Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Clumsy Balancing Act

What would you have done? It was about 9:30 AM this morning and I was in the van with about 6 children heading to pick up more people in Orange Walk on our way to church. We had just crossed over the New River at the toll booth and the road to Guinea Grass was on my left. It's a highway. People go 60 mph when they are not speeding. On the right side of the road, walking in the gravel were two children. One was a toddler... walking upright only because her three and half year old brother was holding her hand. Both had dusty dirty faces that were streaked with tears. I passed them, then turned around and parked in a turn off from the busy highway. Where was the mother? (or father?) I clapped my hands and out-stretched my arms and said come... Buscaremos tu mama. I asked them where they lived. The three year old boy said, he didn't know. They were lost. How did they get lost and start walking on the highway? There are no houses within a quarter mile. There's a town across the street and back in there some, called Tower Hill... but that would be quite a walk and they would have had to cross the highway! Which would not really be possible at their pace. As I picked up the baby I noticed the boy had already wet himself. He must have been so scared. The baby stopped crying as soon as I picked her up and kissed her. The brother was still sobbing. We waited a little bit. Where is the mother? There was no one around. I decided to take them to a social worker, Camy, who lives across the street from me. Camy and I (and the van load of deaf church people) then went to the police. I gave a statement and left the children there with Camy. I didnt want to leave the toddler, she clung to me and cried when I handed her off. What a scary day for them!

I wondered if I did the right thing.

When church was over I asked Camy what happened. She said the mother had called the police because she was frantic that her children were gone from her house. The police went to pick her up and bring her to the station. Their house is a half mile or more from the highway. She said she had gone to buy something at a shop and left the 3 year old in charge. (!) Sigh.
The kids had waited a while for their mom to get back. When they went to find her, they got lost, and scared when they got to the highway. I wonder how long they were walking there. They were so dusty and tear-streaked and lost.

As a result, church started late, but it went well. I have to figure out how to engage the 12, 13, 15 year old boys but the younger ones and older ones were tuned in and involved. Today I had the teen boys do the Bible readings...sprinkled throughout the worship service. They like competition, visual images, don't like to answer questions, like the opportunity to be a "leader" and read a verse. Don't like to sit and listen. They think doing a drama is "for little kids". A few of them have good artistic skills. They have said they want to follow Jesus, but don't like someone telling them what to do or giving them a code to live by. Somewhere in that mix of their likes and dislikes is the key to getting them involved. Does anyone have ideas?

What's the point of the picture at the top of the page? Those are storks (mostly in the trees) and egrets (mostly on the ground).There is also a gray heron in there somewhere because he flew out of the tree just as I snapped the picture.
Often while doing the church pick up and drop-off drive we see interesting wildlife. We ALL like to stop and marvel. We've seen huge turtles (bigger than Jan Hoffer's lazy susan!), a jaguarundi (small jaguar), lots of iguana, snakes, quash (an animal with sort of a fox body and raccoon markings), deer, and today we saw these birds. HUGE birds sitting on the tops of trees near the river. The storks are as big as US farm-raised turkeys. I don't understand why the branches don't bow down to the ground with their weight. Hmmmmm. Interesting!

There's got to be a Biblical application in there somewhere.
Maybe the birds and I have this in common: we are both clumsily balancing our lives on the top of "precarious places", where the view is definitely never dull, doing our best, knowing the only reason we don't fall off... is God. (smile).

Peace to all


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mountains and Valleys

A moment during worship.

It's been a while since I have updated this blog. We've had some ups and downs. On the "up" side, Manuel came to church again for the first time in a year (almost to the day). He was the first person to ask for baptism and a leader of the group. But the conflict in the "twenty-something" age group bothered him and he left. After a few months he tried out the Jehovah's Witnesses deaf group. Two weeks ago he came to church again...prayed and asked to lead a song. I'd like to see him give a testimony of why he left and why he came back. I think we need to be transparent in that really be church family.

This is a picture of Kristen keeping herself busy during Girl's Night Bible Study.

Precious moments:

Sulmi and Luis were working together this morning in school. Just about anyone who works with Luis usually ends up fighting over something petty. Before they broke into pairs to practice spelling words I pulled Luis and Sulmi aside and I told them I had confidence that they are both mature enough to bear with each others faults and not make anything a big issue. They agreed. Somehow, miraculously, maybe the first time this year, Luis was able to get through the morning activities with a partner and not fight. Afterwards I told them how impressed I was and asked them “What was your secret? How did you do it?” Sulmi said, “It’s because last Sunday Pastor Chon laid his hands on me and prayed. So God helped me." Sulmi is such a blessing to me.

Kristel is signing "love" from the song "We are one in the Spirit.

Tonight Kristel was on her own to find something to do. I was making dog food and Sulmi was in the shower. When I turned to see what Kristel was up to, she had our song sheets and was singing her heart out. Sulmi finished her shower and joined her. It was a precious moment. I pray and pray that when they grow up they will love the Lord as much as they do right now.

A raunchy moment:

Four weeks ago Sunday two deaf, teenage boys pummeled my cat with hard green “plums” (more like small apples). The cat ran into a hole. The hole was full of fire ants so she ran back out again, BUT, the teen boys blocked the exit with a huge rock and watched her claw and claw to try and get out until her nails were gone and her paws were raw. Then they left her there blocked in the hole with the ants. I didn’t know about it. I was inside washing dishes with several others. Three hours later after driving people home and returning I called for the cat. When she did not come I knew something was wrong and summoned a boy who lives close to tell me what happened. We found her but, the rock they had shoved over the opening broke her left front leg. She had fire ant bites all over her body, eyes, ears, toes, and bites upon bites on her stomach. She has recovered except for the broken leg.

When I found her I screamed…my thoughts were filled with the image of her being bitten and trying to get out and not being able to escape. I was so angry. I hated the boys. I hated that they could hurt something innocent. I felt like quitting the ministry. Have they learned nothing? could I minister to people I hate? How can I minister and be a person capable of hate?

By that evening, God’s spirit had washed over me and gave me peace. That sounds hokey but there’s no other way to say that about four hours later I had let go of the hate and anger and was trying to figure out HOW something so awful could happen?

One mother of the boys told me, “Well, (her son) really hates cats.” As if that were an excuse for the behavior. She didn’t really think of it as “wrong”. I guess cats, here in Belize, to many are like rats. They’re dirty, they eat garbage, they carry lice and diseases. They are “bad”. Dogs are pets. Few people have cats for pets.

In my prayers I was saying “WHY?” Why God would you let this happen? Couldn’t you have gotten my attention some other way? The answer I got was that something needs to change with our church. It’s not going to work meeting at my house. When I prayed with others about this whole event, the overwhelming answer was: You need to move into a church building.

But what building? We can’t pay rent on a building. Few of our members work, so their offerings are coins each week. How can we move into a church building?

Last week I was talking with Pastor Chon, the Belizean pastor of the Spanish speaking Mennonite Church called Life Changing Ministries. He told me that his church was changing the times for worship and dropping their morning worship time.

(Thanks Phyllis for taking this picture.)

"God can do anything, you know---far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!" (Eph 3:20) The Message version

I never, ever would have imagined that they would change their worship from the standard times everyone uses. After he finished saying this he realized that Jesus Deaf Church could worship at their church in the morning. He said we could have the building to ourselves Sunday mornings (rent free). Then he paused and said, "That’s perfect timing." God’s timing... that their elders decided they want to change the worship times and we decided we need to meet in a church. So beginning in March we will move to a church building. Pastor Chon even said we could erect a sign. Had I found out later that they were changing their worship time, would we have moved to their church building anyway… even if the cat incident did not happen? Probably not. We were pretty settled and it seemed like there were too many questions involved with moving. So it’s interesting how God used that horrible, cruel, incident for our good and his purpose.

Please continue to pray for the teen boys who are violent and disrespectful. There are more issues than I could write in this very public forum. Pray that the Holy Spirit convicts them and leads them to choose to follow Jesus and show love to the others in the group. Pray that the others do not turn away from the church because of the behavior of some boys who are mean and threatening. Pray for wisdom for me and an openness and dependence on God's leading.

Peace, friends,