Sulmi with her brother and sisters in front of the neighbor's "Christmas Tree".
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
We had 24 people for worship today. That is the most we have had in about a 12 month period. The extra people were hearing brothers and sisters of the deaf people. There is still a peace that is hovering among us. I praise God for that. This is a picture from this morning. Pastor Chon had a "Bible Institute" in his church so we had to find another place to worship. We used the empty building next to my house. Everyone loved it because it felt like "our church". I prefer to be in Pastor Chon's church because the space is larger. Yet, even though we were shoulder to shoulder, "cozy" is nice, too.
The sugar is tassle-ing. I love it. It's so beautiful to see a field full of it blowing in the wind under a blue sky.
The pointsettia trees are in full bloom. (Yes, here in Belize they are trees...not cute little plants.)
I'm healing. I thank God and the many people who prayed and helped me especially Mrs. Briceno who took me to the hospital on Sunday night and waited with me three hours while I got a drip and some insulin. She also gave me a good lunch each day. Now I am finally feeling stronger and there is just a little pain at the site of the wounds and some are even itching and the scabs are coming off. So the long and short of it is... whew! I'm glad to be alive and can't wait to get back in the classroom on Monday.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Always give thanks to God the Father through Jesus Christ.
I made a police report, went to the insurance agent's house and made the insurance report, and will go to see Mr. Estrada (body shop) tomorrow to get an estimate.
It could have been worse. It could have been a lot worse. So I thank God for protecting us, again.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
These photos were taken two weeks ago. This is pretty much who is in our group on a regular basis (except Sherwin and Kristel are both missing and they are almost always at church). I thank God for these friends and faithful people. Sometimes the journey has been rough, maybe even tumultuous, but we're blessed with a peaceful period right now.
They used to come to church to socialize with other deaf people. That's always a big draw...even more than food. We who are Deaf need to be with others who understand us, know us, and can communicate with us no matter what age they are. The difference in the past few months is now they are also coming to learn.
If there were some kind of developmental research to explain how deaf people grow through stages in church membership, I think it would look like:
2.) wanting to be with other people who are deaf so badly that they will sit through the preaching and music, sleeping possibly and daydreaming certainly, reluctant to participate or share. They are just waiting for it to be over so they can visit and socialize.
3.)They come to socialize AND to learn.
4.) They come because they want to worship and praise God. They see God working in their lives and want to take time to thank him. They want to learn what God is doing in other people's lives. They want to honor the commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. In other words, they come because of God.
5.) They sense a call on their lives to be part of God's Kingdom plan and want to help God to communicate His message to other Deaf people. They want a role in the mechanics of the church.
I think we have rounded the corner. Although some are still in stage 2, many are showing an interest in learning. They now answer questions and share their thoughts and experiences. It's a big step. Stage 2 is self-centered. Stage 3 starts to show some openness to others and to God.
Manuel is growing weekly as a leader and in the knowledge of Christ. We all love to see him share a song or Bible story. He puts so much heart into it. He knows he is called. I think it is a huge responsibility for him...maybe too big. It's not up to me. It's God's plan. It's in His hands.
Please continue to pray with us to grow in Christ, to grow in expressions of love, and to be patient and forgiving of each other.
Friday, November 20, 2009
The potatoes that didn't grow well are in the back.
While my North American friends and family are buttoning down the hatches and bracing for winter, we are planting seeds. The Special Ed. Unit is responsible for maintaining a school garden. I love this aspect of my job. In fact, if someone asked me what I do these days for "fun" I would say "play in the garden". Some of the children also love it. Yes, there are some who vie for the title of "who can stand around and do the least amount of work", but others are really proud of what we have joined God in creating. It's fun to keep it looking nice. The children are obviously proud of it. Luis said, "Maybe we will get an award." I smiled because there is no award for school gardens, but it showed how he was proud of the fruits of his labor. A kind-hearted British woman who married a Belizean is helping us. She's given us manure (lots of it), many plants, seeds, and lots of encouragement. I thank God for her support and friendship.
We have a lots of stuff to watch:
Tomatoes and green peppers from seeds
radishes, carrots, squash, cucumbers, okra and beans sprouting from seeds
chaya, calaloo (both green leafies) transplanted from my house
cabbage, lettuce, and habenero pepper plants
mint, sweet basil, thyme(or oregano... it's different than the US variety) and cilantro
some potatoes (it rained too much and they got kind of soggy so we will have to plant them again)
Pretty cool, eh?
This is a terribly unflattering picture...but I wanted to show off my battle scars.
Last Tuesday I was bitten by a pitt bull, several times. Here's the gruesome story.
Most people here in Belize have "guard dogs". I have a dog, who jumps up and kisses the strangers who come to the gate, saying with his ears and eyes,"Are you here to play with me?". He is not a guard dog. The Belizean guard dogs are kept on a "short chain" and loosed at night to roam the yard. These dogs are mean. They are there to protect the family from intruders.
A teacher I work with has a husband who is a nice man and does wordworking professionally. He often does small woodworking projects for me for free. On Monday he made something for our school garden, so on Tuesday I went to his house and brought him a Coke to say thank you. He has said in the past when I offered to pay, "Nancy, you don't need to pay friends to do things for you." Taking that as an "oops...American idea" correction I went to his house with Coke in hand at noon. I have been there more times than I could count and the dog is always chained in the back of the house. On Tuesday it was inside the yard. I noticed it too late. It bit my left arm...with deep tooth marks on both sides. I briefly got away and then it bit my right arm tearing the flesh with a shake of its head. The owner and two other men were trying to get this enraged dog off of me and couldn't. I was on the ground crawling when it bit me the last time...on my butt. The gash on the right arm took about 6 stitches inside to sew the muscle and 5 on the outside. It's slowly healing but... oh so much pain!
First I went to the private doctor that I know and trust since the hospital is a crazy, not so sterile place, IMHO. Then I went to school. The principal said to get rabbies shots at the hospital, so another teacher took me there for a tetnus injection. We reported the dog to the health department and they are going to watch it to see if rabies develops. (They'll notify me and I will get the shots, but I doubt that the dog is rabid). Then I came home and my neighbor applied Maya medicine. I think that probably worries my parents. Two of the puncture wounds were still draining blood 48 hours later. The neighbor got it to stop with tetracycline directly on the wound and then covered it with an onion peel. (huh?) It was an ingenious idea because the onion did not stick to the wound and could be peeled off...the hospital had sent me home with gauze on the wound and it stuck. They also wrapped it in a tight bandage. The neighbor said it should not be covered. On the swollen part she put aloe vera plants. That was so refreshing. I worried, though about sterility and about getting infection. I continued to wash everything with alcohol and hydrogenperoxide. It's now Friday, 3 days later, and I still have pain (yes, I'm taking various meds from the first doctor) and there is no infection that I can see. I do wish the swelling and pain would go away.
Every Friday night Edgar (16) comes to my house carrying his Bible. He says he wants to learn more about Jesus. I give him scripture to read at home and he comes back next week having read it...not always understanding it, but reading with the help of God's Spirit. When we are together we read a passage and try to understand what God is saying in each verse. In this picture he is reading John 3 about Nicodemus and being "born again". Just like Nicodemus, Edgar puzzled over the concept of how he could be born again? He can't go back inside his mother? He wondered out loud, "What does Jesus mean?" I let him struggle, like Nicodemus did for a minute, not giving him the answer, emphasizing the "you must"...repeated twice at this point. The next verse said with the Spirit and with water. He started to catch on. Jesus meant a different kind of birth. "Ah Ha!" he almost shouted.
Well, from here on it gets theologically sticky because there are different interpretations of what it means to be born again. As we studied we knew that the water was to wash away our sins... to wash away the old and clean ourselves ready for the new. I told him that when he is baptized on Dec. 6 he will have a chance to come to the water like all the people John baptized including Jesus. With repentance he will need to ask God to forgive him for all his disobedience. The washing, or actually "dying" by being dipped into the water and rising again is a symbol of his being born again to a new life. The magic is not the dipping in the pool, but that God forgives and then fills us with his Spirit. He can go back to stealing and lying or he can allow his heart to be born again by the Spirit and walk in God's love.
He seems pretty intent on trying to follow Jesus, but temptations are all around. Two weeks ago he stole $50 from his mother's purse. He lied about his job. The whole church was in shock, "You lied? All this time you said you had to hurry and go to work at 1:00...but you never had the job?" At church he cried when Manuel said, "You lied to us!" I don't think he can stop overnight. I pray that God's word, his deaf friends support, and God's Spirit will get him on the right path. Please pray with me.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I never gave up hope. In fact I had a vision that one day Steven* would be leading a children's story for church and telling his testimony about how God changed him. In the vision no one believed that he used to be violent, damaged property, shoved women to the ground (including me) and had a variety of addictions that ruled his behavior. Listening to his testimony and not knowing the "former Steven", they would stare with their mouths open and say, "Steven? Really? No! He was like that? ...but he's such a strong Christian and such a gentle man."
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
"Jesus took the deaf man away from the crowd. He put his fingers in the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue. Jesus looked up to Heaven. With a deep sigh, he said to the man, "Ephphatha!" That means be opened. Immediately the man's ears were opened. His tongue was freed up, and he began to speak clearly."Last Sunday's lectionary Gospel reading included this passage. It is a "difficult passage" for deaf people. On one hand it is a blessing that deaf people are even noticed by Jesus and written about by Mark. On the other hand, nobody likes to be "fixed" cuz you have to admit something is "wrong" in the first place. It is "politically correct" in the Deaf Community in the USA to WANT to be deaf. Most of my Deaf friends would say that "Healing deaf people" is offensive. It's paralleled to women wanting to be men or black people wanting to be white. The thinking continues: God made you the way you are for a purpose...and deaf is cool. Why is hearing "right" and deaf "wrong"?Mark 7:33-35
That's the thinking. So generally deaf preachers avoid the Mark 7: 31-37 passage to avoid the "problem" that Jesus made a perfectly normal deaf man...hearing.
When I studied this passage last week in preparation for Sunday's worship, I saw it from a new perspective. It struck me how being deaf in ancient Palestine must have been rough. I've always resisted that concept that being deaf is something to pity. Deaf is different. Deaf people are at times excluded because the hearing bulk of society develops a "must have" that deaf people can't use...such as the phone. Hearing people always think it's tough to be deaf. I really don't think so. Life is full of interesting variances. People are unique. We all adapt. BUT.... I was thinking about this deaf guy in ancient Palestine. Like Belize, where there are no TTY's, no video relay systems, internet too slow to use Skype, no certified interpreters, few people who sign, no rights for deaf people to have access to anything, employers who are wary of hiring a deaf person because they don't think they will be able to communicate with them. Few deaf people who can read or write so written communication is not an option. Friends and family who don't know ASL and make up gestures...or "guess-tures". I understood why the deaf man in the story wanted to be hearing, and why most people in our deaf church would rather be hearing. Being deaf in Belize where there is no ADA law and zero technical assistive devices, oppression from the working world and everyone thinking you don't have a clue about what's going on can be "tough" for some people. It must have been worse in Palestine.
Like the "friends" who cut a hole in a roof to let a paralyzed man have access to Jesus, this deaf man did not run after Jesus to seek his own healing. He was brought. Some friends had compassion on the difficult life the deaf man must have experienced and brought him to Jesus because they believed Jesus could do anything.
The more I read the story I realized it is not really about making a deaf man hearing, if deaf should be healed, or anything along that difficult political tightrope....it's largely about the faith of the friends. They had so much faith that Jesus could relieve suffering with just a touch, just by laying his hand on the deaf man, that they probably walked miles, skipped meals, left their busy agendas and brought their deaf friend to see this One who was from God. Their sacrifice and complete trust in Jesus' power is contagious. I would have loved to have been there, east of the Sea of Galilee, with rumors in the air that Jesus is 8 miles away. The buzz was that everyone is going to see him. I can imagine walking and walking, in the sun and dry land, expectant and eager to see what this awesome powerful, humble, man will do....filled with hope.
Although we can't walk to see Jesus, we CAN still bring people who are suffering to "sit at Jesus' feet"....if we have the faith of the deaf man's friends.
Friday, August 28, 2009
I am so thankful for people who have been helping me this week to get ready to start the school year.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Praise God for a wonderful week of Vacation Bible School. The theme was Fruit of the Spirit. Each day we focused on a different attribute..love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness. Five of the children lived in my house for the week so I would not have to drive and pick them up every day. Kristel who lives across the street, and Edgar who lives around the corner, came every morning at 7:30 and left every night at 8:30. I also drove to pick up Misael daily. All year the children look forward to VBS "camp". They love to be together with deaf friends and they especially like swimming together.
Even though Misael was the youngest one in the group at 7 years old, he is very courageous and confident and fits right in with the older children. Although he preferred the shallow water, in five days he went from "not floating" to swimming with a good crawl stroke, kicking and even breathing mid-stroke. I was impressed how quickly he learned.
This is a picture of Nicar Bocalan teaching part of the ASL Community Class. He was an intern from Gallaudet who was with us for ten weeks beginning the second week of May. He helped with school. this class, VBS and many other things.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
He is the One who saves me.
My God is my rock.
I love the view from the porch out to sea. I love waking up and looking out my bedroom window.
I love the old kitchen with an old wood stove that I remember using when we were younger.
There is something about being at Gray Gables that fills me with peace and whispers, "this is home". So I thank God for this place to rest and the opportunity to come home and refill my tank for a week this summer. My sister Julie says, "Maine is how we make it through the other 11 months of the year."
Sometimes when I am homesick, I look through pictures of Maine and try to transport myself there mentally. Even though it worked for Julie Andrews to sit on that huge bed in the middle of a thunderstorm singing about favorite things, it doesn't REALLY help to transcend the situation. It would be cool if that worked, but it doesn't. There is a young woman who emails me from time to time. She struggles with depression. When she's depressed she locks herself in her room and listens to music and shuts the world out. I don't think that works either. In fact, I think it makes it worse.
What does work? When life is out of balance, what brings perspective and hope? For me the trick is to take the focus off of me and put it on other people. When I open my heart up a little and give it to someone else, when I throw my energy into doing something for someone in need, or when I give without expecting anything in return, then I start to feel hope and vision and strength. Sometimes, it is at these moments, when I finally unclench my fist and reach up toward heaven saying, "God, my resources are spent, fill me up. I need you." And God opens the flood gates. God is my strength in whom I will trust.
In the meantime, a week in Maine is a nice filling station along the way.
May the Grace and Peace of the Lord, Jesus fill you up,
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Jesus Take the wheel! I was driving on Saturday night at about 9:45 PM going maybe 70 Km per hour on the paved "highway" between Carmelita and Orange Walk. I had three children with me who I had taken to see their sister's new house. It was dark and there weren't many cars on the road. Just as I passed the road to the sugar factory, the right front wheel blew up. It exploded. Immediately the steering wheel was yanked out of my hand because I was driving on rim. But surprisingly, I didn't lose control of the vehicle. As I was saying "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," as in "help help help help!" I was able to quickly pull the car off the road to a stop. In my mind, it was as if Jesus took the wheel.
I remembered that my jack and tools had been stolen from the van, so even though I had a spare tire, I couldn't change it. I turned around and said to the children ages 9, 11,13, "Now what do we do?" They looked at me like, "Hey, you're the adult here." So we prayed. We prayed for someone nice to drive by and help us. Someone we know.
We waited about five minutes and white jeep pulled up behind us. Immediately the girls jumped out of the van while I was saying... stay in the van. I couldn't see who was in the jeep. I didn't want them hurt. But they shouted, "We know him. He's our friend!" He was about 20 years old... and works with their brother-in-law at the auto mechanic shop across the street from their house. Amazing. So he got out of his jeep and he had tools and a mat to lay on and seemed to know what he was doing. Until... we couldn't get the spare off the rack under the van that holds it. It wouldn't come lose. I asked him to take the children home and me to my home where I could pick up my phone that was charging (and not on me) and call....TOMAS! He always comes to my rescue.
It was now 11:15...Tomas answered his phone saying, "wrong number" (smile)...then woke up enough on the second try to recognize it was me. He and his wife Roxanna picked me up and we went back to that dark, isolated piece of road. He knew how to get the tire off, but his jack was too small...it kept sinking into the soft, rain-soaked ground and couldn't lift the car high enough to accommodate the 15 inch tire. He tried to flag down a car hoping for a bigger jack...right away a van stopped and lent us one. But it still didn't raise the van high enough at the maximum that it would go. It was getting late and we all were yawning as we walked around van trying to figure out what to do. Tomas thought to get a board or cement block, something firm to set the jack on. He walked across the street and there was a thick 4 foot board. Amazing. Why would a four foot long, one and half inch thick board be lying on the highway right where I pulled over?! God is so amazingly in the details.
It was a few minutes later that we were rolling back to Orange Walk. I asked Tomas what would make the tire blow like that. He says the heat here is rough on the rubber. It just disintegrates them. Oooh. The tires were the ones that came on the van, making them 3 years old. I am definitely mechanically challenged...didn't know. How could I not know? ARGHH! Maybe I need someone to send me email reminders of what I should be doing to maintain the van besides regular oil changes. Anyway, it was an opportunity for God to remind me that he is in the details, and he's got the wheel.
Thank you to everyone who prayed with me about teaching next year. I got the courage up to visit the principal. When I told her that I am considering not teaching next year, she smiled and said, "Fine." Hmmm. Wow, that was humbling!
That afternoon at about 2:00 a child came to the classroom with a message that said I needed to go to the office immediately to talk about an important matter. I got the "sent to the principal's office" butterflies in my stomach. She said that she had prayed and prayed about my resigning and wants me to know that what she is going to tell me she thinks is from God.
She said she thought I was being selfish to quit now. That I came to train a Belizean. For reasons beyond my control, that has not happened yet, but she went through a variety of channels to get this job for me with that goal in mind and I need to fulfill that responsibility. She doesn't want the new teacher to re-invent the wheel. She likes the procedures and strategies that I use for teaching Language Arts and math and doesn't want the new teacher to reinvent the whole system. She says everything would be lost. It's not fair to the kids.
We went back and forth a little more. The principal had tapped into what I had also thought about...needing to train a Belizean, not walking away and dumping it in her lap, leaving her to sink or swim on her own.
So I started to try to visualize what it would mean if I was a mentor. I want to have a mentor role job description. I want to work that out in writing with the new teacher so that we agree on what would be the best way to transfer the system to her. In the past I had visualized it similarly to working with student teachers from Bloomsburg, I begin and gradually fade out all of the responsibilities to the intern. What Mrs. Briceno is talking about is more of a friend and coach. Some demonstration, lots of encouragement.
I was concerned about not having enough time for the Deaf Church, but this role will free me from having to write lesson plans that take a huge chunk out of my Saturdays. Maybe Olive and I can meet during the week to discuss and brainstorm where the lessons will go the following week without my spending weekends doing that.
So I've flip-flopped on this whole topic. I agree with the principal and respect that it would be good to teach Olive strategies for teaching deaf children, until she can do it on her own. Regarding having too much on my plate, this role will be considerably less paperwork and home work than if I was the teacher. So I think it is "do-able".
If anybody has advice about working in a mentor role, a job decription, or walking the fine line between giving advice and being bossy or controling, please send it this way. Thanks!
Hope to see many of you in Maine June 29-July 8 or Lancaster July 9 to 14.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
There are lots of reasons:
- Olive Martinez will be coming back to teach. She is the Belizean woman who was supposed to be the teacher of the deaf class, then her daughter was killed in a car accident. I replaced her. She is ready to teach again. Mrs. Briceno was thinking about putting us in the deaf classroom together. I think Olive needs some freedom to do her own thing, fly or fail. I could be available as a resource and a sub.
- It's too much to teach and pastor. I give a lot of energy to both but when push comes to shove and I am out of time, the pastoring role gets the short end.
- I want time to be able to do other things well. Things like: I would like to help the young deaf mothers start a CODA group. I want to write a children's story about Belize children that takes place in Orange Walk. Maybe an easy-to-read beginning readers' series with at least one story about a deaf child. I want to spend more time in prayer and I want to exercise more.
The hardest thing about considering not teaching next fall is not "missing the children". I will see them all in church. I will be at St Peter's probably at least once a week resourcing, helping voluntarily, substituting. And Sulmi and others will still be welcome to live with me. No, the hardest part is: I AM A TEACHER. I've been a teacher since my little sister was born and I was in second grade. Once I tried to be a "Maverick" at Holden Village in Chelan, Washington for a summer. The Mavericks do anything helpful from clearing paths in the forest to shoveling the compost pile. I thought it would be a nice break from teaching...a chance to socialize with adults while working. Yet, I gravitated toward the day care. I asked them what they were doing with the children. I played with some of them and subbed one day, then two days and soon it was a week and I never went back to being a Maverick. Hmmm. In reflection it spoke volumes to me.
I can't imagine not being a teacher. Considering not teaching is like thinking about NOT reading or talking. How can I not teach? The idea is, oddly, a little unsettling for me.
So recently, when I have a few minutes to think about something other than teaching or my sermon or what I will teach at girl's night, my thoughts turn to next fall. Please pray with me as I try to discern God's will. Please pray for peace as I loosen my grip on an identity (school teacher) that I have nurtured and clung to most of my life. Please send your thoughts and any direction that you think the Lord is giving.
Monday, June 1, 2009
I feel like I need to get some of these thoughts out of my head and onto paper so I can stop thinking about them.
One of my students and deaf church goers was caught stealing from his work on Friday night. This is the same boy who stole $100 from my wallet and never paid it back. We knew he had been stealing things from his workplace almost daily for at least a month. I had talked to him many times about "Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you." (Jer. 7:23) . I told him that if he got caught he would surely lose his job. Then what? About two weeks ago they caught him with one or two items. They cut his work hours and warned him. He didn't seem to register that there was a connection between his work being cut and his stealing. He apologized to the boss...not out of a deep conviction of guilt but in order to try and pasify him.
The boy continued to steal things. I was tempted to turn him in but knew that he would get the situation turned around and be mad at me instead of owning the problem so I waited until the boss caught him. Last Friday with his pockets full of food items, his boss caught him red-handed. The boss called the police and they hauled him to jail with sirens blaring. He stayed one night.
He rode with me in the van to pick up people for church this morning. He said the boss was mad and that is why he was fired. He knew that wasn't true. He was playing a game of denial. He said something about a girl...it's her fault. (That must of been the girl that told the boss to check his pockets.) Still a denial. In the course of the 2.5 hour drive he eventually confessed to me that he had filled his pockets with gum and candy and that was why he was fired. I asked him to share that and confess during church... to warn the other people that if they try to get away with lying and stealing that "things will not go well for them".
During church I asked him if he would share. He said he would and went up to the front. He confessed to stealing but no one understood it because he signed other things confusing everyone, like the boss was mad and he didnt know why, and he wants to quit working, he wants to ask Mrs. Briceno (the school principal) to beg the boss to let him work again. He said he hates the store and will quit.
He loved the store before Friday and wrote the name of the store on everything. He was so proud to have a job there.
It wasn't a confession. Hmmm. I was wondering if I should have asked him to share. I was hoping he would be contrite. At least as contrite as he was finally with me in the car when he found out I knew the truth. I was hoping he could use this bad turn of events to teach the others. It didn't work that way.
What concerns me more is when he talks to others about this, he does not yet own that the reason he was fired was because HE continued to steal from the store, that it was his faulty choice, that he chose a short term reward (stealing candy so he could give it to people and be popular) over the longer term goal of maintaining his job and doing what is right. I dont think he can mature from this point or learn from this mistake until he owns the problem.
So that's sad. His immediate supervisor is a wonderful man who was truly trying to give this boy a break, a chance. He was sad that the boy did not realize that and threw it away. It was an Indian owned store. There is no way this boy will ever be able to work in another one of the Hindu Indian run stores in Orange Walk.
Choices...It's hard to teach, verbally, that some of the choices these young people make have permanent consequences. They think so temporarily. Maybe knowing and seeing this drama play out will make that lesson stick, eventually. Maybe. I hope.
Monday, May 25, 2009
While friends in the US celebrate Memorial Day, Belize celebrates a holiday, too. It's Sovereign's Day (the Queen's birthday). There are no parades or anything to bring recognition to the queen, but schools close and shops switch to holiday hours. Hooray for the Queen. I was ready for a holiday.
Last week was the Orange Walk Primary School Festival of Arts. Luis was one of the dancers from St. Peter's middle school division. They did a salsa. Luis can wiggle his hips and shimmy his shoulders with the best of them! After watching 30 groups dance, do dramatizations and sing until 10 PM on Wednesday night, Luis' group got a "call back" for Thursday night. He was so excited. From the 15 "golden" performances, 6 were selected to compete for the national crown in Belize City. Unfortunately Luis' group was not selected but the younger female dancers were chosen and will represent our school.
Saturday was the National Special Olympics! 400 Special Education athletes from all over Belize were here in Orange Walk for the event, along with their coaches and about 300 volunteers. It was a tremendous amount of work to prepare for the games and the food for everyone and I was just a coach, cook and "go-fer". Was it worth it? uhhhhhhh...ask me in a few weeks and I'm sure the resounding answer will be yes. Right now, I'm glad that today is the queen's birthday. Go Queen!
Sunday was supposed to be the kick-off worship event for the up-coming week called "Disabilities Awareness Week". All of the children in the Special Ed. classes and their teachers were supposed to go. The priest at our school was asked to make the worship something that the children could be a part of and enjoy. Something that would be meaningful for them. I cancelled Jesus' Deaf Church and sent notes to all the parents to bring their children to St. Peter's. Nicar, our intern from Gallaudet, was going to interpret.
On Sunday morning the priest held a baptism for a baby and only briefly mentioned Disability Awareness Week. Sigh...a missed opportunity to have our special ed. kids read the scripture, sign a song, and be part of the worship there. I was disappointed.
What's happening this week?
Monday: Did I mention today is a holiday? Hooray for Queen Elizabeth! We need some more Monarch or Prime Minster birthdays to celebrate. Maybe each Belize Prime Minster should get there own holiday! Yeehaw! (We've only had 4 different Prime Ministers so far...so it's "do-able". Hooray for holidays!)
Tuesday is Movie Night: We will use a big sheet and an LCD projector to show the movie about Justin Yoder called Miracle in Lane 2.
Wednesday is a workshop for Special Education Teachers in Belize City.
Thursday is the annual Deaf Spelling Bee. Hipolito will compete in the senior division and Misael will compete in the junior division. They have been practicing since February.
Friday is a parade. Sulmi is the school queen so she will wear her pretty pink dress, cape, gloves and crown and ride in the back of Pastor Chon's pick up waving to the crowd while we walk behind.
Jesus Deaf Church
It's good to be in Pastor Chon's church building. To everyone it feels more like church. Many of the twenty-somethings have returned. I still want to see more commitment. Some still come to socialize. Our hour and a half goes by quickly. With eating lunch we were used to spending closer to three hours together. Yet it's more practical to have a snack instead of lunch and get everyone home to eat with their families. Pastor Chon is helping with driving half of the group home. The children and youth don't like that. They want lunch. They want to all be together. They want to all ride together. So there are still some bugs to work out. Yet, God is gracious and has given us this plan...we just need to adjust a little and maybe find ways to work in more "fellowship time".
Girl's Night (aka. Mom's Night Out)
Awesome! Last Friday we had 6 young moms and 7 children (all under the age of 3). Having a babysitter is not a Belizean way to do things....the children are usually just allowed to "play". But
it is so hard to Bible study because the mothers are distracted by the fights over toys, that I have hired a youth from Pastor Chon's church to babysit for us in my home. What a difference it makes!
We have been studying women in the Bible. Each week God finds a way to make the verses speak to us and to our situation. Please continue to pray for these women. I would love to see them not just "learn" but grow in grace and knowledge, to want to be a disciple and want to raise their children in a Christian home.
I'm coming home for two weeks! I'll be in Maine June 29-July 7 and in Lancaster, PA July 8 to 14. I can't wait to see you, to sniff Maine air, hug friends, walk country roads in Lancaster, and to worship with you at North Woolwich and in Lancaster. Soon and very soon. I can almost taste it.
Lancaster folk: I'm attending the EMM retreat for missionaries at Blackrock July 9 and 10 and and the Global Fair at LMHS on July 11. Let's plan some kind of IU13 teacher/terp/alum get together for Monday July 13 or Tuesday July 14. I can make Belizean food :-)...whatever. Get back to me it you have some thoughts. I would love to see everyone.
May the One who cared so much for you, that he gave up his life so you could be holy, fill your lives with his grace and peace,
I send you all love,
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Michele Bontrager Showalter sent us a DVD series called Dr. Wonder's Workshop. It teaches "values" using some Bible verses and stories...all in ASL. The kids loved it. The first video is about being fair. At one point in the video a person asks children in the video what it means to be fair, or not fair. I asked the same question to the children in my class. It is actually a pretty complex concept. They could ALL use the sign for "fair" but they didn't really know how to describe it. We let it "brew" and by the second day they were signing "fair" and "not fair" often to describe something that happened in the classroom.
The next day we read Matthew 5:38-41.
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
To all who have given so generously to me and to our school, and my children, Thank you! I am so grateful. This message is not to say give more or less or anything along those lines. I was simply grabbed by the concept of "what is fair?" and what God thinks is "fair" and gave some thought to that.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
April 15, 2009
It’s time to catch you up on some of the things that have been happening with God’s ministry here in Belize.
We’ve Moved! Our church is now meeting in Pastor Chon’s church building. It’s such a blessing to be in a church. Even Angelica said, “I bet you were tired of the stealing.” Yeah, I was tired of the children and young adults stealing, and the disrespect for the property, and me, but mostly I knew God wanted us to move. It was clear after the boys broke my cat’s leg and
trapped her in a hole with fire ants for three hours. It was a painful wake up call. A few days after that, Pastor Chon said his church would be available for us to use...Sunday mornings, rent free. Wow! God’s timing is amazing.
That’s the good news. I still need your prayers for the young adults. They are not coming to church as often as they did when they were younger. Some women don’t come because they don’t like one of the boys who used to make sexual advances towards them, but has confessed and “stopped”. Some of the boys don’t come because there are other things they want to do on Sundays like swim and fish and hunt....and ride out a hangover from Friday night. So we need your prayers. Pray that the holy spirit will convict the young adults that they need the Lord. Pray that we have a wave of revival among them and in their hearts. Pray that they can resist the temptations to do drugs (mostly weed...there’s a lot of that here, it’s cheap), sexual activity, alcohol, and gambling in Mexico.
Ever get a song in your head and an hour later you find you are still singing it in the background of your thoughts? Yesterday I was singing “Know ye not, know ye not. Ye are the temple....Ye are the temple of the Holy Ghost.” I was weeding the garden and singing in my head while I thought about these deaf youth. Sometimes I long for a sheltered community...like I remember Lancaster. Teaching in 4-H and our deaf church youth group I used to think that THOSE kids had little exposure to drugs, drinking a lot of Starbucks but not much alcohol, and were not having sex in high school. (Or were they?) I think I paint my memory of Lancaster too rosy. I have to get a grip on the reality that youth are tempted no matter where they live. It just seems worse here. I wonder why the more pure life is not more attractive to youth? I guess it looks boring, it’s not cool, it’s not risky or on the edge. There’s no thrill in it. It’s perceived as a lonely option because most of their friends don’t choose the narrow way. I wonder how to make it more attractive.
“Take up your cross and come follow me.” What’s the thrill in that?
So once again this morning I was doing some mundane task like cleaning up the “accidents” that my puppy leaves around the house, and again I was singing that song. ARGH! again. Then I realized, (duh!)...WE are the temple, not my house or Pastor Chon’s church but each of us. We are the place that God has chosen to reside! We are his hands and feet. We are empowered to do miracles in his name. We have a greater task than eating, sleeping, and watching American Idol on TV. We have a Kingdom to build and love to spread. Pray that I can communicate this. Pray that the youth will find God’s infilling more exciting than the myriad of things that tempt them.
Other news: I lost a good friend and mentor this month. Dora Taylor passed away. She was 98. Dora served in Florida, Honduras and then finally in the 1960’s here in Belize. But I did not know her then. When I came to Belize in 2004 for the summer, I felt God calling me to return and start a church for deaf people. I was questioning that call, wondering how I could do that as a woman and asked God outloud if he had the right person for the job. A few days later Belizean friends invited me to San Felipe to meet their family and experience their church. When I walked into the church I immediately saw Dora’s
picture on the wall. I wondered why, in this Maya, Mestizo community, they had a huge picture of a white Mennonite woman on the wall? Javiar’s response was, “She started this church.” I got goose bumps and thought, “God, this is your affirmation of my call. If she did it with your help in 1965, I can do it with your help in 2005” Later when I was back in the states I hunted for Dora and found her at the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Center. We talked and shared our dreams for the church in Belize. Right up until her death she wrote to me almost monthly, sometimes by hand and sometimes by plucking out letters one-handed on her typewriter. Her letters were always encouraging and included Bible verses to help me understand God’s direction. I will miss her, but I know that when she sees Jesus he will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
New Students: I have two new students at school. That makes for a total of 12. Ryan is two weeks younger than Misael. They were immediately best buddies. It is wonderful to have an age-same peer for Misael since he has been the youngest in the class and feeling alone. Ryan did not have a teacher that signed at his old school, but his mother is working hard at learning to sign. It makes such a difference. When I send books home, he reads them to his mom, she learns the signs and he gets the practice. I expect great things from Ryan.
Elizanie is 10. She was in a deaf class in San Pedro, but did not learn many signs there. Now she is blossoming from non-stop gabbing with her new friends, Kristel, Sulmi, and Ginelli. It’s exciting to see. Even other teachers at school have commented on how Elizanie has found her nitch. Now...I need to find time to teach her family, too.
The Queen: Our school has an annual fundraising event that we call a fair. There are booths, food, raffles and games. Everyone gets involved. As part of the event each department submits the name of one of their girls to be the school queen. Instead of voting, people donate money in a basket or in the name of the girl they want to be the queen. Sulmi was reluctant at first. She did not want all of the attention and tried to shy away from the role. The other kids in our class convinced her to try for it. I was a bundle of nerves as the money was being counted. What if she lost? I would feel so sad for her. Losing would be worse than not having tried. She would feel awful. It seemed hours went by and finally they announced that Sulmi won. She is our school queen. She won a crown (and a bicycle) and will sit in the truck bed for the Independence Day parade, dressed in her white dress and pink cape...and wave to the public. On our way home from the emotional day, she started waving like the Queen of England, turning her wrist but not moving her fingers. “Is this how to do it?” she asked. Whew...yes.
The Puppy: Puppies are sort of like babies. They are fun to hold but there is a certain relief in being able to give them back to their mothers after a few minutes. I’ve been Googling “How to house break your puppy”, “what to feed your puppy”, “when to give your puppy vaccinations”, etc. and came across a site that said, “Enjoy your puppy. It wont be a puppy for long.” I “get” the enjoy part, but personally look forward to him using the grass as a toilet instead of my rugs and chewing on bones instead of my toes. Gabriel, is from Sulmi’s family’s hound dog. He will be big, with long ears and a deep bark. Now he sounds like a squeeky toy. But he is awfully cute. On the end of his tail is about one inch of white fir. When he wags his tail it looks like he is waving a flag.
Well it is lunchtime and he is squeeking at the screen door. So I will stop for now but know that I will try to write more frequently.
Love to all,