What an Adventure!

What an Adventure!

New Zealand.

The land of mountains and coastal towns, ocean views and palm tree forests.
Red curry, green curry, coconut curry, more curry than I’ve ever eaten before.
Late night board games, ocean kayaking, river swims, and learning new recipes.
Morning prayer, midday prayer, evening prayer, silent in the presence of God.

These are just a few of the things I’ve experienced during my time in New Zealand. I have been on the ground running since the day I arrived on Friday, February 1st. 

An hour after landing in New Zealand, I attended a parish party at St. James Anglican Church in Lower Hutt, the home church of the missionaries, Summer and Guy. Saturday, I went ocean kayaking with my host family and tried fish and chips for the first time!

Truthfully, those two days were rest to what came next. On Saturday, I began working intentionally under Summer and Guy as they diligently worked to complete the finishing touches for the Better World Gap Year. Better World officially launched on Wednesday, February 6th and it has been nonstop since then. Guy, Summer, and I have been working with the Better World participants, as they learn to trust one another as well as getting exposure to cross-culture experience, climate change, and how God is moving.

I have been living with the 6 participants, 2 team leaders, Summer, Guy, and their 3 children while we have been in training, all in one house! It has been quite the experience! I have honestly loved every minute of it and I am sad to see it come to an end. On Thursday, the 6 participants and 2 team leaders leave for Fiji for 5 weeks!

I will be returning to Wellington with Summer and Guy, where we will continue working behind the scenes for Better World, as well as engaging in the Anglican Youth Movement. 

I can’t wait to see what God has in store next! These last 2.5 weeks have been unexpected and life-giving!

PRAYER REQUEST: Safe travels for the Better World Team as they travel to Fiji and for safety within the country 

The Missionaries

I am interning under Summer and Guy Benton, the two pictured below. They have been in Wellington for the last year. Previous to that, Summer was in Cambodia for the last 8 years and Guy was in Cambodia for the last 5 years. 

Summer was born and raised in Texas, while Guy’s home is in New Zealand. 

They have 3 children and 1 on the way! Issac is 16, Quinn is 4, Norah is 2. Isaac was adopted in Cambodia!

Better World

Better World is a gap year focused on 3 countries (New Zealand, Fiji, and Cambodia), 4 social justice issues (ethical consumption, climate change, refugees and migrants, and urban poverty), in 10 months. 

From the Better World website: 

“At NZCMS (New Zealand Church Mission Society) we know that young people are deeply passionate about issues of social justice in our world and we believe that issues of social justice are central to the gospel. One of the biggest obstacles to the people of the world believing that God exists and that he loves them is the pain and suffering that we see all around us. 

We also know that it’s sometimes hard to find ways to bring about real change in a way that is effective, ethical, and practical. Better World is designed to take young people on a journey to explore things they are passionate about in the world and then learn together how we can bring about lasting change. 

Better World has the vision of equipping a whole generation of young people to reach into the suffering in the world around us and bring the light of the gospel of Christ.” 

In this first year, there are 6 girls, aged 17-20 years old that have committed to digging deeper into social justice, into the world around them, and into God. 

Ngatiawa River Monastery 

Better World launched on Wednesday, February 6. There was a commissioning service and then, the team jumped right in. The 6 participants, 2 leaders, Summer, Guy, their 3 children, and myself traveled to Ngatiawa River Monastary, an hour north of Wellington. 

The Ngatiawa River Monastery is located in Waikanae, a smaller town nestled in the valley, surrounded by mountains on all sides. 

This monastery we’re staying at isn’t a standard definition monastery. It’s a intentional community that revolves around the monastic way; basically praying 3 times a day and making it a commitment to live together, while having an outward focus. 

They are part of a mission movement called Urban Vision, which is intentionally living in poverty stricken or high risk communities, and engaging with those who live there. They create safe spaces for children, help out single mothers, invite the homeless in for dinner, fellowship, and education, and literally so much more. The list is endless. 

So this monastery is apart of Urban Vision to be a retreat center, communal living, helping and engaging the community around them, and more. One key element is they strive for sustainable living. They have cows for beef, chickens for eggs and meat, gardens galore, and so many ways of being sustainable, as well as eco friendly. 

It’s a lot to understand right away because there are endless possibilities of what it could be and what it is, but it’s absolutely amazing to be apart of. 

We have been at the monastary for just shy of 2 weeks, where the team has been training and orienting for the beginning of this great adventure.

Kiwi Cultural Fact of the Week

Footwear is completely optional. You don’t need shoes to drive, enter restaurants or stores, or have the fear of stepping on broken glass. Litter is unheard of, so it’s safer to walk barefoot.

It is an unspoken rule that if you are wearing shoes, you remove them immediately upon entering someone’s home and most religious buildings. 

Mission in Zambia: Top 6 Things to be Thankful for This Year

Mission in Zambia: Top 6 Things to be Thankful for This Year

Thanksgiving may be over, but SAMS Missionaries are still giving thanks for all that has happened this year in the mission field. April Sylvester, serving in Zambia mentoring youth, shares her thanksgiving:

Here are just a few of the reasons I have to be thankful this year…and you are on the top of the list 🙂

1. YOU! My partners: It just blows me away that there are over 60 people that want to a see change in the world so much that they are willing to sacrifice by financially and prayerfully partnering with me! 21 US states and 6 countries are all coming together to bring up strong youth in Zambia! (Just look at that map!) Meeting with all of you has been beyond an honor.

2. My students: Needless to say, they bring me lots of joy and take awesome selfies. I can’t wait for next year.

3. Nanna Lukama, my boss’s wife. Some days are hard as a missionary and on those days I am so thankful I have people like Nanna, who is right next door and always understanding.
4. My family: our skype dates every week are just a hoot. I love laughing with you all.

5. Quiet mornings: Whether in the US or Zambia, I love a slow morning with a nice egg breakfast, a cup of coffee, and a good podcast.
6. Mexican food and taco Tuesdays: Random I know, but I am just so thankful for Mexican food. I don’t get much of it in Zambia so it makes me doubly appreciative while I am back. When I am Zambia, though, I lean on my homemade Taco Tuesdays for my Mexican fix.

April is involved in an outreach ministry to Zambian youth that involves discipleship and mission training. Thank you for your faithful support that allows April to serve others in Zambia. Please visit her SAMS page to prayerfully consider giving!


Called to Love

Called to Love


And love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10

A high percentage of the population in Zambia is under the age of 35. SAMS Missionary, April Sylvester, feels called to come alongside young adults. At GLO Zambia, April serves the Lord by mentoring young adults. The students learn about relationships, stewardship, missionary vocation, and HIV prevention. Currently, April is also teaching yoga and swimming.

God has called April to love the students at GLO. She cares for these students because she knows God first loved.  In return, these students care for April, and they are inspired to go on to treat others how they have been treated. A few students shared how they have been impacted by April and the mentoring program:

Shari: April has been a very good mentor. I already knew how to swim, but April has helped me perfect my swimming. I also used to smoke and she has helped me with my addiction, and now I don’t really want to smoke. She has been there for me when others have thought less of me. I thank her for that.

Peter: April has been my best swimming teacher. When was struggling spiritually, she was there for me. She prayed with me and continued to pray for me during my struggles.

Ana: We are GLO Students. April is our leader and she has inspired us and I have learned a lot about myself. I used to be afraid of water. Now April has taught me to be more confident and I am learning to swim. April is the kind of person has a gift of caring for others, and she really has invested in our lives.

Like April who mentors, we are called to love one another. What gift has God given you that you use to show love to others?

Names have been changed for the privacy of the students.


Would you prayerfully consider supporting April today? Pray, support, and give here.


April teaching swimming

Ministry Blooms

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 NovemberDecember, 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!