Mission Teams

Here's What We're Doing in Belize!

One of the wonderful things about living in Belize is the weather during this time of year. December, January, and February here have cool pleasant days and even mildly “cold” nights. We’ve been here for six months now and one of the main ways I can tell it’s been that long is my adjustment to the weather. Want to know how? When we moved here it was in the 90s and very humid. I didn’t know I could sweat so much! But now if the temperature gets down to 75 (that’s right, I said down like that’s low … ), I’ll be freezing! It’s very strange to get to this point where I’m cold in hot weather, but fun to see how I’m adjusting. Anyway, with the weather being cooler, and wetter, David and I have been sick for a month and a half. It’s hard to want to write an update when I feel like I’ve been in bed for weeks. But here we are! The first week where, other than a cough, I’m healthy!

 So, now that we’ve established relatively good health, and very nice weather, I can tell you what’s going on here with our ministry!

Right after the New Year David and I had a wonderful visit from his parents. They had not been to Belize in almost three years! I loved getting to spend time with both Brian and Roberta here in our first home. I also want to point out that it’s funny how our choices for food become more varied when we have guests. For instance, I got sick the last couple days that his parents visited and David and his mom made waffles. Waffles! We bought a waffle maker during our first month here and this was the first time it was used. Needless to say, Saturday is now waffle day! Whether we were taking them to one of the many beautiful places in Belize, or just spending time together at home, it was nice to get time with family. We don’t always know how often family will be able to visit, so it’s always a treat!

Since I already told you I was sick for the past month I’m going to skip the days/weeks where I was in bed and focus on the ministry.

By mid January things started picking up again. We were back in chapel with the school kids, making our regular pastoral visits, and starting back up with music ministry.

As you know I started a youth choir last year and after a break for a couple weeks we started back up again. I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having with this group of kids. Last year we had about eight kids coming, and it was great because they were all regulars, but this year we have all of those kids coming back plus more! I have to attribute my love for these kids, and youth choir in general, from my experience in choir as a kid. I had the most amazing choir director from my home church. Mrs. Segarra taught me to sing, to praise God through music, and to love singing! Well I’m working on the same thing with these kids. Last year we focused on Christmas songs for our Lessons and Carols service and now this year I’m teaching some of my favorite choir pieces from when I was a kid. I told them that the songs were going to start getting a little harder, but they were definitely up for the challenge. We’ve started having choir every week and have even had new kids coming to check it out! Youth choir has become one the highlights of my week. And this Sunday St. Andrew's Youth Choir is joining another choir from Spanish Lookout to help lead worship for the morning service! The kids are very excited!

One of the new ministries I’ve started this year is teaching piano. It’s been just over a year since I’ve had students and I didn’t know how much I missed it! So far I have five students that I’m teaching each week and at least that many more looking into getting keyboards so they can take lessons too. This is really exciting! Not only is all the money from the lessons designated straight for the church's youth fund (something we’re setting up for youth group, Sunday school, and choir), but I’m also getting to know a lot of the kids and their families from school.

What else can I tell you? This Sunday we are starting an English-language service of Evensong at our sister Spanish-language church in Santa Elena. Right now all the services we do are in English, with a lot of the pastoral visits in Spanish. We are excited to start this new service not only for a new outreach opportunity, but the plan is to have one of the Lay Ministers lead the service and preach while David and I lead music. Then in a few months we’re planning on replicating the Evensong service at St. Andrew’s Church, only that time in Spanish. As we look towards planting churches in different areas of Cayo this is our first step in that direction. I’ll be sure to let you know how this new service goes!

This Saturday we are holding our first youth retreat in Selena Village. The plan was to hold it right after Christmas, but David came down with a pretty awful stomach flu and we had to postpone. Well everyone is healthy and the plans are back on!

I’m going to take a side note here and say that boys are funny. This retreat for the youth group is going to have food, games, team building, music, and worship. So out of the blue a couple days ago David came up to me with this little boy grin and said he found something he really wanted, something that we could use for the youth retreat. Slingshots. He looked so excited just to tell me about these slingshots. Don’t get me wrong, I think slingshots are fun, but I didn’t know it could get anyone this animated. Here’s how I know it’s a boy thing though; I told one of the boys from youth group that David had us pick up a couple slingshots for the retreat (sort of as an offhand statement) and without even saying anything he walked over to David and just to give him a high five. Ha! So excited to shoot stuff! This should be a fun retreat.

 So I think I’m about coming to the end here, but I’ll finish it off with a visit we just had by a team from Texas. While David and I were raising support last summer we had the privilege of visiting Church of the Incarnation in Dallas. Not only was this church absolutely gorgeous, but also the people were incredibly friendly. This church has been sending a team here to Belize twice a year for many years. When we visited their church they told us about the mission trip planned for February and asked if there was anything they could do specifically for David and me. They wanted one of the many projects they planned (they send a large team) to be helping us, particularly our house and yard. Well they offered to help cut down dead trees and paint our house. As many of you know our house used to be baby pink … definitely not one of my favorite colors. A team came on a Saturday, and even though it rained off and on all day (and multiple times that week) these people helped us paint our house a nice bright blue, as well as cutting trees that had been burned. The rain ended up being more of an issue than planned, so it took us longer than we had hoped, but with the help of people from church later in the week (when we finally got sun!) our house is almost finished! David and I are so thankful for all the help we had this week! There are so many people that helped and our house is almost done! Thank you!

I think that’s probably everything for now. Please continue to keep us in your prayers! There are many new things starting up here that will require lots of prayers, and as you now know, we’ve been sick. A lot. I’ve been told that after a year you stop getting sick so much. Half way there! Please pray for good health, all of our new ministries starting up, and continuing new financial support.

Thank you for all your prayers!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

I can't believe we're at the end of the year already! Sitting here this New Year's Eve I can't help thinking back over the past year and the many things that have happened in our lives. I won't force you to reminisce the whole year with me, but let me point out a couple of the big things. In just two days David and I will celebrate our first marriage anniversary! Without getting too cheesy on you I'll at least tell you that I love being married to my wonderful husband. He is loving, supportive, and an incredibly Godly leader. We've had some pretty big adventures already in this first year (some good, some bad ... I seriously. hate. bats.) and we are very excited for the many years to come!! We are also two days away from having spent our first five months here in Belize! Time sure is flying!

So let me update you on the past month ... it's definitely been a busy one!

I don't want to spend lots of time telling you about Thanksgiving, but I have to at least tell you how it came together (since it was our first one together and everything). So at first everything seemed to be timed perfectly ... and then we noticed our meat thermometer was saying the turkey was done three hours early. In other words, our thermometer was broken. This meant that we had to keep taking the turkey out of the oven (which was really awkward) and then stabbing it all over trying to get the proper temp. As a side note, the skin was perfectly brown! Well when we did finally pull the turkey out for good (after many phone calls with my dad) we decided to take it out of the pan so we could see if it was actually done. Turns out it's really hard to pick up a 21 pound (yeah it was big) very hot turkey! With four different spoons stuffed all through that bird, one wing flying off, and a fair amount of turkey grease and stuffing all over the floor, we sat down to a lovely dinner. Good food and many memories!

Once we got to December things really started to speed up!

Not only did we have a team coming down to work with us, but we were also preparing for a wedding, confirmations, Lessons and Carols, my sister coming, and Christmas!

I'll start with the team coming from All Saints' (Bakersfield) and the Diocese of San Joaquin. This was my first experience having a team come down to work with us and it was a very interesting and encouraging experience. For this team's first trip they wanted to build relationships with the people in our churches. In the five days we had with the team we spent most of them visiting people in their homes and talking about their lives and the needs of the church. They also got the fun experience of push-starting our car after dinner one night! There is always an adventure in Belize! One team member even said "I got to eat a rat and I saw an iguana. This is great!".

For me, having this team come was very encouraging. Having a group come and work alongside us, see just a few of the things we do everyday, and get to know the people we have a chance to serve with was truly an uplifting experience. I loved both getting to know this group, who is planning on coming back, and also watching them get to know the people here in Belize! David and I love having teams come down to work with us and the churches here! If you want to come, please do!

The weekend after the team came David and I, a long with another SAMS missionary who had been staying with us for a few days, were able to participate in the Sunday church service at the Anglican Cathedral for the dedication of the new Spanish translation of the Book of Common Prayer (CPWI). This was a very important service and big step for ministry here in Belize. The demographic of people keeps changing here and there is definitely a need for more Anglican Spanish churches. With so many people coming in who speak Spanish there is a huge mission field right here with a need for more Spanish churches. We are blessed to have one Spanish church and two missions in our area that are run by wonderful priests! And now they have this new Spanish Prayer book to use in their services. One of the things we will be working to do here in the new year is to start an english evening prayer service in one of the Spanish Anglican churches across the river and then have a Spanish evening prayer service here at St. Andrew's. As the country progresses there is an increasing need to integrate Spanish into our services to reach all of God's people. And now with these prayer books, and the Bishop's encouragement, we can start connecting more with the community around us.

I don't want to go completely off track, but I did want to tell you that at the cathedral service for the prayer book I actually played the organ! Now that might not sound like a big deal (and that's fair), but for me, someone who hasn't touched an organ in years, this was huge!! Plus, the organ itself was huge. All in all, an exciting and nerve racking experience.

The following week we had a wedding. This was my first wedding here in Belize and it was truly a beautiful service. This was a couple we had been doing pre-marital counseling with for the seven or so weeks prior and then on December 17th they had a nice, intimate ceremony at sunset in the church. Now weddings can be very stressful (what with all the preparations, family coming into town, and getting yourself ready), but there is something truly special about the actual ceremony in church, something that makes all that other stuff fade. While you’re standing there making vows before God, vows to love one another, you get a glimpse of the relationship Jesus has with His church. After having gone through Ephesians with this couple, discussing God and His church, discussing all the expectations and promises that come with marriage, the marriage ceremony itself was extra special. It was like a refresher (a year later) for my marriage too.

I’m sorry if I got a little too mushy there, but like I said, I am reminiscing on this past year so you’ll have to bear with me!

Now if December didn’t seem busy yet, the following day was easily the busiest we’ve had all month!

In the morning the Bishop came for the Confirmation service at St. Andrew’s Church.  We had five nervous and excited confirmands that morning all ready to reaffirm their baptismal vows. As you can see in the picture, these kids were ready! It was another really good service with lots of friends and family for the kids and in the end we had five new communicants in the church! Please be in prayer for these kids as they learn to live out the vows they have now taken for themselves.

Right after our second church service we headed straight to the airport to pickup my sister! As you’ve probably seen from the pictures she has taken and put on Facebook, it was such a fun trip! I absolutely loved having her here! While it was a rather stressful day getting her, since we had to rush back home for the Lessons and Carols service that night, there were still many answers to prayer. For one, Caitlyn was bringing down my keyboard that I had left in the states. Well it turned out, in the chaos that is air travel, the keyboard had not made it onto the plane and the airline was responsible. At the time this was very stressful (as I said we were on a tight schedule trying to get back for church), but not only did we make it back in record time (right on time I might add), but the airport delivered the keyboard to our house the next day and we didn’t have to pay duty since it wasn't our fault! God seriously took care of us!

That night we had our Lessons and Carols service and the kids choir that I started a couple months ago got to sing for the first time for church. They did such a good job! They not only sang songs on their own, but they were also the majority of readers for the service, as well as helping lead the regular service. It was so much fun getting to see them sing and work together. I’m very excited to start the choir up again in a couple weeks!

The following days were filled with preparing for Christmas and showing my sister around Belize. We had many adventures! She got to experience some crazy rain, we cut down our first Christmas tree, went to Guatemala, went Christmas caroling with the youth group, she got to ride in the back of our pickup truck (to her delight!), and saw many different creepy-crawlies! While there was some stomach flu in there for David and Caitlyn, it turned out to be a lovely Christmas celebrating the birth of our Lord. I can’t put all the pictures on here, but if you get a chance to look on Facebook you see more of our adventures. We had so much fun with Caitlyn and I can't wait till she can visit again!

As I wrap this up I just want to thank you for all your continued prayers and support for David and me! It has been a crazy December, with little room to stop and breath, but we are loving the work we’re doing here in Belize and this first Christmas is one I’ll never forget. Please continue to pray for us this coming year. There are many new projects that will be started (e.g. I’m starting piano lessons in two weeks) and we can always use your prayers. We definitely and desperately need increased financial support. As you’re making plans for this next year please do consider financially supporting David and me here in Belize. Every little bit helps!

               

May God richly bless you in this year to come!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!