As we look toward the miracle of the manger, it is worth taking a moment to remember the cross and how thankful we are…thankful first for our salvation, and then for the opportunity to serve the King as missionaries.
This has been a full and wonderful fall. We have had the privilege here at Camp Concordia to welcome short-term teams to Belize for the first time since the pandemic. A group led by Kathy and Keith Odegard with members of the Belize Mission Society stayed with us here at camp, and then served the people of Valley of Peace and Christ Lutheran in Seine Bight with eyeglass clinics. The glasses had been in storage since just before the pandemic shut the country down in 2019, but God provides, and we found sufficient glasses to help meet the needs of most folks. It was so wonderful for us to see the smiles and hear the exclamations of people who said, “I can see again!”
Shortly after they left, Hurricane Lisa landed close to Belize City, then tore up the Belize River into Cayo district. People in the path needed to find refuge, so we opened our worship centers as shelters, grateful to God’s providence. Four families hunkered down in in El Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd Lutheran Church) in Valley of Peace, and the buildings in Seine Bight and Orange Walk also housed people escaping the storm
This happened just a couple of days before the Belize FORO was supposed to gather here at Camp Concordia. I know, it was “only” a category 1 hurricane, but when you are in the direct path of that kind of storm, there can be extreme damage. We were out of power for two+ days, and Markie and I debated if we should cancel the FORO meeting…so we prayed. As always, the Lord provided, and we decided we could go ahead and host our guests for face-to-face meetings with Micah and Robin Wildauer’s help. Blessed with the gift of hospitality, they welcomed our guest sinto their new larger home, and were able to provide a meeting room. After several years of Zoom/virtual meeting we all agreed that the value of being together far exceeded the inconvenience of relocating. After several years of Zoom/virtual meetings, it was great to be with these concerned folks. FORO guests saw how members of the Lutheran Mission in Belize work together to coordinate and support ongoing work.
I’m sure we have mentioned our contractor, Eleuterio Sanchez, in other contexts, but after the hurricane, he pulled us out of the mess. He and his team methodically targeted, first the camp, and then our property; they cut, hauled and cleaned up fallen trees and branches. After that, they righted several trees that the wind had blown over and we took for lost, tying them up with rope and using other trees and stakes to support them. At the end of a short two weeks, order had been restored.
Without missing a beat, we were then able to host the Volunteer Coordinator’s Conference for the LCMS Office of International Missions at Camp Concordia. These lively and interesting people came from around the globe to discuss how to bring people onto the mission fields in meaningful ways. It was wonderful having them with us for a few days and to be part of their important work.
Our mercy work has recently been directed toward building projects. One of our families in Valley of Peace was hit hard during the hurricane, so we were able to help replace their kitchen roof that had been destroyed in the storm. This week in Seine Bight, Eleuterio and his crew are working to add support to the floor and roof of another member’s home.
Sue Kessler also has great news: Liam, the little boy in Valley of Peace who received the “miracle” wheelchair is already beginning to respond to being in school. When he was born, the doctor told his mother, “He will never be able to learn anything,” but as is so often the case, man errs, and God works good for those who fear and love Him. It is wonderful to see this little boy embracing this new opportunity to be in school.
As we gather around the Advent Wreathe, singing hymns of hope and anticipation, we marvel at how blessed we are. We thank you for your continued support and prayers for our health and ongoing work of sharing Christ with the people of Belize. We echo Peter when he said, “It is good Lord to be here.”
Have a blessed Christmas!