Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cultural mixing

Yesterday I spent an agonizing 15 minutes listening to a woman in the park complain about Belize. She doesn't like the culture, the people are rude, and it's dirty here.

At home, Nathanael and I decompressed from this event. We have met with others like her. Untrained expats who are in culture shock. It isn't a pretty sight. They become bitter and ineffective. The current person talking to me was also from a distinctly "filtered media" country. That fact became apparent in her complaints about Belize vs her beliefs about her own country. If anything it was clarifying moment for me.
Nathanael hangs the Belizean flag on the back of our van to celebrate Belizean Independence day

I am thankful not to be in that place with her.  I am thankful that EMM prepared us for crossing cultures. (We highly recommend the book Foreign to Familiar) I don't think we always get right. There are times we experience culture shock. There are times we are bitter, dislike culture, or feel the sting of relationships we navigated wrongly.

Zion at church with one of her friends

It is also a decision making journey for us. We are grateful to have our home as a neutral ground.  We can decide what the culture in our home looks like. What in the culture do we enjoy and put into practice? What things do we disagree with? What things are not bad or good, just different?

Selah poses at the photo booth of our local supermarket

In the same breath, I realize I can't take my culture out of me. When we were celebrating Belize Independence day at Koinonia, the Pastor's wife spoke. She reminded us that even though she has lived in Belize for 20 years, she can't take the Guatemalan blood out of her.
praying at Koinonia

All of the cultures represented at Koinonia 

I am becoming aware that this is the same in the Deaf culture we share with those around us. We work with them, we visit them, but you can't take the "hearing" out of us. It's a delicate balance.
Zephaniah, Zion and Misael play Master Mind

What am I trying to communicate? Two years into this and we are still learning. We are still growing. As a cold culture family in a warm culture climate, we still experience culture shock on occasion.
Abigail entertaining children

Mid-September we celebrated all countries that attend Koinonia. It was a nice thing to stand in front and recognize that through it all, we are still from our passport country. We are also distinctly experiencing and falling in love with Belizean culture. Selah won't eat Mexican tacos. She prefers Orange Walk ones.
Abigail and a friend at Koinonia

We are still in a process. A lovely, hard, fun, sad process. We are growing. We are thankful.

Family photo with Belizean (and American) colors represented. Lucky us they are the same! 

Thanks for being with us on this Belizean, United States, mixed culture journey.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The in-between

Is there anything else that happens ministry wise in Orange Walk? I made a comment on the video we made for Hopewell. I mentioned something about bonbons.

Actually, I am not sure if they even sell bonbons in Belize.

There are a number of things that happen that don't fit into a specific category (or day).  We are here to do Deaf ministry.  Nathanael is blessed to have been an interpreter prior to coming to Belize.

Just as in the USA, Nathanael walks with the Deaf here as they interact in the community.

He has gone to the hospital with sick people.  He is in the process of helping one woman who has a possible gallbladder issue.

At the beginning of our second term we had a guy from across the street stop by. He is a policeman and had a Deaf man in custody. Since then Nathanael has gotten the word out. He brings his card with his Belizean number to every visit he makes to the police station. He has visited the police office for different issues 10 or more times.

The third thing Nathanael does is work with the ministry of education.  He has done it less this year than our first term. The main reason for this is he is currently the head pastor of Jesus Deaf Church. While we were on our internship with Nancy in 2015-2016, she held the primary responsibility. Since our return, that duty has been passed to us. He has however worked several times at Saint Peters with Morene. He helped her study for the spelling bee, he also tutored her at the end of the school year.

He interpreted for some of the students exams in Cayo.

He also lead some workshops in 3 towns in August for teachers. (similar to continuing education classes in the US)

We are thankful that the "other" things that add variety to our life. We don't always know when they will happen. We are grateful that we are allowed to be a part of this. Thank you for helping us in this journey, for being a bigger part of what God is doing in Belize.


Monday, October 1, 2018

A place of grief

There have been some people in our lives lately who are grieving. I have come to recognize that different people grieve in different ways. There are also stages of grief.

This time our first stage came as a shock.  Nathanael received news that Sharee Bennett had passed away. He met her on our first term in Belize. He invited her to church.  Since then she came to Orange Walk many times. She hung out with friends and went to church.
A Selfie of Sharee

Nathanael also was helping in 2016 in the process of getting her medication for goiter. The trouble was in patient compliance.  It wasn't until after we had returned to the US, that she had received the medication she needed.  She went back and forth between compliance and no-compliance.  It was a health issue that eventually lead to her passing.
Sharee and Angelica

Although she had had issues off and on we didn't realize she was so close to death. It came as a shock to the community.
People at Jesus Deaf Church playing Apples to Apples

Nathanel had to navigate with her family, and the Deaf ministry that goes to Belize City every other week.  Her family choose the church where Sharee was married to have the funeral.

We brought the people from our church who were able to come. The van was full. It was difficult since her funeral was on a Thursday for some. The people who have jobs weren't able to come. Nathanael instead allowed some time for people to share on Sunday during church. It was nice for me to hear other's stories of how Sharee impacted them.
The last time Sharee was at church

Thanks for joining us in grieving and remembering Sharee.

Scenes from the funeral

the "Deaf section" of the funeral

Nathanael interpreted the funeral

This happened this past Sunday. We are still reeling from it's impact.  (that and Nathanael and I discussed where in Belize can we find smoke detectors) Zion used to occasionally play with the 10 year old girl when she went with Nathanael to help out at Saint Peter's school. Zion is struggling with the loss of someone her own age.

Thank you for praying with us.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday the conclusion to our week.. or the beginning?

 Friday nights are a staple for us.  More people attend Friday nights than Sunday.  What do our Friday nights look like?

After a full day of school, and me (Spring), I come home to chaos. Really it isn't chaos, it is upheaval though.  Fridays are pretty much an all-day affair.  We have to completely clean the house. (sometimes I think if I was a better housekeeper, this step would be less arduous) Nathanael has to prep for it, and the living room/kitchen area is re-arranged. Not to mention that I must cook dinner, and we chop veggies for a snack.

Morene and Adrene go to school pretty close to us. Morene is Deaf and it's a great opportunity to have them come. Nathanael likes to pick them up after school, around 3:15. (to avoid the travel and time it takes to go to their village) This is also around the time I arrive home. They add an element of fun and disorder.

Hopefully, we've finished school by the time they arrive, but it doesn't always occur.

At 5:45 Abigail and Selah leave for youth group. I am at this time prepping for making dinner for the kids.  I seem to be in a habit of either making Dirty Rice or Chili. Belizeans really like things to be the same so the struggle of food they aren't used to is a real one.

 I had a boy tell me "I have never seen this before" about my chili. Of course, he was not brave enough to try a bite.  I try to take it in stride. I plow forward in working toward making sure Friday night meals healthy for the kids.

6pm Nathanael, Zion, and Zephaniah leave to pick up people.  I finish cleaning, setting up, and making dinner.

7pm the van arrives. People pile out. Kids come to the apartment.  Depending on how on point I"ve been I either serve them dinner or have to wait until the Instant Pot is finished.

We eat dinner. We spend time watching a devotional/Christian movie.  Recently we've been using Right Now media.

After that, the kids watch a movie or play with toys until the adults are done.

The adults arrive and spend some time conversing.  Nathanael reviews what he preached on Sunday.  He plays games with the information, prizes included. These can be chocolates, marshmallows or sodas. Here is his summary of what events look like:

Opening prayer
Review story
Trivia review game
Snack and chat

Going back home involves everyone crowding back into the van. Nathanael drops everyone off while I settle the children for bed at home.

Why does this seem like the beginning of our week?  Fridays are by far our busiest days. That and we also feel they reach the greatest amount of people. Fridays lead to Sunday church and are an outpouring of it.  It is an opportunity to meet in a more personal setting. 

Thanks for taking the time to read more about what our weeks look like


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Middle of the week meeting

What do you do on Wednesdays?

While we lived in Spring's parents home, the children went to youth/group kids night activities. We went on a date.  Perhaps not as spiritual as one would expect but it was instrumental in our relationship.

Here we've also been working on relationships on Wednesdays.

I did blog a little about our "focus groups" when they started.

Since then we've gotten into a pattern.  We have the focus groups meet once a month, Wednesdays.  Youth, men's and women's groups. The last Wednesday of the month is "free". For us it is a planning day. I will explain that in the next blog post.

We are thankful for the times that allow us to meet in smaller groups.

Usually, we make dinner, the participants are in charge of the planning. We will buy the ingredients.

After dinner, there is a small devotion.

Then we play games or watch a movie. It is a lot of work for Nathanael to interpret. He has told them they have access to anything on Netflix, but he won't interpret for Wednesday nights.

I participate in the Women's night. It is a good opportunity for me to work on my ASL. It is challenging!  I am praying for ways to increase my vocab. Mostly that involves stepping out of my comfort zone and just trying to engage. Funny my word of the year is "engage". I am gifted with chances just about every day.

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about what our week looks like.

Hope you have a good one!


Monday, August 20, 2018

Taking a rest

a few weeks ago a friend invited us to Progresso. I can honestly say I was hesitant. The introvert that I am, I prefer to go away with only our family. I guess what I mean to say is it takes my energy to be with others, and it doesn't feel restful if I'm using that energy.

hanging out in the hammock with our friends

The time was planned though so I went with it.

Fresh Avocadoes!! 

Progresso is a village next to a lagoon.  Our friend's parents live at the edge of the lagoon. There is a constant breeze over the lagoon. This brought freshness and coolness that we don't experience in Orange Walk.

The first night we were cold (imagine)!  The breeze made the night cool more than we are used to. I wanted a blanket.   After breakfast we..... sat around till lunch!

The kids weren't too happy with it. We did do some things but a lot of time was spent relaxing. I finally felt in a place where I was resting.  Honestly it's been a while!

While we were in training with EMM, we were reminded of the importance of rest.  God actually commands us to do it. One thing the people at EMM talked about is rest being a way we see it is about Him and not us. If it is us who are doing all of the work, and the work won't be done without us, we are dependent on us.  When we take a day of rest, we are acknowledging that it is God who provides. We designate his sovereignty in our lives.
Zion trying out stilts

Why am I talking about rest in a blog post? The trip to Progresso was a admonition to me personally. I was often using our days of rest as a time to catch up on projects. This is not what rest was intended for. Personally I strive to not do the things I dislike on that day, and not do chores. I was actually going grocery shopping on Mondays, but I hate grocery shopping!
We found Hershey's Sunday pies in Belize!! 

I also thought it important to give you an accurate picture of our week. I started last week with a post about our Sundays.  Mondays are our day of rest as a family.  This doesn't always look the same. Sometimes we go places. Sometimes we hang out at the house. We try to have family game night/movie nights every other week in the evenings on Mondays. Other than that, our time is unplanned. We enjoy it that way.
Playing a game of Code Names 

How do you incorporate God's rest into your schedule?  (I would love new ideas!)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Typical Sunday

I have mentioned in one of our letters that Nathanael desired to keep things the same as Nancy had done them. He followed the same order of service, van pick up schedule, and traditions.
A typical Sunday morning. Apparently I was ignoring Nathanael taking pictures

In the beginning, the words were grating. We often heard "that's not how Nancy did it" . At first it felt like an insult. Then we recognised they were just stating facts.  We came to the realization that no matter how much we followed what she did, we are not her. She left after 12 years and she left a legacy. We are thankful to be here, but by default we are different.
A picture from 2 and 1/2 years ago Nancy prepping for the Christmas service

That being said, the order of service is basically the same. Let me take a step back though.  Church starts on Tuesday.  Nathanael works at his sermon prep.  He puts a lot of work into making it visual, and applicable.
Nathanael 2 years ago doing a drama

When we first arrived, he was unsure of where to begin. How should his sermons focus be determined?  As he prayed about it, and worked here, he felt God's tug to start with basics. He is currently preaching through the Bible. He uses the book The Story as a guide.
Drama day at church, we do these once a month

He spends time both reading the stories in the Bible a few times, listening to them, and watching them interpreted into ASL.  He then makes a powerpoint presentation.  He uses many pictures to illustrate and help explain.
People standing to worship

So what happens on a Sunday?  Saturday night, Nathanael messages every Deaf person in the area to ask if they will be attending church.  This helps him plan out his pick up route.  He preps the Tang that we have for break time, and loads the van

Misael's 18th Birthday, and him getting sung to

I know it's taken me half a blog post to actually get to Sunday morning.

This is what our Sunday morning starts with:
At 8am.
I know I know that's not early for most of you. Really, it shouldn't feel early for us. I have found that I need more sleep living overseas. That and I just don't sleep well. (which is a totally different blog post)

I really considered doing a time lapse video of what the running around looks like then I thought better of it. Really most of you know what running around on Sunday looks like. If you aren't sure: 

At 9am, we clamor into the van. Nathanael drives to church.  Sometimes Misael is there, sometimes he isn't. He helps us prepare the area for church.  Nathanael usually leaves 1 or 2 children with me and Misael at church. I do some more cleaning. Misael usually gets some tacos for breakfast.

Selah signing a worship song

After making his rounds picking people up, Nathanael arrives at church around 10am.  People settle in . They pick songs for worship.
Each person who desires shares a song during worship. Really we don't sing we only sign. The exception being "My God is so Big" which seems to be a current favorite of the youngest members.

A few people doing worship on Sunday

After worship there is a sharing time. We are able to share what God has done during the week.  
There is a break where everyone enjoys tang. Thankfully there are many different types of tang here.
Just a sampling of the Tang we can get here

Finally, Nathanael preaches.

Nathanael preaching

The children are dismissed, I take over Sunday school. In Sunday school there is a lot of play. Recently I've been going through the Jesus Story Book Bible. We try to do an activity or craft related to the story we are studying. Many of the kids don't get read to at home. I relish the opportunity to do this for them.

Reading from my phone and showing the kids pictures

After his Sermon, Nathanael gathers the congregation in a circle. They all pray to close the service. He has started having people pray for those who were unable to come. 

Before going home, we all snack on chips. We clean up the church, and leave. The drop off happens in reverse. We arrive home.

I hope you enjoyed this small picture of what a typical Sunday looks like for us