Real-life Soap Operas

I've never been one to watch the soaps.  I know that some soap operas have gone on for years and counting...and I would not be the one to tell you what they are called or even who the actors are.  The times I have seen clips, I was quite unimpressed with all the drama.  My attitude was: Why become emotionally invested in all the characters' problems, when they are not even real?  On a whim, when I was pregnant with Uriah, I began to watch a Mexican soap opera.  Mexican soaps are over the top- much more dramatic and exaggerated than anything you would see in the U.S.  For a number reasons, I found myself interested in the storyline of this particular soap, and continued to watch until the drama ended months later.  During my soap-stint, I learned that people's problems hurt me.  Real problems in real life, or contrived problems on a TV set, it made no difference.  My mind still began to work, taking on the task of finding solutions to the heart-wrenching problems that I saw on the television screen.  Thankfully, watching problems unfold in a soap is nothing like dealing with them in real life- and the solutions are quite easy to find.  In my opinion, the problems I was seeing on the soap were so unrealistic.  I was certain that there was no one out there really living through all the lies, deceit, and heartbreak that was being portrayed.  It took a little more living to find out just how wrong I was.

Neighbor #1:  A young woman that I have known for years is living out a life story that I only recently uncovered.  She lives with her boyfriend and they have several children.  The boyfriend does drugs.  Only one of their children is actually his- the others belong to another guy whom the woman is still seeing on a regular basis.  The boyfriend knows all about it, and happily allows the situation to continue.  Why?  Because the other guy is a member of the drug cartel, and he sends them a substantial sum of money every month to support his children.

Neighbor #2:  A woman and her husband are having marital problems.  It should be something very personal, but there's no such thing as a secret in a small town.  Everyone knows about it.  He hits her and then goes off and gets drunk.  While he's drunk, he is sleeping around with many other women.  The husband's family blames the wife for his problems- after all, if she were a better wife, he wouldn't have to get drunk.  Usually he only drinks for a day, and then goes back to work.  This time, 5 days have passed and he continues to drink.  His reason why?  Usually he goes and buys drugs to get high and stop drinking.  This time he can't get the drugs because the dealer is being watched too closely by the police and the military.

Neighbor #3:  A young, working, single man is trying to help his family out financially.  Times are tough, at least economically speaking, and sometimes there is only so much you can obtain through honest work.  Unfortunately, other ways to get money are too easy to come by, and one of the easiest here is by prostitution- especially homosexual prostitution.  Most of the time, this young man would never give it a thought- but he never counted on the fact that he would be propositioned 3 times just this week.  He has friends that have already done it, and they are telling him how easy it is, how it is worth it for the money. 

Neighbor #4:  A young mother has 3 children and is fleeing her abusive, alcoholic husband.  She doesn't have any family nearby, but thankfully she is able to rent a room in a small town.  She is thankful, but her children are scared, and not too impressed with their new living quarters.  You wouldn't be impressed either- one room, concrete floor, one light bulb, and the bare minimum for furniture, if you can even call it that. She has to work full-time and leave her children in the care of another neighbor.  Unfortunately, her husband has now found them, and is threatening her to try to get her to come back to him.

These are real-life soaps.  They have not been invented or embellished.  They are the realities that real people are living with everyday.  The saddest part is that it was not hard to find these stories.  There were many more to choose from, and all of these stories could apply to several different families.  My emotions are involved, and my mind is working constantly to find ways that we can help.  A personal relationship with Christ is an obvious missing ingredient in all of these cases, but there are also so many needs to be met on a practical level that at times it's hard to know where to start.  My husband and I just look at each other, oftentimes not knowing what to do next.  We weep and pray, and weep and pray some more, for this town, this nation, for all of us.  We ask God for wisdom, we speak words of encouragement when given the opportunity, we buy groceries, offer to babysit...and then we weep and pray once again.  If we didn't have hope in Christ, believing that there is no situation that is impossible for him to handle, it would seem like a futile battle.  After all, problems in real life don't get wrapped up in a neat little package like they do for the soap opera finale.

Pray.  Pray for Mexico.  Pray for the United States.  Pray for whichever nation you are living in, whichever nation God puts on your heart.  Pray for your neighbors who could be living out stories much darker and more painful than you could've ever imagined.  Give water to the thirsty, food to the hungry.  Visit the sick, the criminals.  Do it all as unto Him.  We may never be able to resolve the problems, and we may never see the hurting accept the solution that Christ offers, but we can be ministers.  We can show His love.  His compassion.  His mercy.  His grace.  Him.


Mission Trip!!! (Part 7- The Finale)

Well, today's story isn't really continued from yesterday, but I promised that I would let you in on what we learned in Belize, so here goes.  I wish you could hear it all from each person, in their own words, but I will try to paraphrase and summarize the best that I can!

1)  We learned that raising money for the kingdom of God is the best investment a person could ever make!  When we realized months ago that we were talking about raising over $6,000 US dollars to take our team to Belize, it sounded like an impossible sum of money.  I assured everyone that God would provide, and we went to work selling food and just about anything else we could get our hands on.  God provided every cent...and everyone on the team said that it was all worth it.  We don't feel like we spent money on the trip- rather, we invested it into something with eternal value.

2)  We learned that when we are willing, God equips us to get the job done!  This trip was filled with "firsts" for all of us.  For many it was the first time on an airplane, the first time travelling out of the country, and even the first time seeing the ocean.  For others it was the first time sharing a personal testimony in church, the first time doing a drama, and the first time teaching a VBS.  Although we tried to prepare the best that we could before arriving in Belize, there are some things that are impossible to prepare for (things like homesickness and "stage"-fright).  In preparation for the trip, Noe and I reminded everyone several times that the work we would do in Belize would be God working through us.  You can't do something you don't know how to do in your own strength, and thankfully that leaves room for God to do His work in you.  We could have allowed fear of the unknown to rob all these experiences from us- but instead we moved forward in faith, believing that when the moment came, God would carry us through.  He did!

3)  We learned a new appreciation for all the comforts we have.  The Mexican members of the missions team were struck by the poverty they saw in Belize.  There were so many things that they "missed" while we were in Belize, and it helped us all to gain a new perspective on the daily blessings that God gives us, which we so often take for granted.   May God help us to always be thankful!

4)  We learned that so many ministries need HELP.  There are so many projects to be done all over the world (Bible schools, churches, orphanages, hosptials,etc.), but so often there is a shortage of help and/or financing.  In just a few days we were able to help finish the bathroom, the driveway, and some of the landscaping at the Bible school in Belmopan.  We all wish that we could've done so much more.  Everyone on our team is now more aware of the work that is necessary to make things happen, and we are all ready to serve more, whether it be locally or internationally.  And everyone has already commented that the next time we go on a mission trip, we should take more things along with us, or at least more money, so that we can help out even more!

5)  We learned that MISSION and fulfilling the Great Commission is daily life.  God commissioned us to reach the lost- to be His hands and feet on the earth.  Meeting practical needs, loving people, lending a helping hand, encouraging others with our personal testimony are just some things that we can live out no matter where we are.  The interesting thing is that Jesus Christ told us all to, "GO!"   Some of us stay, and many of us will spend more time here than there, but all of us learned the importance of GOing.  There's a lot of truth to not being a prophet in your hometown- and it seems that a special missionary annointing is released when you get out of your comfort zone and trust God to lead you to an unknown destination.  I think of Abram, and how he left his homeland just because God told him to.  He didn't know where he was going, but he trusted God to get him there.  I used to think, "Wow, that would be really scary.  Abraham must've had a lot of faith."  Now, I think, "Wow, that really is the only way to live.  Abraham knew something that most of us never figure out."  Allowing God to lead you through and to the unknown can be a little scary...but it is always worth it.  Living by God's leading is the most incredible adventure ever!

I could keep going on, but I will leave you with these last thoughts.  The mission trip to Belize was not just my dream or my husband's dream- it was God's dream.  God dreamed it, and He brought it to pass in His perfect time.  It was more amazing than we could've ever expected, and we learned more than we ever imagined that we would.  Most importantly, this trip opened our eyes to the great spiritual and physical needs of people- in Belize, in Mexico, and all over the world.  We returned home from Belize with greater compassion, more love, and a stirring passion to do more to reach those who are hurting and in need around us.  We have already been brainstorming several ministry opportunities here in Michoacan as a follow-up to all we learned in Belize.  However, now we are no longer content to stay in Michoacan.  We are eager to GO wherever God leads...even to the ends of the earth!

P.S.  This blog series on our 2011 mission trip to Belize is done...but be assured that there are greater things still to come!


Mission Trip!!! (Part 6)

The story continued from yesterday:
When we got to Cancun I was feeling nauseous from the pain (of a kidney stone), and I could hardly walk, but God gave me the strength I needed. I was able to lead our team to yet another bus which took us to within a half a block to our hotel. We were definitely ready to rest, but I was a little worried. I was feeling so awful...

All I can say to wrap up yesterday's story, is that God is greater.  I was not feeling well at all, and when everyone except for my husband went out to get dinner without me, I was desperate to feel better.  I began to just talk with God, and then I talked with the kidney stone, telling it that my God is bigger and He was going to take care of me.  For some reason, I thought a hot shower might help with the nausea, and as soon as I stepped under the hot water, the nausea left.  When I got out of the shower, I realized that all the pain was gone as well.  Again I say, God is greater!  Enough said. :)

We didn't check into the hotel until almost 9pm on Wednesday night, so everyone just ate and went to sleep.  I had been a little nervous about the hotel, as I made the reservation months earlier going by the reviews on the Internet, but again God was looking out for us.  The hotel was a steal- we only paid $38 US dollars per night, per room (and each room had 4 occupants), and it was clean, comfortable, and perfect for our needs.  On Thursday we woke up to the free breakfast (well, the kids had to pay, which I still don't really understand, but it was still worth it), and then set out to find the nearest public beach, Playa Tortuga (Turtle Beach).  It was an easy 15 minute walk, and we had fun seeing huge iguanas alongside the road.  We spent most of the day at the beach, and it was a beautiful, relaxing day.

Thursday evening, Noe and I went to downtown Cancun to try to find a place that would change our Belizean dollars back into Mexican pesos (you will remember that we didn't change the money at the border because the bus had left us behind, and we were in a bit of a rush to find the rest of our team).  I was so sure that we would be able to find an exhange place- after all, Cancun is a pretty international city.  I was amazed when we went to 5 exchange places, and NONE of them would exchange Belizean dollars.  We finally found one place that would do it, but they would only give us 2 pesos for every dollar (each Belizean dollar is supposed to be worth 7 pesos)!  After going to about 10 money exchange businesses, we finally found one that would give us 3 pesos for each dollar.  We exchanged some of it, taking a huge loss of course, but at least we had enough left over to get home!  Lesson learned: ALWAYS exchange money at the border.  Although, I must admit, if the same thing happened all over again, I would probably still be more worried about finding our team than exchanging our money!

Thursday night we had our last official team meeting.  It was bittersweet for me- after meeting together once a week since January, and then spending 11 days, full of adventure, together, it was a little hard to believe it was coming to an end.  It felt very surreal- thinking of all the prayers and planning that had gone into the trip, at times doubting that our dreams would ever become a reality, and knowing that it all exceeded our expectations and was now almost over.  Yet, it was a beautiful meeting.  I held my breath as I asked our team members if it had been worth it all.  Every single one answered with a resounding YES, accompanied by tears in their eyes, and asking if we would ever be able to go back to Belize.  I had a huge smile in my heart- and on my face.  This is what it feels like when your dreams, or rather God's dreams for you come true!

Friday, the 29th, was a beautiful day.  We took it easy, played with the kids in the pool, and then repacked all of our things once again.  We left the hotel before 1pm, and must have been quite the sight as we walked down the main street of Cancun's hotel zone with all of our luggage, in search of the bus stop.  We got on our bus, which took us to the main bus station,. and there bought tickets for a bus that would take us to the airport.  Our flight left Cancun just before 4pm, and thankfully it was uneventful.  We arrived in Guadalajara, where the same vans that had left us there almost 2 weeks earlier were now waiting to pick us up.  The drive home took almost 2 hours- and we were home just after 10pm.  We were all so tired...but so at rest.  God is good.  All the time.

If you think this is the end of the story...you are wrong!  The trip was over- but in some ways, it was just beginning.  At home now, we had time to process everything- and share what we had learned with everyone around us.  If you want to listen-in on what we learned on our mission trip to Belize, stay tuned for tomorrow's blog post...

P.S. I made a video with the pictures from our Belize trip.  It's sort of long, but for those of you who have been reading along and have heard the full story of our trip, I think you would enjoy seeing it.  The link to the video on youtube is:


Mission Trip!!! (Part 5)

The story continued from yesterday:
 We were scheduled to leave the house at 5am- Craig would drive us to Belmopan, and we would go the rest of the way in public transportation. I reminded everyone that night that the adventure wasn't over yet- but I had no idea just how true those words would prove to be...

We ended up leaving the Fritzler's home just a couple minutes before 5:00, and we were at the bus station in Belmopan about 15 minutes later.  The first bus to Belize City was scheduled to leave at 6am, but we were pleasantly surprised when it showed up before 5:30am.  It is a blessing to be on the bus that early...it was still pretty cool, since the sun wasn't out in full force yet.  The bus trip to Belize City only took about an hour, but as the bus accumulated passengers and became packed, we were all thinking how grateful we were that we spent the extra money on a taxi on our way to Belize the week before.  I cannot even imagine how horrible that bus trip would've been at noon, with the sun beating down, the bus so full there was only standing room, and all the kids crying because they were so tired.  Outrageous price for the taxi or not, it was DEFINITELY worth it!

At 7:00am we left Belize City on a bus for the border, and that ended up being a very interesting 4-hour trip.  It was getting hotter, the bus was crowding...and we were all thirsty.  However, there were no bathrooms on that particular bus, and neither were there opportunities to stop and use a bathroom.  So we were all trying not to drink too much, which was especially a challenge for the kids.  Somewhere around 2 1/2 hours into the trip, the bus broke down (I think it was over-heating), so we had to change buses as fast as possible.  That was a little crazy, considering we had to switch all our luggage to the new bus as well.  We all lost our relatively comfortable seats, and had to do some shuffling, and the kids were beginning to get very anxious.  We kept telling them that we would arrive in Chetumal soon, although arriving in Chetumal turned into it's own adventure.

We arrived at the Belize Immigration building where all the adults had to pay an exit fee before leaving the country (in Belize, they charge you as you leave as opposed to when you arrive in the country).  We all paid, and went to the next counter together as a team so they could stamp our passports and be on our way.  However, something happened that we hadn't counted on- the Immigration officers discovered that they had neglected to stamp Noe's and Aislynn's passports when we had ENTERED Belize the week before.  They accused Noe and Aislynn of being in Belize illegally, and detained us while the rest of the team was allowed to go.  Many thoughts ran through my head as they took us from one office to another- I was wondering what would happen to us if they threw us in jail, and what would happen to the team seeing as I had all the money to return home, and I was the only one who had the hotel and flight information.  We explained to the officials that we had all entered the country at the same time on the same day, and we had presented all of our passports at the same time.  I told the lady that they had run all the passports through their computer system...but she yelled at me and said I was lying.  We could only pray- and finally they decided that maybe they should check the computer to see if what we were saying was true.  Surprise, surprise, the computer didn't lie...and they allowed us to leave the country!  We were relieved, to say the least...but there was another problem...

Since we had taken so long in Immigration, the bus was no longer outside waiting for us, and our team was gone as well.  We were planning on changing all our Belizean money back to Mexcian pesos right there, but when we realized the bus had already left us behind, there was no time to lose.  Noe was carrying Aislynn and Matthias, and I had the backpack and I was holding Uriah's and Keyli's hands.  We began walking as fast as possible to the Mexico-side of the border, hoping we would find our luggage and our team at the other side.  It was a good walk, and it was hot, so all the kids started crying.  When we finally made it to Mexican Immigration, they told us to go through the short line.  When we got up to the counter, the man saw that everyone was Mexican except for me, and he said we would have to go through the line for foreigners together.  So, we had to go to the back of the long line and wait.  When we finally got through the line and out of the Immigration building, we were very happy to find our team and all of our luggage on the side of the road.  The bus had left us all behind...but we were back in Mexico.  We weren't going to let a little setback get us down!

We caught another bus and then a taxi to the Chetumal bus station, and there we had a half an hour to eat before boarding the air conditioned bus that would take us to Cancun.  Finally, a bus with air conditioning and a bathroom!  The airconditioning felt heavenly, and the bathroom meant we could finally start to drink- unfortunately it was a little too late for me.  I have been battling kidney stones over the last few months, and everytime I don't drink as much water as I should, I deal with another stone.  I was praying harder than ever, and I started drinking as much water as possible.  When we got to Cancun I was feeling nauseous from the pain, and I could hardly walk, but God gave me the strength I needed.  I was able to lead our team to yet another bus which took us to within a half a block to our hotel.  We were definitely ready to rest, but I was a little worried.  I was feeling so awful...


Mission Trip!!! (Part 4)

The story continued from yesterday:
We chose to embrace the differences, to learn from them, and to allow God to use the new experiences to make us into who He wants us to be...

Our only Sunday in Belize was full of new experiences for us. In the morning, we attended an English-speaking church service with many Spanish-speaking attendees. The Spanish-speaking group sat together on the veranda of the church, and listened as Jadine, the missionary we were staying with, simultaneously translated the English sermon into Spanish. It was a unique experience, and opened our eyes to the the need for Spanish ministry to the Spanish-speaking community in Belize. Because Belize is officially an English-speaking nation, most of the missionaries there speak English- leaving few people able to effectively minister to the Spanish-speaking immigrants.

After the morning church service, our missionary hosts took us to eat lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Chinese restaurants are very popular in Belize, unlike Mexico, so for many people in our group, it was their first time tasting Chinese cuisine. It was a delicious meal, and everyone enjoyed it. After lunch, we stopped by a local supermarket to buy more candy and marshmellows for VBS, which was scheduled to start in Las Flores at 2 o'clock.

When we arrived at the Community Center in Las Flores around 1:30, there were already kids waiting for us. We quickly set up our puppet stage and all our props while some of the guys made balloon animals and went to the streets to remind the kids to come to the VBS. We did VBS in Las Flores Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, at the same time each day, and were very surprised by the turnout. Over the course of the 3 days, we had the chance to share the Gospel with between 80 and 90 children. The theme of our VBS was a pirate/sailor theme called "Looking for Treasure." Each day our kids (Uriel, Claudio, Uriah, Keyli, and Aislynn) dressed up like clowns to do their skit, sing "Jesus is My Superhero", and help us lead the ever-popular "Sailor Dance." After the songs, we did a daily object lesson (which involved plastic bottles, a candle, popping balloons, and a surprise box) followed by a fun game (Chubby Bunny and the Limbo). After the game, I would tell the Bible story and teach the memory verse, which was reinforced by a puppet show and a funny skit with Holly the Pirate and Noe the sailor. At the end of each class, we taught a song that went along with the daily theme, and before the children would leave, we would give out candy, balloon animals, and do face painting. They were 3 very fun days! The kids enjoyed it, and many of them prayed to ask Jesus into their hearts. We hope and pray that the seeds that were sown will continue to grow!

The greatest blessing we received while in Las Flores was the chance to invest into an ongoing children's ministry at one of the local Christian churches. We met a lady named Ruth, and through talking with her, learned that she and her husband Alfredo work with the children at the church. They have a very hard time getting teaching material in Belize, so our team felt led to give her almost everything we had brought with us. We were able to leave the balloons and face paints with her, as well as the puppets, pirate costume and props, and the scripts for all the puppet shows and pirate skits. We wish we could have given her so much more, but we know that God will bless and multiply the little that we were able to give. Ruth and Alfredo are planning a special event for the children of Las Flores for the end of September, and I know our whole team will be praying for them as they continue to plant and water seeds in the hearts of those precious children!

When VBS ended on Tuesday, we knew our time in Belize was also coming to a close. Everyone felt a little sad, and several people said they wished that they could stay longer. Tuesday evening was spent de-briefing with our hosts, saying thank you and goodbye to our new friends, and getting our things packed and ready to go. We were scheduled to leave the house at 5am- Craig would drive us to Belmopan, and we would go the rest of the way in public transportation. I reminded everyone that night that the adventure wasn't over yet- but I had no idea just how true those words would prove to be...


Mission Trip!!! (Part 3)

The story continued from yesterday:
 Only 4 full days in Belize, and we were already falling in love with the places and the people...

After just a few days among the Belizean people, we all began to realize how many things we take for granted in our daily lives.  So often we complain about our problems instead of realizing just how very blessed we are.  It was a refreshing experience to be there, living life, and truly depending on God.  In comfort it's very easy to depend on our own abilities.  In unknown territory, when you don't understand the language, the money, the food- you find yourself turning to God much more frequently.  When we turn to God, the things that He does in and through us are amazing.  He not only takes care of all our needs, but He surprises us with extra special blessings a long the way.

One of those extra special blessings for me happened on the Saturday we were in Belize.  The morning we spent preparing for our VBS that would start the next day, but in the afternoon, Craig Fritzler took us to see the ruins at Xunantunich.  I was excited at the chance to see something so important to Belizean culture and history- and it was beautiful.  We were all a little amazed by the beauty- even the kids were quite impressed.  Suddenly, Noe said, "Look!  There are monkeys up in that tree!"  Now, anyone who knows me will know that I have always loved monkeys (I used to collect stuffed monkeys when I was young), and I have long dreamed of seeing monkeys in the wild.  I probably had mentioned that I hoped to see some, and my girls kept asking if we would see monkeys while we were in Belize.  After talking with the missionaries, I realized our hopes of seeing monkeys were slim- in 5 years, the missionaries had only seen monkeys 2 or 3 times.  So Saturday morning when Keyli asked me once again if we would get to see monkeys, I tried to tell her not to get her hopes up- it wasn't very likely.  Imagine my surprise when Noe saw the monkeys in the trees above!  It was a special treat for me and the kids.  We watched several howler monkeys playing in the trees for probably 20 minutes, and we even got to hear one howl (sounds like a jaguar or some other big cat).  The kids were so excited, and it was a highlight for all of us.  I think it was one of God's many extra special blessings for us!

That afternoon, after leaving Xunantunich, we stopped by the outdoor market in San Ignacio.  After browsing for a bit, we all ended up at the other end of the market by the river.  We were all drawn to the water, probably because we were so hot and sweaty, and as we got closer, we saw many children and families bathing and swimming.  Our kids almost immediately began peeling off socks and shoes, and the little ones stripped right down to their underwear to wade in the water.  The clear-looking water was irresistible, and before long, we all went in.  Some of us got soaked, and others just waded in to our knees, but we all had fun.  It was a refreshing, very Belizean experience!

Have you ever felt like there's a certain moment in your life that defines you, that provokes you to become all you were meant to be?  I think we all have many moments like that over the course of our lives...and this mission trip to Belize was one of those moments, for our whole team.  There's something really unique about being in a different culture, surrounded by the unknown.  You begin to compare life as you know it to the new way of life your are experiencing for the first time- and it takes your breath away.  Living, even for a few days, in new conditions, opens your eyes to a whole lifestyle that has always existed, but one that you never knew about.  As you breathe it in, you have the choice to either reject it or embrace it.  Looking at the Belizean people, hearing their laughter and seeing their tears, sweating in the humidity, eating their food and shopping in their stores, we realized that though Belize is completely different from Mexico, we are all the same.  We all need love, we all need compassion.  We all NEED a personal relationship with God to experience true joy and happiness.  We chose to embrace the differences, to learn from them, and to allow God to use the new experiences to make us into who He wants us to be...


Mission Trip!!! (Part 2)

The story continued from yesterday:
The price he (the taxi driver) asked for was OUTRAGEOUS...but we were SO tired of travelling...

I will be straight to the point: we took the taxi!  The price the guy was asking was crazy, so we did manage to haggle down the price a little bit.  Still, we paid too much, but I think we were tired enough that it was well worth it.  Just an hour later we were in Belmopan, meeting our missionary hosts Craig and Jadine Fritzler.  In all , it had been a 32-hour trip from Michoacan to Belmopan- and everyone did fabulous.  Even the kids did so much better than we had expected- God was definitely pouring out mercy and patience all over us.  We opted to shower before eating (which speaks volumes for how dirty we felt, considering that we hadn't eaten all day),and then went with Craig to Spanish Lookout, right in the heart of the Mennonite community, for pizza, burgers, and ice cream.  Our 16-year old Vicky was feeling homesick, and 4 of the 6 kids had eye infections, but ice cream can work miracles. We suddenly felt refreshed, and were ready for work to begin the next day.

The next 3 days we went to work at Belize Bible Center, the Bible school where classes are scheduled to begin on September 6th.  The whole team went ready to work- the guys taking care of the carpentery and the plumbing, and the ladies doing various jobs including spreading gravel for the driveway, transplanting plants from the Bible school land to the front entrance, and cleaning the church in Belmopan.  We wished we could've done so much more, but we worked hard and saw results.  The most impressive accomplishment: the guys were able to completely finish the bathroom of the Bible school- very neccessary considering the classes will be starting there in a few more weeks!  We are thankful that no one was injured or dehydrated while working.  In fact, the only out of the ordinary incident occured when a tarantula was spotted- one of the girls took off running and slipped on the new gravel driveway (thankfully, she was not hurt).

Wednesday and Friday evening we had the chance to minister to some of the local people.  On Wednesday evening, we had a special service for the Spanish-speaking people at Step of Faith Church in Belmopan.  Criag and Jadine pretty much let us take over the service, and we had the chance to share some of the things we had prepared especially for the trip.  We started out with some worship songs- I played the keyboard and sang and 10-year old Uriel accompanied me on the drums.  Then the kids (Uriel, 10; Uriah, 6; Claudio, 4; and Keyli, 4), dressed in their clown outfits and wigs performed their skit and the song "Jesus Is My Superhero" in Spanish.  After the song Kary, Vicky, and Pablo shared their personal testimonies with the group.  Going along with the theme of the testimonies, all the adults in the team performed a drama about God's great love for us.  Noe preached the sermon of his life, and I think that everyone was touched.  During the prayer time, prophetic words were given, and it was a beautiful time with our fellow believers.  We count it a privilege to have met each and every one of these people.  Their culture is so different but OUR God is the same!

On Friday afternoon, Jadine took all of the ladies (the men were still working at the Bible school) to another village to minister.  Once there, Kary "set up shop" and began to give free haircuts to all comers.  Everyone was a little shy at first, so I went with Vicky and a young Belizean woman named Celeste to invite more people to come.  In all, Kary did about 25 haircuts in a few hours- the most memorable for me was a little 4 or 5-year old girl who wanted her hair cut like Dora the Explorer.  When she saw her new haircut in the mirror, her smile lit up her whole face!  While Kary cut, the rest of talked and played with the kids, and talked with the women who were waiting in line.  It was an unconventional way to minister, but we connected with the people and had a great time just loving them.  Only 4 full days in Belize, and we were already falling in love with the places and the people...