As of today - December 30th

Good morning everyone! We're in the middle of Christmastide, and the New Year is almost upon us, as hard as it is to believe. Here's a bit about how things are going in our neck of the woods.

First of all, our Christmas services went great! Our early service Christmas Eve (a service of "Lessons & Carols") was well attended despite heavy rain, in large part due to the fact that the Salvation Army and Pentecostal churches in town also participated with us. We had a wonderful time singing and listening to the story of our redemption, and I think it also helped to build relationships between our various churches in the community, certainly among the pastors. Our later service (11:00 PM) that same evening attracted some attendees, but it was our Christmas Morning service where many of us gathered together to take great joy in celebrating the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for all of your prayers for our special celebrations!

In these days, we've had some other blessings for our church and its worship. A few weeks ago St. Hilda's purchased its first projector and laptop computer, though it has wiped out the savings the church had accumulated. This is a huge blessing, and we were able to first use the new apparati (apparatuses?) for our Christmas services, thanks be to God! In a few weeks, we hope to have a bell installed at the church and so be more able to call the community around the church to worship. Please keep all of this in prayer!

My hunt for a house continues, and it looks as though I might be able to find a home in the facilities that the (government) Ministry of Agriculture owns in Central Farm. The structures aren't the best, and they're a little expensive, but it is some of the only housing that I can find in the communities I principally serve: Georgeville and Central Farm. As far as a vehicle, the last I understood things stand as they did a few weeks ago: I still have about halfway to go with raising funds. Please pray for God's continued provision, and that he would give me his wisdom regarding how to proceed.

In the next week, things will probably be quite busy! My mother and a friend arrive tomorrow (New Year's Eve) to spend a few days with me here, and New Year's Day we will have special services in the church. I plan to make pastoral visits to people in our community, and especially to the latino families in Georgeville. And then next Monday we will celebrate the feast of the Epiphany that evening ... we're still working out the details, but I expect it to be great!

Thank you all for your prayers and support for us in this ministry. Have a Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and eat lots and lots of chocolate!

As of today - December 18th

It's been a muddy week in Georgeville and Central Farm. Yesterday I broke down and went and bought myself a pair of calf-high rubber boots, and I cannot imagine why I didn't do this  long ago. In short, ministry continues unabated, and somewhat hightened, as we head quickly toward the Christmas Feast.

The Youth Leaders Retreat that took place in Burrell Boom last weekend went well: representatives from all of Belize gathered and discussed the challenges we face, and solutions we've found, in our various contexts. For me, one of the best parts of meetings like that are the continuing relationships that can continue in the months and years ahead. The other highlight for me was helping facilitate the presence of some of the youth from our Spanish-speaking congregations: not only is it important to integrate the many (and often opposed) cultures in Belize, but we always have a good time when they're able to make it.

Speaking of Spanish-language ministry, we've been moving ahead with preparations for beginning a Spanish-language worship service at St. Hilda's, probably on Saturday evenings. Some of the youth from the Spanish-language Anglican church in Santa Elena (the splendidly named "Church of the Annunciation") have been accompanying me in visiting mestizo families in Georgeville, and time will only tell what fruit \these new relationships will bear in days to come. My hope is that our formal services in Spanish may begin as soon as mid-January, or at least in time for Candlemas.

In other news, our new children's choir marches on, preparations for Christmas march on, and ministry to the sick and the suffering march on as well. Please pray for our small community, as just this week we have had two chronic diagnoses: one of our 16-year-olds has developed an aggressive diabetes, and a 26-year-old woman has found out she has lupus. We're trying to assimilate these realities and discern how best to minister as a community to them and their families.

Finally, let me add that my house search continues! I am holding out hope that I may find something in Central Farm or Georgeville, though the houses for rent are very few and very far between. Please keep this process in your prayers, as well as my related search for funds to buy a vehicle (which will become increasingly necessary as I move out to the villages). Thank you, everyone, for your prayers for my ministry, our churches and schools, here in the Cayo District of Belize!

As of today - December 11th

Hello everyone! If things weren't busy before, we are now in full speed preparing ourselves for the Christmas holidays. Let me give you a brief update about how things are going.

The semester at our primary schools is wrapping up this week, and a good semester it has been. This week I held our final chapel services and teacher devotions, though the cycle of daily prayer will continue through the break. I will miss being with the children and teachers, but I will see most of them around in the villages even if they're not in school.

Last week had a good Clergy Advent Retreat with the Bishop in Burrell Boom, and we had a profitable conversation about many important aspects of leadership and direction in our churches. In particular, we ended up discussing ways to bring about successful change, particularly the changes and hurdles that will inevitably come in these years ahead. The diocese as a whole has great needs to revitalize its congregations, evangelize and plant churches, and raise up new leadership to push us into the next decade. It was great to be there and take part in the ideas being shared.

Our new move to begin a children's choir in Georgeville has been successful, so far! We have about seven children who regularly come to choir rehearsals on Thursday, and we are trying to get a few extra songs ready for the ecumenical Lessons & Carols service we are planning for Christmas Eve (it will be an early service, with a midnight Eucharist later on that night).

We are also thinking seriously about beginning a Spanish-language service at St. Hilda's at an early point in 2014; in fact, simply bringing it up with our students has generated considerable interest, and ask you to pray for the Spirit's guiding about the decisions leading up to this kind of initiative.

In other news, some financial needs have come up for me in the last few weeks. First, I have remarked in previous missives that I have a great need for a vehicle, and I have received gifts that have brought me to half the amount necessary. I am getting great at hitchhiking, but it reallly isn't a long-term solution to my transportation needs! Second, I am expecting to have a significant shortfall from churches that are no longer able to give their full monthly pledge. Third, I have been given notice by the owner of the house I have been renting, and I need find a new place and move out by January.

All this to say, please pray that

  • God provides me with the one-time funds necessary to purchase a vehicle.
  • God provides me with the monthly giving necessary to sustain my budget.
  • God provides me with inexpensive and decent housing a short distance from my ministry locations.

These are pretty immediate requests, and they go hand-in-hand together. Thank you all for your regular prayers and interest in what we're doing here in Belize. Take care!

As of today - November 25th

Hello everyone! I'm going to take a couple of minutes here to slow down and compose a little update.

Over the last couple of weeks I was hit with a disease that hovered somewhere between a cold and a flu. It wasn't bad enough to make me slow down completely, but it was bad enough that I had to slow down quite a bit. The worst however happened in the middle of the week, and I was able to give the sermon on our big feast day for St. Hilda, Nov 17! It was a wonderful day of worship, and we had escabeche soup and cake after the service, all of which was positively delightful!

We've made a few changes to our schedule recently: our Thursday evening time with the children is becoming a singing rehearsal for putting together a children's choir! There seems to be some interest, and a little bit of vocal exercises and good music seems to be holding attentions and inspiring some imagination. We'll see what comes of it.

We are now also gearing up for Advent and December, and the Christmas celebration that will eventually come. We've set our service times and plans, and now it's just a matter of getting things ready. There are songs and sermons to prepare, benches to nail, screws to install, locks to replace, children to hug, and a lot prayer, a lot of prayer, all to come in the next month. I'm looking forward to it, but it's still quite daunting as we prepare to dive in.

In preparation, I hope (Lord willing) to take a short day away this week, go to the coast and enjoy being somewhere else, even if it's only for 24 hours. Next week we will be having our annual Advent Retreat as the clergy of the diocese, and I'm sure it will be a fruitful time to compare notes and encourage one another.

So, please continue to keep me in your prayers! They are so important and so necessary, and I love hearing from you even if it takes me a while to write back. Have a wonderful week!

As of today - November 5th

Happy Guy Fawkes Day! We've had some extreme temperatures, as it's been getting down in the 60s at night, but still getting up into the 80s and 90s during the daytime. It's how we know that winter is slowly but surely coming our way. And now, down to the business of a brief update.

The past week at St. Hilda's Church was long and busy but good, culminating in Kahrin's baptism on Sunday. That afternoon I also attended the Salvation Army's "Harvest Festival" in Georgeville, and it was good to make connections with other pasors in the community. Apart from that, much of last week was routine visits to schools and parishioners, cleaning and reading and meetings and unwinding.

I neglected to give you an update last week on how my ongoing struggles paperwork has been going! Two weeks ago, God was gracious and opened the last few doors to my getting a year-long temporary work permit, which makes me eligible for a year-long work visa. Though I have until October of next year before having to firm up the paperwork again, I hope to begin applying for my permanent residency in April, a process which can be longer and more expensive than the other, but after which (Lord willing) I will not have to bother with any complications regarding immigration or employment. Please continue to keep this in your prayers.

Also, now that I have received some additional paperwork from the United States, I will be applying as soon as possible for the licence to serve as a legal marriage officer: that is, so that I could solemnize matrimony here in Belize in a civil sense as well as in a spiritual. I am praying that this too goes as well as my application for a work permit eventually did.

Thank you so much for your prayers, and please continue to hold us up to God. Our recent days have been filled with drama, and some heartache, but we believe (and sometimes even see) that God is at work in our little community. Take care and have a wonderful week!

As of today - October 28th

I am knuckling down and doing today what I have neglected for far too long: an update. To be honest, I've been so busy that I was shocked to discover how long it's been since I've posted on my news blog, and I'm going to work on remedying the situation in the weeks to come.

At St. Hilda's Church, and the two rural schools (St. Hilda's and St. Barnabas'), we have been completely in the swing of things since early-to-mid September. On September 22 we began a new Sunday schedule and a new weekly schedule.

The new Sunday schedule involved a change in our morning service of Holy Communion from 11 AM to 10 AM, and we also added an Evensong service at 5 PM. This has meant several things for me personally. First, I am present in Georgeville all Sunday, preparing and leading services and visiting with people in between. Second, because of the new conflict in service times, Juan and Maria spend their Sundays exclusively in San Ignacio at St. Andrew's Church, and they do not come over and assist us in Georgeville on Sunday. Third, the musicians from San Ignacio don't come over anymore to Georgeville either, so I have been preparing all the hymns and music, and we are usually singing everything a capella or having me play guitar. Fourth, rather than preaching once every three weeks (rotating with Juan and the lay evangelist), I am preaching twice a week. Putting all these pieces together, things are going well, but my weekly workload has gone up tremendously on account of these changes to our Sunday schedule.

The weekly schedule has also had a considerable change. On September 22 we began gathering for Morning Prayer each day at 7:30 AM; and, although the bus schedule is convoluted and unreliable, I've been able to make the half-hour trek every morning without fail. I love it: not only is prayer happening in a big way in our church community, but it puts me present at the school(s) every day to interact with principals, teachers, students, and neighbors. I don't think we have even begun to see the long-term benefit that this may have in our church and community as we seek God's face together. Attendance has been variable: sometimes I'm alone, some mornings we have had fifty (yes, fifty!) gathered to pray, listen, and worship. Please keep these moments of prayer in your prayers.

The other activities of the week have also started up. I have weekly devotions with the teachers at alternating schools, and I meet for chapel with the students at our two schools every other week. Monday mornings I have begun tutoring the graduating class of St. Hilda's in mathematics, since their teacher resigned this month and will not be replaced before the New Year. I also go over to San Ignacio every couple of weeks to help with music and teaching at the St. Andrew's school chapel, and I have occasionally been counseling students there with various problems. We have begun an Adult Bible Study on Wednesday 6:30 PM, and though attendance has been small it has also been consistent, and I see it as a launching point for future leadership in the church. We continue to meet for fun activities with the children of Georgeville on Thursday nights, and in the other spaces of the week I occasionally have time for friends, for books or movies, for dates, or for quiet reflection.

We've had some big days recently as well! Here in Belize the celebration of the Harvest is a big thing, and children will bring a gift into the church as first-fruits of the harvest to give thanks to the Lord in grand Englishs style. This is particularly practiced at our schools: St. Barnabas' had its Harvest celebration on October 18, and St. Hilda's on October 25th. The church is intensely decorated, and as the children process by class to the front of the church to present their gifts before the Lord, we sing traditional Harvest/Thanksgiving hymns. The gifts usually are then given for a charitable purpose. This coming Sunday we will be having a baptism, and two weeks later (November 17) we will celebrate St. Hilda's Day with food and t-shirts and (hopefully) visits from Anglican churches all around our area. And, before we know it, Christmas will be upon us!

Does this sound like a lot? It is. A couple of weeks ago, I realized that though I am getting everything done that needs being done, I do not have a lot of margin in my life. A lack of margin brings with it stress, and in my case, can make me prone not only to frustration but also to lack of communication. I need time to process what's going on in my life, and if I don't have margin I can't do it enough. So, in the last few weeks I have been making margin in my time a priority, and I have been feeling better emotionally, and physically as a result. Please pray that I continue to do this, and remind me to give you an update if I don't get to it!

Additionally, please pray that the Lord provides the financial means for me to purchase a truck or other all-terrain vehicle. Walking and taking the bus are great ways to get around, but the unreliability of transportation adds to the stress of travel and to the time needed to get from Point A to Point B. God has provided almost half (just over $2,000) of the minimum funds I need to acquire a vehicle. Please pray that he provides the rest.

And finally, please simply continue to keep me and our ministry here in your prayers. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the Devil, the Flesh, and the World, and they have begun manifesting their wrath in our community against the purpose of our Father, the purchase of the Son, and the power of the Spirit. Our victory is assured by the blood of the Lamb, but we here must persevere and overcome by giving witness to Jesus Christ, by being devoted to his Word, and by fearlessly constant in prayer. Please pray that God would come to our aid, sustain us in our fight, and make us faithful and disciplined followers of Jesus Christ.

And congratulations for making it to the end of this super-long post! Have a great week!

As of today - September 9th

Wow, it's been too long since I've written! Some of you have communicated your concern for me, since I haven't posted an update for almost three weeks, but I'm doing well. I've just been keeping very busy!

I have been focused on several big things in the past few weeks. First, a friend of mine California came to Belize to visit, and we enjoyed taking advantage of the not-rainy days and spent time exploring more of this beautiful country. Second, our elementary schools have started classes, and my duties at St. Barnabas and St. Hilda's are quickly escalating. Third, I have been trying to finalize the next phase of visa and immigration issues that I have to address to stay here long-term, namely applying for a "Missionary Work Permit" with the Labour Department. I've spent the last couple of weeks scrounging up relevant documents, and I hope to apply on Wednesday (Sept 11). After my Work Permit is granted, I will begin working on obtaining my Belizean residency (similar to a Green Card in the States): it seems that I can apply earlier than I thought, but it may take much longer than I hoped. I'd better start working on these things now.

Another big piece of news is that St. Hilda's is changing its Sunday service times. Up until now, St. Hilda's has held its Sunday service of Holy Communion at 11 AM, an inconvenient time slot selected to make sure that Fr. Juan could make it both to St. Andrew's and St. Hilda's. However, since I am serving now at St. Hilda's, the congregation has decided (with Fr. Juan's permission) to change the service time and make it earlier. I have agreed, but we will also be adding a shorter evening service, which means that Sundays are getting much more intense for me and others. The new schedule is:

9:00 AM - Morning Prayer
10:00 AM - Holy Communion

3:30 PM - Children's Instruction
5:00 PM - Evensong

We start this new Sunday worship schedule in two weeks: September 22nd. This is also the Sunday when we will officially begin inviting teachers, students, and parents from our schools to attend worship with us. Please pray that God blesses our worship and uses these new times to draw more people to encounter him in our midst!

One final thing that I should add is that things are getting very patriotic around here! We celebrate two national holidays in September: the 10th is in memory of the Battle of St. George's Caye, and the 21st is Independence Day. Having two enormous national holidays in one month basically sanctifies the whole month for festivities, and we are set to enjoy the parades and music, fireworks and food that are rapidly approaching. Please pray that all goes well and that we render both to Caesar and to God what is theirs.

Have a wonderful week!

As of today - August 20th

Hello folks! There is very little to tell about these last weeks before school starts up again. Last week I enjoyed the many visits that I made around our villages and towns, and I think the preaching went well. I was privileged to attend a wedding on Saturday, and I was even asked to play keyboard at the last minute for the entrance of the bride. I enjoyed it all.

There are several things on the horizon in the week to come. First, we hope to have our first Church Committee meeting on Wednesday. Please pray that everything comes together for that! Second, I am working hard to get my Belizean driver's licence this week, in time for a visit from a friend of mine from the States. Third, I am trying to get my documentation together so that in a couple of weeks when I have to return to immigration, I am ready for the next steps. Please pray that all this formal government business comes together all right!

I am so grateful for all your prayers ... thank you all so much!

As of today - August 12th

A pleasant good morning to everyone! I'm doing well, but feel more than a little bit wiped out after the weekend. Yesterday we held the memorial and burial service for Mr. Arthur Tillett, and we continue to join with the family as they take a new step forward in their grief.

I spent a lot of time this past week in Georgeville, continuing to make as many connections and build as many relationships as possible. I would love to hold the first meeting of the Church Committee sometime this week, but another death in the family here (some several hours drive away) may prevent that from happening. We have a lot of subjects to address, especially before school starts in September.

I am very pleased to have been hooked up with an internet connection in my home over the past week!it is already saving me time and money, and I am very glad that we managed to get it put in. I am still waiting for my computer to return from the States where it was being repaired, but all in good time.

The most frustrating adventure I had last week revolved around an incident related to my visa. Without going into all the unpleasant details, immigration officials did not want to give me a one-month visa renewal as usual. We worked things out with the help of some higher-ups, but next month I will have to present further official documentation about my ministry here in Belize with full credentials.

And finally, on a very random note, I discovered this week, in the one (used) book store in town, a copy of C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters! It has been over a decade since I last read it, but the edition is the exact one that my parents owned whenI was growing up. I have really enjoyed taking a read again, and it's already given me a much needed boost. God knows exactly what he's doing and manages to get just the right kind of medicine into our hands.

As of today - August 5th

Hello everyone! I have just a quick update for you today before the week gets too busy.

This past week we suffered the loss of Mr. Arthur Tillett, one of the patriarchs of our community in Georgeville. I was had prayed and anointed him a few hours before his death, and was still in the village when we received the news that he had passed. Please pray for his wife, Ms. Jessie Tillett and their whole (very extended) family in Belize and in the United States. We will be having his funeral this coming Sunday afternoon.

Besides preparation for the funeral, this week is filled with odds and ends. I may be making a trip to Belize City for a meeting regarding Christian Education and curriculum in our Anglican schools, as well as a trip to Belmopan to renew my visa and apply for a Belizean driver's licence. There will certainly be pastoral visits to be made, particularly with Mr. Tillett's family. This Saturday Juan and Maria Marentes's youngest son arrives from the States to be with us for a few weeks. And the same day we also send off our parish representative to the Provincial Congress, held this year in Barbados. Like I say: odds and ends.

This about convers things, with one exception. I hope today to have internet finally installed in my house. Pray that it happens today or tomorrow without delay, and without any problems. Have a wonderful week!