Summer is always an intense time for me. The heat is tremendous and with air conditioning, a very limited commodity, it takes its toll. I remember flexibility being one of the characteristics that Peace Corps was interested in for potential volunteers. It seems to be the same for missionaries. This summer term I started with 2 classes and ended with 4. While I enjoyed the students and the classes, both additions were new to me so required more preparation and an extra day and a half in the capital every week. The pictures are students learning about plyometrics and my group in the clinical rotation on our last day as a group. The director of the program recently left on maternity leave, though she will be checking in here and there. Please pray for her and her first child, as well as all the professors as we head into a new term the beginning of September without our director helping to put out fires that inevitably crop up.
A few years ago, God granted me the opportunity to stay in housing at the seminary during my nights in the capital, and I therefore had the pleasure of sharing a bit in the community life with the seminarians. They were in their first year of studies then and we shared dinner and Morning Prayer regularly that year. Recently I had the distinct pleasure of joining them at their graduation. Their ordination will take place soon. Please join me in giving thanks to God for these hard-working servants who are heading into the world to spread God’s word and love to God’s people! May God bless, guide and strengthen their ministries and their lives!
Thank you for your support for this ministry! May you see God at work in your daily life!
Cathy Donahoe is a SAMS Missionary and Physical Therapist serving in the Dominican Republic.
A delay is not always bad.
It has been approximately two weeks since my return to Honduras. With it has come many emotions: joy with returning to familiar faces and places, peace with my decision to return, mild concern about readjusting to the heat and humidity, and wonderment at the welcome I received from some of my previous students.
The first few days seemed “action packed”. My luggage was delayed until the next day, but thankfully it arrived safely and intact. Friday 18-Aug-2017 was the day of the tornado in Tela. I had returned home from school and sprawled haphazardly across the bed, as I replayed the day’s activities. I planned to stroll across to a nearby location to view the sunset and unwind after a hectic day, but for some unknown reason, I just could not readily spring up and bound out of the door as planned. Instead, I flowed into quiet thanksgiving and praise to God about my perception of blessings and favor that had unfolded for me in the recent days. I made a phone call to share my joy, and at the conclusion stated: “I’m going to head out now and view the sunset”.
I never got up… Instead, I was immediately startled by a sudden, large shadow moving rapidly across the window! I turned and realized that within an instant the sun had retreated and it was dusk outside – no gradual growing dark… instantly dusk. As I tried to process what I was witnessing through the window, my mind registered the sound of zinc sheets (from a roof) whirling outside and the simultaneous sound of what seemed to be a truck nearby or a distant train. A train? That sound was not right for this location – there were no trains! My immediate thought was to get on the floor, but before my muscles could even respond… as quickly as it started, the noise and swirling subsided.
I soon discovered it was a small tornado. However, the pictures made me sit upright and ushered me into more thanksgiving. Even though structural damage seemed minimal, I would have been sauntering down this very road, passing this very junction on my way to view the sunset if my original plan had unfolded. Taking a “praise break” – offering praise and thanksgiving to God had delayed “my plan” and kept me within the safe confines of my home. For that, I offered even more praise and thanksgiving. Indeed, a delay is not always bad!
“I thought I would never see you again!” were the words of the girl who came rushing across the parish hall to greet Wayne and me. She asked if we remembered her, and we did. She was one of the students who took our first Alpha course at Heathfield High that we led a couple of years ago. Her name was Kelly.
The three of us were visiting a local church for a youth service, and it was so great to run into Kelly again. Our young friend told us that she switched schools last year and was now attending a school that emphasised sports and athletics. She was a volleyball player. Kelly described to us how the Alpha course had touched her life and how she was inspired to lead a course at her new school. Her news pleased but astounded us. We had no idea.
Sometimes being a missionary is hard. I’m a product of my home culture, and we put a lot of emphasis on measurable outcomes. But in a ministry setting, it is often difficult to see measurable outcomes of one’s work. The bulk of our work in South Africa focuses on teaching and training, especially in the area of discipleship. We work on the provincial level and in local churches; sometimes we work in local schools. Some of the people we serve and train we never see again. How do we know that our work has been “successful,” for a lack of a better word? We don’t and that can be challenging.
So it is very encouraging when we meet a Kelly, who shares with us about how God has been working in her life and how she is now ministering to her peers. We can only pray and hope that there are many more Kelly’s out there that God has given us the privilege to serve who are now leading transformed lives and who are helping others to grow in their faith as well.
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!
If you are an American in Honduras, everyone assumes you are a missionary. This assumption is based on the thousands of people who come down here to serve every year. Building, teaching, giving in attempt to gratify our Lord. This implication means that when people see the tall blond girl walking around they know that I came to their country as a missionary too. Once I was visiting my friends church and obviously stuck out a bit. The Pastor spotted me in the crowd and asked me to come up in front of the church and preach. On the spot and probably being the least qualified person to preach in the room I simply thanked the church for their hospitality and for serving the lord.
I sometimes think that the view of missionaries the Hondurans have is incomplete. They often may not recognize that they are in fact missionaries (and potentially better ones) than we are. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commands us to go to all peoples everywhere and make disciples. He does not command this to some but to all. If you are truly a Christian, then you must also be a missionary.
Two weeks ago, a couple of us went on an excursion with a local church. We rode horses deep into the mountains to visit some families in a small community 2 hours away from the nearest town. One of the woman who lives there makes the journey every Sunday on a mule to worship with the church. Our group brought some food for the families and held a worship service in the woman’s adobe house. The Pastor delivered a message and we all sang as the breeze blew through the open doorway. As I sat there singing in a foreign language so far away from place of birth I was struck by the thought of how we do not do this in my home country. In the US where we almost all have cars and supplies to share, we barely even go visit our neighbors. But the Hondurans do, they will walk incredibly far to share with both loved ones and strangers. They are missionaries.
Last week some of the teenagers from our children’s home held a concert. They have a band that practices for hours every week and writes their own songs. Each song that they write is a praise song written to glorify God. These youths, who have faced so much adversity in their past, held the concert to share the love of God they have found with others. They are missionaries.
While you can go halfway around the world to be a missionary you don’t have to. If you are loving and serving people in the name of Christ then it doesn’t matter where you are. You are a missionary.