Monday, January 1, 2018

Our Mission in Belize

You never really know what a Senior Missionary couple may end up doing during their time of service.  Julie and I are assigned to work in Belize with the Seminary and Institute programs.  We initially thought we might be doing a little teaching and some occasional training and wondered how we would fill our time.  Well...that question has been answered.

We work with the local leaders to make sure teachers are called.  We train individual teachers and work with the District Seminary and Institute Supervisors to provide monthly Inservice training.  We visit youth and their parents in their homes to show them our love and desire for them to participate in the blessings the Lord offers through attending Seminary and weekly worship on Sundays.

There have been some additional activities that have been fun and rewarding.

Young Women and Aaronic Priesthood Camps
in Spanish Lookout, Cayo District, Western Belize

Soon after Julie and I arrived in our mission (mid March) we were talking with the other senior couple that had arrived in Belize only two weeks before we did.  The Flakes brought up a topic that we had been thinking about for several months before our mission.  Youth Camps.  The two District Presidencies approved the idea and suggested a location.  With that we were off and running.  Julie worked with Sister Flake on the Young Women's camp and Elder Flake supported me with the Aaronic Priesthood camp.

Because the rains come hard during the summer months, we had to schedule the camps as early in June as possible after the schools let out for summer break.  That only give us 3 months to work with the local members and get everything organized.  The race was on.

Each District is spread out over large geographic areas so it is impossible to ever have ONE meeting where everyone could attend.  We had to have a planning meeting with one small group and then present those ideas to the next group, review them, add to them, modify them and then go back to the first group and review again and then try to come to a consensus.  Many members do not have vehicles, emails or phones so we were seldom able to meet with the same people in the follow-up meetings.  In one of the Districts we had 40 people show up to the first that all spoke English.  The next time we met with that District a different group of 40 people showed up but they all spoke Spanish.

Things came together in spite of the difficulties and the youth had a great time.  The facilities allowed us to put all the tents under shelter.  It was not as rustic as we would have liked but at least we were protected from the torrential rains that came.

The Young Women arrived on Tuesday morning and stayed until Thursday morning.

Sisters Moody, Adams and Flake

Group Singing


Sister Flake sewed covers on more than 100 Books of Mormon 

Enough for each of the Young Women that attended.

Faith Walk...

...where some chose to leave the path.

Mini classes


Friendship braclets, friends and the Young Women Colors

Aaronic Priesthood Camp

Thursday morning brought in the 59 young men and took the
79 young women home. 

 The young men were mostly interested in playing

futbol (soccer) and basketball...

but with a game of Capture the Flag...

and some team relays...

they came together and settled down.

There were mini-classes on Peer Pressure and Social Media,
Being Worthy to Perform Priesthood Ordinances,

Preparing for a Productive Future, and
Proper Treatment of Girls and Women,
along with other activities and firesides.

Each young woman and young man was given a Book of
Mormon which included Pres. Monson's talk from April
General Conference plus a reading schedule so they could
complete the Book of Mormon before Christmas as
a gift to Jesus Christ.

Both groups also participated in a Book of Mormon Read-a-thon.
Each youth was given 6 pages of the Book of Mormon and as a
group we read the entire Book of Mormon in about 30 minutes.

Because of so much rain,
the most "outdoorsie" thing we were able to do
was cook sausages (hotdogs).

The lake (that may or may not have a crocodile)

Seminary Celebration
in Belize City

Less than 3 weeks later we hosted a nationwide Seminary Celebration
 to honor those that participated in Seminary during the year, those
that completed the year of studying the New Testament and
especially those that graduated after completing 4 years.

We enlisted the help of the youth from the Belize City and
Cinderella Branches.

They took over the decorations...

 and music.

Pulling from past experience planning dances as a youth in Long Beach and in Bountiful, I decided that the excitement of a balloon drop was required.

Over 110 youth attended.  We were fortunate enough to have the
Area Seminary Supervisor, Elder Arbizu, with us for the celebration.

A.J. Cherrington, one of the graduates (who is now serving a full
time mission in Lima, Peru), along with a few others, shared
Seminary experiences and testimonies.  

The short program and acknowledgements were followed by a
catered lunch of Belize's favorite meal...
none other than "rice and beans and stew chicken".

The dance took a while to get started...

But in the end everyone had a good time and no one wanted to leave.

The youth had never seen "disco" before.

"Strengthening the Youth Through Gospel Knowledge"
Seminary Super Saturday in Santa Elena

A month later was the first Seminary Super Saturday.  Though
planned by the Cayo District Seminary Supervisor, it was a
countrywide activity and some branches had to travel
4 hours to get there.

We mostly did a mix of Book of Mormon related relays.
Being the 3rd activity in a month and a half , the youth were
 making friends from all over the country and were loving
the activities that bring them together.

The day turned out to be way too hot to enjoy much running around.

"Put on the Armor of Righteousness - Fortify
Yourself Against the Adversary"
Seminary Super Saturday in Orange Walk

For this activity the Seminary teachers from Belize City, Orange Walk
and Corozal coordinated ideas and efforts for a very fun and cool activity.

We started by talking about the Captain Moroni's Title of Liberty,
 "What is important to you?"
"What are you willing to defend?"
"What are you willing to do to defend that is important to you?
"What arms do you have to help defend what is important to you?

Before heading outside to the "battlefield" the youth were to think of 
a personal covenant that they were willing to make with the Lord.
 They then came forward and tore a strip from a large piece of cloth
in representation of the ancient covenant of "rending" their clothes.
(the color they chose determined which team they would be on)

Each team selected a "Captain Moroni" who then assigned
scribes, builders, defenders and warriors.

They established their Title of Liberty


The Scribes turned to the scriptures to find words of "defense"
and of spiritual "protection".

These words were painted in watercolors which would
need to be protected against attacks from the Adversary.
(water from the opposing team)

The Builders constructed their fortresses, or walls of defense...
 which protected their "reservoir of righteousness" (a 6 ft pool full of water)

Words of defense and protection were displayed on their fortress.

the walls were readied...

and the Defenders assigned their positions.

Armed with cups of water from their "reservoir of righteousness"
the Warriors began their attack and the "defense of righteousness" began.

Everyone was wet but smiling ear to ear.

We were impressed that several of the youth later commented that
they had actually learned something during the day's activities.

After lunch we opened up a waterslide just to make sure
no one when home overheated.  The glee and smiles
throughout the day were priceless.  It was interesting to see
that many of the youth hung out with friends from other
parts of Belize rather than staying with just those from 
their branch.

The youth went home with a laminated bookmark.

We are so grateful for the support and help we receive from the
Magnussons and Flakes.

This is a long blog but how else do you describe what Julie and I
have been involved with these past 9+ months.  There was no way
we imagined doing activities like this.  It has been so
wonderful to get to know so many youth and leaders and now call 
them our friends...our brothers and sisters.

IT IS ALL MISSIONARY WORK!!  (some things are just more fun than others)