November 29, 2010 - A Visit to Orange Walk

Monday, November 29, 2010

We visited Orange Walk Town, which is about 1 1/2 hours northeast of Belize City.  It got its name from the many orange groves that used to grow there.  Though we visited here once before, this was our first time to be able to go to church. 
New member, Racquel

We took the sister missionaries to dinner at a Mayan restaurant. The food was good, but spicy.  That night we (including Sisters McDougal and Maroquinn) picked up some members in the van and went to the baptism of a young mother named Raquel McLoughlin.

We were the speakers for sacrament meeting Sunday morning.  Sister Pattee spoke about hope and faith in Christ, and Elder Pattee spoke about the Restoration of the Gospel.  Later Sister Pattee visited primary for awhile before joining Elder Pattee in the gospel doctrine Sunday school class, which was well taught by Sister Swift.  
Primary nusery class

Some of the Orange Walk primary children with leaders

Relief Society sisters at Orange Walk

I didn't realize that we didn't get any photos of the men at church until I started working on this blog, but there were plenty of them there, as well.  I'll have to get photos of some of them next time.

When we got home, we quickly plugged in the crockpot and heated up the chili we had made before leaving for Orange Walk, as we had a dinner for Alwayne Cherrington and his friends Sunday evening.  Alwayne leaves for his mission to Gautemala on Wednesday.  
Alwayne in blue shirt

Elder Pattee spent several hours each day this past week working at the distribution center.  Many members went on a temple trip by bus to Guatemala City--a 10 hour bus ride. Sister Pattee was supposed to help at the center, too, but she has been ill all week.  We are also working on PEF.

November 21, 2010 A Frustrating Week

Monday, November 22, 2010

We spent most of our time taking care of problems related to Perpetual Education Fund this week. Tuesday and Wednesday were probably among the most frustrating and stressful days we've had since we came to Belize.  One of our main responsibilities in Belize is Perpetual Education Fund loans.  It is a wonderful program that provides school loans to many young people that would not be able to fund their education otherwise.  The program has pulled many young people out of a life destined for poverty. 

Our P E F program is run through Guatemala.  If we have questions, we try to contact someone there.  Sometimes they speak Spanish with just a little English.  Communication is a BIG problem.  Trying to find just the right person that can help us can be difficult.  A man named Reynado had been able to help us some.  Finally, later Wednesday afternoon, I found a woman named Lidia Beatrice that seemed willing to help us.  I explained the problem as best as I could.  Later she said sent us an e-mail with some information that really helped. 

The basic problem is that we have never been trained.  Not only is this program complicated, it also runs differently here in Belize than other places.  We have to be sure we do everything correctly, or there could be students that won't get their loan money in time for their school to be paid for their next semester. 

Fortunately PEF is not all we do.  A few days ago we took Elder John Rivas and his family to the airport.  He is going to Guatemala. 

He even asked us to have our picture taken with him.  He doesn't look very happy in these photos, but I think he was just a bit nervous.  He has been looking forward to being a missionary and was actually very excited to go.   Leaving home for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. 

The youth had a great activity on Friday.  It had been raining heavily all day, so I didn't bring our camera.  I wish I had.  34 young people showed up, which we thought was pretty darn good.  Some of the leaders went out and actually gathered them up in a van.  It took several trips to get them all.  They had to stay inside, but the youth enjoyed the well planned event. 

I did get a photo of institute class, which we visited Saturday night.
L. to R. President Gordon, Elwayne (leaving on his mission next week), Nikita, Micah, Ellsworth (teacher), and Henry.
Again this week Elder Pattee helped some branch members get names ready to take on the temple trip next week. 

Hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving Day!  Belize doesn't celebrate an official day of thanks, so it will be just a regular day here.    Even so, we are very grateful for the gospel, a wonderful family, and dear friends--also the opportunity to be missionaries.  We miss you all.  

San Pedro November 14, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This post will be about our first visit to San Pedro, even though it was several days ago.  San Pedro is a beautiful place, but unfortunately, the branch of the Church there is presently pretty much in shambles.  The branch president speaks only Spanish, but most of the members speak English.  In some ways he has been set up to fail.  We are doing the best we can to find ways to strengthen this struggling branch, but it will take time. 
Water taxi

We took our first water taxi ride, which took 1hour and 15 minutes to reach the Ambergris Caye (Key).  Sometimes it is referred to as San Pedro, but really San Pedro is the name of the city on the Caye. 

When all the passengers were finally inside the taxi, all the seats were taken up, even the center ones.

We traveled through water of the most beautiful color of azure.  It was far prettier than any Caribbean travel poster I've ever seen. 

Golf carts are the mode of travel on the Island.

Elders Lunt and Contrares were a great help to us.  They met us at the water taxi and helped us rent a golf cart to get around the island.  Then they took us to the Mayan Princess Hotel, which is right on the beach.  Our room was on the ground floor and had a patio looking out on the sand and beautiful water. 

Outside our hotel.

One of the maids came to our open door and introduced herself as Jane Kraft.  Turned out she was the young women’s president of the branch. We were glad to meet her.

We took a little walk while the elders went to find some lunch. 

We felt safe here, as there were lots of tourists.  In Belize City we don’t feel safe walking in many places.  We are often approached by people asking for money.  (Our mission president has asked that we not give money to people.  I often just leave my purse at home.)  We didn’t see people asking for money on San Pedro.  Also, the town was clean and neat. 

When Elders Lunt and Contrares returned, we all climbed on the motor cart with Richard driving.  The elders took us to see some of the members.  First we went to the Lammey’s house.  Brother Lammey is one of the counselors in the branch presidency.  He seemed very committed and sincere in the gospel.  He speaks only English, but his wife speaks only Spanish.  They seem to communicate in spite of it.  Their home was very humble with walls of just boards, unpainted. 

Then we were introduced to a young man named Moses that wants to go on a mission.   After going with the elders to their apartment for an apartment check, we drove back to the church (a rented building right across from our hotel) for seminary.  The elders teach the seminary class, which is held twice a week. 

 Currently, the San Pedro Branch meets on the 3rd floor of this rented building.

Elder Lunt

After seminary we took the elders to dinner.  We had swordfish steaks at a local restaurant.
By then it was dark and we had to hurry to back to the church to meet with President Torres. 
We had a nice visit with him, but since he only speaks Spanish, the elders had to interpret.  Richard made some suggestions about how some of the leadership positions might be changed.   President Torres had a few ideas of his own.  Richard said he would present them in next week’s district presidency meeting. 

Next, we drove over to the Williams’ home.  He is a counselor in the branch presidency, and she is the relief society president.  Later we visited the home of a man named Samuel.  (The primary president had a tooth abcess, so we didn't meet her this trip.)

Sunday morning was fast and testimony meeting with only about 20 members there.  However, there were probably 20 or so tourists, too.  It was a good meeting, but the branch used to have much better attendance.  Local members have just quit coming.  We hope we can do something to help revive things.  The young elders do an excellent job.
We look forward to our next visit to San Pedro

Lamanai - November 8, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

We got to see some of the really beautiful parts of our mission this past week with visits to Lamanai (Mayan ruins) and to San Pedro Island.  I will only write about Lamanai on this post.

President Lopez had promised the 6 young elders and 4 young sisters in our district that if they met all their baptism goals, they could have a trip to Lamanai.  So this past Wednesday we got in the van, picked the elders and then drove to first to Orange Walk, which is 2 hours away.  There we picked up the sisters, then backtracked to the Lamanai turnoff. 

Mennonite School

After the turnoff it was 35 miles of bad dirt road fill with potholes.  That stretch of road took over an hour and half  to cover.    But we saw lots of interesting sights along the way.  The Mennonites have a colony called Shipyard here.  We felt almost like we were back in Lancaster, Pennsylvania visiting Ryan and Emily and seeing the Amish.  Their clothing and modes of transportation were very similar. 

We saw lots of horses and buggies and iron-wheeled tractors.

We were glad to finally arrive at Lamanai.  After a picnic lunch, which the elders provided, we took a self-guided tour of the archeological site.  There are many such sites in Belize, but this one is the biggest. 

We were all surprised at how huge and fantastic the ancient ruins were.  The missionaries had fun climbing to the tops. 

Our Lamanite missionaries especially had fun pretending they were Samuel the Lamanite.  They preached "repentance" from the tops of the walls.

We spent 2 hours or so just exploring the various sites.

We saw the ruins of several ancient temples

and even an attempted sacrifice at the altar.

This looked like some kind of stadium or arena.

A Mayan artifact

 This was the Pattees' first experience in such a dense jungle.

Thick vines like these grew everywhere, and of course, some of the elders had to do a little swinging on them.

Our District:  Back row R. to L. : Elders Lorenzo, Pineda, Choc, Sisters McDougal, Stout, and Benitez
Front row R. to L.:  Elders Lunt, Contreras, and Martinez

Lest you think we didn't do any missionary work this week, we also helped Tenica with PEF and did inservice with the seminary and institute in Belize City.  Elder Pattee helped Sister Patnett again with family history.  We also spent 5 hours with John Rivas and Alwayne Cherrington at the Gautemalan embassy getting their work police records certified for their missions.  Saturday and Sunday were spent in San Pedro getting to know the branch leadership and helping as we could. We got home late afternoon Sunday and had a farewell dinner at our house for John Rivas, who is leaving Tuesday for the Guatemala MTC. 

Dinner for John Rivas (pink shirt) including 8 other young men.

Our next post will include our trip to the Island of San Pedro.

Aftermath of Hurricane - November 1, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

 It is now November, and some of you may be experiencing snow, but we are still in hot weather day and night.  It is cooler than when we arrived 7 weeks ago, however.

You may have heard on the news about the American that was killed here in Belize by a jaguar during the hurricane.  This incident happened just 11 miles from us.  A mango tree fell down on a caged enclosure of a jaguar at a nature-type park.  Jaguars are nocturnal animals, and this happened at night.  The man lived close by, but didn't know the cat was on the loose.  The jaguar mauled and killed the man.  Not much later the man that took care of the jaguar went looking for the cat.  He found the man and his dog.  The dog was severly injured.  A night or two later, the jaguar was hunted down and killed.  Jaguars live wild in the forests from Mexico down to Argentina, but they don't usually bother people.

Jaguars like this live in the local forests.

This past week we drove the zone leaders and 2 young men that will be leaving on missions soon (Jon Rivas and Alwayne Cherrington) to Belmopan (1hour and 15 minutes, inland) to get necessary paperwork done.  Belmopan had more damage than we did in Belize City from Hurricane Richard.  Several years ago the capitol of Belize was moved to Belmopan.  It is more inland and doesn't get the surge from the ocean during storms.  Belize City is on a little finger of a peninsula that sticks right out in the ocean.  There is water on 3 sides.  The whole city could be gone if another storm like Hurricane Hattie should come along like it did in 1961. 

The elders in Belmopan said that they baptized a mother and her children the morning of the day Hurricane Richard hit.  Then in the evening the storm came and blew a large tree down on their house.  Fortunately they were not in the house, but the roof will have to be replaced and some other things.  The family may be wondering about the timing, but at least they will get help from the Church with repairs, which they may not have received otherwise. 
Small rainwater container outside our bedroom window.

Lots of people here collect the rainwater by having containers under downspouts to catch the water that comes off the roofs.  Our landlady, Sheila, has many of these containers.  Some of them are huge.   This is a good way to have water if the city water is off.  Also Sheila uses it for watering her many beautiful plants around the yard and for keeping things washed down. 

Yesterday afternoon (Sunday) we went to a baptism with two brothers and two sisters from the same family getting baptized.  But the mother is not ready yet.  It concerns us that the children may not be able to remain active without a member parent.  Also, a man from Ghana named Ambrose got baptized. 

Saturday Elder Pattee helped with the delivery of 44 mattresses and some pillows to members that had theirs ruined by flooding.  We were surprised to find out the mattress factory was located almost just across the street from us. 

 We started doing the PEF workshop with Kasheifa Gordon this week.  She has a 2 month old baby that needs attention whenever we work with her.  She is only 19 and is one of the many unwed motheres we see here.  She will need a good job, so we hope she can get the training she needs. 

On Friday we both got our first Belizean haircuts.  Elder Pattee got a good razer cut, but it is very short.  Sister Portello from our Cinderella Branch cut Sister Pattee's hair.   Even though some of Sister Portello's  beauty shop equipment was ruined in the 5 feet of surge water in her combination home and shop, she still had her scissors.  She did pretty well. 

New haircuts.  This photo was taken today, which is preparation day, so we have on casual clothes.  (You can see the mattress factory building out the window behind us.)

Harold Smith, the 13th person baptized in Belize, came to dinner Sunday, as did Brad Ruano from Guatemala.  Brother Smith gave us some valuable insights concerning the challenges of the Church in this country.

We had missionary prep class here again last night.  President Munoz (counselor in the district presidency) joined us.  The young men spent much of the class practicing their Spanish.  People just assume everyone can speak Spanish here, but this is not the case.  Even in some families with a parent speaking Spanish, the children don't learn it.  The young men always enjoy the refreshments we serve at the end.  This time we had cake and ice cream. 

Sadly, Elder Warren Card returned to us from the Guatemala MTC just one week after leaving for his mission. He said he wasn't ready, but is vowing he will go again in a few months.  His attitude is very good, and he came to last night's meeting.  He also performed 2 of the baptisms yesterday.