I don't think I have done this before but here is a copy of our most recent newsletter for those of you not on our mailing list. If you would like to be on our list just leave a comment with your email address and I will add you to the list.
Coconut Wire Jungle News - Tom & Alida Sharp - November 2011
Belize, Central America
Greetings! We pray that all is well in your life & you are in good health. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed Veteran’s Day & are already getting your Thankful Groove on in preparation of the next US holiday. Our weather is cooler & overcast but still a very pleasant 80 degrees daily! Our lives & service in Belize are going smoothly. Here’s the latest:
Tom IS the 1%! - No, certainly not a reference to the ‘Occupy’ movements that are happening in various places, but the 2010 Belize National Census is out. In this country of 312, 971 people, Tom is part of the 1% of white people living in Belize! The racial breakdown is 50% Hispanic; 21% Creole; 10% Mayan; 6% Mixed Race; 4.5% Garifuna & 3.6% Mennonite. Average age is 22, with 56% of the population under the age of 24. There is a 23% unemployment rate. 31% use an outhouse & 65% have a flush toilet. 33% own a private vehicle & 23% have Internet access. This truly is a very young, developing country with many needs, which covets your on-going prayer & support! Alida posted additional facts on her blog at: 2010 Census Overview For Belize
Spencer arrived from his stint at YWAM Kona. He is resting, enjoying Alida’s cooking & praying about the various serving opportunities here in Belize. He met the YWAM base director in nearby Banana Bank last week & is trying to hear from God if he is to stay here & serve or go somewhere else. It’s been a great two months having Spencer with us!
Sixteen ‘Intro to Christian Counseling’ students completed the 1st semester of classes! I (Tom) designed a 2 year college course - the first of it’s kind here in the country - & we are thrilled that 16 students passed the initial semester course. Counselors are practically non-existent here, & even more rare are Christian counselors. We’ve had people from various cultures, back grounds & parts of the country in the training! Please pray for these students to impact their cultures, communities & churches as we wait for the second semester starting in January 2012!
Our serving focus solidifies. Weekly we are hearing reports of physical & sexual abuse in the Belizean media, as more people are being educated about what abuse is, that it’s vital to report it, & there is help available. Tom appeared on a local tv show discussing child sexual abuse & the following week Alida took her turn on the one hour follow up program to talk about good touches, bad touches and unwanted touches along with how to keep children safe online.
At the Child Development Foundation Alida & I primarily counsel abuse victims. It is difficult yet rewarding work. We are seeing young girls make remarkable progress in dealing with their traumas & horrific abuse. God is at work! Our clients seem to get younger & younger in age every month. We are using Play Therapy theory & techniques, plus a Play Therapy kit donated by supporters in New York. It’s ironic that Tom started in the counseling field learning & doing play therapy twenty three years ago, & is now coming full circle!
Met with the UN High Commission for Human Refugees. Several representatives from NGO’s here in the area were invited to a meeting to discuss the status of refugees here in Belize. This is connected to those we see who are rescued from trafficking as many victims of trafficking have had their documents taken from them as they are moved from one country to the next and they qualify for refugee status because in some cases it would be dangerous for them to return to their country of origin. Tom and Alida were able to give input as to what types of training should be made available to the NGO’s to help them be better equipped to work with those seeking refugees status in Belize.
Tom speaks at University of Belize. A televised Family Focus Forum was held at the U of Belize recently, for Christians to address the efforts by some to decriminalize the sodomy laws in Belize & throughout the Caribbean. At this point, the law is being challenged in court by a homosexual advocacy group, but that law is the only legal protection minor males have when they’ve been violated sexually. I spoke about the need to protect children by closing the many loopholes in Belize law, which don’t even provide basic protection to boys from molestation by adults. I will speak again at the next Forum in Belize City later this month. You can see the news coverage of the Forum here in it’s entirety or my part starts after the six minute mark. Clink on the link to check it out: http://www.youtube.com/embed/Wy2r9Jr-TNI
For a few months we had been helping a young pastor at a small church in Roaring Creek. Tragically he recently pled guilty to charges of molesting a young teen in the church. The church has now been closed but there is so much pain in the community regarding this awful situation & such hideous behavior by a Christian leader. The court ordered the former pastor to pay a fine within six weeks or face prison. This was the only punishment required by law. Now he has relocated to another part of Belize, possibly putting other young people at risk. There is a sex offenders registry in the country but no money to hire a registrar, so offenders whereabouts are not tracked. These are other areas that we are advocating changes for in the laws by the Government.
In spite of such tragic news, we are very grateful for your prayers & financial support! God knew what He was doing when He called us here & we are thrilled about equipping the Christian community to better address abuse issues & provide hope & healing to young victims. May God continue to bless you as much as your help has blessed others!
and continuing to count to 1000 and beyond...
After all the busyness it feels good to slow down for a bit to acknowledge the blessings amid the hectic days.
391. visiting LifeNet Church and seeing all that they are doing with the young people there.
392. finishing up the first semester of the Christian Counseling course at Belize Bible Center.
393. Spencer and I both getting A's in the course.
394. the camaraderie among the students as we feasted together after class was over.
395. seeing Jonathan and Jehieli.
396. watching The Amazing Race with Tom and Spencer and getting excited when we see somewhere one of us has been even if it is just an airport.
397. meeting Santee and Liliana at YWAM
398. Butterfinger Brownies.
399. God's faithfulness and the peace He provides.
400. 29 years, 11 months and 1 day of marriage...counting the days until our 30th wedding anniversary!!
joining Ann Voskamp and the gratitude community: