Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What do YOU do when the electricity goes off?

The electricity goes off in Belize quite often.  Sometimes it is for a few minutes and other times it is for 6 to 8 hours.  Last week the electricity went off at 7 PM just after we had finished eating. It was total darkness.  Sulmi and I felt our way to the bathroom where I keep flashlights and candles on the shelf.  While I got busy lighting candles... Sulmi did the dishes "by flashlight".  The picture doesn't really portray the moment because the flash in my camera made it look bright.  Imagine this with just the light of that little blue flashlight under her chin. I laughed thinking...who does dishes by flashlight?

Later we tried to sign in the darkness by the light of the candles. Sulmi liked the smell of this "Christmas Cookie" candle and held it up to her nose.  It lit her face in the darkness.  About ten minutes later the power came back on.  I thought, ah shucks...this was fun :-)  Sulmi thought I was weird and walked into the living room to watch TV.  Hmmmm... I wish they would cut the power in the evening more often.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An-ti-ci-pa-tion It's making me wait!

When the girls came home from school I had their Christmas presents wrapped and under the tree. They noticed them right away and sat down under the tree to look at them.  They started shaking them and trying to guess what was inside.  Because Gineli was leaving on Friday for the island with her sister, we decided to open presents on Friday morning.  I made French Toast and we invited Kristel to come over to open hers at the same time. 

Gineli and Sulmi sign, "What's this?  What's inside?"

When I was a little girl my mother used to keep the presents in the attic, where my bedroom was. Once or twice I went into the storage room to see gawk at the shopping bags and to wonder...but I never peeked. Surprising, huh?  I like the anticipation, the guessing, the waiting and the surprise.  It was fun to watch the girls guess... and to each guess I replied, "Hmmm could be."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Farewell Hipolito

Today we prayed for Hipolito and said goodbye to him.  He got a Visa stamp in his passport and will be going to the US to live with his father and older Deaf brother who are already there.  We prayed that he will continue to seek God.  I also pray that he will be able to attend the Texas School for the Deaf in San Antonio.
We will miss him terribly!

Just a side note, we can't figure out what the light is that is shining on him.  It's in all of the pictures we took while he was sitting in the chair.  We were under an overhang and the sun was directly overhead.  Hmmm.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


The Angels on TV do miraculous things and try to set people on the right path.  They look like people until they speak God's words.  At that point they glow. Then they walk off into the distance and disappear.
The angels in the Christmas story are a little different.  Angel Gabriel is a messenger from God. He comes. He glows (with the glory of God, we imagine). And he tells a message from God.  Then he leaves. A whole slew of angels appear to the shepherds.  Only one tells a message from God while the others sing praises to God. In our imaginations and paintings...they also seem to glow.  The thing that is different is these Christmas angels always look like angels...not like people who transform into angels at some opportune moment.   For Girl's Night we talked about angels, our perceptions and the angels we encounter in the Christmas story.  The we made these cute (simple) angels from coffee filters.   *(see note)

*Just a little more info...There are also angels in the Bible who look like men and women.  Abraham and Sarah were visited by three men (who didn't  Abraham recognized them as angels.  Hebrews 13:2 says, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so you may be entertaining angels unaware."
Hmmm Angels... I think they come to share a message from God...something grab our attention.  Their purpose seems to be to make us know definitively something God wants us to know in a way that is much louder than the still, small voice in our heads.

Thank you Father for being a God who wants so much to communicate with us, to guide us, and redeem us that you send angel messengers and even your "son", your incarnate self.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Decorating the Christmas Tree

On Monday night Gineli, Sulmi and I had fun decorating our Christmas tree.  My old tree had been in my classroom for 6 years so it was showing a bit of wear and was kind of small. Impulsively we decided to use the money that my sister sent me to buy a new one on the way home from school.
Sorry this is fuzzy...but it captures exactly what the girls think of our old Christmas tree.

...and what they think of the new one they just decorated :-)


This is "Sweetie" our 6 year old cat. It makes us laugh when we see her try to circle around and get comfortable in this much too small basket.  It's as if she doesn't know how big she really is.

I had a similar experience at the spelling bee. As we were all waiting for the bus to come and take us home, I sat on the bleachers.  I was holding Sulmi's trophy and other stuff so she could talk "hands free" to the other students.  A young boy entered the gym with his class to prepare for a holiday program practice.  He came over to me and said, "Was there some kind of competition here?"

I said, "Yes, a Spelling Bee for the Deaf."

He thought a moment and looked at me with the trophy and said, "So did you win?"

I pointed to Sulmi and said, "That girl with the white shirt, signing with her friends, won."

He nodded a few times,but didn't dismiss the conversation. I could see another question was brewing and thought he was going to ask about deafness, but instead he said, "So, are you her grandmother?"

Ha! GRANDMOTHER, wow! I was not ready for that one :-)  Do I look like a grandmother? My perception is that I am still more like a mother. Hmmmm.  Maybe not.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Newest Addition to Our Church Family

Thank you, God for Alva's new, beautiful, baby boy.  She named him Josue. ("Joshua" in Spanish).

And The Winner Is .......Sulmi!

Sulmi is fourth form the left.  There were about 300 people in the audience.
Hooray for Sulmi. She won the National Spelling Bee for the Deaf.  Every year the Ministry of Special Education and Crystal Water team up to host a spelling bee for the deaf children around the country.  There are two divisions: Juniors-ages 10 and under, and Seniors-ages 11-16.  Sulmi is 12 and she beat out 8 other contestants most of whom were older than she.
  I am so proud of her. We practiced a set of over 300 words for two months and she knew them all by the day of the event.  Many of the deaf adults from our church came to cheer her on. At first she was nervous to see Mario, Edgar, Manuel, Angelica, Elton and Kelsey in the bleachers...but by the third word she was confident and on a roll.

Sulmi with her medal and trophy.

Boyz Night

Manuel, Ry, Edgar, Alejandro, Mario, Sair, Sherwin
Boyz Night keeps growing. Most of these boys used to spend their Saturday nights drinking at the Akihito Hotel, and when they were kicked out at 11, they would mosey on down to one of the other bars in town.  Now they are coming here to Bible study.  Amazing, huh? God is doing a mighty work among them. There are still other Deaf young men in our community.  Pray that they find learning about Jesus more interesting than drinking their paycheck.

Samnang's 21st Birthday Party

Samnang wanted to have a birthday party to celebrate turning 21. She doesn't have any family (sorry I can't explain the background here), so she asked me to help her throw the party. She came early and helped cook all of the food and even bought some of it. It was fun to plan and anticipate the BIG day with her. She started out saying, "A small party...not many people."  The next day she would come to my house or we would meet for our weekly "tea and chat" and she would give me a new list of who she wanted to invite.  The list grew, but I didn't care.  It was a great day for her.

Sam and Neldo
Angelica and Juan

Yaniry.  It was great to see Yaniry come.  She doesn't hang around the "church crowd" but came for the party.  After the party she came to church the following two Sundays.

After we ate, we had nothing planned.  As people started to leave Elton said, "Quick, think up a game!" He said, "How about charades?"   So I divided the group of about 18 into two teams.  I quickly wrote movies or books or people I thought they would know on paper. A few dramatized while the others tried to guess...It seemed no one wanted to play as teams and everyone wanted to guess.  Quickly the game took on a personality of its own and people were popping up with their own ideas to dramatize and have people guess. It went on for 2 hours (!!)  It was so much fun.  People were talking about it the next day at church.  Manuel was really good at thinking up ideas and dramatizing them.
Alva and me.

The whole gang (except the photographer)...everyone a little tired... at the end of the party.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Important Conversations

Every day is filled with important conversations. Two conversations from this week keep re-playing in my mind... because I am humbled at the privilege to do this "work" and awed at the way God intervenes with the right words.

At my house after dinner Thursday night
Manuel: I've got a problem.  Some people are gossiping about me.  They say I am not fit to be a leader because they say..."We've seen you drink and get drunk" and "We've seen you with women." They are saying other bad things about me too that are not true.
Nancy: Are these things true?
Manuel: Yes, before, but not anymore. I've stopped.
Nancy: I believe you.
Manuel: I love God. I confessed these things. You know. It hurts that my "friends" are saying these things.
Nancy: Two things are going on.  1) Satan will encourage people to spread rumors about you to try and pull you down.  You are a wonderful leader and Satan does not want you to lead. So we need to pray that away because as Jesus disciples we have the authority over these evil things. (We read Matthew 10 with emphasis on verse 26.)  So when you are attacked, pray. Recognize it as evil and cast it out. (We prayed).
Nancy:  The second thing is an important lesson that I keep struggling to learn.
You're not perfect.
God hasn't chosen you to lead because you are perfect. The people will expect you to be perfect because you are a teacher.  Then when you are not perfect, you feel guilty and they feel angry, disappointed, and even betrayed. Don't try to maintain an image that you are somehow able to do everything God asks better than they and therefore are able to lead them.  God always chose imperfect people.  David ....with Bathsheba and killing her husband! Moses killed an Egyptian and got angry in the desert, Peter denied Jesus.  As leaders we have to walk in God's grace. I have done things that are wrong. I am not fit to be God's servant, but...God has given me grace, his merciful forgiveness, and takes my hand and pulls me up saying, "Come my child, I have more work for you to do."  Isn't that amazing?
When you show that you are weak and need God's grace, yes even you, the people will believe that maybe God's grace extends to them, too.
Manuel: And I can't keep sinning.
Nancy: We strive to be "holy" because God is holy. (1st Peter 1:16) Everyday I wake up and ask God please help me to do what is right, just and pure, to please guide my conversation to speak His words in love.
Manuel: Me too, I want to do this.

This is Alva's embroidery hoop.

Girl's Night Bible Study
We are continuing to read praise psalms and work on our small embroidery plaques.
Nancy: Let's read psalm 117 and say our own summaries of what it means.  So as we go around the table and read it verse by verse, be ready to say the psalm in your own words.
(We did this...then we came to Alva.)
Alva: I guess it means God loves me and he always tells the (she wasn't believing the words.)
Nancy: God loves you Alva
Alva: But I have so many bad sins not like you wouldn't understand.  I mean bad sins and I have confessed the sins to God in prayer in my home lying on my bed but I still sin and ...
Nancy: So God's a liar.
Alva: God is truth. He never lies. The psalm says his truth is eternal....always truth.
Nancy: Alva, God LOVES you.  God doesn't say uhhhh Alva, if you get your act together and stop sinning then I will love you.
Read the psalm again.
Alva (reads the psalm): But God can see in my heart and God knows that I have bad sin there.
Nancy: Yep. God can see in your heart and God still loves you.
Alva: My brothers were just baptized in Mom's church. I'm proud of them. They don't smoke weed anymore. But I have too much bad sin to be baptized.
Nancy: God loves you Alva. You think nobody could love you.  But I love you and God loves you even more...a lot more.
Alva (cries a little): Yes, yes, but I can't believe that.

Please pray for these two.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Retreat in Paradise November 1 - 6

What a blessing to be able to get together with other Mennonite missionaries living in Central America.
Henry and Millie Buckwalter came from Lancaster to lead us in a study about "Drawing Near to God."  Sheila Yoder from Goshen Indiana came to be my interpreter. How God worked that out is nothing short of amazing. I was so glad to have her there with us and re-kindle our friendship.
The rest of the retreat participants included the Groffs who work with K'ekchi church leaders in Guatemala, the Horsts who created a half-way house for orphans trying to matriculate into jobs and independent living near Telgucigalpa, and Matt Keiser and his dog.  (They work in Las Laureles...some pics of this place are below). Others included the Gingrichs who will help to host short-term mission teams, the Eby family who works in Las Laureles and in La Ceiba at an orphanage, Steve Shenk (not pictured) and Amos Stoltzfus who is our new EMM administrator.  The 6 day retreat was bathed in prayer. The Lord gave us direction and encouraged us. We all walked away refreshed.

This was the view from our lodge. On Friday, many of us walked to the top of that waterfall.  Can you imagine?  
I walked into the park, across the swinging bridge and found a nice bench to sit on to rest and pray while some of the gang did the arduous trek.  This lizard came out of hiding after a while and played staring games with me.  As I sat there I also finished reading the book: When Helping Hurts.  It has formed and tested my thinking about mission work more than any other book I have read in the last 5 years.

This is the view from the "rope bridge". Gorgeous. 
I love laying down and looking up at the trees.

 This is Las Laureles.  It is the garbage dump for the city of La Ceiba.  The people who live here try to make a living off of recycling the junk that comes to the dump, plastics, zinc roofing, metals, whatever they can. 

The dump site keeps growing higher and then is somewhat leveled and seeded. This is the current active pile.
Matt has been working here for 5 years or so.  He relates to the children and families, started several football (soccer) squads that compete against the wealthier La Ceiba teams. He leads Bible studies from time to time and also does some tutoring.  We spent Saturday afternoon here.  You can read more about Matt's work at Matt's blog.

This is Luis. He is Deaf.  He is making an "R" for his last name (?). Luis is 27 and lives next door to Matt. I was so happy to get a chance to meet him and talk with him a little. He works as a spray painter and lives with his mother.  He said he is the only deaf person in Las Laureles but there are many deaf people in La Ceiba. He uses some formal Honduran signs mixed with gestures. I asked him if he went to church.  He said, "Oh yes, when the Jehovahs come to Las Laureles, they pick me up for meetings in La Ceiba.  But the Jehovahs are gone now. They won't be back until January."  He also said, "I didn't know any signs until the Jehovahs taught me." He asked me if I would stay.  "Will you come back tomorrow and talk to me?" "Can you come everyday?"
It's sad that the Jehovahs are making such inroads in the deaf community. Where are the Christian workers?
I wanted to tell him I will come back. I will be your friend. I can teach you about Jesus.  Maybe then you can teach other deaf people...but I just hugged him and prayed God would take care of him as I walked away down the hill to catch up with our group.  Belize is too far away to make a visit to him "every day".

 On Sunday we worshipped at Amor Viviente. They asked us to come to the front and share (in Spanish) a little about our work.  It was good to be there.  The pastor and his wife are standing next to Amos. After church we went to see La Casa Feliz, an orphanage for about 18 children ages 5 to 25 that was started by the pastora.

Thank you EMM for arranging this retreat, and also thank you to Phyllis and Galen for all the work you put into the organization. 

Beloved friends, there is so much work to do to prepare the harvest. Is God calling you? The rewards are much greater than the sacrifices.

Grace and Peace,

Monday, October 24, 2011

Preachin' and Praisin'

God is working overtime in this young man's life. Manuel and I met several times this week to pray and plan worship for this morning.  He picked the story of Gideon.  God called Gideon to lead the Israelites against the Midianites who had been stealing their crops for 7 years. All the Hebrew people were so terrified of the Midianites that they fled to the hills.  Gideon was scared, too, but stuck around hiding some grain when he was confronted by an Angel of the Lord who said, "God is with you mighty warrior."  Gideon wasn't a warrior or even brave and strong, but through several tests and miracles including winning the battle with only 300 men, God proved to Gideon that he was brave and strong because God was with him. This theme is resonating with Manuel as he finds his way and let's God lead him.

 On Tuesday when Manuel came to pray and eat supper with me he said he had been thinking about our singing during worship. For 7 years we have been singing the same 50 songs.  For several years it was comforting because during that time we learned the songs which made copying them in worship easier.  I try to spice it up by adding some new ones from time to time..but it seems that the "Catch 22" is people like the songs they know, but they get bored singing the same songs.  Manuel said that in his devotions he had been trying to sing the psalms.  He wants to introduce some psalms as part of worship. Many of the songs we sing come from the psalms, but Manuel's idea was that he wanted to pick up the Bible and start singing it. We practiced the first few verses of Psalm 9.  He sang it this morning for everyone, and then they joined in.  It was a little stiff, but we'll catch on. 

Friday, October 21, 2011


 This is Morine. She is the other deaf preschool child that I work with.  She is 4 years old and loves to learn.  She is picking up sign language so quickly.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Silly Girls and Smelly Markers

Every year around the third week of October, our school has a Harvest celebration in the chapel.  Each of the children are to decorate a box and bring canned goods that will be shared with "the poor".  (I can't think of many people who are poorer than the children themselves, but nevertheless, it is good to share and celebrate what God has given us.)  On Tuesday night before the Harvest worship, Sulmi and Gineli decorated shoe boxes for their offerings. I got out the smelly markers and they were using them to write on their boxes when Sulmi sniffed one, leaving a bright red mark on her nose. Then Gineli sniffed hers and left a blue mark..  We laughed at their funny noses and soon they were sniffing and dotting their noses with all the colors.  I thank God for their laughter and joy.  They make my world a happy place.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Using Our Assets

      Most of the people in Belize who don't have enough money to buy "anything they want" for supper, tend to eat flour tortilla and beans for la cena (the evening meal).  Knowing how to make tortilla is a lesson taught from mothers to their daughters and sometimes their sons as well.  You can make enough tortilla for a family of 6 with about $1.50 US and you don't even need a gas stove.  A fire works great.  Although I am a pretty good tortilla maker, it takes about an hour (or more) that i don't have.  When we have Girl's Night and need about 30, I buy them from a woman up the street.  They are delicious, fast, warm, ready to eat...and I feel good about helping the woman sustain her business.
      I am finally learning about this thing called the Kingdom.  One of the ways we recognize the Kingdom is here is how the community loves and helps each other.  I am also reading a book called When Helping Hurts How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor.   One of the concepts in the book is that we as missionaries are hurting the poor if we become their resource when there are assets in their community that they can use or develop. 

So...I started thinking about the tortilla for Bible study. I know that Angelica makes tortilla EVERY night.  She's good at it and could use the income.  Then I thought about Alva.  Alva was abandonned when she was 12 years old.  Her mother never taught her how to make tortilla.  She wants to learn.

Ah ha!  Praise God for shining a light on our paths.
Last week at Girl's Night I asked Anegelica if she would be willing to make the tortilla for the following week.  She said sure.  Then I asked her to teach Alva how.

So the girls decided to meet at Angelica's house.  When I picked them up, Alva was beeming.

At Girl's night we are learning about "worship". We read Psalm 145 and are making these embroidered plaques with a phrase from the psalm.  Again I was tempted to be the resource.  Kristel wanted to know how to make a stitch. I started to show her and Alva jumped I backed off thinking, "Right.  The older girls know. Let them be the resources."  That's empowering.   It builds self-esteem. I thank God for teaching me this lesson this week.  It will change how I minister.

D Boys, D Girls, and Drama (the good kind)

Praise God for the unity and cohesion we are feeling in our Jesus Deaf Church Community these days.  These pics are from last Sunday.  It was wonderful to have Fermin Cal visit.  He used to attend CDI (Deaf Mennonite School in Cayo, Belize) and has a good heart and depth of Bible knowledge, but he lives 2 hours away. I would love to see God bring him to Orange Walk and work with our leadership team.
The boys range in age from 8 to 30.

The girls (ages 5 to 26)...are wonderful conflict resolvers. They also take part whole-heartedly in dramatizing the scripture.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

100% Adorable

This is Glenford, one of the deaf three-year-olds that I am teaching.  Isn't he precious? 
 In the picture he is signing "eat".

Boyz Night

Whoooo hoo. Go God!   
Now that Manuel is coming to Boy's Night, he is inviting the other boys to come.  
We had a good time studying Psalm 145...and some of the many reasons God is great that are listed there.
After our study, we created a choral reading based on the psalm that the boys will sign in worship tomorrow.

 Alejandro turned 16 on Friday so we had a cake with candles to celebrate.   He was happy and everyone used their phones to take pictures.  When the evening was winding down, Juan, who has not been in church for about 2 months said, "Maybe I can work early tomorrow and be back in time to get to church."  Hmmm... God is Great!

Update Sunday October 2: Juan DID work early, leaving home at 4 AM to fungicide sugar cane so he could come to church at 10.  He particiaped in the choral reading AND gave encouragement to Alejandro. I am thrilled to see him walking in the Spirit again.  He seems happy again, too.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pics from the School Garden

Sulmi took these photos while I was watering the garden on Monday.  In addition to the plants in these pictures we have okra, calaloo, plantain, habenero peppers, carrots, oregano, red beans and black beans that are just starting to sprout .
A white flowering bush that a fellow gardener gave us.

Yellow flowering bush in the garden near the school gate.
A hardy blue flowering plant

Little radishes...can you see them just starting to pop up?

Belize cilantro

cucumber is a root vegetable like potato. cook it like spinich

our baby almond will eventually provide great shade.