Monday, April 29, 2013

The Cow Metaphor

Bear with me as I share a metaphor that came to me this morning while driving to pick up everyone for church.  Part of the trip takes me past the cows at Cuello's farm. They have a nice fenced in 30 acre piece of land for the cows to roam and feed on grass.  There are several trees that offer shade.  As I drive by it seems like that have a camaraderie, or a community gathering.  Some are nudging each other, some are just comfortably close.

Then I looked across the street and there was one cow that had gotten out.  Somehow it had managed to find a hole in the fence, crossed the highway where cars go about 65 mph, climbed down...and then up a ditch that is about 4 feet high and was munching on grass in this wild piece of savannah where there are certainly snakes, maybe poisonous ones, scorpions,  and holes in the ground to trip on.
This is just a picture of what the field across the road looks like.  When I drove by in the morning and saw the cow, I did not have my camera.  So I drove back later to get a pic and the cow wasn't there.  At least you get an idea of what the savannah grasses are like. 
Some people have recently left our church.  They are like that cow that did not like fences.  Our deaf friends did not like rules...rules like thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, though shalt not bear false witness.  They say that they can do what they want.  Last week one of these boys arrived at church on his bike, tossed the bike on the ground, walked into the church, went straight to Alva, and slapped her in the face saying she had better stop gossiping about him...then he turned and said "I quit church" as he walked out the door. 

Our church doesn't have a lot of rules.  We don't have a dress code. I try to keep the rules on a short list: The 10 commandments and loving your neighbor.

Like the cow who was sure the grass outside of the fence was better, this young man has been testing the rules for a while and choosing to break through the fence to the other side of the road.  But the other side of the road is so dangerous.  That escaped cow will not survive long in the bush.  There's no water there. There are dangerous things to get tangled in.

I thank God for making a short list of rules that protect us from harm and lead us to a way of peace and safety.  I pray that God will draw this young man back into the fold and help him to choose to stay inside the fence. 

UPDATE May 3: I talked with this man several times since the church incident and told him that I still love him even when he does bad things.  I will always love him and God loves him even more. I told him that he cannot come to church if he is going to threaten anyone or hit anyone.  I asked him what happened and why he did it. He gave reasons that showed his anger and sense of righteousness. I asked him if I could pray with him.  To my surprise he said, "Yes".  So we prayed.  I invited him to come to "Boyz Bible Study on Saturday". He said he would come.

UPDATE MAY 4: The young man came to Bible study.  He shared good answers and tried to study God's word.  On his own... in the midst of our discussion of Jesus telling Peter and Andrew to follow him, and what it means to "follow Jesus" the young man said he should not have said he would kill Alva and does not want the people in the church to be afraid of him.   I told him he needs to stand in the front of the church and tell people he made a mistake and will not threaten them. He needs to ask for their forgiveness.  He thought about it.  We continued our study for a few more minutes and he interjected. "I will stand up in front of the church tomorrow and ask for forgiveness".  Awesome!  Praise God!

UPDATE May 5: He did not come to church. Please pray for this young man that he will humble himself to receive forgiveness.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jesus' Deaf Church: Some Pics Before Church Starts

 Manuel (24) with Jaheed (13) and Edgar (20)

 Wherever Martha is, you will find someone laughing.  This is Martha, Reinalda, and Dora.

Alva (26), Joshue (1) and Yelitza (27).

 Jaheed (13), Misael (11) and Raheem (12)

 Manuel entertaining the ever-moving Josue.

 Brittany showing Yelitza the signs for the song she wants to sing.

Usually Edgar is the one who opens our worship with prayer.  He is an awesome, genuine, pray-er.  I always find myself saying "Yes Lord" as he calls us to turn our eyes to Jesus and open our hearts to praise and learn from God.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Guatemala Retreat Apri 3-8

 This year our EMM Workers in Central America Retreat was held in Guatemala City at Semilla.  Semilla is a Mennonite Seminary and a beautiful oasis in the middle of a bustling city.

 Our sessions were held on the third floor (which used to be a roof balcony, but has been closed in to make for a terrific room with a beautiful view of the surrounding volcanoes.)

This is our group standing in front of the Hands of Peace Memorial. (Where else would a bunch of Mennos take a group shot? !).  From left: Phyllis and Galen Groff (our regional reps), Steve and Beth Gibbs (our retreat leaders), Brittany Lentz, me, Stefan Hess and Sheila Yoder.   I thank God that Sheila came to interpret for me :-)  I cherish her friendship and willingness to travel to Guatemala.  It was wonderful to catch up with her, too,

 Brittany and I arrived ahead of the others so we went out to dinner together.  There are no American fast food chains in Belize so it was a treat to eat at Pizza Hut.  After dinner we walked over to this store to buy some coffee.  Can you identify this fast food chain?   It's a Guatemalan McDonald's...amazing.

On Saturday our group took a trip to the old capitol called Antigua.  This is the view from the mountain overlooking the city.  Brittany was brave enough to walk down and take a photo.

 This is a pretty mural in the restaurant where we ate lunch.

The famous archway in front of the cathedral.

 We walked around the market and I saw these shoes.  Sulmi and Kristel love high tops.  Here they are with a Guatemala woven print.   They made me smile and think of my girls.

 These are human statues...real people!  They pose with tourists for a donation.   I had never seen this before.  They kept perfectly still with straight faces and their eyes shut the whole time.

All over we saw the Maya women and children trying to sell their wares.  They must do this everyday.  What a rough way to eek out an existence.

A BIG thank you to Galen and Phyllis for planning the retreat, praying over all of us, and making us feel loved and supported.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Nathanael and Spring Come to Belize!

During Holy Week our Deaf Church welcomed Nathanael and Spring Davis into our community.  Some of our members joined the trek to the airport to pick them up. Nathanael, (center, green shirt) is a professional interpreter and Spring (on Nathanael's left) is a nurse with a desire to be a midwife.  They live in the Philadelphia area and have 4 young children that stayed at home.  

Last November Nathanael and Spring investigated the possibility of doing a short term mission trip with EMM in Belize.  We began corresponding by email. The more I learned about Nathanael, the more I sensed that God was calling him and his family to come interpret for Sulmi...eventually.  Maybe when she would enter high school. I suggested they come do various types of ministry during  the week prior to Easter when he had a holiday from his job. While they were here and after they left we all prayerfully sought to find out if God is calling them for longer term (at some point maybe beginning 2014).

They ministered among us in many ways.

Nathanael joined Edgar and I for Bible study.

Spring and Nathanael led a workshop for mothers about child rearing.  Brittany interpreted while Sulmi, Kristel and I took care of the children.  They also led a workshop for couples about Godly marriages.

 Nathanael and Spring invited Angelica to their apartment for a meal and games.  Brittany went along to interpret for Spring.

Selena and Wayne's family came to my house for a meal and the Davis' tried to get to know them.  During this time Nathanael had a good conversation with Wayne about faith and God's forgiveness.
This is Wayne with their two youngest, Gane and Bertha.  Selana is with Selane.  Selena is pregnant with a new baby to be born in September.

Mid-week we took the families and Deaf children from our church to Bacab to swim.  Bacab is a nice resort about an hour south.  It was a chilly day, but fun to be together and fun to play in the water.

On Good Friday, our church joined the Catholic "Stages of the Cross" procession through our neighborhood. This is decidedly a Catholic thing but I still appreciate walking past live dramatic scenes that make me think about Jesus' suffering and death. It went right past my house this year so we were able to get some photos from the roof.  You can't see from the picture but it is always has 2 to 3,000 people participating. That's quite a lot of walkers.  Before the procession we played some games at my house.

When Nathanael and Spring left on Easter Monday, they were still undecided about whether they would return to Belize in July 2014 to join our ministry team and interpret for Sulmi in high school. 
But about a week later they emailed me saying, "We think God is calling us to Belize."  Hooray!  I look forward to how their gifts will benefit our ministry with Deaf Belizeans.  Please pray for their preparations, application process, fund-raising and wisdom to sort all of it out.