It's tax day in the United States, and it's update day for me here in Belize. I cannot believe (and I'm very embarrassed to realize) that it has been almost two months since my last update. Let me give you a taste, albeit in very broad strokes, of what has been happening on the ground here in Belize.
First, we are rapidly approaching the departure of Fr. Juan and Maria, my missionary co-workers here in San Ignacio, Central Farm, and Georgeville. They have been much more than supervisors to me: they have become beloved friends and companions in life and ministry, and I am going to miss them terribly. They leave Easter Monday (April 21), though I hope to visit them in their new home in Colombia the first chance I get.
This has meant too that we are approaching some big changes in the makeup of our ministry team on the ground. We don't have any hard-and-fast answers quite yet, though I anticipate that an up-and-coming visit from the visit the first weekend in May will answer many of our questions. For the moment, what is clear is that, while still vitally involved at St. Hilda's (Georgeville), I will be coming back into more pastoral responsibiltiies at the mother church, St. Andrew's (San Ignacio). As daunting as this new phase of ministry will be, I am also excited to see what the Lord has in store for his churches here, and for me as well.
Second, these tumultuous times have been paired with my application for permanent residency in the country of Belize (somewhat equivalent to a Green Card to the U.S.). April 11 I completed one whole year in Belize (without any departures), and I became eligible to apply for residency. However, applying has taken a lot of time, a lot of medical visits, a lot of bus rides and taxi fares, a lot of interviews, and a whole lot of patience. This process, just beginning, will take many months and, at the end, a significant financial investment on the part of the mission. But I believe that it is worth it, as I strongly see the possibility of serving long-term in the country.
For those who were praying about it too, I should let you know that I now am indeed licensed to perform civil marriages in the country of Belize, and I will be performing my first wedding on May 10th, followed by another wedding in June. There's nothing like a marriage, and preparing the happy couple for marriage, and I'm very excited to see each of them begin their own new chapter in life together.
Third, things continue well in Georgeville, and I am pleased to announce that we even had a cross-cultural missionary student from Messiah College (Pennsylvania) come and serve with me for two weeks as our intern. It was a great fit: Lauren did an amazing job, and we look forward to her coming back in May and spending another week connecting with families in our community. Unfortunately, her time as an intern was marred by my getting a cold, and her getting hit hard with her own illnesses. I've actually ended up sick a few times in the last few months, and it has affected my ministry in Georgeville, especially given the increased distance between my new house and the village.
But fourth, that has not stopped us from preparing for Holy Week and Easter. I am very excited for everything that we have planned. Palm Sunday went off wonderfully: the day before we joined up with Santa Cruz (Selena), Annunciacion (Santa Elena) and St. Andrew's (San Ignacio) as we made palm crosses, and then we welcomed our Lord as King before reading again the agonizing story of his passion and death. Wednesday (tomorrow) evening St. Hilda's will have a going-away party for Fr. Juan and Maria, Thursday evening we will have a foot washing, the (Last) Lord's Supper, and a stripping of the altar. Friday morning we will have a solemn Via Crucis in Spanish, read the Passion and pray the Solemn Collects in the afternoon, and in the evening join with three other churches for a Tenebrae service made up mostly of psalms and Scripture reading. Saturday evening, we will begin our celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead by lighting the Paschal Candle, recounting the history of our redemption from Creation to Consummation, and baptizing the newest Christian of our small church. And then Easter Sunday, we will sing, feast, and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, a moment that I expect to blow all others away and be most like heaven on earth. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it.
And so, with that, I wish you all Easter greetings! Thank you for your prayers for us here ... once again, please remember:
- Fr. Juan and Maria's departure.
- Our Holy Week and Easter celebrations.
- My application for residency.
- Guidance in long-term ministry directions.
- My computer which is on the fritz.
- Health, health, and health.
- Sanity in the midst of these crazy times.
- Holiness, love, and childlike trust in God.