Friday, December 18, 2009

Merry Christmas from Belize!

Sulmi with her brother and sisters in front of the neighbor's "Christmas Tree".
Dear Friends and Prayer Warriors,
Thank you for praying for us and following this blog this year. One friend said, "You sure have had a lot of drama this year." I think that the drama is part of being in the middle of what God is doing. Sometimes there are astounding transformations in people's lives that are so rewarding. I just spent an hour praying and reading the Bible with Edgar. Yesterday he sent me a letter: "Please, can you and I study the Bible? I want to follow Jesus. Please can we meet today?"

I asked Manuel if he would lead worship while I am in the states for Christmas and minor surgery on my finger. He jumped at the chance. (YES!) I reminded him I would not be here to drive, so everyone would have to get to church themselves. He's already planning what he wants to preach on. He's telling everyone to come to church on the 27th. He is so excited. He is so "called". I praise God because a year ago he had turned his back on the church. Now he is letting the Holy Spirit lead him to do God's will. It's one of God's transformations.

Finances? I don't know how God does it, but I am just so thankful how blessed I am, from people who send Dr. Wonder Workshop videos, books for school and church, a computer for me, a projector for the church, money for the school to build a bathroom, Christmas gifts for the children, a HUGE box of seasonal crafts, Crystal Light, and money to support transportation needs...

All these blessings and answers to prayer remind me daily that God is working here in Belize. There is drama, and attacks from dogs, mean people and other diversions, but God answers that with blessings and support and change and your encouragement. So I think of all of you this Christmas and thank you for being part of God's plan and work here in Belize.

Our theme this advent has been "O, Come let Us Adore Him". I pray, as I write, that you will encounter the Christ child, and living Jesus with unbridled adoration, just like the wisemen, angels, Mary, Joseph and all of the shepherds who ran to find him, then knelt to worship him.

With love,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This is the Day That the Lord Has Made!

On Sunday Alejandro and Edgar were baptized. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. We chose to worship at the pool At St. Lucia's Hotel instead of in the church so that we would not need to drive somewhere in the middle of the service. Galen and Phyllis Groff came from Guatemala to join our group of 18 deaf people, some small hearing children and the mother of one of the boys. The worship began as we always do with prayer and members each leading a song. I taught about why baptism is necssary. I wanted the boys and the church members to have a handle on the concept so they could be confident, and be able to give an answer to anyone who asked, "Why do you get baptized?" Manuel taught the story of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River. Then the two boys, Edgar and Alejandro came forward and each made a confession. They were honest and sincere. We then proceeded to the pool. We baptized each boy individually. They knelt and I asked them questions of faith: Do you believe in God the father who created the world? Do you believe in Jesus, his son, who died on the cross to reconcile you to God? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit of God that comes into your heart at baptism and gives you power to resist temptation and do God's work? Do you want to join the church and help the church do the work of the Kingdom? Do you want to grow in faith and knowledge of Jesus through prayer and Bible study? They answered the questions with yes and a smile... and then I baptized them. I kind of expected the heavens to open up and for God to say something wise to all of us. It was a moving moment for me. We closed by welcoming our two new brothers into the congregation and sharing hugs and blessings. Everyone stayed for a fellowship meal of rice and beans and chicken.

It was also Edgar's birthday. He turned we had a cake and sang to him.

Edgar walked home saying, "Will we continue to meet on Friday's for Bible study?" He enjoyed the two months of Friday night Bible studies that we had in preparation for his baptism. I am asking God to guide me with what to do with Friday nights. There are several ideas I am tossing around and am not sure which way to go. God will make it clear.

The Friday Night "Girl's Night" Bible study became a mothers with children Bible study and we often had more children than women. It was hard to concentrate and made me think that these mothers need to get together. Maybe the focus should, be something to do with healthy to play with your child, how to make playdoh, how to get your child to go to sleep at night, how to discipline your child, how does a deaf mother "read" to their child? how and when do you teach your child about Jesus? Yet the best time for "Mother's Night Out" might be during the day...maybe in the mornings or afternoons when I have school. Transportation is difficult at night but most could walk or ride the bus during the day. Hmmmm. Where is the best place for this idea? (probably at the church). How do we organize it? Who leads? Do we have food? Do we need childcare or is the focus including the children? How long should it be?

For a while I have also had the inkling that we should do a Believer's Bible study...this would be a continuation of the study that Edgar and I did... it would probably be held during the week right after school (4- 5 PM?) because the boys live far away and I dont want them traveling in the dark. Yet, I wonder if they would be too tired from school to launch into this. I wonder also how often an after school teachers' meeting woud conflict with this time. Should it be Believer's only... a small group... a committed cell group, or should it be more open to anyone who wants to come?

If anyone feels called to take a leap of faith and bring their ASL signing skills to Belize, I think there are a number of different kinds of groups like this that God would help you lead (smile).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ups and Downs

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.
Colossians 3:17

No one was hurt this morning when a big red pick-up truck driven by a young Mennonite man swerved around us and crashed into the left bumber of the van. We were driving slowly on the "Sugar Road" that is a dirt road that runs between the sugar factory and Yo Creek on our way to pick up more people for church. There were three children in the van and two were sitting in the very back. They yelled that the man is coming "crazy fast". I didn't hear them. The road was recently smoothed over and more dirt put down on the holes so you can actually fly about 60 to 70 mph on it. When he caught up to us I think he did not calculate the distance he needed to overtake us since we were not going very fast...and he got too close before he was able to swerve into the other lane. The passenger side of his truck got pretty wrecked up, too. There was a woman sitting in that seat holding a baby. Fortunately she did not let go of the baby. So in the end, no one was hurt.
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

Jesus' Deaf Church

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:

1.) curiosity

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 School Garden

Sulmi and Kristel wrestling in the garden.

Cilantro (the naturally growing Belizean variety) in the back. Basil and peppermint (in a sunken pot so it won't spread too much) in the front.

Beans, then okra starting to sprout, habenero, then lettuce and cabbage.
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.
What's growing?
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?

Ugh! I'm not impervious to bad things. Shucks!

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.

The Angels are Still Rejoicing!

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

The Angels are Rejoicing

  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."

That was the dream I had for this 22 year old man who attends our Deaf Church.  But I never imagined that it would happen this soon. I assumed it would take a lifetime for him to choose to follow Jesus and give up his need to control everyone.

Last Sunday the sermon was about the Rich Young Ruler from Mark 10.  The story is a sad one.  Jesus gives the young man a choice: Go home and live like you always have, or sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow me.  He was too rich, or too attached to the responsibility of maintaining his wealth, or just liked his life the way it was.  For whatever reason, the man looked at Jesus, shook his head sadly, and went home.

We talked about making the choice of following Jesus or doing things the way we have always liked to do them. "Our way".
A few of the children acted out a "happier" ending to the story: sharing with the poor, giving up addictions, leaving their "nets" behind and following Jesus.  When the sermon was over I asked if there was anyone in our group who wanted to make the choice to follow Jesus.  Steven and another boy, Adam* came forward.  Steven said "Oh, yes, yes," and tossed his hands up in submission.

I asked Steven to share why he came forward.  He said, You know for a long time I have held my life, drinking, sex, weed,  in my right hand in front of me like this, and church and faith in my left hand.  I've always tried to have them both, right here, together.  But I realized, I can't have both.  They can't survive together.  So I am tossing this out and making a choice to follow Jesus.  Then he tossed the imaginary contents of his right hand over his shoulder.  We kneeled and prayed.

I told the rest of the church to embrace him and pray that Steven can keep his commitment.

Today, Tuesday, the girls (Sulmi and Kristel) and I took Steven and Adam out to eat to celebrate their new life and to give them prayer support.  It was a wonderful evening.  Steven said that he had seen how Jesus had changed Manuel and made him "improved".  He's impressed with how Manuel has become a new person...that God is obviously leading him on Sundays when he teaches.  Steven said he wants that too.  He wants to learn about God, study the Bible,  and learn the stories so he can teach, too.  He said "I just really want to learn."

When a deaf man who walks around Orange Walk begging for money for beer approached our table to talk and beg, Steven encouraged the man to come to church.  When the begger walked away, Steven said that the beggar is making  bad choices.  He realizes that now.  Steven said he has "stopped" drinking.  He said getting drunk is just a temporary high...followed by a hangover.  He said he is going to stay away from the women (the streetwalkers who are deaf and approach him and vice versa.)   He said that, too, leads to a headache.  But following Jesus leads to peace, heaven, and joy. He asked to be baptized and wants his parents to come and watch, if he can get them to come. (He thinks they don't care about him.  They do, but he's been terrible to them....I am praying that there can be some reconcilliation and he can apologize to many of the people he has hurt.)

So, whew!  It's been a long hard 5 year journey.... with lots of resistance and even threats.  But nothing is impossible with God. Pretty amazing, huh?

I'll keep you updated.  In the meantime, please pray for Steven.

The Adam story is just as amazing.  I can't tell you how much this guy has stolen from me and others.  After stealing 4 times from his boss at SP (a department store), they caught him with his pockets full and fired him.  He spent a night in jail, but was released the next day.  He asked me to help him find another job.  I didn't want to find a quick fix to this issue.  I was hoping he would suffer a little bit and realize the consequences of his actions...which I had warned him about many times. ("If you keep stealing you will be fired!").   So I was not very keen on helping him.  Daily he came to my classroom after school and asked me to go to another store with him looking for work.  We walked all over Orange Walk and probably talked with 15 different businesses, including Landy's, Coca-Cola, People's, M and A, and the bakery looking for an opening for Adam.  Adam was discouraged.  I told him that I don't think that God will reward him with another job until he turns his life around and truly says to God that he will stop stealing. When we obey God's commands, God gives us favor and answers our prayers. He replied by coming back the next day with another idea of a place to apply and ......stealing $50 from me.  I told him I was done looking for him.

His mother took over the challenge and tried again at the bakery.  She has a relative who is the manager there. 
They told her they did not have an opening. 

A month passed.

Last Sunday Adam came to the front of the church and said he wanted to follow Jesus.  He said he would not steal anymore.  He said he wanted to choose the right path, the straight path and be baptized. He kneeled and prayed.

The next day, Monday,  the bakery called and said they needed him if he still wanted work.

Amazing, huh?  Pray for Adam.  Pray that he makes good choices, that he keeps his commitment to follow Jesus.  Pray that he can resist the temptation to steal. 

Dear friends, please also pray for Manuel that he remains faithful to his calling.  

With love,

*names changed


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Faith of Friends

"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."
Mark 7:33-35

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"?
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'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 get by with a little help from my friends..."

I am so thankful for people who have been helping me this week to get ready to start the school year.  

Angelica will be working as my teacher assistant again and she has been washing the furniture, scrubbing the floor, washing the windows and tacking up visual aids  8:30 AM to 4 PM every day this week.   One day she brought her brothers to "help".  They helped for a little while and then they played on the playground.
Angelica's other brother, Miguel, tried to salvage my peppers (a habenero and a sweet green bell pepper). Peppers grow year round here... and just keep giving and giving.  Unless... you have a dog that likes to dig holes in cultivated soil.  Miguel and I dug them in deeper so their roots were not exposed, and got rid of the weeds.  It was nice of him to help on a hot afternoon.

Pastor Chon came to my classroom on Monday and installed some wooden boards on the wall.  Now I can hang the large bristol board character value posters and not worry about them falling down.  The humidity here is so high that tape, blue sticky, and other tacking substances don't hold for more than a month.  Some teachers use glue (Elmers!), but that sticks the pictures to the walls permanently and leaves a mess on the wall.  BUT... with the new boards and thumbtacks my posters will be there all year, and I'll be able to take them down and put up something else if I want. After spending an afternoon working on this project he said, "We are God's family so we need to help one antoher."   

This year was a bumper crop for my mango tree. This tree is the envy of the neighborhood.  From April, when little green mangos start to grow on the tree until mid-September, I get about 10 visitors a day standing at my gate shouting, "mam, mam, Miss Nancy????  Can I have some mangos?" It's fun to give them away, a little like passing out trick-or-treat candy, but everyday?   And worse, when I am not here, people just jump the fence and climb the tree or throw rocks at it to knock the mangos down.  Often they climb up on the roof of the house.  Once some neighbor boys threw stones at my dog because she was barking at them to protect the house. soon as I can get the mangos down, ripe or not, I want to do that.  

This year I was blessed by Mr. Hyde.  He is the husband of our school's assistant principal and his family lives two houses down the street.  He climbed the tree, he used a stick, he shook the branches and knocked down about 200 mangos.  Then he sold them and gave me the profits with just a modest cut.  I told him please...just knock 'em down, I dont care about the cut.  Then he came again and knocked down about 200 more. He sold those and brought me the profit! Finally, yesterday he climbed the tree one last time and knocked down the last 200 mangos. I set some of them on the wall and continue to hand them out when people come asking. Now that the mangos are out of the tree and I dont have to worry about who is jumping the fence, I can start to even feel thankful for mangos, and mango jam, mango cake, mango crisp, mangos with chile-sal, mangos on vanilla ice cream...


Friday, August 21, 2009

Vacation Bible School July 26 - 31

Praise God for a wonderful week of Vacation Bible School. The theme was Fruit of the Spirit. Each day we focused on a different, 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.

The picture above is the gang who slept at my house. Gabriel, my then 5 month old "puppy", was was thrilled to have so many people to play with and always was found in the middle of the mix.

This is a picture of Luis playing a Bible memory game. The children were broken into two teams. Each balloon had a word from the verse inside. The children had to pop the ballons to get the words and then put them in order. It was fun. Nicar was the balloon putter downer. I was thankful for his help during VBS week.

Here Hipolito, Sair, Luis and Kristel are putting the words in order.

Alejandro, Edgar, Misael and Sulmi work as a team.

This year Rosalyn Cruz was in charge of crafts. She is 21 and a member of Pastor Chon's church. She was a tremendous asset . Her mother, Fabiola cooked for us. This is the first year that I asked people from Pastor Chon's church to help. In the past I had people from the US who came to help, and I always wondered how hearing people from Pastor Chon's church would communicate with the children. It was great to work in partnership with the hearing congregation. After getting over some initial shyness, Rosalyn did a great job of communicating.

I think one of the favorite crafts was painting rocks. This day they decorated a rock and painted "Patience" on it.

We went swimming every afternoon. It was a good thing to do in the 94 degree heat. It also gave them a chance to get some exercise and "unstructured play". This is Kristel and friends forever.

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.

The older boys liked this water slide and experimented with different ways to slide down it.

Rosalyn and Misael enjoyed the sun and cool water.

When I uploaded these pictures I realized I'm not in any of them. I guess Nicar and I forgot to use the flashdrive to download each other's pictures. Argh! I promise I will get Angelica to take some of the pictures this fall and will get one of me on the blog and in a profile shot, soon.

Anyone interested in being part of VBS next summer? I would like to open this up to someone who can communicate with the children and is willing to be "on call" for 6 straight days and nights. Let me know and we'll pray about it.

Peace to all and thanks for following this ministry and praying for us.

Who Wants to Learn ASL?

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.

Several times every week someone tells me they want to learn ASL.  They say they know someone Deaf or they think it is an interesting language.  Wonderful!

With some fanfare (posters put up in the bakery, food store and other major establishments) flyers passed out to high school students, and advertising both on the local radio and Community Bulletin Board on the TV, I prepared for a week of ASL classes. Last time I did this I got 52 people !!!   We were squished in the school kitchen.  This time I wondered where they all will sit. Fortunately Pastor Chon gave us permission to use the Mennonite Church.  The class this time, like the last time, was free.

I like teaching this class.  It stirs up interest in deafness.  It helps people to realize that what Deaf people are doing while moving their hands is not just a lot of gesture but is truly a language with specific vocabulary.    The class ran from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM. I'm not deluded to think that the people will walk away fluent... but it is a good taste and good exposure.  Maybe if I get enough people who want to take this introductory level class, I could hold a second level class in August.  As I prepare I also think about  what might be a part of that second class.

On the first day of class Nicar and I arrive at the church early.  One woman is 8:30 and a man shows up. Eventually we add the woman's high school son and Rosalyn who will be helping with VBS the following week.  Four people.  


I wonder what happened?  Even so, it was a great class.  It's fun to see them grow in confidence and ability to communicate with signs.  What's different about teaching here than in the US, the people here are immediately comfortable with ASL word order. English sentences use an agent-action structure: the boy runs, the ball rolls, etc.   ASL is "Topic-descriptive".  Deaf people could say "mom my smart, whew".  It makes perfect sense.  Usually hearing people I have taught in the US want to know how to sign all of the little words, articles, statives (is, are, has) so they can put the signs in English order.  It takes a lot of modeling to help them release this English order gut level sentence structure.   BUT here in Belize, where most people speak at least two and maybe four languages (Spanish, English, Kriol, Maya , Garifuna), they are more flexible.  Almost immediately the man in the group who is a native Garifuna speaker from Honduras, caught on. He kept verbalizing it in spoken English, but he caught on to the topic descriptive structure.  I was impressed.  Everyone else caught on quickly, also.

On the second day a TV reporter and camera man came to film the class and run a story on the evening news.  They did that before, too.  Even though we had a small group, they went ahead and we got some publicity and were able to promote ASL and deafness.  I signed/spoke the whole interview hoping they would show that and deaf people could for once understand something on the news, but, they used my voice as a voiceover and showed the class in the background.  Oh well.  Live and Learn.

Next year...what would I do differently?  Hmmm.  I liked the structure of the class, conversation, games, vocabulary...keeping it somewhat of a natural language learning process.   Somehow I think I need to keep track of the people who ask for the class and specifically tap them when I am about to offer it.  I think some already know the basics and want a second level class (like the parents of the children that I teach).  So next year I might offer two classes and advertise both at once.  Anybody else have ideas? 

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

The Lord is my rock and my fortress.
He is the One who saves me.
My God is my rock.
Psalm 18:2

Maine...I love it. I love being together as a family and seeing old friends.

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.

I love the woods and the scent of pine mixed with salt air.

I even love the fog and slight chill in the air in the evenings.

There is something about being at Gra
y 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!

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 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.
Keep Praying!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Random Thoughts

I'm thinking about not teaching next year.

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.
At our annual EMM Retreat last October Phyllis Groff asked me about budgeting my time between teaching, the children who live with me, church prep, prayer & study, Girl's night prep., and rest. I think I replied, "Everything seems to get done." It is a miracle to me how God helps me to accomplish all that...Jesus was busy, too...what would I rather be doing with free time? Everything else seems like a waste of time....watching TV, cooking more creatively, reading books, etc. Then Phyllis asked, "Is there something that you are doing that a Belizean could and should do?" It keeps echoing in my thoughts. With Olive coming back, she could and should teach the deaf class.

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.

With Love,

Monday, June 1, 2009

What's Love Got To Do With It?

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'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

Let the Festivities Begin!

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 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

What is Fair?

May 10, 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.

(If you want to see our video, click on "play button" below. The movie is 4.54 minutes. There is a transciption of what the children are signing in the right column.)

One example is JP's description of doing the job of sweeping the class at the end of the day. One child was sweeping and the other just leaning on the broom. He spoke up right away saying "Hey that's not fair". That incident was a catalyst to get the others sharing their own experiences of being fair or not fair during the past two days. The children were bubbling with ideas and loved seeing themselves on video.

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.
Jesus puts a twist on the "what is fair?" concept. He teaches us that God's justice is different. God's justice requires us to be "more than fair". God's justice is not about making things "even". It's not about equality or rights. It's not about sharing your cookie by splitting it in half. It's splitting it in half and letting the other guy choose first. God's justice is about love, and making peace. Loving those who hate you, giving to those who insult you, forgiving those who hurt you, before t hey even care. That's tough! For those of us who are powerful, who hold the gold coins, who can choose everyday what we will do, this concept of being "more than fair" is what God's justice is about.

There are some who will argue that God's justice is to fight for the rights of the poor and oppressed. With all my heart I wish it were true. It's the way that we, the powerful, think. "I can fix this," I say. But God's Word says over and over again to give to the poor ( Matthew 25:35-39, Proverbs 19:17, 28:27, and 22:9, Acts 20:35, Luke 19:8-9), to stand with the poor (Matthew 5:3, 5:10), to BE poor (Matthew 19:21, Matthew 6:19-20) and that the poor are blessed (Luke 1:53, Job 36:6). Jesus, by example, walked with the poor and became poor. He owned nothing except the shirt on his back. He was oppressed, stripped, whipped, and killed, yet he did not fight back.

Hmmmm. What is "fair"? It's a perspective thing. If you are rich, and God has blessed you with everything you need, you, like me, are so fortunate. I need nothing. I have a place to live, a TV, and computer with internet...and lots of stuff. I'm never hungry. I even have pets. To us, the verses above are a challenge. We try to change the "spiritual context" of the verse..."Certainly they are saying something else...right?"

Yet if you read those verses and you are poor, you shout "Hallelujah!" It's a perspective thing. God brings this good news to the poor and oppressed. God asks those of us who are rich to be "more than fair". To us who have it all, it is really not a burden, but a blessing. It's the essence of PEACE. It's a rearranging of priorities with Kingdom values...seeking first the Kingdom of God and HIS righteousness. It's grace.

To all who have given so generously to me and to our schoo
l, 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.

To my Father, our God, who continues to amaze me with his "ancient words" of wisdom that are still wise despite time and politics , gracias Senor.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We are the Temple of the Holy Ghost

April 15, 2009

Dear Friends,

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 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,