A quick update from Mary Beth in California - November 13th

Hi everyone!  I apologize that it’s been a couple months, but here’s another quick update from me! =]

As you may know, about five weeks ago I fell and sprained my knee.  While I’d like to have some cool story to tell you as to how it happened…my dogs knocked me over when they were playing fetch.  Who knew playing fetch could be so dangerous?!  I’ll spare you the gory details as to what my knee did when I fell, but needless to say, lots of pain and now a helpful (if not entirely convenient) knee brace.  Yet through lots of prayers (and less walking than normal) I am getting better and walking a little easier each day.  Thanks be to God! 

In other news, the semester is quickly approaching its end.  Yay!  I truly appreciate all the prayers as my workload increases in what has proved to be a rather difficult/stressful semester.  I ask your continued prayers in the next month as I prepare for juries (my piano performance final), write lots of papers, and continue to prepare for David’s and my wedding.  Lots to do, but exciting just the same!  Less than two months till we get married =]

Sorry this was a short, but I wanted to catch you all up and thank you again for the prayers and support.  We couldn’t do this without you!

As of today - November 4th

It's a big day in Belize: Election Day! Some weeks ago the Prime Minister called for the dissolution of the legislature and for national elections to take place on November 4th. Since then, supporters for the two main parties, the UDP and the PUP, have been campaigning day and night in preparation for today. Please pray for peaceful, safe, and fair elections, and please pray for those who are being elected to govern the country of Belize.

In the meantime, I have withdrawn to a location in the countryside to get some work done in peace and quiet, far from the crowds of campaigners and voters. It also serves to give me a spot of rest after what was a very stressful previous week. I want to thank you for your prayers for my immigration process! With God's help and the cooperation of the government workers in Belmopan, my application for residency has come close to concluding. On Friday I was allowed to pay the standard fee to become a permanent resident ($1,000 USD for U.S. citizen), and I surrendered my passport to be stamped with the appropriate seals. Waiting for this stamp takes weeks, and it is unnerving to be without my passport for so long. Please pray that nothing happens to my passport, and that this immigration process is concluded smoothly and quickly!

In the meantime, life and ministry continues here in Western Belize. This past Sunday we rejoiced to baptize six new Christians at St. Andrew's! Two of them are adolescents who have been considering baptism for months, and we are so excited for them to step into the new reality of the new life in Christ! One of them was willing to sit down with me for a little interview about following Jesus for a young lady her age is really all about:

Please keep Dekada and these other new followers of Jesus Christ in your prayers!

November is a busy time for us as well as we prepare for our episcopal visit just in time for the Feast of St. Andrew on November 29. We have about a dozen candidates for Confirmation at St. Andrew's, and about half a dozen at St. Hilda's, and we are working hard to make sure that they are prepared to profess their faith in Christ and receive the laying on hands when the Bishop comes.

In other news, life and ministry continues. It's a joy for me, as I prepare for my own wedding in January, to preside over the renewal of vows this coming Saturday for the acting principal of St. Barnabas' School and her husband! Having been married for 25 years, I asked the two of them to share some of their insights for young couples like me and Mary Beth who are just starting out, and this what they said:

I ask that you continue to pray for the two of us. Our wedding is just around the bend, and we are in the midst of many preparations, and it is quite difficult to get everything done while she is in the middle of her semester at CSU Fullerton, and while I am here in Belize. And please also pray about our financial support: we are eager for new partners in our ministry who can give to meet our new budgetary needs as a couple, needs that have to be met before we can return to Belize in 2016. Please keep us, and all these things, uplifted to our heavenly Father who knows our needs before we ask! Thank you so much!

As of today - October 26th

Hello everyone! It's been a crazy, crazy week, but I'll try to put it into words and tell you a bit about it all.

Last week started out with the drama of immigration: handing it documents in regards to my permanent residency visa. I ask that you please continue to pray earnestly with me that this visa would be granted before the end of the year! Meanwhile back at the schools, it was a low-key week, providing wonderful moments like that of children at St. Barnabas' School singing random songs like this one:

Much of the later part of the week was taken up hosting a delegation from the Diocese of St. Albans: Archdeacon Trevor Jones and his wife Sue. Not only were they able to visit our Hispanic missions (Thursday)and attend church at St. Andrew's and St. Hilda's (Sunday), but they also paid visits to our three schools. In fact, we managed to take some great pictures of them at St. Andrew's, St. Barnabas', and St. Hilda's. The hope is that their visit this past weekend will enable them to be a bridge between their churches and ours, and help us build a constructive and mutually-beneficial relationship.

St. Andrew's School was also blessed to have a visit from the Governor-General (the Queen's representative and Belize's head of state) Sir Colville Young. He and his wife came not only to give an enormous donation of musical instruments to the school, but he also shared a story or two with the students and other community members. To say thank you, many of the classes made colorful presentations for the Governor-General, such as this telling of some traditional Kriol proverbs from Belize:

This weekend was full of so many other activites as well. At 4:30 Saturday morning I was out in Central Farm to give the invocation for the annual Cancer Walk, and then I walked the 4 miles back to town with everyone else. And finally, this weekend was Cursillo #11 for the Anglican Diocese of Belize, and Sunday afternoon our archidiaconal delegation, together with our Deacon and Lay Minister and Treasurer and I, we all went out to the closing ceremony. Not only were we exposed to some powerful preaching and moving testimonies by the new cursillistas, but we were able to join the Garifuna drums and sing songs like "De Colores" and "Here I Am, Lord"

So, as you can imagine, it's been a busy week! Thank you so much for your prayers, and for your support. Please continue to uphold us and our ministry up to our heavenly Father!

Photo Recap - Harvest Festival

Hello everyone! I don't have a lot of time to compose in words, but here's a photo/video recap of Harvest for our three schools. Make sure to click through to see all the pictures and other glimpses into our past week.

St. Andrew's School (San Ignacio)

This past Sunday we enjoyed three fantastic services, with the Upper Division at 8:00, the Middle Division at 10:30, and the Lower Division at 2:00. Not only were we able to capture some awesome pictures, but we were able to capture videos of the children carrying in their gifts and singing songs of praise. Additionally we have pictures of Deacon Lizbeth Tulloch reading the Gospel for the service, and several videos of me. Here is an excerpt of my first sermon, this time to the Upper Division:

You can also check out snippets of my sermons to the Middle Division and to the Lower Division. Over the course of the day, over 500 people came to church, and we thank God not only for the gifts that they brought, but that he brought them into his courts to praise his name!

St. Barnabas' School (Central Farm)

Last Wednesday we celebrated our small Harvest service in Central Farm. As you can see in the pictures, our school was beautifuly decorated, and the children were excited to come and give thanks to the Lord. Not only did the children join in singing rousing courses like "Bringing in the Sheaves" but they also made their individual presentations, much like the Standard I and II classes singing "A Gift to You" in front of the whole school.

St. Hilda's School (Georgeville)

Then last Thursday, an extremely rainy day, we celebrated our Harvest festival at St. Hilda's. Though we didn't manage to get any video of the service, we took copious photos of our students, teachers, and families, and also of our preacher and postulant Jody Bevan. It was a fantastic day, and we left incredibly blessed, if slightly wet!

Thank you for your prayers, and we ask for your continued prayers for us this week, as Mary Beth continues to recover from an injured knee, as Belize City struggles with intense flooding after heavy rains, as we out West prepare for the archidiaconal visit to our communities, and as I continue to wrestle with immigration issues. We are so grateful for your support!

As of today - October 12th

Happy Columbus Pan-American Day! It's a national holiday in Belize so I'm taking a few moments to send out an update before things get crazy again tomorrow.

We have been slammed with work around here. Over the last couple of weeks, I've been working hard to set up rhythms for the rest of the semester: both with the schools, and with our congregations. In particular, as we approach the next dates for baptisms (November 1st) and confirmations (November 29th), not only have I been teaching classes but I've also been visiting these families, forging connections with the Church that will last longer than the end of this year. I enjoy it all, but for us it's one of the busiest times of year.

Making things even crazier, this week we are celebrating Harvest: a traditional service of giving, thanksgiving, and greengrocery. Wednesday St. Barnabas' (Central Farm) is celebrating Harvest, Thursday St. Hilda's (Georgeville) will do the same, and Sunday St. Andrew's (San Ignacio) will be holding three huge services spanning 8am to 3pm. When it comes to evangelism, this is by far our biggest occasion of the year ... let me see if I can put it in perspective. Ordinarily at St. Andrew's Church our maximum Sunday attendence is around 120 people (we can't fit many more in the building). However, last year our attendance was over 400: more than Christmas and Easter combined. For this reason, I really ask you to pray for us this week, that God would capture our hearts, bring revival, and make himself known as our churches fill up with visitors!

On top of this, there are a lot of diocesan activities this month. This coming Saturday I will be traveling to Belize City to represent our churches at the Mid-Synod Meeting, a convocation reporting and evaluating the progress we are making nation-wide as a church. Last week at the Bishop's request, I submitted my Personal Ministry Analysis to the Diocese, giving them a window on everything that I do, and how my service here in general is going. Please keep our deliberations on the 17th in your prayers. Additionally, here in the next few weeks we have visits from VIPs of all sorts: the Governor-General (Queen Elizabeth's representative in Belize) will be visiting St. Andrew's School, and an archidiaconal delegation from the Diocese of St. Albans (in England) will be visiting our churches, along with many others, and making a report to the Bishop on the state of our churches here in Belize. Here's a little map of the many communities in our area that this delegation will probably end up covering:

Other activities are going well. The systematic theology course I am teaching with our postulant is going well, and youth group has started up against strong, in part due to the increased participation with young people from our Hispanic missions. This past Sunday I once again travelled with Rev. Vasquez to our mission in Frank's Eddy, where the church is growing in numbers and strength. This past Saturday, I interviewed one of our Spanish-speaking priests, Rev. Juan Peralta García, and if you have a moment, definitely watch this short video:

 I would also ask you to pray for Mary Beth. In addition to some other health problems that she has been having, Sunday she had an accident and ended up badly spraining her knee. She is wearing a leg brace which helps with the pain, but on the other hand it is incredibly restrictive for someone who has to play the piano, attend classes, and get up stairs. The doctor has said that she will probably be fully recovered within about six weeks. Please pray that God restores her to complete health very quickly!

Also, please keep my visa situation in your prayers. Not only have I applied for permament residency (and have been waiting 18 months for it to be processed ... no success so far), but this past month I applied to extend my year-long work permit for another year. The work permit application has not been processed yet either, so tomorrow I will be traveling to immigration to get my passport stamped (as a tourist!) for a month, while we wait for the work permit paperwork to go through, while we wait for the residency paperwork to go through. If it sounds complicated it is.

And finally, please pray that God would raise up financial supporters for our ministry. To return to Belize not only does our current giving need to triple, but in order to have at least one salary (mine) while we are raising support this coming winter and spring, giving needs to go up by at least 50% from where it is now. Please pray that God would provide for our needs, and also pray about giving to our ministry. Thank you all for your prayers and support: we love you and couldn't do it without you! Take care!

As of today - September 29th

Hello friends! Do you every have the feeling like there's so much happening that it's hard to stop and take stock of it all? That is absolutely how I feel these days. Or maybe it's just the heat. Either way, I am so thankful for your prayers and support. Let me try and fill you in.

Last week was chock-full of ministry, primarily in the schools. Last week we started our regular bi-weekly services with the children at the schools. We hadn't been able to kick things off before that due to the patriotic celebrations, my stomach flu, and other inconvenient details. But it is incredible blessing to minister to these (nearly 700) children and their teachers. If you want to experience the amazingness, check out these videos of the kids at St. Andrew's Anglican School singing their hearts out:

Things continue to go well for St. Barnabas' Anglican School. I've spent just about every evening this week meeting with parents from the school, and last Thursday we had a fantastic first PTA meeting. Our application for a vocational Anglican high school in Central Farm (using the current grounds and facilities) is close to be submitted. Please keep all of this in your prayers!

In the meantime, we are gearing up for the crazy schedule in the coming months. October is the month of Harvest Festivals, as well as our Diocese's mid-synod checkup meeting. On 1 November St. Andrew's will be holding baptisms ... at least 5 persons are scheduled to pass through the waters of baptism and be united with Christ! We are also preparing our youths and adults for confirmation and reception on 29 November: we may have a dozen or more who make this mature decision to follow Jesus Christ and come to his holy table in faith to receive Holy Communion! I'm pretty excited.

And of course December is coming: this means the end of the school semester, the beginning of Christmas vacation (as they say here, "Krismos de kohn!"), and my depature to be married to Mary Beth.

Please keep all of these activities in your prayers! And please in particular pray for our financial support to come in soon: we are trusting God that we will be partially supported while we raise support in California, and fully supported by May. May God richly bless you!

A quick update from Mary Beth in California - September 18th

Happy Friday!

I’m finishing up my fourth week of school here at CSU Fullerton and so far the semester is going really well.  Lots of homework and even more practicing, but things are moving along nicely, even if it’s getting rather busy.  Thank you for your prayers!

My big news this week is that I just got my official letter from SAMS inviting me to be a SAMS missionary candidate!  Yay!  So after long applications, a psych evaluation, and an excellent Crossroads Conference, I’m now a candidate and can start even more support raising!  It’s pretty exciting to see how God is bringing everything together, and now I'm one step closer to joining David on the mission field in Belize!  Thank you again for your support of pledges and prayers!  And if you want to know even more about our mission and how you can help, look through our awesome website (or feel free to ask). =]  

Have a great weekend!

As of today - September 16th

I first want to say a big "thank you" to everyone who was praying for me last week. My stomach flu is passed (fingers crossed, though), and I've been running around trying to catch up.

Running around is actually pretty acurate at this point. Friday we had meetings all day at St. Barnabas' school and the University of Belize (Central Farm), both to give feedback to the primary school teachers, and also to continue down the road of getting the high school going in Central Farm. Things on that end are looking up, and a group of us spent Monday morning measuring the grounds and facilities with tapemeasures, trying to report to the Ministry of Education exactly how much space we have to work with.

Sunday was also very busy. In addition to having a full house both at St. Andrew's and St. Hilda's, we also traveled out to Iglesia Anglican Santa Cruz (Selena) for their patronal feast. I was honored to join with Christians from five churches (some who had traveled more than an hour to get there), and to give the sermon. Here's a couple of minutes of it, though just to warn you, I'm preaching in Spanish:

On top of working with the schools, I have a couple of other projects this week. First, I'm getting my paperwork together to renew my work permit (I have to renew this every year until I get my permanent residency). It takes a few days of bureaucratic hustle, and then I wait about a month for it to be approved. Second, we are preparing for a funeral this Saturday. I thought I would get a weekend off from preaching, since our postulant will be giving the message, but it turns out God had other plans. Please keep the Pagett family in your prayers as they grieve the loss of Mr. Bill.

In other news, I'm doing well, but I need to slow down. Please keep me and Mary Beth in your prayers, especially as we begin the process of raising support in earnest. We are trusting God to provide for our needs, and we are asking you to join with us in that same trust. Have a great week!

As of today - September 9th

It's time for an update! The thing most pressing on my mind is that I'm sick, basically stuck at home. A stomach flu bug has been going around town here, and Monday it grabbed me by the knickers and tackled me to the sod. I'm still not really recovered, so please keep me in your prayers.

Our first week of school went well last week: thank you all for your prayers! The new principal at St. Hilda's school is doing very well, despite the absence of the principal the teachers of St. Barnabas' school have really come together as a team, and St. Andrew's school is booming as ever. Despite some long hours, and some hard moments, God has been blessing the beginning of the school year, and I am looking forward to seeing what he has in store for us next!

Tomorrow (September 10th) is a major national holiday in Belize, celebrating the 1798 Battle of St. George's Caye. There will be parades, ceremonies, and lots of music ... not unlike the following patriotic number:

The patriotic celebrations will continue until we celebrate the 1981 Independece Day on September 21st. And in case you want to hear it, here's a recording of the Belizean national anthem:

Thank you all for your prayers and support. I hope that once I'm over this stomach flu I will have more news. God bless you all!

As of today - September 1st

Hello everyone! I'm fitting in a little update on what is one of our busiest days of the year: the First Day of Classes! There is a lot going on, but let me just tell you a little bit about it, and ask for your prayers in the middle of the craziness.

Our two churches are associated with three primary schools: St. Andrew's (San Ignacio), St. Barnabas' (Central Farm), and St. Hilda's (Georgeville). St. Andrew's is known for being one of the top-scoring schools in the country, but we're also passionate about our two rural schools as well. It is in these two rural schools where a lot is happening.

St. Barnabas' is where much of my time is being spent this week. As you can see below, our teachers are excited for classes to begin at our smallest school, and she can't wait to welcome the students!

On the other hand, we are having a lot of challenges at St. Barnabas'. Last Thursday, the principal was placed on administrative leave (it's something like being suspended with pay), and so teachers (and I) have been scrambling to get things going. It's all actually coming together pretty well: the teachers are getting along well and working well together as a team, and I have great hopes for this coming school year. But please keep St. Barnabas', its staff and students, in your prayers as we start up again.

Related to this, we are continuing with our plans of beginning a vocational high school in Central Farm, at St. Barnabas' actually, with a significant agricultural focus. This past week, the General Manager of Anglican schools and I met with the head of the School of Agriculture for the University of Belize, the campus for which is right next to St. Barnabas'. In the next few weeks, as we prepare our application to the Ministry of Education to begin this high school, we are hoping to work out an arrangement with the University of Belize to share resources, not only curriculum but maybe also facilities. We have to get the application into the Ministry of Education in the next couple of weeks, so please keep this big project in your prayers.

At St. Hilda's, we are optimistic about the start of this new school year. We have a fantastic new principal, and she is really bringing the teachers together as a team. Please keep St. Hilda's and its new principal uplifited in your prayers!

So far, that sums up how things are going with the schools. Parish life continues as well. The class and practica with our postulant for holy orders, Jody Bevan, continue to go well. I am also already in the process of training at least one new lay minister for St. Hilda's (Georgeville), with the hopes of adding others to the list for St. Andrew's (San Ingacio) and for the three Hispanic missions in our area, who currently have none. Please pray that God would continue to raise up new leadership for our churches and schools!

And though she may one day post her own update here on the blog, Mary Beth is doing well with school: she is one week in, and though her classes have been giving her a lot of homework, she is already excelling and moving ahead for her juries at the end of the semester. Neither of us has a lot of time to spend raising the support, but we are trusting that God will provide for our needs, and for the needs of our mission. Please continue to keep us in your prayers, and please pray about how God might be calling you to be even more deeply involved with our mission through giving, hosting, or promoting what God is doing in our neck of the woods!

Have a great week, and may God richly bless you!