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.