On January 1, 2022 I took up a challenge to write out 6 Psalms a month, writing out the entire book of 150 pslams in just about 2 years. I worked a little ahead and finished the challenge a couple of weeks ago. I can attest that it was an amazing experience. It just took about five minutes each morning, but slowed me down and allowed me to meditate and study what I writing. I discovered I didn’t always understand the Psalm, so sometimes I would look up commentaries or different translations. I discovered so many rich and deep themes I had just glanced over in the past. I also would write out praise, confession, thanksgiving and supplication from my verses each day and I saw just how much more powerful were the poetic descriptions of God’s attributes than were the summaries naming which attribute the verses contained. I noticed that often Psalms near one another shared a theme. I have come to love the Psalms so much more. It was such transformative experience that I am doing it again. There are 2461 verses in the Psalms. This time my plan is write out 4 verses a day and complete writing out the book in two years, with grace to miss a day here and there.
I also would look up Psalms sometimes in Ray’s commentaries or even using online resources, especially the trustworthy Matthew Henry commentary. I tried to read through a couple of books on the Psalms. Commentaries can be a bit dry. I have found one book that I am loving though. It talks a lot about the connection between Psalms and the themes of the five books of the Psalms, something that has been particularly fascinating to me over these two years. It is called “Learning to Love the Psalms” by Robert Godfrey. It makes a great companion and I am looking forward to reading it along side my Psalms as I am starting back at Psalm one.
Here is a page from my notebook, Psalm 146. You may notice that it is in Spanish. That is because I do my Bible reading (and writing) in Spanish since our ministry is done in a Spanish context.
Life in this fallen world can be painful and confusing. Explanations of why rarely satisfy. The psalms look straight at the evil in the world and challenge us to worship God even when we don’t understand and to keep our eyes fixed on Him. They express all of our emotions, our anger, our sadness, They describe the greatness of our all powerful God and they are filled with testimony of Jesus Christ.
We recently held a day-long retreat for the women leaders in the Presbyterian Church of Belize. Dawn Sweatt from the Belize Project had the idea to set aside a day to encourage and refresh the women leaders in their personal life and in their ministry. We shared food, sang, had games, a craft and a spa. Michele spoke on the theme Beholding the Beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4) and how God prunes us so that we can have the capacity to see enjoy Him in His beauty, Here are some pictures!
The kids and I had the opportunity to be in a school parade for Belize Independence Day today! This was definitely our kids’ first time being in a parade, and for me as well, other than maybe when I was in marching band as a kid. The last two years the parade had to be cancelled for Covid, so this was an extra special time. All the kids were excited as they made decorations all week long. Our youngest went as a toucan, which is Belize’s national bird. The teachers and administration of Presbyterian Day School did a splendid job of making it both fun and educational, as the kids learned Belizean history and learned to value the importance of freedom.
Belize was formerly a possession of Great Britain. They won their independence on September 21, 1981, making them a very young country! They are still a part of the British commonwealth, meaning that the day of the Queen’s funeral will be a day off for schools and banks, to commemorate her important influence nationally.
WIll Belize need to print new money? One of the world’s more interesting and beautiful flags, although harder for kids to draw! It is full of important symbolism for this new nation. I love the mahogany tree on it, showing how they value their amazing natural resources.
Please pray for the great nation of Belize! Pray for a great work of the Holy Spirit, that our churches would be full of passionate worshippers of our Triune God!
This week was a special week for many families in Belize. After being mostly closed for in person learning for two and a half years, the elementary schools in Belize began again with full-time, in-person learning. Our children attend Presbyterian Day School in the village of Cristo Rey. They were able to take the bus, buy lunch in the cafeteria, play with friends, and learn in class with their teachers. School may have been a taken-for-granted reality for many generations, but it is welcomed and appreciated this school year!
Presbyterian Day School was founded over 40 years ago by MTW missionaries. Education is an important key to economic development, and even more important is the spiritual training of children to know God and His Word. PDS has been faithfully fullfilling this mission here in Northern Belize.
Since the founding of PDS, 7 more Presbyterian school have begun in Belize. There are 4 elementary schools, 2 stand-alone preschools, and a high school. One of our sons is at the high school. Please pray for all of these schools to be used greatly by God to help raise up committed and knowledgeable young people who will one day be leaders in the church and the nation!
Everyone has an opinion about why any given church may not be growing. You may hear that they need to get a worship band that plays modern choruses. Or you may hear that they need a pastor that can preach dynamic sermons. But what about prayer? What if the reality is that the church is in decline because of the faithless, prayerless hearts of the people?
I remember when I was in high school the church I grew up in began meeting for daily early morning prayer meetings. They didn’t always have high attendance but there was always a faithful few. It continued a few years later when I was church secretary and I could attend very conveniently before beginning work. That church even all these years later is a growing, thriving church. Sadly, sometimes people look at the churches that are growing and try to copy what they do well, but without really understanding what was happening behind the scenes. It is our prayer for the Presbyterian Church in Belize is that it would be a praying church. We would love to see our prayer meetings full of people. But I believe that God will answer the regular, committed and passionate prayer even of a small group. Our churches here are in need of a revival. There is often low attendance at Sunday worship and so many of the adult children of believers are no longer in the church. A group of just 5 pastors minister among the 15 churches. Would you be willing to pray for the small country of Belize, that God would do a great work here? That He would call more pastors, and that our members would be passionate and comitted to Sunday worship? We long to see lives transformed by the Good News and know we need a supernatural work of God’s Spirit.
In this post, we are giving a photo collage of what online learning looks like at Presbyterian Day School, Cristo Rey, Belize. I hope you enjoy these pictures! We are looking for prayer and financial partners to be a part of the PDS team. You have heard of child sponsorship programs–well PDS is looking for a team to sponsor the teachers’ salaries. The desire is to keep the cost of education within the reach of all village families who are motivated to see their children receive an academically sound, Christ-centered education. But that means that tuition is not high enough to cover the teachers salaries. Would you consider prayer and/or giving?
Please let me know if you would like to be part of a data base to receive regular updates on the school. We would love to see individuals and even schools adopting a teacher!
Does God answer prayer? Absolutely, yes, as both the Bible and our experience tells us. We know from history that serious prayer often or possibly always precedes great revivals. In the Old Testament Daniel was even led to pray and fast as he saw the date approaching for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy–God had promised to bring the people of Israel back to their land after 70 years, and even this promised event was carried out on the prayers of faithful Daniel.
We are longing to see a great work of the Holy Spirit in our ministry and to that end, we believe that prayer is the vital ingredient. Ray and I first committed to praying together each morning back in 2011, when we came to the end of ourselves in the ministry. We saw experientially that we can accomplish nothing apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t until 2018 that we actually developed a system for our intercessory prayer. Although we prayed with passion each morning, the reality was that some important matters slipped our minds, and other prayers became repetitive. Not only that, many answers to prayer that we received went unnoticed because we had forgotten what we had prayed for and in the process we lost the opportunity to thank God and strengthen our faith.
So we began using a system, and as we’ve used it these past two years, we would not want to go back. Our prayers are more focused and deeper and we love getting to write down the answers to many of them. I am going to describe what we do in this blog post, in hopes that it might inspire you, our reader, in your own prayer life.
We hear a lot about child sponsorship as a steppingstone for a child to get out of poverty. We are hoping to get sponsors here as well, but instead of sponsoring a child, we are looking to sponsor the school.
What if I told you there was an outreach project that would meet the twin goals of economic development and the growth of the church and it’s only catch was that it’s work would be slow and steady over the course of decades? What if I told you the Presbyterian denomination has been involved in such an outreach for the past 44 years? When Tom and Helen Lacey came here in the early 1970s, they set about planting churches, continuing the work that began with a Mexican evangelist, to begin a new Presbyterian denomination in northern Belize.
They could see that healthy churches need elders, pastor, deacons, and church members who are knowledgeable of the Bible, strong in character, and economically stable. And we can be thankful that they had great wisdom and foresight.
In 1976 they started an elementary school in the village of Cristo Rey called Presbyterian Day School. Today, the school ministry in the denomination has grown to include 4 elementary schools, 6 preschools and a high school. This school ministry has been vital to the growth of the churches. It provides a Christian education for the covenant children in the churches, and a ministry to the families and children in the community who send their children to these excellent schools that teach the Bible, godly values and rigorous academics.
Some of the 2020 graduates
Each of these schools has their own story. Each one is impacting their community for Christ. Today, however, I would like to focus on the very first school that the Laceys began, Presbyterian Day School (PDS). I hope in future blog posts to highlight some of the other schools as well. PDS is special, and not just because it was the first, nor simply because three of our children attend the school. It has the unique distinction of being the only Presbyterian school not to receive government funding. What this means practically is that while they have freedom in what they teach, they also struggle with funding. Each of their teachers see their work first as a ministry, to the point at which they make a salary just over half that of the other teachers in the country. In short, the school needs financial help.
On the way to school on the school bus
In 1980, just 4 years after the Laceys began PDS, missionary Dorothy Mayer left her teaching job in South Dakota to come help teach. She is still here, helping to teach and do administration. One of her former students, Isaias Botes, has since taken over from her as principal. He in turn is principal over a few teachers that he taught as a teacher at PDS. I think it would be safe to say that Presbyterian Day School has exceeded the dreams and expectations that the Laceys originally held for it. The school has been a backbone in the two villages it serves, Cristo Rey and Patchakan. The Presbyterian churches in these villages have grown and been strengthened by bringing in families from the community. The impact of PDS has gone far beyond just these two villages.
Many of the teachers from all the various Presbyterian schools themselves attended PDS; three of the principals in the Presbyterian schools are PDS graduates as is the general manager of the Presbyterian schools. Several of the pastors and elders in the Presbyterian churches started out there as well. In addition, the list of graduates includes doctors, nurses and government officials that are serving all over the country. Although the villages have been historically poor and undeveloped, PDS has played an important role in the economic development of the area.
PDS continues to have an important role in these two villages in northern Belize. These precious little ones that start at PDS as four-year olds are the future of the church and the community. We hear a lot about child sponsorship as a steppingstone for a child to get out of poverty. We are hoping to get sponsors here as well, but instead of sponsoring a child, we are looking to sponsor the school. That way, the cost of tuition stays affordable for all the children in the community.
We would love to see individuals commit to monthly giving. We would also love to see some Christian schools develop a “sister school” sort of partnership as well. This is because we know that Christian schools in the U.S. and the families that support them are also passionate about Christian education. Could you begin by praying that the Presbyterian Day School of Cristo Rey, Belize, would become fully funded?
And second, would you consider if God might be calling you to help out with the need, either by giving monthly or one time? And lastly, would you consider sharing this need with others that you know who have a passion for economic development or Christian education? Thank you.
A little over a dozen of us gathered in the front yard of one of the church members on a Wednesday night to bring our praise, thanksgiving and supplication together before our mighty God. We had the chance to hear the prayers of young and old alike. We had the opportunity to agree together. As some of the older members prayed, you could hear their many years of walking with God instructing the younger ones among us what it is like to walk with God intimately. It is hard to think of a greater blessing than uniting with God’s people and praying for the salvation of souls and for the needs of the saints. This memory is from a church meeting we had this past summer, in between shut downs. The cases have started rising again here in Belize, and so the church prayer meetings have been temporarily put on hold.
Like many of you, I do not like to hear about Covid 19 rearing its ugly head again. I am sad for the families who are or will be facing serious illness, knowing it may be hitting close to home at any time. As a Christian it also grieves my heart when the meetings of the church have to be altered or in some cases cancelled, making it hard to have the kind of fellowship with God and with one another that is so vital to our walk with God. And yet, Covid 19 did in no way take our all powerful God by surprise. He is sovereign over all things. As Hannah prays in I Samuel 2:6-8:
“The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. 7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. 8 He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory.”
It is wise to focus on doing our part to curb the virus. I am thankful for our governments and international health communities taking their God-given role seriously, trying to figure out how to protect lives and economies from the threat of Covid. But it is the fool indeed that doesn’t acknowledge the God who is control of this virus, seeking to repent and turn from our blindness, from our arrogance in believing that we were in control of our lives in 2020. I heard someone this week compare the Covid crisis in the churches to the exile that the Jews experienced in the Old Testament. God punished His people for their idolatry by sending the Assyrians and Babylonians to take them into captivity, away from the promised Land. Likewise we as Christians have had our God given means of grace, in the worship service, the Lord’s supper, the church prayer meeting, significantly altered. God’s people in the Old Testament never again worshiped idols. What will our response be to this trial that God has allowed? Will we turn in repentance? Will we seek His face with all our heart? Or will we fritter away hours of our time on social media, getting angry at whoever disagrees with our position on face masks?
When we first faced shut down, my husband and I committed to spending some of our extra time making sure our morning prayer time got a solid block of time. But some mornings we discovered that we had dug into that time by talking about the latest controversy we had seen on Facebook the night before. Some mornings we didn’t end up praying at all. In the moment, it seemed like we really needed to talk it over. But as we saw a pattern emerging, we realized that for us, we needed to take a step back from so much social media. In fact, we were getting side tracked from God’s mission. There is a real spiritual battle and we as Chrstians are in the middle. Satan would love us to be a distracted church.
All manner of trials, including this pandemic, provide a merciful opportunity for human beings to hit the pause button and consider our spiritual state. We will all stand before a holy God to face judgement one day. The pandemic reminds us that that day may come sooner than we imagined. Are we ready? Those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ can face that day by the covering of His blood. Are we living like we have been redeemed, excited at God’s grace that has been poured out upon us? Or are we living just like the world, trying to distract ourselves with banal pleasures? Make no mistake, it takes work to keep our focus on eternal things, as the world, the flesh and the devil are conspiring against it.
As I close, I want to loop back to the story of the prayer meeting that I started with. We may or may not have the opportunity to attend the church prayer meeting during this pandemic. But one thing that is certain–we all have the opportunity to pray. Intercessory prayer is hard work, and make no mistake, it takes faith and it takes discipline. But it is also one of the most powerful ways to make an impact in the kingdom. We arrived here in Belize in February ready to get to work. The setbacks from Covid have at times been frustrating. But the reality is, we can still pray. We know the pandemic is in God’s hands, and we also know that faithfulness to God requires that we develop a strong prayer life. So, on the one hand Covid is a genuine setback, but on the other hand, it has the potential to be the beginnings of a great revival that God can use to extend His kingdom to all parts of the world. It is easy to grow weary during this difficult time, as I can attest. But let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
There has been a lot of controversy in our church circles during the past few years about the role of women in the Church. We hear it said that women’s gifts have not been valued, and that we need to usher in a new era where the church finally frees women to do valuable and worthwhile ministry. When I first started hearing the rumbling of these complaints I’ll admit I was confused, since in most the churches I have been in, women were already playing such a vital role, particularly in the hidden roles of service, helps and working with children – roles that Jesus assures us are among the most important in His kingdom.