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. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Kidz Konnect January 2023

 What a wonderful time serving with Kidz Konnect!  We are so blessed to serve alongside this ministry in various functions.  This was the first time I went a day early. Abi's time to serve is in January.  We finished our school day and arrived at camp Tuesday night to disucss Wednesday.  Abi decided to stay back at camp to work on school work.  

It was so cool going to Mullins River for the first time.  We met people at a church. I love getting to know them and the lack of "rush" involved. I could sit with people and hear their story.

  After the patients were taken care of, we ate lunch. We then drove to Gale's point.  This is a bit further out, a community on a peninsula. House visits were the fare.  How rewarding to meet people and understand where they are living and a bit about what drives them.

The rest of the clinic went by in a bit of a blur. Abi had the opportunity (as she's now 18!) to not serve alongside me. She did some learning of her own and shadowed Becky.  

Nathanael of course visited with a van of Deaf from Orange Walk.  There was a PA in the group who knew some sign language. He connected well with the community of deaf.  

Kidz Konnect is always a blessing, a way to connect and a different way to serve the community. 


Thursday, January 12, 2023


 Much has already been said about us moving and the dates of moving. Today I am addressing my emotions and the actual move.  Stick with me or move on (pun intended).  

One of our first photos ever in Spanish Lookout at Western Dairies, a local "fast food" type restaurant. Circa 2018:Selah and Phyllis Groff

To be honest we knew that the move to Spanish Lookout had much to do with what was vital for our emotional health: be in a community with more support. Leaving Orange Walk after 5 years was very difficult, some of this transition happened while we were in the US.  

This is when Jesus Deaf Church first started coming to Fountain of Life church. There is our house in the background!We didn't know it would be ours then (2018)

Recently we had visitors. The person, unfamiliar to our journey asked when we moved. I had to explain we moved into our current house on September 15.  That however preceded a move across countries in July which preceded a quick leave in June of 2021 where things were simply stuffed into a trailer.  All of that to say this move has been drawn out and difficult. We finally feel as though we are at the end of a long  period of multiple transitions. 

First day of school in Spanish Lookout around our kitchen table

This past year and a half was probably double what any of my transitions have been in the past. I felt like I spent too much time not giving myself the space and grace to take in the change. In all of this, I am finally beginning to have a place of feeling "home" when we pull up.  It is gracious and wonderful. We are still finding our feet as we take up new ministry and continue with the "old'.

Our first official night in the house, September 15 2022: also Selah's birthday. Celebrated with the Groff family

One thing that has hit me from the enemy is a feeling of failure. We moved as a family because of our emotional needs. Did we abandon those who also need a touch of Jesus?  Nathanael was one to give me a huge perspective.  He reminded me that moving and having a ministry "come to it's own" is an accomplishment.  It is also a process of entrusting. I am NOT the savior of Jesus Deaf Church. (Neither is Nathanael) Jesus is. I need to trust that He has the best in mind: for our family, for our greater Deaf family in Orange Walk, and for our new brothers and sisters in Spanish Lookout.  

they have built dorm type rooms under our house which was previously on stilts. The work is almost completed

While we are still in the same country, about a 2.5 hour drive from Orange Walk, we are in a totally different culture.  People even speak a different language at times. There are spaces of feeling like we "should" know what to do but we just don't.  It's humbling!  We live directly behind Fountain of Life church. Yes we are again blessed to have church literally outside of our door!  We are surrounded by farmland, cows new smells and sounds. Who would have imagined being able to hear howler monkeys from their porch?  We are ever impressed by the green parrots that make Spanish Lookout home.  My favorite thing is to have less light pollution. We can see so many stars at night!!! 

I like to walk with the dogs down the path behind our house

While we are unpacked, I still have some organizing to do. I hope to do a short "tour" of our home by February.  Be look on the lookout on Facebook!

We have been blessed to find community here. The girls went to the Christmas youth banquet, were able to invite friends, and Nathanael and I participated by serving. It was a lovely time

Thank you for following us on this journey.