Under the Shade, I Flourish

Sub umbra, floreo. I encountered this motto multiple times over nine days in Belize, eventually learning that it's probably referring to the metaphoric protective "shade" of the British Crown. It works when taken literally, too, though! It's not an island, but Belize is considered Caribbean. It's lush, tropical, and HOT, much like the DR, but I managed to keep cool and thoroughly enjoy all that the FORO had to offer. 

The post I fired off our first morning in-country explained how the entire Belize team, really, rallied to pull off what could just as easily have been cancelled. 

The wheels in my head were spinning after a Saturday full of presentations and dialogue with representatives from the Belize Mission Society (BMS) that would continue over the next few days. I truly feel as though I understand not only the organization but also Cathy, its one-woman powerhouse of a director, on a different level than before. (Also yes, Ice Cream Corner IS walkable from the Wildauers' house.)

Sunday, we worshipped in Valley of Peace, a largely immigrant community about a 30 min. drive from Camp Concordia. I couldn't get over how different the church looked from last time I'd seen it, in January 2020. Some weeks worship is in Spanish, others English. We were there on an English week. At first I was disappointed since I'd had in my head it was going to be Spanish, but how often do I get Divine Service in English?! The only worshippers besides the missionaries and FORO guests were a Canadian couple who own a farm in San Ignacio. 

The service included a rite of installation for two new missionary couples, the Kesslers (Gary and Sue, left) and Logstons (Justin and Jordan, right). Little Malachi was installed as "baby!"

Your LAC Volunteer Coordination staff! Gary (center) and Ashley (right) host volunteers in Belize and Puerto Rico, respectively. 

Valley of Peace also boasts a preschool on the property - another marked improvement over nearly three years prior. 

We had lunch as a group at an Argentinian place in the Wildauers' neighborhood. Micah had ordered a sampling of appetizers ahead of time; once we arrived and got seated, they just kept coming out. 

Monday, I think it dawned on our hosts that the FORO was ending and the Volunteer Coordinators would be arriving soon. There was some lingering confusion about mealtimes, drivers, our cultural excursion, etc., but Jordan whipped things into shape before a vanload of us headed south to the village of Seine Bight for the dedication of BMS's baby, "Mercy House."

We had a great view of the "Sleeping Giant" mountain range on the way (look just to the left of the yellow stripe in the photo). 

We stopped once for lunch and once more at a chocolate factory made famous when the Duke and Duchess of York (now Prince William and Princess Kate) visited as part of their jubilee tour. I refrained from buying any that day since I was afraid it'd melt, but I snapped up a bar of "80% DARK CHOCOLATE with CHILI" for myself when I saw it at a gift shop the next day. 

Mercy House is a community facility with a kitchen and open air dining area on the lower level and meeting and clinic space upstairs. It's next to Christ Lutheran Church and a stone's throw from St. Alphonsus R.C. School, familiar to me from my 2015 Belize mission trip! I never would have guessed at the time that I'd be looking at it from this angle seven years later. 

Cathy explaining how Mercy House came to be and how it's intended to be used. 

Each of the Belize missionary pastors figured into the brief dedication service in some way. 

Ashley and I befriended Mariluz, a young, Spanish-speaking mother of twins (and Ashley, one of the twins) over lemonade and cupcakes after the service. The three are among Christ Lutheran's first members. 

Tuesday was a transitional day between the FORO and the Volunteer Coordinators' Conference. Johanna, Ashley, and I mostly relaxed and shopped while we waited for guests from St. Louis, the Czech Republic, Congo, and South Korea to arrive, but we sprinkled in a few cultural moments. Market Square in Belmopan is hoppin' every Tuesday and Friday. Supermarkets are virtually nonexistent, so Robin Wildauer hits up stalls like these to shop for their family of six. 

In the late afternoon, we accompanied Alliance missionary pastor Benjamin Flores on two home visits in Valley of Peace: one to an extended family compound for their regular weekly devotion and book discussion and the other (pictured above) to check on post-hurricane roof repairs at Pedrina's; she's a single mom of a son with disabilities who ALSO cares for a friend's son with disabilities. 

We got back to camp in the middle of a driving rain and tried to stay as dry as we could en route to a welcome potluck. Blessedly, the rain had stopped by the time we were all ready to head back to the bunkhouse and close our first few hours together in God's Word. 

Until next time, blessings in Christ!