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!
Missy here. This is a long post. Therefore, I understand if you want to jump to the IMPORTANT stuff at the bottom!
If you look at all the pictures Evan posts, you might think that we are on a year-long vacation (and I realize that Belize is a tourist destination), but the work we are doing is very real and, for me at least, it is sometimes quite intense. So, I’m going to share with you our weekly schedule after some other tidbits. If you aren’t interested in the schedule – no worries – but for those wanting a deeper feel of the rhythms of our lives, here it is.
Annabelle said to me the other morning, “it’s better living in Belize than the States, right Mom?” I replied as I often do in these sorts of situations by saying, “In some ways.” I asked what she was talking about and she described walking to school without a winter coat and instead being in our short sleeves, looking at all the greenery and bright flowers, and that we get to walk everywhere and we’re in better shape. I didn’t point out that we were walking down a dirt road, past some shacks (and some nicer houses) or the many other ways that the States would be considered “better.” We often discuss how in some ways Belizeans are quite environmentally conscious – like reusing all manner of things and parts of things – and sometimes not so much. It’s all a matter of perspective.
The following morning Annabelle said that she likes school
now that we’ve had a weekly routine for a few weeks and she’s adjusted to it.
It’s surprising in a lot of ways, but she does seem to actually be enjoying
school more than she did in the States. She still asks about homeschooling
sometimes and is still showing signs of anxiety around school in different
ways, but she doesn’t resist going like she would at times back home. The school
pace is really rigorous and there is an emphasis on handwriting that was
initially quite hard for her, but she says she’s gotten used to that. We’ll
have to send a picture of her handwriting sometime because it’s quite
remarkable how neat it is.
Another thing Evan and I are still getting used to is that
Annabelle’s school schedule is quite different. In the States we would have
almost 7 hours between drop-off and pick-up. Here, however, one of us has to
meet her for her hour-long lunch break every day. We live close to the school –
which is a very good thing – since it’s a lot of back-and-forth. It does,
however, also mean that one of us has to plan on not working for several hours
straight. We get about 3 hours in the morning when we can both get things done
and then it’s hit or miss. It is helpful that I’m working with her school
seeing kids and parents and some folks from the community.
Sunday: Church is
at 8am. Since Evan helps lead the music, he gets down there at least by 7:30am
these days. We usually end up home around 10am and then have a relaxing
morning. Once we went to St. Hilda’s with Fr. David and Ms. Mary Beth for that
service, and occasionally we will join them there although this makes for a
very long day and lots of sitting still on hard benches for Annabelle.
The afternoon is spent relaxing and getting ready for the
week because Evan heads back to church for the evening service around
Annabelle’s bedtime. He will start to lead the music for that service in a
couple more weeks.
Monday: 8:30am –
Drop Annabelle at school (I timed it and this whole process can take about 30
minutes). I meet with students/families at St. Andrews School (where Annabelle
attends) OR make phone calls and try to follow up with parents and organize my
Soon I will have to start working on my continuing education
for my license during some of these morning times.
11:45am-12:45pm – Get Annabelle for lunch, try to make sure
she eats enough and gets washed up, and then it’s back to school. Sometimes
these lunch hours feel long and spacious and other times rushed.
12:45pm-2:30pm – Meet with our mentors, SAMS missionaries
Fr. David and Ms. Mary Beth, about our work here and what they need from us and
to answer any questions. While this is our formal time of meeting with them we
try to spend time with them at other times too.
After school and getting Annabelle home it’s usually close
to 3pm and we spend our time working on homework, eating a healthy snack, or
running errands if she has been told she needs anything for school the next
day. Daily homework that is due the next day has been a new thing for us. In
the States she had weekly homework and she was often resistant to working on
it. Interestingly, here she will often buckle down and try to get it done.
Sometimes she has three assignments due the next day. Like I said, rigorous.
12:45-2:30pm – Meet with more students and families as
Tuesday afternoons Evan meets to work on practicing and
preparing music for Sunday and then he teaches his guitar class so Annabelle is
definitely my responsibility. While Evan has been really enjoying teaching the
guitar class it is actually quite helpful to the kids too. One Mom even called
Evan after the first lesson her son went to thanking him because she has been
worried that he’s headed down a path of poor choices and this has given him a
new focus. We see him all over town riding his bicycle and he’ll stop and talk
with Evan. There is a noticeable lack of engaged men in the lives of many of
the children here and Evan fathering Annabelle, teaching the guitar class, and
engaging with many of the kids is beautiful. You can see the look of yearning
on many of their faces when he talks with them. We have learned that 60% of
Belizeans are under the age of 25. You can imagine all the implications of a
statistic like that.
are my long days. I either drop Annabelle off at school and catch a motorcycle
ride with Evan or leave before Annabelle goes to school so I can catch a bus. I
usually spend anywhere from 10-30 minutes waiting for a bus and then the bus
out to St. Barnabus or St. Hilda’s takes about half an hour. It only costs $1
which is nice. St. Barnabus and St. Hilda’s are the two other Anglican schools
that Fr. David oversees. St. Hilda’s is also an Anglican church. I have had to
walk between the schools before and it is beautiful and hot, even using an
umbrella to shade me from the sun. It is about a half hour relatively flat walk
and is a great chance for me to pray for this land and the people in it –
particularly those I’m meeting with. I pass Galen University and University of
Belize Central Farm campus, Mennonite fields of corn and other crops, cows, a
few houses and little shacks selling things.
The area where St. Barnabus and St. Hilda’s schools are
located is more rural and has a reputation for more crime and family
dysfunction. And these realities are reflected in my work there.
The trip back to San Ignacio means either waiting under a
hot bus shelter for a bus which can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes of waiting
or asking if Evan can drive out to pick me up, or once I was randomly offered a
ride by two single moms with their kids in a truck where none of the gauges worked.
They were very kind and dropped me right off by Annabelle’s school. I think I’ll
need extra deodorant on these days over the next few months as this is a long
is my most flexible day as I’m usually in town and can meet with St. Andrews
families or do some of the many other things that need to be done.
gets released at lunch time on Fridays so we pick her up at 11:45am. While this
means we only have about 3 hours to get anything done it is really nice because
it feels like we get to start the weekend early with her. I often have parents
who want to meet on Friday morning because that’s the only time they are
available. Needless to say, my morning goes quickly. Last week I meet with 4
students and family members over the 3 hours.
Saturday: I think you all know by now that Saturday has been designated Family Fun Day – which is where most of Evan’s photos come from.
There are countless aspects to my work here which aren’t
reflected in this sort of schedule – like all the meetings and documentation
submission to the Ministry of Health (in the capital), the Ministry of
Education (in the next town over), The Department of Labour (the local office
and in the capital), the Income Tax Department, and three visits (so far) to
two different Immigration offices neither of which is in our town. And all
without a car. Our decision not to get a car is one we intentionally made, but
it has certainly made some things more challenging. Of course, it requires an
intentionality to what we do and it has also helped us to slow down which has
been very good. There are many reasons we are here living and serving in
Belize. Some altruistic and noble and some selfish. We definitely didn’t want
to come here to burn ourselves out and are trying to be thoughtful about living
more slowly, gently, and healthily.
I have also met with the local psychiatrist who spends half
her time here and half in the capital. She is a visiting Doctor from Cuba and
only speaks Spanish so her coworker had to translate for her. I also met with
the psychiatric nurse who is Belizean and has been around for some years and
knows all the ins and outs of working in this area. The psychiatrist and nurse
actually go out into the community to find homeless people if they have mental
health issues to make sure they have their medication.
And I went to the police station to meet with the Domestic
Violence Officer who is the one I report abuse and neglect to. I felt I needed
to talk with her after hearing a lot of what I would normally consider
reportable things in the States. She was helpful and clarifying. These are
amazingly dedicated Belizeans who work tirelessly, not only in San Ignacio, but
the entire Cayo District and work 8-5 but are on call all the time. They deal
with a lot of emergency situations with people who have schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder, other psychiatric issues, domestic violence, sexual assault, child
abuse, and neglect. They were very excited for me to be here and they all keep
reminding me that there are no other
counselors of any sort in the District at this time. There was a District
School Counselor but she left at the beginning of November. Thankfully, Fr.
David has encouraged me to focus on the three Anglican Schools, but everyone
wants to refer to me once they find out what I do. We’ll see. I am prepared to
tell people “no” as necessary. I’m certainly not planning on going out on
mental health emergency calls. Actually, the police officer told me that
everyone really likes it when folks come from other countries because everyone
here is so worn out from doing this sort of work all the time. She encouraged
me to make sure I keep self-care as a priority. 😊
With doing so much walking everywhere we run into church folks and Annabelle’s classmates daily. They all love her and love to yell her name (one really likes to call her “Annabella”). There is little anonymity here which is uncomfortable for me, but can also be beautiful. One has to walk the walk or everyone knows it. We are getting into the loving our neighbors thing in a different way. We regularly talk to our neighbors (often from our porch which everyone is jealous of) and when we are walking to the grocery store (side note – it took 4 different grocery stores to find margarine the other day – butter is rarer and much more expensive). Grocery shopping is never a one-stop thing.
THE IMPORTANT STUFF
Great News – I got my Temporary Work Permit through
Immigration. For anyone who cares, this allows me to volunteer not actually
make any money working. The same will be true for Evan. Unfortunately, despite
the fact that he applied a month before mine, his has needed to be appealed
through no fault of his. Pray that his work permit can come through.
Great News – If you read the above then you already know
this but Annabelle is really enjoying life here. We are still having bumps and
she is still showing some anxiety symptoms, but when she talks about life here
she is very positive. She loves taking the bus and seeing the countryside and
the people-watching too. She also really enjoys riding the motorcycle and I
think we’ve both been impressed with how safety conscious she is about it.
Great News – Now that we’ve been here over two months (10
weeks!) I think we’re all relatively adjusted to a lot of things – not
everything of course, but most of the daily stuff. We are all finding things we
really enjoy and we’re feeling more comfortable in relationships. While we
might still be in the honeymoon phase of cultural adjustment, I think that it’s
gone far more smoothly than I expected. There are only little things so far
that we miss about the States, like being able to flush toilet paper, but we
certainly miss our friends and family more by far than missing any conveniences.
Please continue to pray for our little cottage and the
heating situation. It is not easy to deal with from a distance and a lot of the
burden falls on Evan.
Please pray for the children here. While I often heard hard things in the States in my work, it was most often from adults who were distant (at least in years) from their trauma and it is difficult to hear while the children are still stuck in some traumatic and painful situations.
Hi all! This is Evan writing. As usual, this will be heavy on photos and lighter on text. We want to show you photos of our house now that we’re settled in. We also want to show you some photos of what we’ve been doing with St. Andrews.
First, two notes for prayer:
1) The deadline is approaching for Delta to find Annabelle’s blanket “Chewie.” Please pray they can find it and for Annabelle to take it well if they cannot.
2) If you would like to support our work here in Belize, we would be most grateful. You can make a tax deductible donation through SAMS in order to do this. Here is a link to our giving page.
Our New Home
This home has been such a huge blessing for us. We’re so grateful for our landlords who are also our new neighbors. They have been so generous and welcoming. We have been walking everywhere and are enjoying finding the closest places around. Sometime soon I’ll show you where we shop when we’re not at the market. These stores are pretty awesome.
Back to the house. It’s small. Under 500sf small. It has 1 bedroom and 1 bath. The kitchen is TINY. The porch and the view are huge and as we’ve mentioned, it’s only a 5 minute walk to most places in town. The first thing we did was hang the hammock on the porch. It has been getting non-stop use. It’s taken us a while to gather all of the things we need, but we think we’re mostly set with pots, pans, towels, storage, etc, and we can finally stop feeling like we’re bleeding money!
Be sure and look at all of the photos, including some of us moving in. You should be able to click one photo and see a slideshow with captions.
Front of House. Yes, it IS built on top of a shipping container. The container isn’t part of the living space.
Main Room. When it’s just us, the table can be up agains the wall.
Bedroom. You can see Annabelle’s bed on the floor. We had planned on having an actual frame there, but it turned out to be just a couple of inches too short for that. She doesn’t mind. 🙂
Living Room. They provided us with a little futon. It wasn’t supposed to be furnished, but they did it anyway.
Kitchen. This is definitely a 1 person kitchen. You can’t open the fridge and oven at the same time.
Bathroom. This bathroom is SO much nicer than we had expected.
Bedroom 1. They left us room for a queen bed!
The Hammock. Can you spot the happy kid? The table and benches outside were another great addition from our generous landlords.
Laundry Room. This is where we do laundry. It is so weird having all of the plumbing outside. Every place I’ve ever lived, this wouldn’t work in the winter!
Helping out. We were cutting things close for our move-in date, so I decided to go help out.
Riding in the truck. I grew up riding in the back of trucks. When we were moving our mattress, I decided to let Annabelle have that same experience. She loved it!
Stuff in a truck. HUGE thanks to Father David and Mary Beth for loading their truck with our stuff!!
As we said before, much of our time thus far has been spent getting immigration stuff sorted and getting our family settled. We’re here for a year, so we’re trying to be patient. Tomorrow, Missy will go meet with local mental health professionals. I will start playing guitar for worship next week.
In the meantime, we have been joining in with the life of the church as much as possible. Here are a few photos for you!
Dinner Before Caroling. A local restaurant and resort hosted the youth for dinner and generously provided a bus and driver to take us around.
One of our caroling stops. The group traveled around town, piling out of the bus to sing. At some stops, we brought gifts which would help make sure the house would have a proper Christmas feast!
The bus provided by Chaa Creek for Caroling.
Lessons and Carols 2. This group of young ladies did a fantastic job of leading us through the story of Christmas through song and scripture readings.
Lessons and Carols
Christmas Eve Service. This took place at 10pm on Christmas Eve. It would have been at Midnight, but the entire town erupts in fireworks at midnight! Joy to the world, indeed! Needless to say, we didn’t get much rest.
As I begin wrapping up my time here I cannot believe that 2 months has flown by so fast. The last few weeks have been incredibly busy. One of my goals in coming here was to use my time to build relationships with the people and children here to bring them closer to God. One of my biggest events while I have been here was the Vacation Bible School at St. Andrew’s Church here in San Ignacio. The VBS went very well. It was Monday through Friday for 3 hours in the morning. We had about 36 to 46 children come each day. The VBS was run by an almost entirely Belizean team made up from members of the church and some other locals that were able to help out. I really enjoyed working with the director of Children’s Ministry at St. Andrews, Ms. Perla, to help plan and complete the VBS. I helped run the Bible story station during the week. I enjoyed getting to teach the children all about the Great Commission and ways they could go out and make disciples. VBS was a great opportunity to serve the children and the families of this community and to show them God’s love, as well as teach them about God. One of the my favorite parts was the last day of VBS where everyone played sports and had a water balloon fight. After VBS was over Friday all of the volunteers had a lunch and another water balloon fight which ended in all of us throwing buckets of water on each other. It was so much fun.
Soaked from water balloons!
Water balloon fight! We are soaked!I was also put in charge of doing something fun for the children that attend church regularly at St. Hilda’s in Georgeville. I planned a day at the zoo for about 10 children. It was the first time many of the children had been to the Belize Zoo. We had a lot of fun getting to see the animals. The Belize Zoo exists of animals local to Belize and were rescue animals. We got to see really cool animals but my favorites were the jaguar, the tapir, and the toucan.
I got to plan a fun day at the zoo for the VBS children.
The weekend before VBS I was blessed with getting to show my parents around Belize. David, Mary Beth, and I met my parents for a couple of days off in Caye Caulker. I got to go snorkeling with my parents and we swam with manatees, stingrays, and nurse sharks. After an incredible couple of days in Caye Caulker, we all drove back to San Ignacio. I was able to take my parents to my favorite restaurants in town and introduce them to my host family and some of my new friends here.
Blessed to meet new sisters in Christ.
This past week has been a bittersweet one. I have started to say goodbye to some of my friends here. I went to the fair last weekend with one of my friends, her boyfriend, and her younger sisters. I rode a kiddie roller coaster with one of the sisters and even won one of the carnival games. I think my favorite part was driving back with the windows down and singing along to Despacito. I went to a pool and spend an afternoon with a few of the girls in youth group that I worked with in VBS. I will be very sad to leave these people in a few days. I have also been getting excited to come back to the States. I am looking forward to getting to see my friends and family. Overall I have loved my time here and hope I am able to come back to visit all the people I have met here.
At the moment, it is quiet. Finally. December felt like a sprint to Christmas. After Christmas it seemed like a mere hop-skip-and-a-jump until the whirlwind of Ash Wednesday. The marathon of Lent eventually gave way to the wrestling mat of Holy Week, and now, after a joyous Easter Sunday, I am collapsed here in our living room. Mary Beth is in the next room, sick at the moment with a stomach bug we’ve both picked up, she worse than I. At nights the darkness is saturated with noise from the yearly fair taking place a few blocks from the Rectory: incessant bass and random air horns announcing far and wide that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, and in the quiet of the noonday sun, I am able to take a step back and reflect, and wish you all a Happy Easter from me and mine!
So, to answer the question that’s probably on your mind, how have things been going for us? There is much to tell, and much to ask you to pray about. I may not be able to relay the juice of our doings and happenings like Mary Beth is able (and as she has this past November, December, February, and March), but even if my update’s all pulp I hope to leave with you a definite impression of where we’ve been and where we hope to go in the coming weeks and months.
On many fronts in ministry, things have really been moving along quickly. Last December we applied for licenses for ten new lay ministers for our two churches in addition to the four already serving: licenses for five new catechists to help with children’s ministry and preparation for baptism and confirmation, and licenses for five new lay readers to assist in worship in various capacities. This past Thursday those licenses were granted by Bishop Wright (N.B. the new website is still in development) and the Diocesan Commission on Ministry, and we’re excited to begin a new phase of ministry at St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s as we deploy them into action in the coming weeks and months. I am thrilled, in part because eight of these ten new lay ministers are under the age of 35, and in part because of my hope that they will help usher in a new emphasis on radical discipleship, outreach, and evangelism. Please pray that God will equip, empower, and inspire these new leaders of our little churches!
Also, as a side note: Mary Beth is one of those new lay ministers who just got licensed by the Bishop to serve! She was licensed for three areas: 1) to work in the schools as a lay youth chaplain, 2) to lead Morning and Evening Prayer as a lay reader, and 3) to administer the chalice at Holy Communion as situations may require it. She is insistent that her primary contribution in the life of the church is related to music, but music is taking her in all kinds of directions, and I am excited to see how God will continue to use her wherever, whenever, and however he wills!
As we license new lay ministers for worship, however, we are also in sore need of other kinds of leaders for our churches as well. At the beginning of this year we were unable to fill the Church Committee (i.e. Vestry) position of Outreach for St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s, despite some pleading from their concerned priest-in-charge at the Annual General Meeting. A congregation member has been serving informally as our head of Outreach since then, but she informed yesterday that her health is not allowing her to continue on in that capacity. Similarly, at the beginning of the year we had brought on a new Treasurer for St. Andrew’s, but due to changes in his employment he had to resign a few weeks ago. We are trying desperately to find new people to step up and take responsibility in these vital areas of the church. As is often the case on the ground here, only a few want to help out, and absolutely no one wants to be the individual responsible. Please pray that God would raise up new leadership to guide all of God’s people here to take on the full scope of ministry entrusted to us together as the church.
On a positive note, our two churches seem to be bouncing back from the relative instability of these past few years, punctuated by my prolonged absences. St. Hilda’s especially has been growing considerably, and God has not only brought two new families into membership and consistent attendance, but he has also been bringing people back to church who had left a while back! Please pray that the momentum that has been happening at St. Hilda’s will not only continue there, but also spread to our larger parish congregation of St. Andrew’s where growth has been happening, but remains a bit sluggish.
Still, taking St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s together, not only has our attendance been on the increase at our Christmas, New Years’, Ash Wednesday, and Holy Week services, but First Quarter attendance figures have recovered from the low point that they hit last year when I was gone. We thank God for everyone whom he has been bringing to our churches: each person who comes is a gift that we treasure, and we can’t wait to see what he will be doing in their lives! Please pray that God would continue to build up our churches and increase commitment: that those who are frequent attenders would become volunteers, that those who are infrequent attenders would become frequent, and that on top of everything else that he would give us encounters with total strangers that would bring them into the fellowship of Christ’s Body.
It was to this end that last February we helped begin a new English-language service at one of the Hispanic missions in our twin towns. One of our senior lay ministers has been leading a service of Evensong and preaching through the epistle to the Galatians, while Mary Beth and I have been helping to lead the music. Our hope is to recruit new people to help lead music over the next few months, and then do the same thing somewhere else, either in English or in Spanish, in another location. The service is slowly catching on, although for the last few weeks those attending have been mature believers from St. Andrew’s who desire more opportunity to worship the Lord. This is not a bad thing, though our overall goals for Evensong are wider and more evangelistic. Please pray that God would continue to grow, reproduce, and direct this new service, and continue to equip and empower the lay ministry team that is overseeing it!
Something similar could be said about our ventures in youth ministry at St. Andrew’s. Our youth group is going well, although since we started doing more worship at our weekly gatherings, we have seen some drop-off in young people casually showing up. Nevertheless, we are excited about the regulars that we have coming (around a dozen), and we cannot wait to see what God continues to do in their lives! Back in February we held a youth retreat jointly between four churches: St. Andrew’s, St. Hilda’s, La Anunciación and Santa Cruz, and it went really well! We are so grateful for all the young people that God has put into our lives and churches, and we ask you to pray that God would firmly root and establish them in the Gospel and in his Church, equipping and empowering them not only for ministry in the future but for service in the present.
Mary Beth has also been working hard with her youth choir, which has moved from having rehearsals every other week to rehearsing every week. The kids are enthusiastic (almost, at times overwhelmingly exuberant) and they are starting to sound really good! While she is inviting them to perform the occasional anthem at church, she is looking for a really nice opportunity have them sing an entire cantata or concert of some kind in the spring. When we have a date, we will let you know so you can be praying and, perhaps, even tune in!
The amount of proverbial food on my plate has also expanded a little since we first came back to Belize now almost nine months ago. Back in October at our Diocesan Synod I was elected to serve on the Diocesan Commission on Ministry, the executive arm of the Diocese that discerns and advises the Bishop on issues related to ministry, clergy, ordination, and lay leadership throughout our churches here. This has until now involved a meeting or two each month, sometimes a Sunday away from St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s as we travel around the country and visit with churches that need the Commission’s attention. However a few weeks ago, I was asked by the Bishop and the Commission to serve as one of two “examining chaplains” in the Diocese; that is, I am to help test candidates for ministry and discern their level of (mostly theological) preparedness for ordination. It is a large responsibility, and we already have two postulants before us to examine and guide through additional theological preparation. I ask that you please keep us in your prayers as we put together our rubrics, ask these tough questions, and make our recommendations with regard to these postulants and to others who may come in the future.
There is so much more to say about ministry at our churches, but I had better get down to telling you about how Mary Beth and I are doing personally. We have been sick a lot recently … a lot. If it’s not a cold, it’s the flu, and if it’s not the flu, it’s a fall or a sprain. These ailments are made more uncomfortable as the seasonal hot-and-dry season has finally moved into our neighborhood, and smoke and dust are everywhere these days. We have had incessant electrical difficulties with our truck (new battery, new alternator, two new regulators, etc.) and plumbing problems with our bathroom. But in the middle of it all, these have been months of drawing close to God and to one another, especially this past Lent. We are doing well, and we really are enjoying life and ministry.
And for me personally, it is especially exciting to watch Mary Beth growing into her substantial and weighty ways of serving in a place where I had been for years without her. I love watching her connect, sometimes slowly but always deeply, with the people we serve and serve with, and especially with the children and youth who look up to her and admire her. I love the transparent humanity and fresh perspective that she brings to our pastoral visits and casual encounters with folks here. I love that her music showers its beauty about our home, our church, our youth, our community. I love that she is here, and I am so grateful that we are here together in ministry.
And soon Mary Beth will be mentoring someone else: Bridger (medium-term missionary) Jordan Paris! Jordan is set to be an intern serving with our churches and schools throughout June and July. We are so excited that she will be coming to work with us during those months, and I am excited to see God use my wife in new and powerful ways as well. We can’t wait for her to come and serve with us! Please keep Jordan in your prayers as she gets ready for the transition to Belize!
At this point I’ve probably written more than I need to. Mary Beth will giving her own update soon enough, but until then I would ask that you keep us in your fervent prayers. Thank you for your prayers, for your gifts, for your encouragement, and for your faithfulness. May God richly bless you!