Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
You might be saying, “Why is she still saying Merry Christmas in January?”, but today is the 12th Day of Christmas (12 Drummers Drumming!), so I've got this one more day left to wish you the merriest of Christmases!
It’s 2018! It sort of feels like we sprinted into the New Year, but that just means I have lots to update you on! Our busiest time of year is always the Fall Semester, but Advent (plus Christmas) is the busiest of the busiest (in the best way!).
Before I get into the many different ministry things that have happened, let me tell you a couple of the personal highlights from the past month. One of the biggest highlights for me was having my parents visit at the end of November. This was the first time my parents came to Belize, and it was a wonderful trip! Not only could we show them some of our favorite places, but we were also able to show them a little bit of what we do here in Belize. We always love when people come visit us, and it was extra special to get to host my parents for the first time. Come back soon!
Then the week before Christmas we had another visitor! One of my long time best friends came down from California to spend a week with David and me. We were able to take some of the days to show her this beautiful country, and then we packed the evenings and nights with lots of Christmas ministry activities! We had so much fun (and loved the extra help!).
Overall, the addition of family and friends to the holiday season was such a treat, and one we will always welcome back.
Now to move on to the many different ministry things that happened. I’ll try to cover most of the highlights without making this a super long update!
First Week of Advent
Every year the first Sunday of Advent also falls on St. Andrew’s Day, which means Confirmations, the Bishop visits, lots of good food, and extra presentations. David and one of the main Catechists spent weeks teaching Confirmation classes to kids and adults alike at both St. Andrew’s Church and St. Hilda’s Church. After studying and examinations, each of the confirmands passed and were presented to the Bishop for Confirmation. It was quite a celebration! To add to the celebration of the day, the youth choir that I’ve been working with was asked to sing one of the songs they had been preparing for their upcoming Christmas concert. That was the first time my choir sang during the principal service at St. Andrew’s, and it is definitely something we will do again. The majority of the kids in choir either don’t attend our church, or don’t attend church at all, so it was wonderful to have them participate in such an important service. Then, what’s a celebration without food? So to top off everything the service was followed by pibil tacos. Pibil is pig that has been cooked underground all day and then shredded for the tacos. If you have never had it, make it: find someone who makes it, do whatever you can to eat it. Seriously, eat it. So good!
After the St. Andrew’s Day celebrations we jumped in the truck and dashed over to St. Hilda’s Church for their confirmation service. Six girls, all dressed in beautiful white gowns, very excitedly Confirmed. I think the cutest thing at their Confirmation was when it was time for the girls to take their first Communion. Now normally at St. Hilda’s everyone who is taking Communion goes up first, and then all the kids that are just getting a blessing go up after. Well these girls were so used to only getting a blessing that after they took Communion for the first time they jumped back to the front of the line for the children’s blessing with the rest of the kids. It was adorable.
Second Week of Advent
School was still in session, so we had our usual week’s work, but the highlights for me had to do with the choir. Every year St. Andrew’s School finishes off the semester with a Christmas variety show where each class gives some kind of presentation (a song, poem, skit, etc.). Since all of the kids from the choir attend the school they were asked to sing one of their pieces as part of the show. I was so excited for this opportunity for the kids! They had been working so hard for weeks to prepare their music, and I loved that they were getting multiple opportunities to not only show their hard work, but to sing all these songs about Jesus’ coming. They did really well!
Then the following day they were able to sing even more of their songs in the middle of town for the San Ignacio annual tree lighting ceremony! The kids were cute and did such a good job. These outreach opportunities were the biggest additions to the choir this year, and the kids had a lot of fun getting to sing for so many different events.
Third Week of Advent
This week was the absolute busiest! Since school had officially let out for Christmas break, we filled almost every night with some kind of activity or outreach project for the kids.
Monday night was the first ever piano recital for the kids in my studio. They were so nervous, but they did a FANTASTIC job! Pretty much all of my students started taking lessons at the same time, so it was a fun challenge to find music they would each like, that would also be different from each other. They each approach playing the piano differently and there different styles came through when they performed. I was so proud of their hard work! And what would a recital be without dessert? So after all of their hard work we finished off the evening with Christmas cookies and fudge. Yum!
I’m going to skip Tuesday just for a second and come back to it with Thursday (two very good days!).
After weeks of practice and multiple mini performances throughout the month, the youth choir gave their end of the year final concert at St. Andrew’s Church. The kids performed a program called “Light of the World” by Mark Patterson, which tells the story of Jesus being the Light of the world through songs and short scriptural readings of the nativity. This was such a fun program! It had traditional carols from different countries (like France and Puerto Rico) that kept the kids having fun in every song. We were missing quite a few kids, but they did a great job telling the story of Christ through song, for friends, family, and fellow church members! And again, what is a good performance without food? So we finished the evening with a dessert reception to wrap up the year with a time of fellowship … and sugar.
Tuesday and Thursday nights:
Alright, these were probably our best two night that week (and that is counting some already pretty great days!). For the past three years St. Andrew’s Church has gone caroling around the community and while brining baskets of food to people in need. This year the plan was to invite the youth choir to join the youth group, and any other members of the church that would like to come. Well Chaa Creek Lodge and Resort found out about our plans to carol and wanted to help in anyway they could. They love getting involved in community outreach and were excited to join alongside us for these two nights. What we weren’t expecting was how generous they would be in their help! We had a meeting to discuss logistics and they offered to not only treat the kids to dinner at their nice restaurant in town, but to provide resort vans (and drivers!) to drive us all around town to carol! For both nights! So on Tuesday and Thursday we had about 25 kids overrun their restaurant to eat before being carted around to carol. The kids had such a wonderful time! But I don’t think the kids joy even came close to that of the people for whom we caroled. The first night we caroled for people in our community who were in need, but the second night we primarily caroled in the community of the people who were affected by the explosion earlier in December. For those of you who did not hear about that incident, a rock quarry illegally setoff dynamite in a residential area, killing one man, and destroying many, many homes. It was truly a tragic event for so many families. These families had been through so much and we loved brining them a little hope and joy! Overall, it was a really good two nights of caroling, both for those who we could carol for, and also for the kids that got to participate in community outreach.
Fourth Week of Advent
Pretty short since it was only really Sunday morning … =] The fourth Sunday of Advent falling on Christmas Eve definitely made for a short fourth week!
So let's move on to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day =]
These four days were ones of pure celebration! The “Eve” services were celebrated at St. Andrew’s Church and the “Day” services were celebrated at St. Hilda’s Church. Each service is special in its own way as the churches fill with people coming to celebrate the birth of Christ. While we have a Christmas Eve service and a New Year’s Eve service that we call Watchnight Mass, it is actually finished no later than 11:30, any later and we wouldn’t be able to hear each other. Now when I say people do fireworks here I mean, people REALLY do fireworks here. When the clock strikes 12 it sounds like a war zone, complete with so much smoke you can’t see across the street, and sirens going off all over town. It doesn’t matter if it’s from the backyard or the middle of the street, fireworks are setoff by almost everyone. It is quite the way to welcome in the birth of Christ and then the New Year!
It’s hard to believe that so much happened in just a month (and so many other things that won’t fit in this update)! God is doing so many amazing things here in Belize and we are really excited to see what He has planned for the New Year. School starts up again next week, so we are busy getting ready for the new semester and the restarting of all the things that were on break during the holidays (chapel services, choir, piano lessons, Bible study, youth group, etc.). So I’d ask your prayers for us as we start this new year; for the old things starting up again, and the new areas of ministry God is calling us to this year. Thank you again for all of your continued prayers and financial support. We are truly grateful for all of our partners in ministry!
Many blessings for the New Year!