Saturday, June 29, 2024

Many Different Forms of Ministry

Recently a few different Deaf friends we minister to forwarded a video to me.  In the video a Deaf lady we work with was asking for help.  Herself, Deaf husband, and baby didn't have enough food.  Also the baby had been sick.  She sent this video to several dozen people in hopes that someone would help.  A few days later her brother, who can hear, contacted me asking for assistance in the matter.  He shared with me many people blaming her family for not helping enough. 

A few days later Miseal, our Deaf church leader in Orange Walk and I had the opportunity to visit.  We learned that the husband had been working cutting sugar cane.  He did not "Win" (Creole for make) a lot of money but with the rest of the family paying the "light" and water bill it was more than enough to sustain them.  They live on her family's land rent free. 

The family doesn’t understand why they can't budget the money to make it last for a week.  I asked the family who taught them that?  No one had.  How could they, with communication being so limited.  The family loves them and helps them so much, but what seems to be obvious to them, they take for granted.

Misael and I created a budget plan with the family.  Then we all got in my pickup and headed to the "shop" to buy a week's worth of groceries.  Afterwards, we headed to the bank to open a savings account.  We will continue in the ministry for a few weeks in hopes that they will adopt some healthy habits.  

Misael and I had a great conversation after. Sometimes ministering means buying things for people and sometimes it means helping people to use their own money to buy things.

Please pray for this young Deaf family and for Misael as he continues to learn to lead.


Saturday, March 23, 2024

 It is always a joy to have a team come serve alongside us.  This time it was extra challenging for them as they were called to help tackle the yard at Jesus Deaf Church. It was hot, we had no water/electricity on the land, and the equipment was lacking. They tackled the high grass with vigor.  

there isn't electricity at the land, here the are repairing the generator

They had some people who were fluent in ASL which added to the ability of the team to communicate.  They worked with Milenia (Nelly) to help make meals, and along the way learned about some Belizean fair. 

Melenia (Nelly) did all of the food prep and planning

In addition to working on the land at the church, they spent time doing visits with Deaf in the community.  One of the ladies who was with them is an interpreter, an added benefit! 

Playing cards with Selina and her family at Western Dairies

We are so thankful for the support that Stumptown Mennonite provided in their visit to Orange Walk!!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024


 This is a post I have meaning to write for over a year. The reason I waited is I was hoping to have a conclusion wrapped in a little bow. It is not that way... but I digress.

The family immediately post accident (End of September 2023)

In August of 2022, following our return to Belize God gave us so much grace. We were able to "pick up where we started" so to speak with our applications for residency. The original process was started in 2021 and almost completed before we left the country. There was a LOT of grace. Our friends were in a similar space and their application was dropped.  

Zephaniah working on his timeline for school

The unfortunate/fortunate part of this is that the process was made easier in 2021. The cost however doubled. When we had started the process, Abigail was a child and now she was 18. The cost for her residency had doubled!  Yes adults were double the cost of kids. We weighed the cost with the fact that to live in country costed us 100$ a month.  As we prayed about it we decided to move ahead with all of the residency applications, including Abigail.

Zephaniah and Zion ice skating in Merida Mexico on our last visit (Jan 2024)

We paid and put the applications through. We were told that it would be 6 weeks or so until we received our cards and things became official.  We waited and waited and waited.

Standing at the river for Zion and Zephaniah's baptism

Finally over Christmas, (almost 4 months later) we attempted to cross the border. Even though we were assured by the immigration office that our receipt of payment would allow us to cross, the officer at the border wouldn't allow it. That being said, he did make a call to an immigration officer. I spoke with her briefly.  Interestingly within a week we had cards in hand.  WOW what an answer to prayer.  There was one minor "caveat" they misspelled Zephaniah's name. I know people are surprised at that ;) They wouldn't allow us to keep the "misspelled" card until they got a new one. We had to await a new one.

Our family "pre accident" on top of a Maya ruin September 2023

It has now been over a year with multiple stops at the immigration office to check in on progress. There is still none.  We don't have Zephaniah's card. We are fortunate that with parents and other kids do have them. We are now allowed to cross the border without a problem.  We hope and pray that one day Zephaniah will have a card (before we have to renew them 4 years from now!) 

As a semi update, Nathanael was just at the American Embassay (Selah and Zephaniah got new passports) They gave him a name of a person to contact about the card. We hope this person is able to print it for us. 

Saying goodbye to Nicole

 This is a difficult post to type. Honestly when "ministry outcomes" or medical outcomes don't happen the way I would hope, it is very difficult.  We have known Nicole for a while. She lives in Sand Hill outside of Belize City. She sporadically came to Jesus Deaf Church.  Us moving to Spanish Lookout was a huge benefit to her. On the way from Spanish Lookout to Orange Walk (which Nathanael travels every week) we were able to pick her up. She became a regular church attendee.  

She and her boyfriend enjoyed attendance. They both came in October and then January to the Kidz Konnect trips.  Unfortunately, Nicole wasn't privy to much of her medical background. It took two trips and meeting with her family for me to get some of an idea of what was going on with her.  As I was gaining a small understanding, navigating what tests we should have her complete, Nicole entered the hospital. We knew she was sick. I didn't realize that she would never leave the hospital alive.

The benefit of Nicole's funeral was that we were able to work with the KG church (conservative Mennonites).  This is only the second time this has been possible.  Nicole's family asked that Nathanael conduct the service.  The people at CDI (Cayo Deaf Institue) provided intpereting along with Marta Lowen.  Several people in the service were able to direct people to the saving grace of Jesus. I hope and pray that their words reached the people who needed to hear them. 

Marta's brother and sister in law just "happened" to be in Belize (they had moved to Canada). It was so sweet to meet them. We are thankful they were able to attend the wedding. He had known Nicole well.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Saying goodbye and see you later

 I just can't get the song from the Muppet movie out of my head.  As I was leafing through pictures on Google photos the next "event" that happened in our lives was the Groff family departure.  They left for language training then sabbatical at the beginning of March.  The last event we did together (that Nathanael was unable to attend) was a Superbowl party at the Zittle household.  

a not so flattering photo of Julie Groff and I at the EMM event.  We were next to each other and didn't talk much (July 2015)

We know that there is no guarantee of our next day no matter where we live.  That being said we geared up for the change that happened and is happening.  In July of 2022, TJ left for a gap year in the US.  (just as we were arriving in Belize). This meant we experience the change immediately. We have been spending time as families together since 2017. It felt like a part of "us" was missing.

Zion, Selah, Simeon Tim and Ni hang out in Orange Walk

The Groff family is scheduled to return to Belize in January of 2024.  Simeon will be staying in the US to finish his senior year. We are excited about what God is doing in their family.  Navigating transitions is difficult.  We also are subtly aware that our two oldest girls are on the pathways to leave the home soon as well.  As plans aren't totally firm for either one, we will wait to share any news on this front.

Selah,Gabe and Simeon play Splendor April 2018

We went to Bacalar for Christmas December 2018

Traveling to Guatemala together and crossing the border 2018

Enjoying swimming over Christmas 2018

Playing 4 on a couch

We saw a movie together in Belize city Dec 2020

Thanksgiving November 2020

Selah's birthday September 2022 (Selah, Gabe, Julie, Tim, Ni, and Spring)

New years as families December 2022

Instead I will leave you with pictures through the years of our time with the Groff family.  

Friday, June 9, 2023

Another try at residency

2018 we dragged ourselves out of bed at the "ungodly" hour of 3 am to make our way to Belmopan (the capitol of Belize) and get in line. (Lines start at 7am and we have a 2.5  hour drive) We waited, ate breakfast, and finally were called to the window. What a huge disappointment to have them not even accept our application for residency.  (I did cry) 

As most of you are aware, Nathanael's work permit has been an arduous path to say the least.  Since that is out of the way, we find ourselves looking to apply for residency again.  This would allow us not to have to pay the steep work permit fee. We would also have more freedom to cross borders, be welcomed back into Belize more readily, and not pay the 20$ US (per person) to exit the country. 

This is simply a "notice" to those we love that "here we go again"; and "we shall see what happens".

There are more mounds of paperwork to complete, passports to copy, bloodwork to file, police reports to obtain, and another visit to the immigration office to do. It felt like we overcame a huge hump when I got the one child who was practically screaming in the office to sit down for the bloodwork portion. 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

The stories pictures tell

 I am finally sitting down to do something I love: digital scrapbooking. It started as a "need". I used it as a platform to make a picture portfolio for homeschooling.  Through the years I've done it on my days off while "binging" whatever show I felt like it.  The scrapbooks, my days of rest, and blogging had been set aside as we went through the huge transition of the past year and a half.  

one of the last times we met at our old house in Orange Walk

Looking at the pictures, I realize there are many stories I would like to share. Stories that take up too many words and space for newsletters, Instagram posts or prayer emails.  I am going to make a valiant effort in the next few weeks to tell some of the stories that the pictures convey.  It may end up looking like too many blog posts at once. My greatest desire is that they would be told instead of sitting just as pictures. The cool thing is we will still be able to access the blog later. To that end, it is of little importance how many posts I work on in a small amount of time. 

Our old kitchen sink loaded on our pastor friend's truck

The first story, if I am looking in chronological order of our pictures is one of  moving.  Many if not all of you know that from June of 2021, our family had a long period of transition. Things we didn't expect compelled us to stay longer in the states and move our "home base" from Orange Walk to Spanish Lookout.  February 2023 concluded that period.  I came with Nathanael to Orange walk to empty our house of a few last things in the end of January.  

One of the last things we did before leaving our Orange walk home was have a tea party with our friends (Abi, Heidi and Zion are sitting at their house)

I snapped a picture of the sink that a pastor from Belize Evangelical Mennonite Churches took. It was the sink I used for 4 and a half years. The one where the Formica was pealing and made a dear family member say we "live in squalor". The issue was that without completely replacing the sink and cabenit, duct tape held it together.  I asked the pastor what he was doing with the sink. His reply was it will sit in the bush as a sort of shelf.  It validated me a bit, thinking that really it wasn't good for everyday use and should have been disposed of years ago.

We enjoyed the sunset at the park behind our house over Christmas break

The following weekend, our good friends the Groff boys went to Orange Walk. They helped move the last of the heavy items.  It was a bit disheartening as I watched them clean and paint our old home. Our memories and family life swept away with a new layer of paint.  

Abi hangs out with Ava
At the same time it came with a finality.  We are officially moved both into Spanish Lookout, and the church to their own land in Orange Walk.  We are able to find our feet, our schedule and structure.  On the other end I am realizing I needed so much grace in the process, and honestly I didn't give myself enough.  Perhaps that should be a reminder and a warning to me. Transition is hard both emotionally and physically.  Grace is needed for ourselves outwardly (from you) and within our family.  

Zephaniah (Pip), Zion (Marsmello), Selah (Ava), Abi (Oso)

We have established routines in both ministry and family life.  We have had opportunities to be involved in the community at large in Spanish Lookout as well as with Fountain of Life church.  It has been a huge blessing to us, bringing stability.  

Our house from the lane. We only live in the top part

While I would not say that everything has fully transitioned, I would say we are finally finding home in our new location.  We are thankful.