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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Remember the Sabbath day - A Day of Rest 0 comments

Our Team:

When we arrived in Belize on Friday, it was already raining. By Sunday morning it had been raining for 3 days.  Not raining DURING 3 days, but rather raining CONTINUOUSLY for 72-hours straight. Sometimes  a light shower, at other times a downpour, but always rain. By the time we had our breakfast, the rain had finally stopped, at least for now.  

Our plan was to have breakfast and then Mario would pick us up at 8:45 a.m. so that we could join them for the service at New Life Presbyterian Church where he is now the pastor. In the afternoon, we had arranged to take a small cultural excursion to The Xunantunich Mayan ruins in western Belize. Such opportunities are an important part of the EduDeo HANDS structure in order to help the team gain a better understanding and learn more about the country where they are serving. It is a great opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of our hosts and to spend time with them outside the context of the school and all the work that happens there. As our plans had been to work both Saturdays while here (although by now, we should have realized that that what we planned was seldom if ever going to be what happened while here) Ruth and Mario had graciously agreed to arrange schedules so that this could happen on Sunday afternoon. 

As they arrived to pick us up for church, we came to understand that while it had stopped raining in Orange Walk, the effects of the constant rain over several days was having its effects in terms of significant flooding. The government had issued a flood warning across most of the country and as a result church had been cancelled.  While Ruth and Mario had been in touch with most of their congregation to check up on them and let them know that church as cancelled, there were several families that they were unable to reach. So they were heading out to drive to ensure that all their flock were safe and cared for. After the events of Saturday with the break-in at the school, as a team we had already decided that Ruth and Mario needed a break and that we would cancel the Xunantunich Mayan excursion to give them a chance to rest and recover. However, they were using this time to continue to serve others and this level of pastoral care epitomizes the servant's hearts that Mario and Ruth demonstrate in all aspects of their lives, family and ministry. 

So as a team, we unexpected found ourselves with a full day and no plans. This was quickly realized to be an incredible opportunity to truly celebrate a Sabbath Day of rest. Amazing! 

We gathered in one of our rooms and organized our own church service worshipping Jesus through singing, sharing and prayer. As part of our preparations for the trip, EduDeo had provided us with some material including a series of video presentations called Helping without Hurting ( which is a challenge to look at the whole concept of poverty and the poor in a true and non-North American way. We huddled around the small i-Pad screen and battery powered speakers and started to watch some of these videos and a very interesting discussion ensued.  

What became clear to us is that once again, our plans were being set aside for something that God had already pre-ordained for us to do. What came out of these initial discussions was a "kernel"  of an idea, perhaps a seed that has been planted about what we could do with the reality of the poverty and broken relationships that exist all around us at home in Brampton.  We covenanted among ourselves to continue this discussion as a team once we return home and to seek God's face as to what it is that he is calling us to do. We'll see where God ultimately leads us and Bramalea Baptist Church in this regard, but we were excited by what God did with the "found time".  

The rest of the day was spent resting. Just resting. This was a very unique experience for all of us and allowed us time to rest, pray, worship and mediate on God's word as individuals and in adhoc groups. In the evening we organized dinner for ourselves at a local restaurant patio so that our hosts could take some time for rest themselves. Following that we gathered again for our evening devotional time and John led us through a study in Nehemiah which was very appropriate as we looked at how this humble servant and captive prisoner of the Persian King Artexerxes became the architect of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. It's an amazing story of what God can do with ordinary and broken people. We again enjoyed a great time of discussion as we gathered around God's Word and looked forward to the our own building project at New Life School.

As our time ended, we reflected on what a blessing this Sabbath day had been and were again left wondering, what would tomorrow bring? We had some ideas of our own, but we were excited to see what God would do knowing that his plans would be taking precedence.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy . . . . . (John 10:10) 2 comments

After a good night's sleep we were excited to get started. The hotel provided a nice breakfast for us and Mario arrived with the van to take us to the school. We were in high spirits as we started to plan out how we would divide up and immediately start to the tackle the different projects that were waiting for us.  

However, the day would not go this way.  

We stopped to pick up Ruth on the way as she was at the store to get some supplies for our lunch. She had just called Mario as he was picking us up and he understood her to say that there had been a robbery at the store. As a clearly shaken Ruth got into the van, we quickly came to understand that the robbery had been at New Life Christian School.  

As we arrived on site, we saw how the thieves had tried to gain entrance to the school at a couple of different locations before being successful. Once inside, they used hammers and chisels to dislodge the security bars on Ruth's office and pry them open enough to be able to fit inside. Ruth's worst fearswere realized when they confirmed that ten (10) i-Pad tablets had been stolen along with the office laptop computer. The i-Pads were a donation that had been given a couple of years previously and were a great source of joy for the children of the school who otherwise would not have the opportunity to try these devices and use this technology as part of their educational experience 

Our joy quickly evaporated as we surveyed the scene and saw the other damage caused as the thief(s) went from classroom to classroom trying to gain access and breaking through windows and doors to look for anything valuable to take. Now, instead of beginning our work on the projects, we huddled together to begin a different work - a labourof prayer. Clearly, this was more than just a physical break-in. This was a spiritual attack designed to destroy the work that is taking place at New Life Christian School where the children of Orange Walk not only receive an excellent education, but also one rooted in a biblical world-view where the learn that Jesus loves them.  

So we prayed and we prayed and we waited. The Police arrived on scene to take the initial report and then left as the forensics team was called in. Eventually they arrived and took a number of fingerprint samples but until they were finished we could not begin our work. So we waited.  

We were not able to begin our work until after lunch, so our plans for maximize our work time was foiled.  Oso we thought? Our main task was to pour a new floor in the large 2nd floor classroom that we had worked on in 2013. A secondary task was to work on the third floor classroom where the tile floors were lifting and presenting a safety hazard to the students. Ruth told us but in order for the classroom to be useful again,  tile floor would have to be removed and a new concrete floor would have to be installed. Due to our late start we were unable to begin working on the large classroom on the second floor, So we focused our attention on the third floor classroom.  

The first task was to remove and save as many of the ceramic tiles as possible. This involved carefully using a hammer and chisel to remove the tiles from the floor. With careful practice about 60% of the tiles were saved for reuse elsewhere in the school. Surprisingly we were able to complete this task in just a few hours. 


Next, we needed to break up the next layer of mortar that was between the tiles and the rough concrete sub-floor. Based on our past experience, we knew how this had to be done (or at least we thought we did!) Using heavy, solid steel scrapers that weigh about 30 lbs. and are about 3" wide, you have to pound on the edge of the mortar until a small piece breaks off, then move over a few inches and pound some more - just like chipping ice off of your driveway. With only two of these scrapers and a few other less efficient lighter scrapers, we estimated it would take 2 solid days of chipping to get all the mortar broken up. Then we would take another day to carry it down two floors, bucket by bucket.  


So we began the demolition. Once we had a "hole" in the mortar about 4' square, Noah (pronounced "No-eh") who is a local tradesman working with us took a turn with the heavy scraper. However instead of pounding the mortar, he slide the edge of the scrapper along the floor and when it hit the edge of the mortar (about 1-2" thick") a couple of sections about 1' square broke free from the floor. Eureka – it's amazing what local knowledge can teach you! 


So with renewed energy and a vastly improved technique we grabbed ahold of all the scrapers and the floor started to break apart with relative "ease". Others cleared the ever increasing pile of rubble out of the way with shovels to give access to the remaining mortar. Just before 5:00 p.m. when we had planned to stop for the day, Phil, who had been like a human bulldozer with the scraper attacked the last bit of mortar in the corner of the room. A job that should have taken over two days in our estimation was now completed in just a couple of hours. As we looked at the pile of broken mortar in the middle of the room we were reminded of the verses from Ephesians 3:20-21 that say "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory . . . . " Amen! 


As we gathered in the evening for our first evening devotion and prayer time we read through Psalm 139:1-18 and sang worship songs of praise to God who knows us, still loves us and in his infinite love, sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. We reflected how again, today like the day previously had not gone as we would have planned it, but in retrospect, we could not have planned a better day - the break-in and robbery not withstanding. While Ruth was initially in shock at the ferocity and violation of the robbery, she quickly recovered and by the afternoon was confident that God was going to do something amazing through this and that all of the i-Pads would be recovered. So we were again challenged by Ruth's faith in God and so we echoed that prayer and we would ask you to do the same.  


We also thought about the story in Joshua where the sun stood still in the sky for a day so that Israelites could defeat the Amorites at Gibeon (see Joshua 10: 1-15). While what we experienced was not a miracle on that scale, we knew full well that God had allowed us to accomplish everything that we did in less time than we thought possible. So our day ended in a bittersweet way as both celebrated what God was doing while being saddened by the robbery.  


Tomorrow would be Sunday and we looked forward to gathering together with the congregation of New Life Presbyterian Church for a time of worshiping God together hearing the message from their new pastor, Mario Ku.  


However, as was becoming the early trend on this mission trip, our plans weren't going to be the ones that we followed. God had a plan and it was way, way better.  


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Friday, October 16, 2015

Sometimes it IS about the Destination and NOT the journey! 1 comment

NOTE: We have had internet connectivity problems here - sorry for the delay in getting the Blogs started. We are back on line now and will bring you up to speed as quickly as possible.


Day One of our mission trip to Belize has finally arrived. It was a long day, and accordingly this is a long blog, so grab a coffee and get comfortable - or just skip to the pictures!  

With an 06:35 flight from Toronto Pearson Airport, assembly time was 04:00 at the home of Paul and Mary Ella Davidson. Nobody had really slept in the past 24 hours. John and Phil arrived together (courtesy of John's brother David who helped transport us to the airport), Joel arrived with Peter and Wilson was also dropped off and we were ready to leave. With the Davidson van loaded up and Mary Ella at the wheel, we headed over to pick up Bob and by 04:30 we were at the Pearson T3 to begin the boarding process for the first leg of the trip to Miami. 

Air travel truly is no longer the luxurious experience it once was. Inside Terminal 3 we were greeted by a lot of construction hoarding that made for narrow, congested aisles as many, many early travelers lined up for "the process".

First, we had to use a machine to check-in, pay for checked baggage (no more freebies) only to have the machine just print out some of the boarding passes. Next we saw a person to weigh our baggage, try to explain why only some of you have boarding passes (ask the machine!) and dragged our bags to the next station. Here another machine scaned our passports, took your picture (?) and printed out a "receipt". If you had a big "X" through it, you got into one line, if not, you got into another. This process took more than an hour and while most ended up in the express line, Paul (who is always late) of course had the pleasure of 25 minutes longer getting through US Customs and Boarder Protections pre-screening because of the big "X" on his receipt (random screening? Beady eyes? Who knows?).  Fortunatley "secondary screening" was not necessary. Finally we were all back together again.

Now checked baggage can finally be dropped off and then we proceeded to security. Again, in a "divide and conquer" approach best understood only by Pearson T3 staff, different team members ended up in different lines and while some whisked through, others were again delayed (but this time Paul is the first one through!). By the time everyone had shoes, belts and wallets/passports/boarding passes all properly returned to their appropriate locations, it was time to head for the gate and grab a quick snack to take on the plane (no more food service). By the time we arrived at the gate, there was only about 2 minutes to doors closing and we are told our bags were almost removed from the plane! We were told that WE should have hurried up and not stopped for something to eat. Uh-huh.  

The flight to Miami was packed, and while we were delayed waiting for other passengers, plane maintenance and baggage loading, the flight to Miami was uneventful and we arrived about ten minutes behind schedule to a very dark, dreary and wet Miami. This weather will be a foretaste of things to come.  

Moving from Gate 12 to Gate 32 at Miami International for the next leg of the journey to Belize City could almost be considered a separate leg of the journey in itself. We choose the option of walking over taking the automated shuttle in order to make a bathroom stop and stretch our legs. With only a quick stop to pick up a few more snacks we again arrived at the gate as boarding had already begun. With only a few minutes to spare, we got settled into our seats and were on our way to Belize City. Dios es bueno, todo el tiempo! (try Google Translate if you don't know any Spanish!) 

As we landed in Belize City, it was more dark, and more wet. Our merry band of "7 dwarves" headed to baggage carousel to collect our bags. Bag #1, a guitar then bag #2, then #3, #4, #5, #6 . . . . . . #6 . . . . . . . . #6 . . . . . .#6 . . . . . . . . and then the carousel stoprf moving. Several people including Joel lined up at baggage claim to find out their bags were on the next flight from Miami which would arrive in about an hour. Uh-huh. 

As we stepped outside the terminal, we were greeted by the warm and smiling faces of our dear brother Mario Ku and his son Azeel who hadcome to pick us up. We explained about the delay and used the next 90 minutes to catch up on news from Belize while we waited. The delay turns out to be a wonderful blessing as we have time to renew friendships and introduce our newest team members Joel and Phil. Phil and Azeel immediately struck up a relationship while Joel was able to hear all about the latest goings-on in Belize from Mario. We learned more about Ruth's surgery and about Mario contracting Tuberculosis in 2014 and come to understand why our return that year was never meant to be. Finally, the baggage arrived, and a little battered and banged up, Joel's suitcase was finally in our posession and we were ready to leave.  

After a quick lunch break just outside of Belize City, we headed for Orange Walk, and in what seemed like a much shorter time than expected, we arrived in town and headed to our hotel. This trip we are staying at a new location and the Hotel de la Fuente was ready to welcome us and we got settled into our rooms and had a chance to relax for a short time before Mario was back to pick us up for dinner. Ruth and their daughter Rumari were there to greet us and we had a wonderful reunion with them and again, a chance to introduce Phil and Joel to the rest of the family. We spent a very enjoyable evening hearing from Ruth about the work at the school and the need for the work that we were there to complete so that they could continue to keep up with the growing demands to accept more students into the school. We also learned about their own personal ministry - converting the home were Ruth grew up into a shelter for women/families in crisis. When we were last here, Ruth had told us of the vision God had given her to do this - even though for years she had been praying the a storm would destroy the house so that they could collect the small insurance claim. However, trusting in God who had given her the vision, they forged ahead as a family and used their own resources to turn this old house into a comfortable place where one or two families at a time could take short term shelter when needed. There is no other place like this in Orange Walk, so this ministry by the Ku family is of infinite value here in Orange Walk.  Also, we learned that Mario had just passed his exams and on the previous weekend had been accepted by the Presbytery of Belize to be the pastor of the New Life Church in Orange Walk where he had been working for the past several years under the supervision of Pastor Leogardo.

The other main focus of our discussion was the weather. While it was the end of the rainy season, a very large storm had stalled over Belize and while earlier in the year, there had been a drought, now the rain was falling steadily and the threat of flooding was becoming very real. It turned out that weather was going to have a major influence on our time in Belize,. but more on that in future blogs.  

We ended our day back at the Hotel gathering together for a short time of worship and prayer, thankful that we had arrived safely. We reflected on how the day had unfolded and looked for those "God" moments. There were many, even though this was only the first day. What looked like a major challenge - the missing suitcase - turned into a blessing as we had a long time to visit with Mario and Azeel at the airport.

As it turned out, changes in plans were going to play a role in our stay in Belize as well.  


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Monday, October 5, 2015

As Easy as 1, 2 . . . . . 3? 0 comments

When we were last in Belize at New Life Christian School, our second trip in the summer of 2013, we were already making plans for a return in 2014. However, as they saying goes, "life is what happens to you while you are planning for other things". 

So as we started to make our plans for 2014, things DIDN'T start falling into place they way we thought they would. At the time, we thought this a strange thing and if we believed in "luck" or chance, we would just say that things were not lining up on our favour. However, we believe in a sovereign God, the Alpha and Omega, the One who knows the beginning from the end. While we were having challenges getting organized and getting our calendars aligned in Canada, our hosts in Belize (Ruth and Mario Ku) were both experiencing some health problems that required hospitalizations and surgery. We praise God that they have both recovered and are doing very well. 

So as 2014 came and went, we set our sights on 2015. Surely it would be God's plan for us to return to continue serving with EduDeo and working at New Life - wouldn't it? As we started to make plans things were starting to come together and there was a core of men at Bramalea Baptist Church who were committed and ready to go. Then began a series of twists and turn that delayed to start of our preparations. Through all of these, we became convinced that this was not God closing the door, but rather the Enemy trying to trip us up on the threshold. As we prayed, we saw God remove the barriers and then things started to happen very quickly.  

On Saturday September 19th, we held our fundraising event were approximately 80 family, friends and the extended Bramalea Baptist Church family gathered together to enjoy a delicious spaghetti dinner and a very fun (and competitive) live dessert auction. That evening raised nearly $3,000 and put us over the top for our collective fund raising efforts. Way, way, over the top! God was definitely holding the door open for us and saying "don't trip"!  

Then we move forward to October 4th, 2015 when the Pastors, Elders and Directors of Bramalea Baptist Church prayed for us and commissioned us to go.  

So we are excited to go, each one of us not knowing exactly what to expect as we go, but with 100% confidence that it is exactly what we are supposed to be doing, and exactly where we are supposed to be. Easy!  

Ephesians 3:20-21 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

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