Daily Life

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 week.

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.

Tuesday: See Monday morning

12:45-2:30pm – Meet with more students and families as necessary

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.

Wednesday: These 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 hot one.

Thursday: Thursday 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.

Friday: Annabelle 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.


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.

Stay tuned for the exciting news about Chewie!

Our New Home and Work Photos

Home Photos and Work Update Edition

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. 


Community Life

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!  

Bridging Cultures: What You Need to Know about Short-term Mission

Bridging Cultures: What You Need to Know about Short-term Mission

What if you are looking for missionary experience, but you are not ready for a year-long commitment? Or perhaps you are discerning if long-term service is where God is calling you. SAMS has a short-term missionary program that will help you discern the next steps in your vocation and explore your potential missionary call. Are you ready to become a Missionary Bridger?

What is a Bridger?

A Bridger expands the bridge of service between missionaries and churches across the world!

What’s the point?

You will meet the desire for serving longer than traditional short-term mission work of two weeks, yet shorter than missionary service of three years.  Some want to extend ministry for a longer period of time than a short-term mission offers while others want to discern further the Lord’s calling for long-term missionary service.

How does a Bridger internship work?

Missionary Bridgers are partnered with and mentored by an experienced SAMS long-term missionary.  Missionary Bridgers have served with missionaries in Africa, Europe, South America, and Central America. SAMS’ Missionary Bridgers are often assigned a “Cultural Link Person” from their host country who will help them manage ordinary life experiences like going to the bank, locating a store, or navigating transportation.  Some Missionary Bridgers will also have formal language lessons.

How old do I have to be?

SAMS sends Missionary Bridgers from many age groups—pre-career, mid-career, and post-career.  To be considered for a SAMS internship, it is necessary for the applicant to have completed high school or the equivalent of high schoolat least one year beofre beginning the program.  You must be at least 18 years old at the beginning of your internship.  Some of our applicants are college graduates, currently enrolled in college, or have no college experience at all.   We look for Christians who are seeking God’s will for their lives and we consider life experiences as indicators of the applicant’s qualification to serve as a SAMS Missionary Bridger.

What is required to be a Bridger?

Accepted Missionary Bridgers will be required to attend a Missionary Bridger Training Workshop (3-day intensive conference in Ambridge, PA).  The primary focus of this workshop is to build relationships with Missionary Bridger applicants so that we can better serve you as you serve Christ in your later determined host country.  In the workshop we will discuss individual Missionary Bridger placement, expectations for the placement, cultural adaptation and, because Missionary Bridgers raise their own financial support like our long-term missionaries, we will develop your personal intern budget and prepare you to start raising your own support.  The training will be offered periodically so that at least six months prior to your departure date, you will be prepared for your placement and to raise financial and prayer support.

What can I except to achieve?

Grow personally in all aspects, especially spiritually as you face a new environment and the challenges that accompany it.

Expand your vision of God at work in the world.

Discover and develop gifts for ministry, increasing your effectiveness for wherever God calls you.

Discern next steps in your vocation, and particularly explore potential missionary call.

Offer yourself as a living sacrifice serving others under the guidance of your missionary mentor.

Build Christ-centered relationships with those God calls you.

Encourage your sending church by being an extension of their ministry and seeking to bridge the church to the world.

So, how do I sign up?

If you are interested in pursuing a Missionary Bridger internship with SAMS, please contact Lynn, SAMS Short-term Missions Coordinator at lynnbouterse@sams-usa.org.


Working at Casa da Esperança: Recife, Brazil!

Working at Casa da Esperança: Recife, Brazil!

I have been here in Recife for 2.5 weeks already and I’m LOVING it!  I am grateful that Brazilians are so warm–everyone I’ve met is extremely welcoming which has made settling in easier.

Every day I go to Casa da Esperança, the day care center where I’m working. I love Casa and am so impressed with the organization as a whole. Every day, up to 60 kids come for the whole day–7:30 am-4:30 pm and are bathed, fed 5 meals, and then do different educational activities. When they’re at Casa, the kids are safe from getting dragged into the drug industry and it enables their parents to work consistently. The children are absolutely precious. It’s been special to begin developing relationships with them. I’m mostly with the 2 year olds, and when I arrive they say, “Tia Mada! Tia Mada!!” and I get many hugs and kisses.

I’ve been able to help out with English translation in the office at Casa–they want to develop English versions of a number of media documents and I’ve been able to help by editing Google Translations. Besides Casa, I’ve also had the opportunity to lead a worship song in Portuguese/English with a Brazilian girl on Sunday–it was at the small Anglican church that meets on the day center grounds to reach the surrounding community. The picture to the right is with members of the Casa da Esperança team after working a bazaar to raise money for the day care center!

Please pray for…
1: continued improvement in my facility with Portuguese–I can get around fine, I just want to keep improving

2: blessing for Casa in their current work, and provision for the improvements and expansions of their programs toward which they’re working

3: my precious host parents Xandau and Andrezza–that they would be blessed for the incredible generosity with which they are caring for me!

4: that each child that enters the day care center daily would be surrounded by the presence of Jesus and his love for them.

Thank you for your prayers, and the support that makes my time here possible! God is so good. Living and working here is an immensely beautiful gift.


P.S. Follow me on Instagram for more photos of what I’m doing! @madeleineruch

Leaving for Recife in 5 Weeks!

Leaving for Recife in 5 Weeks!

April 18, 2018

Five weeks from now, I will fly out of Chicago O’Hare Airport and enter into the two month missions adventure the Lord has laid out for me! I am so eager—to be surrounded by Portuguese again, interact with the precious Brazilian children at House of Hope, meet my host family, worship at Church of the Holy Spirit, return to a place I already love and anticipate growing to love even more.

I got to spend time with a leader from Church of the Holy Spirit over Holy Week and Easter, and memories of how much I love Brazil and Brazilians flooded over me instantly. I can’t wait to be immersed in the culture once more, and take advantage of opportunities to minister the love of Jesus to a people so open to friendship and relational connection.

It has been established that I’ll be living with one of the Directors of House of Hope—the incredible day care center in Recife that I visited two years ago. It also looks like I’ll be getting involved with worship leading at the church, and will join a small group to be immersed in the church community. I’ll be going to House of Hope daily and doing whatever they need: caring for children, helping with administration, offering whatever support I can for the crucial work they’re doing.

Please pray for…

…the presence of the Holy Spirit as I navigate the last 3 weeks of school before summer. I need the Lord’s presence so much as I try to balance RA responsibilities, class finals, time with friends, and preparation for Brazil

…the final details and planning of my trip

…the power of the Lord to direct me in my prayers and passion for Recife and the community I’ll be entering into and working with