Hello everyone! It's been a busy few months since my last update, and it's high time I let you know what's going on and ask for your prayers and support in a more specific way!
First, let me fill you in on how things went during my sabbatical in the States. I had an amazing time: I was able to take advantage of the time away to get a much needed rest from the stresses of ministry, and get refocused on how God is calling me to serve him. And a big part of that How? has to do with a With Whom? I am pleased to report that my time with Mary Beth went really well, and as many of you know: we are engaged to be married! We have set the big date for January 2016, and we could not be happier!
All this means that there are some big changes ahead. Mary Beth and I both believe that God is calling us to return to Belize as soon as possible. To this end, a few weeks ago she flew put to Ambridge, Pennsylvania to go through a SAMS Crossroads Conference: three days of interviews, training, prayer and discernment towards her joining the Society as a missionary. Immediately afterwards, she flew down to see me again in Belize, and she has been very well-received, both by our congregations and also by the Bishop. In fact, she even served as our worship accompanist this past Sunday!
We are convinced that we will be a fantastic team for life and ministry, and though this next step is huge, even daunting, we are trusting God to cement our relationship and set our feet and hands in the direction that he will choose. Please keep us, our preparation for marriage and actual relationship, in your prayers.
This however means another big change for our ministry: our budget is going to double. In order to be fully supported, Mary Beth and I will need to raise $6,100 per month in pledges before returning to Belize. As a result, we will be spending the first months of our marriage in the States (I will travel back from Belize just after Christmas), allowing Mary Beth to finish her degree at CSU Fullerton, and giving us time to raise the financial support needed to return to Belize. We ask you to please support us through your pledges and gifts, starting even now, so that we can be back here serving the Lord as soon as possible!
Second let me fill you in on how ministry is going here at our churches and schools in our neck of the woods. I returned to Belize on July 7 to very happy and healthy churches. I am so grateful for the ministry of our interim priest, the Rev. Dr. Shaw Mudge, who watched over things for six weeks while I was gone. I wish I could say that my arrival was relaxing and pacific here at the start of Summer Vacation, but far from it.
Shortly after my return, I was given the opportunity to minister pastorally to the family of a murder victim. The woman had been stabbed 54 times by her lover, in front of their 4-year-old son and her grandmother. A week later, I was privileged to preach at her funeral, and I was reminded of how much we need the Good News of Jesus Christ: both the listeners and the preacher. Please pray for the woman's family, and for the many in our nation of Belize who are dying due to domestic violence.
We are also dealing with investigations into the running of one of our schools. In the absence of our schools' Local Manager (a wonderful woman who who spends much of the year in the States), I end up shouldering some of the supervisory responsibility usually delegated to a lay person. It is a hard thing to catalogue allegations and sit through hearings, but we believe that it is for the betterment of our schools: students, teachers, and administration. Please pray that the course of due process will open doors for the more effective education of our young people.
But the hard parts of ministry are only a bit of the story. Some joys are simple: in a few weeks, I will be marrying two old-timers (in their 70s) and we all couldn't be happier. I am very excited at the progress that our leaders are making. Not only am I confident that we will have new Lay Ministers ready to serve by the beginning of next year, including some for St. Hilda's from Dt. Hilda's, but also the preparation of our postulant for Holy Orders is coming along really well. In fact I am enjoying teaching a course on Systematic Theology in conjunction with the Anglican Theological Institute, and this gentleman's progress in learning and service gets me excited for what God may be doing in our congregations. Please pray that God would continue to choose, call, and raise up new leaders and ministers for his church, especially in our area!
Along the same vein, I am thrilled that we have been taking ground-breaking steps towards the foundation of an Anglican high school at Central Farm. This high school would have a vocational (especially agricultural) focus, and would serve an immediate need for that area, since there are hardly any high schools located between Santa Elena and Belmopan. Not only could it serve the dominantly agricultural communities along the Western Highway and communities linked with Mennonite farms of Spanish Lookout, but it has the potential to tap into the nearby resources such as the Ministry of Agriculture's Research & Development station, the University of Belize's School of Agriculture, BAHA, Galen University and a local BDF camp. There is tremendous potential to bring together the many stakeholders in a project like this from these many communities, to provide a Christian education that would meet so many needs. Please pray for God's guidance and empowerment on this new development.
I could go on, but I am running out of time here. Suffice to say, there is so much going on! Please continue keep me and Mary Beth, our churches, schools, local team and families in your prayers. May God richly bless you all!