Friday, May 31, 2013

The Revolving Kitchen

It happened again, just the other day. I stopped by my dear friend's house and carried in a bag full of various plastic containers, dishes, etc., all from her kitchen. When I left a little while later I held in my hand a bag full of similar items from my kitchen. I smiled as I got in my pickup. You see... my friend and I have kind of a revolving kitchen. Simply put, we share things, and often. If I cook up something I know she'll love, I set a little aside and take it to her next time I head into town (where she happens to live) and she does the same for me. Or, I'll bake up a pan of goodies for her whole family to enjoy (her husband and two adorable boys) Usually, though, our exchanges are much less intentional, one or the other of us at the other person's house and we just end up sending something home. Sometimes when she is at the market and finds something she knows I would love, she'll buy some and bring it along when she comes. It just seems we can hardly visit one another empty handed. Thus... the kitchen items going back and forth, creating what I like to call, the revolving kitchen.

It CAN have its frustrations, of course. Sometimes I'll start to search for a certain item (and with a fairly limited supply of kitchenware I don't have extra baking pans and such, so when something is missing, I'm stuck!), only to remember, after moments of wondering how on earth I could misplace anything in my small kitchen, that I sent it to my friend's house and have not yet retrieved it. However, the frustration is short lived as I improvise with something else while smiling with thankfulness that I have a dear friend like her. The momentary frustrations are well worth the long-lasting blessings.

I was thinking about our revolving kitchens the other day as I was preparing for my trip back to the States. My friend has taught me a lot about sharing and giving, but I realize that it is actually typical for the culture. I stopped by another friend's house the other day, and as I was leaving she apologized profusely for not having anything "nice" to give me on my way home. She filled my arms with a big bunch of plantains, all the while commiserating that she did not have more to give me. She even offered to send some corn tortillas home with me to accompany whatever I fixed for dinner. Ah yes, friends are a blessing! Another friend did send a bundle of piping hot homemade corn tortillas home with me this past week. I dropped some stuff off at her house and was headed home. She felt sorry for me arriving home late without dinner and quickly wrapped up some tortillas to take along. Just the week before I had brought some watermelon for her, icy cold from my refrigerator, knowing that she doesn't have a refrigerator, neither does she live close to the Mennonites who raise the watermelons like I do. Revolving kitchens... it is the way things are done here among the Maya and Kek'chi people.

But really, their lives are revolving: they care and share with one another so freely. They help each other plant their corn and thatch their houses. While the men work, the women gather to prepare a common meal (and of course share the latest gossip).

A stunning example of their revolving lives took place just a month or so ago. Some other friends of mine lost their home to a fire. Everything was lost. Of course, there isn't fire insurance, and the family of five (parents, a six year old, and 8 month old twins) was left homeless and with only the clothes on their backs. Since I had a vehicle, I was able to be there ahead of most others, and took some of the necessities: diapers for the babies, food, some clothes. So very little compared to their glaring need, but at least it was a start. A couple days later I listened to the pastor in a neighboring village (where this family is originally from) mention the tragedy and announce that he would open the church that afternoon for those who would like to bring donations for the family. I thought he wouldn't get much response, because no buses travel on Sunday, and the people would have no way to go to down to buy things, or get money from the bank. That afternoon I watched in amazement as person after person came with gifts: pots, pans, cups, a couple spoons, sugar, corn, beans, clothes, buckets (highly-prized in these communities for carrying water, laundry, and storing clothing), etc. Most items were already loved, but still very usable. Everyone brought what they could. For people who often live in single-roomed thatch houses with only the bare necessities, they are a generous people. For example, the pastor's belongings could all easily fit in a large van, and yet... they give.

My heart was convicted that afternoon as I sat there. Tears teased the corners of my eyes as I saw people with so little give so much. I realized afresh that they have more than revolving kitchens, they have revolving hearts. For them, to give is just a way of life. No matter how little you have, you share. When you cook a pot of beans, you send some over to your mother-in-law, just in case she hasn't cooked beans today. When tragedy strikes, you don't think of the fact that you might need those sheets next week, you give them, because your neighbor needs them today. I want a heart like that. A heart that loves and gives. A heart that has received much from our Father, and therefore has much to give to others. I don't want to hold on to things just because I might need them, or because they make me comfortable, I want to bless as I have been blessed. I want to pour out as fast as Christ pours in. I want a revolving heart. Do you?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

God's Word


I went to a Kek'chi speaking church last night. Nothing too surprising about that, after all, I live in a primarily Kek'chi speaking village. However, lately I have been spending quite a bit of time at Mopan Maya speaking churches because of some particular ministry opportunities, and because, quite frankly, it is easier for me. I understand Mopan, and I do not understand Kek'chi. I am also more comfortable with the worship style. Last night I was enjoying a rare and much needed quiet evening and really drug my feet about walking across my backyard to the church. But, I went.

I prayed and worshipped the Lord in my heart throughout the song service, and then the message began. The pastor announced his text as Habakkuk 3. Hmm... haven't heard someone preach from that book in a while. I turned in my Bible and read along as he read the chapter in Kek'chi. I am actually not too sure what he preached about. I do know he said a little of it in English for my  benefit, but I was struck by the verses at the end, and want to share them with you today.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
        nor fruit be on the vines,
    the produce of the olive fail
        and the fields yield no food,
    the flock be cut off from the fold
        and there be no herd in the stalls,
    yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
        I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
    GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
        he makes my feet like the deer's;
        he makes me tread on my high places.
    To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV)

Basically, even if my world is crumbling around me, and it doesn't even look like I will have even my basic necessities, still I will rejoice in the Lord, in His goodness, in His love, in His strength, in the blessings He has poured freely, in the forgiveness, restoration, and fellowship I have because He so loved that He gave...

Oh, my friends, I want that to be true of me. That I rejoice in my precious Lord, regardless of present circumstances. I have been holding out on a few things in my rejoicing. Oh, I have been thankful for His blessings, but my joy would be complete, I could truly rejoice if He would answer these certain prayer requests (especially concerning the land, etc.). But, He has already given me all I need for my present. He has given me all I need for eternity. I have much to rejoice in. His great, unfailing love. The mercy He pours on my undeserving soul. The fellowship I have with the God of the universe because of the blood of His Son. Therefore, I will choose to rejoice in my God, to praise His name, even if the fig tree does not blossom, the land situation does not work out the way I want, the other projects don't come together the way I envision them... I will rejoice in my God even if...

I am thankful for the living Word of God. That even though I went to church somewhat grudgingly last night, I couldn't understand most of the service, His presence was there and He spoke to me through His mighty Word. I rejoice.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Catching up…

Greetings to one and all and my sincere apologies for not keeping up on my blog! I went back to Belize on the 14th of September, and just arrived back in the States again. I had a wonderful fall season in Belize and look forward to sharing the stories of God's work with you! I plan on updating the blog over the next few days with posts about events that took place over the last few months. The Lord has continued to be so faithful, and it is a joy to step back and look at what He has accomplished.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support, they mean so very much to me!
One of my favorite flowering trees/bushes in Belize. Only blooms around Christmas time.

Monday, September 10, 2012


After a busy summer of being with my family, lots of free-lance writing to generate some income, and speaking at some churches, the day is approaching for me to return to Belize. I leave Friday. I am currently awash in the sea of emotions that fill my last few days... I am excited to be headed back to Belize, but leaving my wonderful family here in the States never seems to get easier. And so, the tug of war is hard at work inside me, adding to the stress of last minute preparations.

Besides the emotions, I am busy checking things off my list... did I remember what so and so asked me to bring? Did I get this? Yikes. I'll be glad when all of that is over, even if it does herald the time to say goodbye once again...

I have a couple prayer requests I'd like to share with you in this post, if you don't mind:

  • Safety in travels, and grace for all the emotions that will come in the next few days.
  • Rally - on the 29th, TNYE (Toledo Nazarene Youth Empowerment) has planned another youth rally, this time in San Jose. Clifford is in the midst of a bunch of preparation for that event, since it is in his home village, and his youth group is hosting it. Finances for feeding a crowd are needed, as well as wisdom in all the particulars. His theme for the rally is a great one: “Solemn Gathering for God's Vision and Victory for Young People,” highlighting the verses from Joel 1:14 and 2:28. He and the rest of the team are praying for an awakening among the young people, a realization of the need of a true relationship with Jesus Christ, and a turning to the Lord for a change in the nation of Belize. Would you join all of us in prayer for this event?

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Work of a Few or the Work of God through a Few

I don't know about where you live, but in Belize, one of the ways Satan tries to destroy the church is through the spreading of malicious gossip. Sound familiar? The sad thing is that often the gossip originates and spreads within those who claim to be part of the body of Christ, even leaders, such as pastors and evangelists. What a contrast to what Jesus says those who follow Him should look like: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).”

Sometime in May, a pastor asked me if it was true that a certain church in Toledo was "dead." I had heard this rumor going around about this particular church, so I asked him what he meant by dead, figuring that after all, only God truly knows the state of being of His church. True to what I had heard, he said that he heard the church is closed and the pastor is no longer active. I smiled and invited him to attend the rally being held by this "dead" church the next month. He and his church did attend, and I trust he found his answers.

It is true that the Pueblo Viejo church congregation is not large, but there is a small nucleus of church members there that pull together to accomplish large feats. This was again demonstrated on June 8th -10th. They invited a guest speaker and music group from Guatemala and then began to invite a host of churches to attend the series of three services. Their pastor, Honoratus Choc, is the same man who nearly missed ordination last year due to surgery near his eye right before District Assembly. He is a man of dedication and commitment. Together with a core group of church members, he trusted God to give them the strength and ability to bless a large number of people through this event.

Preparation was extensive, including building a thatch building for a kitchen, cutting (with machete) a massive quantity of firewood for cooking, and coordinating the group coming from Guatemala. By the time that whole event was finished, they were all exhausted and spent, but still wearing smiles. I had the privilege of watching them bless the lives of many as they tirelessly prepared meals (Sunday's meal included a whole beef and a large quantity of chicken), hauled water (no running water in Pueblo), and facilitated the large crowd that gathered. I don't think any of them were able to sit in the service and be ministered to by the guest speaker, but they allowed many others to do so, and it brought them great joy.

I heard several comments afterward about the sacrifice they made, wondering what benefit the church received for all that work, effort, and expense. I don't think that the benefits can be measured in physical terms. The church probably won't suddenly be filled with more people, they didn't gain wealth, and their hard work will quickly be forgotten. However, God's work is not ultimately measured in physical things, and I trust their reward will be eternal. And what a privilege they had to be ministers of God's love to others through that special event. I heard that the day after it was over, they had gathered again, working together to finish all the clean up and eating a meal of beans and tortillas together. I am sure that the fellowship was sweet. While others spoke of deadness, these people were willingly giving of themselves to bless others. I pray their efforts were a testimony to others!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Servant Leadership

One of my greatest joys as I work in Belize is seeing God working through the lives of those around me. I wish I had the time to relate more incidents in this blog, but an instance several weeks ago was a particular blessing.

In January of this year, Clifford and a young married man from Big Falls, Julio Chub, were responsible for hosting a remarkable youth rally at Big Falls. As a result of this event, a number of young men in San Jose, Clifford’s home village, became interested in attending church. The next month, Clifford became the host of the Wednesday night services in San Jose, which the church board designated as a special service for young people. Of course, the adults are still present and active in the services, but it provides a special opportunity for the young people to participate in leading songs and sharing verses, while the messages are usually geared to encouraging the young people to follow God with their lives. 

The influence of Clifford’s life has quickly become evident as the young guys look up to him and rally around the services and other events. A recent outreach was a great example of Clifford’s leadership. He has been involved in a project to finish up the construction of the new church building in San Benito Poite, and it needed just a little more work on the plastering of the walls and sealing the windows. He invited the young men from his church to join him in this effort one morning. He set out early Wednesday morning in the pickup to meet the guys (who were travelling on the public transportation bus) at 5:15 by the junction. 

I travelled to Poite a little later on the motorcycle and was blessed by what I saw. 13 young men and the pastor (Clifford’s father) had come, at their own expense) to help Clifford with the project. These guys ranged in age from 13 to 20, and were all busy working. It was an impressive sight. Joyful laughter accompanied their diligent labors, all under the watchful eye of Clifford, who alternately lead by example and walked around encouraging the others in their labors. No one complained when he gave direction or made corrections. God has truly blessed him with an amazing set of leadership skills and integrity of character that has made him an inspiring leader for the younger guys. I came away that day with a sense of hope that God will raise up a new generation to seek and serve Him. My prayer is that they would take up the torch of truth and grow to know the Lord in greater ways than the generation before them.

A few pictures of the guys:

The Boss Man himself :)

The "German" work & witness team :)

Since much of the church building work here in Belize is done by Work and Witness teams, I was informed that this team was from Germany. They had great fun playing up the part, asking me questions as if they were newcomers to the area. The joyful spirits and diligent work was a delightful mix. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Email Update

I just sent out a very overdue update about the work in Belize. If you didn't get a copy and would like one, please let me know!