Monday, October 31, 2011

a church in mourning and 1000 gifts...

Yesterday we got up and went to church. We picked up one of the youth along the way. After a month of being sick and getting adjusted to his new surroundings it was Spencer's first Sunday to see where we have been serving. As soon as we pulled up to the church we could hear the wailing. Rosalva had just found out that her youngest sister had suffered a heart attack.  If we understood all the details correctly...the sister was only 31 years old.

Tom and the guys got the cars ready for the trip and I helped the girls pack their bags.  Eight people crammed into our 5 passenger car and took off on the two hour drive to Orange Walk Town.

When we arrived Ritchel's mother had lunch ready.  She had expected to cook for us all later in the week...the plan was to invite us all up for his father's and his daughter's joint birthday celebration.  But we came five days early and unexpectedly.  We shared a simple meal of chicken, rice and beans, fried plantains, and cassava.

After the meal we went to Rosalva's other sister's house and they were already making funeral preparations. The husbands and brothers were setting up a tent.  The death certificate had already been prepared and was just waiting for the official stamp from the coroner today.

We were introduced to everyone in the house, the yard and anyone else who came through the door.  After a few hours we said our goodbyes so the family could grieve in private.  Silently driving home.  Still in shock.

Although our Sunday service didn't happen I felt God's hands on us during the drive.  I can still hear the questions, the denial...the wailing.  Reflections of my little brother's death at only 31 came to mind.  I could only answer her  cries by saying "it's not fair and it doesn't make any sense".  All I could do for Rosalva was rub her back, stroke her hair and listen.

And the counting of gifts goes on...

363.  a full tank of gas
364.  seeing Rosalva's and Ritchel's 6 kids support their mom.
365.  Spencer entertaining the youngest with games in the back of the car.
366.  Ritchel's mother feeding 14 extra people with only two hours notice.
367.  Tom and Desmond driving the two cars safely there and back.
368.  the blessings of a small church family

369.  getting an A on my first test in Tom's counseling class at Belize Bible Center.

370.  most of the students doing well on the exam.

371.  seeing success with using the technique of having the person draw three simple pictures of a house, a tree and a person to get a shy reluctant teen to open up and share in the counseling office.

and finally:
372.  no matter how many things come our way...I am so grateful for all the things He has spared us from.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

a day off and an interview

Today is a day off for us...the plan is to truly rest. 

 Last night before falling asleep Tom and I had this exchange...
 Tom:  "You know where I want to go tomorrow?"
Alida:  "Where?"
Tom:   "Nowhere! And you can come with me if you want."

This week has been long and we don't have another day off until Tuesday of next week.  I had plans to do the floors and clean the bathrooms but I doubt that will happen.  I may just finish my book or watch a movie.  And of course Tom and are going nowhere...and that will be a great trip.  We might even take a few pictures!

Oh, and I was interviewed by a blogging friend I met last year as she was preparing for her can check out the interview here:  The Adventures of Team Pancakes

Have a great weekend and if you can... get some rest!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What is in the news here in Belize?

Sadly, we continue to hear stories of abuse in our counseling office and more stories from the community are in the news.  While we cannot talk about what we hear in the office we can share with you the news from the community.  Please keep all of the children involved in your prayers.   

Two Disturbing Sexual Assaults; One By A Step-Father, One By a Pastor
Mon, October 24, 2011
There are two disturbing stories of sexual assault to report tonight.  A 42 year old man who allegedly committed a sexual assault on his 11 year old step-daughter, was denied bail after he appeared today in the Magistrate's Court and was charged with aggravated assault of an indecent nature. The man pleaded not guilty but the prosecution objected to bail on the grounds that the defendant is on parole for a conviction of indecent assault on a previous step-daughter. When asked to give a good reason why he should be granted bail, the man said he met his common-law-wife about 2 years ago and she did not tell him she has 3 children.  He said the 11 year old does not like when he disciplines her and she comes home late at night and sometimes she comes home with money.  But because he is on parole for a similar offence, Chief Magistrate Ana Marie Smith remanded him into custody until November 24. The incident occurred on September 29. The child reported to the police that her step-father fondled her private parts. 

And a student of Belmopan in the presence of his mother reported that sometime in the month of June of this year, while at his pastor's house - namely Jason Neal- in Roaring Creek, he was sleeping on his sofa when he was awakened by Neal who was touching his private parts.He also reported that in the month of July of this year, Neal had touched him inappropriately.  As a result Police arrested 37 year old Pastor Jason Neal of Roaring Creek Village and charged him with 2 counts of Aggravated Assault.


We have not heard any updates about the step-father but regarding the pastor we have heard that he was fined $3000 for each count and that he has until December 16th to pay this fine or he will have to serve jail time.

CDF has done sensitization training to make the problem of sexual abuse and exploitation known in all of the high schools here in the area and also some of the elementary schools.  For the little ones there is a Yell and Tell campaign and for the teens there is the "My Body, My Future" project.

Valley of Peace

We at CDF have spoken at churches, and to women in  villages and to youth.   Since September when a four year old was raped there have been more people who are willing to tell their stories and more cases are coming to light.  This does not mean there is more abuse going on than in the past...just that people now have the courage to talk about it.

Orange Walk Town

Pray for us as we seek to understand the existing laws and help make changes in these laws regarding how these cases are handled and the penalties involved.  Pray for the funds to continue doing outreach to various communities on this issue.  Pray for continued bravery for children, youth and adults to speak out when they or someone they know is being abused.
supporting one another in prayer in Esperanza

*clicking on the highlighted words will either take you to a news story, website or a blog post that will give more information on that subject.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

thought for today...

Like these butterflies each one of us is uniquely beautiful and  have a place in His garden.

Father, we praise You for Your green thumb...You help each of us to grow and flourish under Your care.  May we willingly yield to wherever You choose to  plant us and to Your design and plan for our lives.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tasty Tueday

Found these on favorite hang out!

We had these cookies Sunday night after dinner and we all really loved them.  The recipe makes two dozen and the three us devoured them.  If you like oatmeal and peanut butter you will enjoy these yummy cookies!

1.5 cups quick cut oats
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (unpacked)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup peanut butter
Preheat the oven to 350°. Mix the dry ingredients then add the eggs, vanilla extract, and peanut butter. Mix by hand until well combined.

Spoon onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper with 2” between each cookie. Bake 15-20 minutes until slightly set. Let cool to set completely.


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Monday, October 24, 2011

1000 gifts...

We experienced some hard things and some wonderful things this week...isn't that how life goes?

342. being able to appreciate the beauty of God's creation!

 343.  grateful for the services provided by Belize Council for the Visually Impaired

344.  resulting in new glasses for Spencer at an awesome price!

345. and the eye clinic is right here in Belmopan! 

346.  fresh produce at the market
347.  this year I am not shocked to see green oranges and lemons.
348.  the smell of fresh bread 

349.  a beautiful service for the homegoing of Diana's father.

350.  a heart wrenching song performed by a brother and sister in Spanish.

351.  renewing our visitor's permits and Spencer's with no problems.
352. showing up late enough to avoid the line that usually wraps around the building but early enough to get everything done.

353.  finishing up two craft projects inspired by Pinterest!
355.  watching dragonflies circle over our home and the fields nearby...
356.  grateful that the dragonflies take care of us by getting rid of the mosquitoes.
357.  incredible sunsets
358.  sleeping in after an exhausting week.
359.  new counseling clients...
360.  which means more people hearing about our work...
361.  and that people are willing to make changes in their lives by trying something new.

362. words that inspire me to live a full life.

joining Ann Voskamp and the gratitude community:

Friday, October 21, 2011

What's in the news in Belize?

As I was reading the news online last week I came across a story that is absolutely disgusting to me.  It involves a missionary accused of sodomizing three brothers who is currently in prison awaiting trial.

The organization we work with here in Belize is fighting to eradicate the exploitation of children. Most of the people who come into our counseling office have been sexually abused.  We have been in the schools here in our area teaching the little ones to Yell and Tell.  We have been in the high schools speaking about purity and sexual exploitation.  Not long ago we were in the area about 40 miles from where this missionary was working.  CDF held a National Youth Rally and we had over 120 youth come out to hear about sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and purity.  This case is one of exploitation.  This man was providing for the family and was in turn exploiting the three boys.

We have heard about girls being abused but girls are not the only victims.  Boys are being violated as well.  Boys are vulnerable here because of the lack of father figures in the homes.  Men leave to go find work in the U.S. or have other families and then abandon one family to start another.  It is sad.  There are men who are standing up and we are excited about that.

I tried to find more information about this person.  I found a Facebook page and a few words here and there  online about his work.  According to his Facebook page this missionary had a heart for the teens he found here in Belize:
Belize churches are in trouble. So many teens are spiritual orphans. Churches here are weak and stability and unity are not their strengths. Most pastors have no spiritual covering, accountability or training. Another missionary from Nicaragua and I have declared it our mission to share the doctrine of spiritual paternity and our visions are so equal it is amazing. God is going to do great things in the next few years here!
Such a stark contrast to what was written about him just a few years later...

It came to light on Saturday - and a doctor has since confirmed that they were sodomised. The man accused of the crime is Bryan Sears - a missionary who had been in the community for three years - and that's what makes the already hideous offence even more disturbing, that he used the cover of Christianity to gain the community's confidence and prey on three brothers.
I agree with the reporter that what makes this story truly appalling is this missionary using the cover of Christianity to prey on the spiritual orphans he felt called to serve.  He is now in Hattieville prison awaiting his next court date.

I realize that he has not been sentenced I should say allegedly and things like that.  I tried to write about this last week and was just too angry and appalled to put a coherent sentence together.  At first I wanted to write to the church he came from or send a Facebook message to his mother.  But, I didn't do either one.  I prayed and waited to see what would happen next.  Since then the story broke in his home state.  We have heard that he now has a lawyer and his next appearance in court is November 15th.

I pray for these young men and for the churches in the area.  I pray that there won't be an aversion to all Americans or all missionaries because of this.  And I pray that sexual abuse and sexual exploitation comes to  an end.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

United Missions for Belize

Yesterday Tom, Spencer and I went to a meeting out at Jaguar Creek Ministries for a gathering of missionaries in our area.  United Missions for Belize is a newly formed network of missionaries who are seeking to partner with one another to pray for, support and keep each other up to date on what work is being done here in the Cayo District.

A few of those in the group initially came together to share tools and resources after Hurricane Richard last year.  Out of those relationships the impetus to unite missionaries in the area was born.  Our first meeting was back in January of this year.  Yesterday was our third meeting and those of us in attendance are just a small representation of the many foreign aid workers and missionaries in Belize.

We took time out to tour the Jaguar Creek facility

The gardens at Jaguar Creek are a butterfly haven

The dining area was beautiful and the food was great!

The room for our meeting was large enough to accommodate 
everyone very comfortably around the tables.

We heard some great things from everyone as they shared about what they are doing and we made contacts with others who have similar interests as we do with our work at the Child Development Foundation.  

In attendance was a couple who work to make sure people in the villages have access to clean water and good latrines.  Several people described their work with children from health and hygiene to finding scholarships for them to attend school. There were church planters, carpenters, nurses, teachers, and a hospital administrator...all here to use their gifts and share His love with everyone who crosses their path. 

Please keep us all in your prayers as this network grows in numbers and in ministry efforts...thank you!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

thought for today

this photo was taken in our front yard just outside the gate...

In the midst of the rainy season here in Belize this passage from Deuteronomy has come to mind from time to time.   Sitting outside on the porch when the rain is lightly falling...I think of His teachings and His words. 

May His lessons gently fall upon us
providing nourishment that brings about growth where needed.
May His words descend into each of our lives
 showering us with the abundance of His spirit in the dry places of our hearts. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tasty Tuesday

I didn't get a chance on Sunday to take a picture of the Texas Sheet Cake that I disappeared too fast!  I did find a photo on line to use as a guide:

Texas Sheet Cake
1 cup water
1 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour cream (I use sour cream when I have it)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp vinegar

Bring to boil in a large saucepan the water, butter and cocoa.  Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.  Mix well and pour into greased 11x13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

While cake is baking, make frosting in saucepan.  Combine:
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp cocoa
1/4 cup milk
Heat to boiling.  Mix in 3 cups powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla.  Pour warm frosting over cake when you take it from oven.

***I was out of butter on Sunday after making the cake so all I could do for the frosting was make a glaze.  I used:

1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
Mix cocoa and powdered sugar together and add milk until it's the consistency you prefer.  I made mine a just thin enough to drizzle over the cake.  And it is so good when the icing soaks into the cake.

I have seen several variations of the cake recipe some use vinegar and some don't.  Some recipes add in a little cinnamon and I have done that too and liked it.  Pioneer Woman has a slightly different recipe which I heard is great too.  She calls hers The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever.  The first time I heard of this cake it was called Brownie Sheet grandmother made it but she never used a recipe.  So whether it is called Texas Sheet Cake, Brownie Sheet Cake or Chocolate Sheet Cake it really is all the same thing...just don't tell that to your friends from Texas!

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Counting to 1000

Reading Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, is life changing if you allow it to be.  I found Ann's blog A Holy Experience and I began my counting to 1000 on my other blog that I created while we were stuck in Istanbul waiting to find out about what would be our final Russian visa.

I started counting here on this blog because I want to be intentional about proclaiming the gifts that God so graciously gives us each and everyday.  I have a private list that I keep on paper...this is list I chose to share in public.  May you be inspired to count your gifts in your own way.

327.  a new dining room table and chairs...

328.  enjoying family meals and games around the new table
329.  laughter and talks sitting on the chairs made of various Belizean woods.
330.  rays of sunlight that trickle in through open windows that carry cool breezes into the house.

331. seeing turkeys in the yard next to our office.

332. caretakers who live on the property and are available to open locked doors early on a Saturday morning so that we could pick up the projector to use for Tom's class at Belize Bible Center.

333.  flowers from our yard given to me by Tom just because...

334.  the smile and the sense of wonder at seeing mushrooms growing on a log.

335.  4 new students (bringing the total to 18)

336.  seeing Tom filled with joy as he teaches
337.  learning new things
338.  feeling more relaxed as we settle in to having three of us in the house instead of two.
339.  seeing answers to prayer
340.  Texas Sheet Cake for dessert after Sunday's dinner

341.  the doctor here in Belize confirming that Spencer has no sign of malaria in his body

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's a matter of time...

Are you a polychron or a monochron? With six years of living outside of the United States you would think that I would have heard these terms before.  But I haven't.  Maybe you haven't either and have no idea what I am talking about.  Let's take a look at a definition I found on these terms:

Do you see yourself in these terms?  Do you like to be on time or does all time flow together and is not a big deal for you?  Some of us get uptight when our schedules are disrupted and, after all, those of us from the US have often heard the phrase "time is money".  However, our US culture also sends out the message "just go with the flow" to those of us who are stressed and need to learn to slow down.

Anthropologist Harley Han said  "Culture reinforces biology".

Tom and I lived for five years in a polychronic culture while we were in Russia.  While there were some people who kept schedules and liked to plan out their time...many did not.  It was not uncommon for people to be 15-30 minutes late and still see themselves as on time.  The same is true here in Belize.   

When you travel or live in a different culture it is helpful to understand this concept. Pay attention to the guidebooks about the country you are visiting.  In Germany I have heard that public transport runs with precision but in other countries there may be long gaps between buses or trains.

If you don't come to terms with cultural differences regarding time you may find yourself feeling disrespected when people are late, or perhaps you may become judgmental and condemn a whole people group as lazy.  When what is actually true is that polychrons are relational beings who value people over appointments.  If they are on their way to meet with you and come across a friend or relative who needs to chat they will stop and visit with that person and then come to see you.  All the while believing that you will understand the importance of what they HAD to do.  It is simply a difference in cultural values not a lack of pride in self or disrespect for you.  Each of us tend to believe that the way we do things where we come from is the way that makes the most sense.

So for you monochrons when you have to face a situation like this outside of your monochronic culture give yourself and others the gift of letting go.  Schedule your meetings and then plan for the lateness of the polychrons you have invited.  There is much we polychrons and monochrons can learn from one another but to start we need to bless each other with the grace needed to find a common ground.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

thought for today

May we allow these words to penetrate into our hearts and not just bounce off the surface of our souls.    

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tasty Tuesday

Breakfast Quesadillas

We had these for dinner last night and they are VERY filling and oh so tasty!  I make my own tortillas and mine come out a lot smaller than the store bought kind so I used a small pan and didn't have to do the plate trick...I could flip mine over with a spatula.  


breakfast quesadillas

Yield: 3 servings (2 wedges each)

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 8 min

A delicious, family-friendly breakfast!


1 Tablespoon butter
4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese (or desired cheese)
2 large flour tortillas (not burrito-sized, just large)
tomato, avocado, sour cream, salsa (as desired)


1. Melt butter in a medium nonstick skillet (one that will fit your flour tortilla nicely- and that isn't too much larger than your tortilla), and bring it to medium heat.
2. Add egg to the heated skillet. Use a rubber spatula to loosen the sides a bit and allow raw egg to move around underneath to get cooked. Top with 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Place a flour tortilla on top. Use your rubber spatula to loosen the sides again around the edges. Then place a dinner plate on top of your skillet and carefully flip it over so that the egg/tortilla is now on the plate. Slide it back into the pan tortilla-side down and top it with remaining cheese. Let it sit for a minute or two, then place the plate on top of the skillet and flip it again. Slide it back into the pan, allowing the 2nd tortilla to heat up and get lightly browned.
3. Slide your breakfast quesadilla onto a cutting board and use a pizza cutter to cut it into wedges. Make the wedges as big as you'd like- 6 is suggested, but if you have little ones then you can make them smaller. Serve on their own or with tomato, avocado, sour cream, or salsa- as desired.


*You can make these will smaller flour tortillas too- just use less egg/cheese and a smaller skillet.
Source: (adapted from Weelicious)

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