MAJOR UPDATE!!! THIS JUST IN!!! As I was writing this, Missy received her approval to practice from the Ministry of Health. We still need work permits, but this is a huge hurdle and a major praise. 

3) 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. 

 

Annabelle

 Annabelle started school this week. So far it’s going very well. There are the usual issues that accompany assimilating into a new group of kids, but she doing a great job of navigating them. At her school, students have an hour for lunch and for the younger kids, parents come to have lunch with them, or take them home. We have really enjoyed this rhythm! While we’re there we spend time with kids from the church as well. 

There is an amazing city park a couple of blocks from our house. We’ve gone quite a bit, but only just noticed the little library! It is like a taste of home, as these are all over Charlottesville. It even had a book from the Magic Treehouse Series. It really felt like a gift from God. 

 

Community Life/Work

 

David and Mary Beth came to our place for a New Years day dinner at our place. It has been so much fun getting to know them and working on our friendship. We’re so grateful for them! 

I started playing music at church last week. I have had to learn a lot of new music and I think it went pretty well. I’m excited to do more of that. David hurt his elbow this past year and playing guitar aggravates his injury, so he was ready for me to start playing. 

I was asked to start teaching beginner guitar lessons. I taught my first class this past week and it was SO MUCH FUN! All of the kids are at St. Andrews school and some are a part of the church as well. I taught them the phrase, “I tune because I care” and we learned to tune our instruments. 

We have transportation! This makes so many things easier. FYI, no supporter funds went to the purchase of the motorcycle. I sold my bike in the states to fund our transportation here. It is an inexpensive 250cc Chinese made enduro bike. 

Dangriga

 

 No matter how many times we told Annabelle we were moving to the jungle, she thought we were going to live at the beach. To help with this, we promised Annabelle a trip to the beach before school started. The travel to and from Dangriga was absolutely perfect with no delays at all! When we were changing buses, a tour guide asked us where we were going. I told him and he said, “Why?! Dangriga is horrible.” On that happy note, we kept on. Our plan was to stay at a cheap little beach front place and eat some meals at a local resort so we could use their facilities. 

 

  • Dangriga is the center of Garufina culture in Belize, a culture of freed Caribbean slaves. Missy said it felt more like Africa than Belize.
  • The food was SO GOOD.
  • A lot of wind meant no crystal clear water, and it pushed seaweed up on the shore.
  • We had breakfast with some missionaries there who are friends of friends (Thanks for the introduction, Jonathan Ruel!). After breakfast they asked us to help unload a truck. It was a truck of Operation Christmas Child boxes. Talk about a workout! 
  • There was a lot of trash around the shore, and Missy cut her foot on glass.
  • The resort was AWESOME. Annabelle swam a lot.
  • Belizian Beignet are Fry Jacks (flour dough pockets) covered in powdered sugar. Incredible!
  • Annabelle apparently loves Cooking Competition Shows. We don’t have a television and this was all she wanted to watch. She would plan out her strategy to the challenges. She would always ” top it off with Chocolate Ganache.”
  • We were so grateful for this time to settle before Annabelle jumped into school.   

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!

IMG_4273.JPG

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.

IMG_4249.JPG

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!

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.

House Hunting in Belize

Belize: First Visit

Mission: Find a House

Meeting Friends, Home Searching, and Dreaming

– “What is your favorite part about Belize?”

– “We don’t know. We’ve never been there.”

– “You’re moving there for a year and you’ve never been there?!”

– “Yep!”

We have had the above conversation more than once. More often than not, it would continue with comments about our bravery. I think bravery and faith look similar, but are overlapping ideas. Bravery chooses not to fear; faith chooses to trust. I’m not sure Missy and I are being brave. Rather, I think we are having faith, trusting that our Father has good things in store for our family in Belize. We belive he has good work for us to put our hands to, and rather than experiencing fear, we are full of anticipation.

Fortunately, at least now I have seen Belize! I spent all last week there. The mission on this trip was to find a home in San Ignacio and to get to know the missionaries we will be assisting, David and Mary Beth Alenskis.

San Ignacio, Belize

San Ignacio is around 2 hours west of Belize City. David graciosuly agreed to pick me up from the airport and let me stay at their home all week. It was an adventure from the start with delayed flights, packed customs qeues, and overheating trucks. But though it was dark by the time we arrived home, we made it safe and sound. The first night ‘s meal consisted of Salbute’s from Lupe’s. We’ll talk food on another post, but let me say I will be eating a lot of these.

David and Mary Beth were wonderful hosts. We had many fantastic conversations over shared meals. I am genuinely excited for them to meet Missy and I believe the four of us can be great friends.

They both tapped into their network of friends to try and find us a place to live. We looked at so many places, but by the end of the week, we had a winner!

“Friendship has always belonged to the core of my spiritual journey.” – Henri Nouwen
This little beauty is a 325sf tiny home built with a shipping container as it’s foundation. It has one bedroom, a kitchen and a bath. Missy, Annabelle, and I will live here, sharing the bedroom. The open portion you see is a deck with a fantastic view of the city.  We are so grateful to have found it! It is only a 5 minute walk for Annabelle to get to school. We found much larger (and in some ways nicer) homes outside of town, but our hope is that this is a simple time for us. Missy doesn’t want to drive and we don’t want to have to take a bus to get everywhere.

The owners are going out of their way to be accomodating. I’ve already been receiving updates with photos. They’re even letting Missy and I choose paint colors for the interior and exterior. We feel so blessed to have found this tiny little place. If you know us, you know it is perfect.

I was also able to visit Annabelle’s school. I think she is going to love it!

I’ll leave you with two photos. One of the school and the other a photo I took inside of St. Andrews Anglican Church. We hope to bring ourselves fully to this community, serving, learning and experiencing God in new ways and with new eyes.

Our Mid-Harvest Update

Our Mid-Harvest Update

IMG_3042.JPG

Back in August David and I were blessed to be able to take our annual vacation for a few weeks. We ended up going to back to Peru because I had loved visiting there last year. As a whole it was a wonderful time to get away and relax. The first half of our trip was perfect (I do enjoy escaping to cold weather!), and the second half was nice, but a little harder as we dealt with health issues. Many of you have been praying for David’s health (damaged elbow, high blood pressure, etc.) and unfortunately the high altitude on our trip really did a number on his health. Thankfully God protected him from the worst of it and we were able to adjust our travel plans to get him feeling better faster. Please continue to pray for complete healing. Once he started feeling better I came down with the flu and a bad sinus infection. Bummer. But, while it’s kind of sad to end a vacation sick, it does make you really appreciate going home. There’s nothing like your own bed!

IMG_2909.JPG

Once we got back to Belize things quickly went into full swing with the start of the Fall semester. At this point we also knew I was pregnant and got to go to the first doctor’s appointments and see the first ultrasound. Very exciting!

So September ended up being very full, as well as going by very quickly. For me, besides being Super Sleepy, this meant restarting choir and piano lessons. Choir last semester ended on a rather low note (no pun intended!), so I was weary about starting up again. The good thing about Fall though is that you get to prep for Christmas! With Christmas in mind, and the fun we’ve had in the past with choir I decided to give it another shot. This year I’ve been blessed to have a parent volunteer who has agreed to attend the rehearsals with me. Having another person there is wonderful help! One of the other big changes, and helps, this year is that about half the choir is from previous years (so I have a base of kids who know how choir works) and the other half is entirely new kids for this semester (adding a fresh start to this year). We are having lots of fun singing together as we prepare for Christmas. Piano lessons are also continuing to go really well as I get to know the kids and their families better. It still amazes me that God gave me such a love for music and a way to share that love in our work here in San Ignacio.

IMG_3110.JPG

We continue to work very closely with the three Anglican schools here in our area. I think the chapel services are my favorite part about working with the schools. Kids have the best questions! In the rural schools I still work with the younger kids, and David with the older grades. While I’m primarily doing Bible stories for the lessons, David is taking the older kids through the Bible with hand motions. I had never seen this before, but it is an amazing way to keep the kids engaged, and help them really learn the Bible! David also has a lot of extra work with the schools since he is both the chaplain and the local manager. That means he has both pastoral responsibilities (like teacher devotions and counseling) as well as more administrative work (like responding to staffing issues). It’s a lot for one person, but he does it really well and has gotten to know the families much better through his involvement. Please continue to pray for him as he works on time management and dealing with stress.

IMG_2765.JPG

One of our big focuses this year have been on leadership development. We have so many youth that we work with who have hearts for God and a real ability to lead. There have been a few different ways we are working to build up these emerging leaders. To start, we have two young women who would like to be lay ministers in the church. Anytime people want to take on a leadership role in the church it is incredibly encouraging. David teaches classes each week to show the girls everything they could be doing both to assist in the church as well as to train new disciples themselves (this involves everything from going on pastoral visits to helping teach catechism classes).

IMG_3168.JPG

This Fall we have also started our evening service at St. Andrew’s Church. The whole purpose for starting this service was to both create more space in the mornings (as the morning service is getting rather full) as well as to have a youth lead/youth oriented service. We have two young lay ministers who lead the service, another girl who comes and helps lead music on her ukulele, and a few other girls who help lead the singing. While we are starting off on the smaller side, it is easily becoming one of the favorite services. Again, having a group of youth who want to step up and lead in the church is wonderful! We have also seen the growth in leadership with the two boys who help lead the evening service. They have taken on a more active role in the youth group (which has more than doubled in size this semester) by both planning the games and leading worship. I’m also continuing with a high school girls Bible study to both learn more about God through his Word, but to also build the relationships with these girls that hopefully will build them up into disciples who make more disciples. Please pray for our emerging leaders. There is so much going on! It is always hard to write these updates as I’m never sure what to say and what to leave out. Just know God is continuing to do big things here in Belize.

IMG_3118.JPG

Our most recent big event in the church over the past couple weeks has been the annual Harvest festivals. Each school and church has their own celebrations. Harvest is basically like Thanksgiving, but with a stronger focus on God’s blessings and provisions. The schools participate in the service by having the different grades prepare baskets of fruits/vegetables/cakes to process up with to the altar. Once they get to the front they give a presentation of thanks (usually a poem or song) and then present their gifts to God. After the service the pastries are sold and then the produce is given to needy families, with leftovers being sold. Each service, while similar, is very unique and easily our biggest services for the entire year. At St. Andrew’s alone we end up having close to 700 people attend the harvest!

IMG_3159.JPG

Here we are already at the end of October and wondering where the time went, but with so much going on it is no surprise that it is flying by!

David - Vertical Lines.jpg

So now to look more towards the future. One of the big things we want you to pray for is the Hansens. As you may recall from a previous update, there is a family coming down to serve with us here in Belize for an entire year. We are very excited to meet and serve with each of them (Evan, Missy, and Annabelle)! Next week Evan is coming down for a week to go house-hunting and then he will return with his wife and daughter in December to officially start ministry here. Please be praying for their family as they continue to prepare for this huge transition. Please also pray that we are able to find the perfect house for them in the time that Evan will be with us. Moving is always stressful, and moving to another country is worse. So lots of prayers are appreciated for the Hansens.

IMG_3167.JPG

David and I are also looking towards next year for more personal reasons. Our baby is due at the end of April (right after Easter, because that’s not a busy time of year … hehe). We are very excited, and a little nervous. While April seems far away now we know the time is going to fly. So there are a few things we ask you to keep in your prayers. Please continue to pray for a healthy pregnancy, baby, and birth. We are planning on staying here in Belize for the birth of our Little Bean. This is not only a better option financially, but our child will have dual citizenship from birth. As someone who is still working on getting permanent residency (and living on a yearly visa), I’m very excited that our child will not have to deal with all of the immigration paperwork. What this does mean though is that almost immediately after birth we will be working with the US and Belizean consulates to get all the passports and documents in order quickly for our child. Please pray that everything comes together quickly with no complications. As you may already know, next year is our three year mark here in Belize since we moved back together. That means we are due to return to the States for a few months for our “home assignment”. This is where we travel around the country visiting our supporters and churches. We are very excited to come and see you! We are even more excited that we will get to introduce you to our new addition so soon after birth. Right now our plan is to come back to the States sometime in June and to stay through September (finishing off our trip with New Wineskins 2019 in North Carolina). While June is far away, a trip of this size, with a new baby, is going to take lots of planning. Especially since adding an addition to our family means an increase in our budget. Please pray for us as we already begin planning/organizing for next year. We want to see as many of you as possible, which takes a lot of organizing.

Please also pray for us as we will need to raise more financial support for the Little Bean. And finally, please pray that we will be able to fit everything into those four months next year. We are trying to miss as little of Fall 2019 here in Belize as possible. While we are super excited to come back to see you, we also love our ministry here (and the busiest/best time is the Fall).

IMG_2716.JPG

Lots going on, lots to plan. Thankfully God is always in control. And with all the planning we may try to do, His plans are always better! We will continue to update you on all things Belize as well as our plans for next year as they become more solid. We may even be contacting some of you directly as we work out schedules to visit next summer. Please continue to keep us in your prayers. And as always, if you would like to join our team (both in prayer and/or financially) please click on our support link. We know we are only able to stay here and serve because God has given us partners like you. Thank you!

IMG_2795.JPG

Summer Months

IMG_3764.JPG

It’s time for another update! Not only do I find it incredible that we are already at the end of July (where did the year go?!), but we are also just over a week away from having been serving here in Belize together for two years. We moved here August 2nd 2016, the day before hurricane Earl, and already two years have gone by. Part of me feels like we were living in our little apartment in Orange County just yesterday, and the other part feels like I’ve lived here forever. God has a way of making every place feel like home. While I can’t say that today’s temperature of 93 degrees (feels like 104) and rising is particularly pleasant, I can say that only one fan is turned on, so I think I’m continuing to make progress! David has meetings in Belize City today, which tend to be exhausting as it’s a two hour drive each way, but I am a little jealous of the few hours he gets in AC during the drive. We can debate when he gets home if AC is worth meetings and 4+ hours of driving, we’ll probably have different answers!

Well, as David said in his last update July had some pretty big events to get excited about. But before I get to July I just want to add that at the end of June my kids had their Spring piano recital right at the end of the semester. They did such a fantastic job and we all had fun! David and I even played a duet to finish off the evening! After the recital we only had a couple more graduation ceremonies for the schools before our exciting week of VBS and the highly anticipated Family Fun Day! Before I tell you how awesome that week went, let me quickly tell you about the graduations.

IMG_4090.JPG

As you know, we work with three schools here in the Cayo District: St. Andrew’s, St. Hilda’s, and St. Barnabas’. While going to multiple graduation ceremonies might not seem that exciting, I’ve got to say it’s wonderful seeing kids we’ve gotten to know get to complete such a big milestone in their lives and be recognized for their hard work. Here in Belize children are only required to attend school through Standard VI (8th grade in the states), so going to graduations where almost every single kid had applied and been accepted to high school was a very proud moment for us. We see so much potential in each one of the kids God has placed in our lives, and we are very excited to continue working with them this upcoming year!

IMG_3838.JPG

IMG_3854.JPG

Ok, so now for the big week in July! Everything started off with Family Fun Day. This day had been planned for months as an exciting start to summer and VBS. One of the very talented members of the St. Andrew’s church committee organized games, food, competitions, and a whole array of activities to make for a full day of fun. Two days before the big Sunday a team from St. Peter’s Cathedral (Tallahassee) came down to help both with the Family Fun Day and VBS. We had so many people working to make sure the day/week was a great success! And praise be to God, it was! Sunday started us loading tons of chairs into the back of our truck and heading out to the park to start worship. I’ve got to say worshiping in a park is a wonderful experience. We had stray dogs walking through and people wandering over just to see what was going on. Following the service David, a couple members of the Tallahassee team, and I headed over to St. Hilda’s for their service before returning to town to join in with the festivities. Besides great food (which makes people come all by itself!), we played lots of old fashioned picnic games like sack races, tug-of-war, watermelon eating contests, and water balloon tosses. We had so many people (adults and kids!) staying for the entire day! Not only was the day tons of fun, filled with laughing, but people were already asking at the end of the day when the church will be having it’s next Family Fun Day. I think the church might have a new tradition!

IMG_3805.JPG

The following day we started VBS! Our theme for this year was Moses and the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. The kids were broken into three groups; Dan, Simeon, and Judah. Each morning we would all start together in the church for worship. I’ve always thought the songs at VBS are incredibly catchy! They’re usually the songs that you can never get out of your head, and then they top them off with hand motions. Kids love hand motions! After worship we would all separate for Bible stories, sports, and crafts, all related to our theme for the week. The kids always have fun at VBS (it’s a great way to start off their summer vacation), but what David and I enjoy the most is working with the volunteers. Not only did we have the team from Tallahassee here helping, but we had an abundance of Belizean volunteers! One of St. Andrew’s parishioners took on the task of organizing and leading the whole VBS, and then we had another 14 people (mostly youth) come out to help. I was primarily working in the Bible story section, and I got to see two of the youth leaders step up and teach the little kids for the first time. VBS is such a great time to connect with the youth and help raise up new leaders in the church. David and I can’t say thank you enough to the St. Peter’s team for coming all the way to Belize to keep building relationships and provide so much help, as well as a huge thank you to all our volunteers (especially our fearless leader, Ms. Jody Jones!) here in San Ignacio who came together to pull off an amazing week for the kids!

IMG_4091.JPG

The past couple weeks have mostly consisted of finishing projects, prepping/organizing for our absence (so that everything runs smoothly while we are on vacation), and preparing for our new evening service, which will be starting a couple days after we return from vacation. In our slower summer months, God still has so much going on! Even in all the running around though, we were able to take a day to celebrate David’s birthday with a nice dinner and some Boston Cream Pie cupcakes! Doesn’t he look happy?

IMG_4015.JPG

And now to update you on what you can be praying for over the next couple months. As many of you know, David has been suffering from a variety of different health issues, from his injured elbow to stress related high blood pressure. Thanks be to God his health is beginning to improve! Please continue to pray for his pressure to consistently stay down and for his elbow to continue healing. Out of the whole year August is our slowest month here in the church. So David and I will be taking our vacation during that month and traveling to a cooler climate. Please pray for safe travels and a relaxing time to re-fresh and de-stress as we prepare for all God has planned for the Fall.

IMG_3987.JPG

As David mentioned in the last update, the church is growing. Praise God! Thanks to the growth that we are seeing, it is time to start an evening service at St. Andrew’s. This service will be new for the church, but the plan is to have it youth focused and youth run (a way to continue raising up new leaders). Please pray that God will bless this service and fill it with peopled and that he will bring in the youth leaders. Please also pray that we will be able to work out a deal with the football stadium (that is directly behind the church) to ensure that it is not too loud during the service.

IMG_4040.JPG

One of the things that we are really looking forward to here at the end of the year is to be joined by a “Bridger” family, the Hansens, coming with SAMS, who will be working with us for a year. Evan will be coming in November for a week to look for a house and then in December they will return (Evan, his wife Missy, and their daughter Annabel) to live here for the year of 2019. Please pray for the Hansens as they wrap things up in the states, prepare to move, and continue raising support. We are very excited to get to work with them!

IMG_3910.JPG

David also mentioned in his last update that we are planning on returning to the states for a few months next year to visit our supporters and continue raising support. Please pray and consider joining our team of supporters (both for prayer and financial support). Please also pray for us as we look at how to prepare for next year. We know that we are only able to serve here in Belize because God has given us amazing partners like you! Thank you for continuing to support and pray for us!

IMG_4089.JPG

Now before I wrap it up here, I realize that David promised in his last update that I would give you another bug story. Well unfortunately … I never run out of those! Hehe! So here we go. Last week David and I went to a friend’s guest house for a couple days to work in a quieter environment. It was incredibly refreshing! Well when we returned home and started unloading the car I saw a rather large translucent yellow spider in our entryway (think smaller than a tarantula, but larger than a wolf spider). Ok, here’s the thing … I’ve decided to let a few more spiders live in my house since they eat the other bugs. I have an understanding with a spider in my bathroom where he knows he can come out when I’m not there and he has to leave when I come in. It works for us. Well the spider by my front door was considerably larger than my bathroom spider, but he also looked like he might be dead. I decided to ignore him until I finished unloading the car. By that point I also decided that he was a little to big to be a house spider, so I poked him with the umbrella to see if he was even alive. Turns out he was alive, and much bigger once I woke him up. Since I was still in the generous mood of letting him live (bug eater that he was), I decided to get a broom and sweep him outside. I have to add here, that this is the same type of spider that was in my house when we moved in two years ago and David had to dig out under the stairs just to kill him before I would come down. So, progress. Well, once I had the broom I started to slowly push him towards the door. Here’s the thing … he didn’t want to go. In fact, he didn’t like this plan at all. I’m not saying he tried to run away. No. That freaky, huge spider, decided to fight the broom! Once I started pushing he turned back and ran at the broom, with his freaky little pincers going crazy! I’ve always been told, “They’re more scared of you than you are of them …” I call shenanigans! This spider was not scared. This spider thought he could beat a broom! The faster I would sweep, the faster he ran at me. As I progressed in my freaking out, David came over, grabbed the broom, shot the spider outside with enough force that he was incapable of returning. I’m not saying he “killed it”, but it died. While I’m still going to let some spiders live in my house, assuming they can follow the rules, that spider has settled the fate for all his particular kind. A spider who is willing to fight a broom has to die! But don’t worry, my bathroom spider is alive and well!

IMG_4085.JPG