Words of Encouragement

Cyndi den Otter
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  • When Someone Falls

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A HISTORY OF JUBC IN SONG

I’LL TELL YOU A STORY ABOUT JUBC
A LITTLE WHITE CHURCH DEEP IN ‘TATER COUNTRY
IT WAS BUILT IN JACKSONVILLE BACK IN 1860
NOW LISTEN UP FOLKS TO A BIT OF HISTORY

 

Lord, our church is full. What do you want us to do? We got nowhere to go. You want us to do what? Say that again Lord. You want us to dig. Dig down. Okay, we’ll dig.

WELL THE CHURCH IT GREW AND IT GREW FROM JUST A FEW
THEN BY 1959 WE HAD FILLED EVERY PEW
SO WE BUILT A BASEMENT AND ROLLED THE CHURCH RIGHT THROUGH
USING A LITTLE TRACTOR IT WAS QUITE A SIGHT TO VIEW

 

Lord, we’re back. We’re outa’ space again. Now what? Say what? You want us to build out Lord. Okay, we’ll build out.

WELL IN 1978 WE BUILT ON A W.C.
‘CAUSE THE LADIES IN THE CHURCH THEY NEEDED TO P.E.E.
WE ALSO BUILT A KITCHEN SO WE COULD HAVE A CUP OF TEA
AND WE PUT IN SOME SHELVES AND ADDED A LIBRARY.

 

Hi Lord, it’s us again at Jacksonville United Baptist Church. Guess what! Oh, you already know. Well what are we gonna’ do? We built down and we build out. What’s that Lord, you want us to build out back? We can’t build out back Lord, there’s a swamp back there. Oh, it’s not a swamp; it’s a low-lying area. But Lord we’re just a little country church. Ohhhh, you’ve got plans for us. Okay Lord, we’ll build out back.

WELL IN 1984 WE HAD A TEST OF FAITH
‘CAUSE GOD HAD MORE PLANS THAT WERE BIGGER THAN OUR SPACE
SO THE GYM AND SOME CLASSROOMS WERE ADDED TO THIS PLACE
AND GOD FILLED IT UP WITH HIS AMAZING GRACE

 

Hi, Lord. It’s us again. Oh, you’ve been expecting us. You seem to always be a few steps ahead of us. Lord we built down, we built out, we built back, and we’ve nowhere to build but up. Up? You really mean up? Okay Lord we’ll build up.

WELL IN 1991 THE TOOLS CAME OUT ONCE MORE
WE ADDED THIRTY SEATS AND KNOCKED OUT THE STAIRS AND DOOR
WE THOUGHT THAT WE WERE FINISHED BUT GOD SAID HE HAD MORE
SO WE PUT UP THE BALCONY IN 1994

 

Hello Lord, Guess who. Yup, we’re full again. This time we’re really full and we’re all cross piled in there. We’re all scooched over and everything Lord. We’ve built down, and we’ve built out, we’ve built back, we’ve built up, and if we keep pokin’ out walls, the whole thing is gonna’ come down … … … … You gotta’ be kiddin’!! That’s just what you had in mind! Wow, well okay. FORWARD IN FAITH!

SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED IN 144 YEARS
GOD IN IS CONTROL AND IS BIGGER THAN OUR FEARS
WE NEED TO TALK TO GOD ‘CAUSE HE’S SHOWN US THAT HE HEARS
AND JUST HOW MUCH HE LOVES US HE HAD MADE VERY CLEAR

 

Lord, we’re a little afraid. We’re just a little country church. Oh, we WERE a little country church. Yes, Lord, I remember, you took care of us in 1960 when we built down. Yes, and again in 1978 when we build out, and in 1984 when we built back, and yes you were with us in 1994 when we built up. Lord this new church better be made outa Lego.

IT’S NOT ABOUT NAILS AND BOARDS OR ADDING MORE PEWS
IT’S ABOUT BRINGING IN OUR NEIGHBOURS TO COME TO KNOW YOU
SO WHEN WE BUILD THIS CHURCH, WE BUILD YOUR KINGDOM TOO
LORD THIS HOUSE IS YOURS AND WE NEED TO TRUST IN YOU

Now what do you want us to do Lord?
Trust you.
Put our Faith in you.
Help further your Kingdom.
Yes, Lord we remember what you told us; we just need reminded.
Lord when we start to doubt,

Help us to look back and remember how far you have brought us
In order to look forward and know how far you are going to take us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

Copyright 2020 April 17 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission

 

 

WE’RE STILL HERE

Once again, our planet is in crisis.  The word pandemic brings fear and anxiety.  It has taken over our thoughts and fills us with worry and uncertainty. It fills our newsfeeds and comes up in every conversation.  There are jokes to try and lighten the mood and lessen the fear.  There is a lot of crazy, unhelpful, and blatantly untrue panic spreading as well.    Our health agencies and our governments are scrambling to make the best decisions they can to keep us healthy in this unchartered territory.  These are uncertain times. 

Our government has suggested social distancing in order to keep us safe, hopefully control the pandemic called Covid 19, and ease the strain on our overburdened health care system.  Our church, along with countless others in our nations, has respected the guidelines of our leadership to not have large gatherings and have cancelled services in our churches.   It is an odd feeling, surreal really, to think about empty parking lots in thousands upon thousand of churches.  I am sure that Satan was doing his happy dance.

Our church along with many others are still having our service via livestream – except the pews are empty.  I was concerned and upset about our churches not being able to meet.  When my daughter sent a screenshot of her own online service in another part of the province, I was suddenly struck that thousands of other churches are doing the same thing.  As the implications of this sunk in, I was filled with emotion and was deeply moved. As Jeff and I connected to our own online service, I felt odd.  I thought that it would be flat and strange. The emotions that I was feeling started to change when our pastor still had the usual part of the service of “greeting each other.”  The comment section of our livestream exploded with greetings and it came to me in an overwhelming rush – WE ARE ALL STILL HERE.

Sunday school and children’s programs have ground to a halt – but the church is still here.

Bible studies are not meeting at present but our bibles are still open – and the church is still here.

Prayer meetings do not look the same but we are praying more than ever – because the church is still here.

The congregation is not in our physical building this morning but the worship team is, and as they stand on the stage and lead worship as we sing from our living rooms – because the church is still here.

The pastor is still standing on the platform in our church and livestreaming his message and we are listening from our homes – because the church is still here.

I have heard the phrase “we are the church” all of my life but it never hit home more vividly than it did this morning.   In spite of our present circumstances, as we go to our workplaces and into our communities, we need to be aware that we are the church wherever we are.  In spite of the fact that our world has been turned upside down, God is still on His throne and He is in control and He is greater than a worldwide pandemic.   We may be physically separated for a period of time but we still have a job to do.  I look forward to being with the people in my physical church, but meanwhile I find comfort in the fact that we are the church.  The empty pews do not really change anything because WE ARE STILL HERE.

Joshua 1:9  NIV Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Read the words of one of our closing songs at church this morning.

GOD IS ABLE

Hillsong United

God is able
He will never fail
He is almighty God
Greater than all we seek
Greater than all we ask
He has done great things

Lifted up
He defeated the grave
Raised to life
Our God is able
In His name
We overcome
For the Lord
Our God is able

God is with us
God is on our side
He will make a way
Far above all we know
Far above all we hope
He has done great things

Lifted up …

God is with us
He will go before
He will never leave us
He will never leave us
God is for us
He has open arms
He will never fail us
He will never fail us

Lifted up…

THE BEST WORK

Cyndi den OtterWhen we meet our maker and have to give our account, what is the best work? At times I doubt.  At times I am afraid. There are many more knowledgeable than I.  My church is not the biggest nor does it have the most programs.  My skills are mediocre at best.  I am not the most driven. My faith should be greater.  My accomplishments seem so insignificant.  We compare.  We feel small.  We feel inadequate, not big enough, not the most popular, not the most spectacular, not the best, not enough.

I think it says in Lamazekial 4:19 that the one who dies the most well-known, had the most programs running, was the most popular, had the fanciest accommodations, and especially the softest church pews wins … or perhaps there is another verse.

Perhaps the best work will be done by a new believer who knows not one single word of the Bible, where the pages are fresh and new and mysterious and the “rules” of how to play church are elusive and confusing.  In their zeal to tell of their new found faith they tell everyone they see, and others are curious about the transformation.

It could be that the best work is done by an addict, still suffering from addictions and lacking in confidence but willing to set up chairs, sweep the church, and scrub the dishes, because their heart was changed and God is still working on them.

Perhaps it is cooking for your neighbour who is ill, making cookies for the children’s program, or offering supper to an elderly person because you like to cook and it is your best gift.  Maybe the best work is done with an apron on.

Maybe the best work is driving the church bus because you hold that special driver’s license, or the mechanic that helps his neighbour with their car, or you are the one that loves kids and offers to babysit to give parents a date night or serve in the church nursery.  Perhaps it is cleaning up after an event because you are an introvert and hate the limelight but you can offer your time, a gift that there is precious little of. Maybe you would never imagine being a Sunday School teacher but you can show up for the next church work day to do some carpentry work.

Maybe the best work is done by choirs and congregations who sing off key with gusto, worshiping with their highest praise and outstretched hands.

Maybe the best work will not be done in a large church with all of the finances and programs at their fingertips.  Maybe the best work will be done in a developing country where they feed the poor in their rented church that has no kitchen at all, and all of the supplies and food are brought from the kitchens of private homes. Perhaps filling hungry bellies is one of the highest callings in Kingdom work.

Maybe the best work is caring for the poor, the mentally ill, the handicapped, the elderly, and those going through hard times.  Anonymous faces caring for people who cannot give back anything.  Not. One. Thing.

Perhaps some of the best work will be done by the very young or teenagers. Are you a senior citizen?  Don’t hang up your apron just yet.

God has given us all a job to do and He does not compare us with anyone else.  We are to be obedient to what He has called us to do with the gifts He has given us.  God will give us everything we need to complete the work He has for us to do.  We get sidetracked when we hurry God or let our eyes stray to someone else’s work.  That is their calling and their task, not ours to own. A lot of work is good work but not necessarily the best work for us. When we try to make things happen that we think are good but not in God’s plan, we end up struggling.  If we do it in our own strength, we’ll end up trying to do Kingdom work without the King.  We need to let go of things that are God’s responsibility.  Yes, the work is up to us but the results are up to God.  We need to ask God for wisdom and discernment to fulfil what He wants us to do, and to trust in His perfect timing.

What is the best work? It is the work that God has given each of us to do. I think that God’s tape measure is on our hearts, not the square footage of our physical space or how our peers, or even our church, measures our accomplishments.  We are enough because He is enough.  Put on your apron.  God has work for us to do.

Philippians 1:6. Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

Copyright 2020 March 7 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission

WHEN SOMEONE FALLS

When Someone Falls

What do I do when someone falls

Do I pick a pew further away

Do I slide to the other end and look the other way

So their sinful proximity does not rub off on me

When someone falls

 

Do I hold my head higher and a little prouder

Hoping their failure makes me look a little better

Do I use their trespasses to help me appear more holy

Do I gather up a handful of rocks to throw

When someone falls

 

Do I whisper to others in my circle

For information purposes only of course

To only two, well maybe three

So we can better know how to pray you know

When someone falls

 

Do I see the downcast face, the stooped shoulders

The dark circles under the eyes

Shame and humiliation

There for all to examine

When someone falls

 

Do I know the exact truth

Not the embellished tabloid version

Do I have the courage to confront the parts that are not true

Or maybe it doesn’t matter anyway because they deserve it

When someone falls

 

They may have had a stupid moment like me, like you

We can be dumb like that at times we humans

Wallowing in our flaws and giftedness for bad decisions

Do I feel relief that it was them and not me

When someone falls

 

They may fall big in front of the world

Exposed for their deed in the most public way

Or it can be a whisper that spreads like a wild fire

Who is the judge anyway

When someone falls

 

I’m not saying that sin is good or to be applauded

But perhaps we should show grace, mercy, compassion, love

You can find those words in the Bible

As well as examples of how to use them

When someone falls

 

I catch myself feeling self righteous

Or that my sins are not as bad as theirs

Are some sins worse than others

Check with God on that one

When someone falls

 

Scripture tells us why Jesus died

For what He died

And for whom He died

For ALL sins He paid the price

When someone falls

 

I challenge you to silence

I empty the rocks out of my hands

That were ready to throw stones

Because I need both hands to help them get back up

When someone falls

 

 

 

Copyright 2019 May 4 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission

John 8:7 ESV
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Matthew 7:1-5 ESV
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Luke 6:37 ESV
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.

James 4:12 ESV
There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Galations 6:1 ESV
Brothers,[a] if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Romans 2:1 ESV
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

HOW DO YOU WAIT

sunsetsApril the Giraffe has us glued to our computer monitors.  People from all over the world are watching this giraffe that is ready to give birth.  T-shirts are being sold, forums for discussion have been formed, and Facebook groups made so that people can be notified when she goes into labour.  Day after day people tune in to this giraffe that is basically just walking around her pen.  She eats, she sleeps, she lies down, and she gets back up.  I think April is the most celebrated giraffe on earth. Occasionally we get the thrill of watching the keeper come in and shovel out some manure … and we wait.

I think the reason that people are so enthralled with April is that it is good news.  It is news that distracts us from the usual coverage on politics, plunging economies, and war.  It is news that is neutral and not the often depressing deluge that is on our screens.  April brings people from every walk of life to watch something that does not make you feel hopeless.  I go about my usual business during the day, whether it is a day at the office or a day at home.  When I am home, I check in twice a day to see if there is any change or progress.  At this moment, there are 141,715 people watching, waiting, scrutinizing her, and hoping for signs of this new birth and new life.  We wait.

There is another event that is worthy of our watchfulness.  It is one we have been told about many times and have been advised to watch for it.

1 Thessalonians 4 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

This is good news for believers – not good news for those who are not.  It is not too late.  Yet.

I admit that I have become complacent in watching for Christ’s return. I go about my usual day not thinking about it at all.  I am not on any media or forums discussing the signs of the times and what we could do to prepare.  There are no Facebook groups that notify everyone when this big event starts to happen.  I do not go check the sky twice a day for signs.  However the signs are there more than ever in late years.

So how do we wait?

We stay in close contact with our Keeper, the One who feeds us, and cares for us, and loves us.

Occasionally we need Him to come in and shovel a little manure out of our life.

We read the Bible which are His words, the life manual that helps us in every possible situation that we could ever encounter.  It helps keep us watchful and tuned in.

We talk to Him as much as possible.  He is always there listening, helping, advising, loving.

So I continue to wait for April to give birth.  Maybe today will be the day, or maybe not.  However it WILL happen, even if I am not watching.  It will take place even if I am at work, or sleeping, or not tuned in.  It is inevitable that her time will come and this birth will take place.

We should live each day as if this may be the day that Christ will return.  Think about that.  It WILL happen even if we are not watching.  It WILL take place even if we are at work, or sleeping, or not tuned it.   What if today is the day?  Would you do anything differently?  How do you wait?

Copyright 2017 March 18 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission

 

HE KNOWS YOUR NAME

Cyndi den Otter

We met the children at the Children’s home briefly.  We spent 10 days with them.  As we prepared for this, we attempted to memorize their names.  We studied and tried to match their names with their photos.  It was hard to do.  The names would not stick and each time we thought we were doing better, more names got added to the list as more children were added to the home  – 24 in all including staff children.

When we arrived in Belize, we were warmly greeted with giggling swarms of children.  Within 48 hours we easily put names to faces as we got to know them and began to see their different personalities.  By the end of the week, we knew their names, their ages, and who their siblings were.  And now their names are branded on our hearts.

Shortly after we arrived home we found out one of the girls had lost her mother.    Today we found out that another little boy just lost his Dad which makes him an orphan. Such pain they have to go through. I sit here weeping for little children who had found their way into my heart.  I am an entire continent away and I want to reach out and scoop them up into my arms and hold them.  We are helpless to take away their grief.  We pray that God will heal their pain and give their loving caretakers an extra measure of grace.  I pray for the children we met at the children’s home often.  I put their pictures in a prominent place.  I say their names out loud.  I do not want to forget.  I do not EVER want to forget.  God knows their names.  He knows the name of each and every one and He will never forget.

Psalm 10:14  But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. NIV

The children in the home we visited are loved and cared for.   They have been through a lot but God brought them to a place of hope and healing – but what about the others?  We had seen so many abandoned, abused, and neglected children in our travels and  in our own communities.  What is our responsibility?  What is our part?  God’s direction is clear.  Open your eyes wide and look, even when it makes you uncomfortable and when you look SEE.  Become aware and when it seems overwhelming, too big of a problem, remember one person does not have responsibility for it all but each person should do their part.  Most importantly remember to pray for the vulnerable and orphans because not one of those children are strangers to God.

Psalm 82:3-4 Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.  NLT

Psalms 10:17-18  LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.  You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify themNLT

While trying to sort it all out in my mind, I came across a picture that I had taken.  It was of a rose bush that had gotten separated from all of the other plants and somehow gotten enclosed in the plastic sleeve of a hydro pole anchor.  The rose grew there in the dark for a long time – slowly creeping toward the light.  An amazing thing happened and against all odds, the rose burst from the top of that long confining tube and bloomed in all its glory, and not only did it bloom, it thrived!  God has placed these children in this home for a specific time when everything seems very dark for them.  In this safe loving environment, many still in survivor mode, inch their way towards the light.  God SEES them there in the darkness because nothing and no one escapes His notice and He guides them toward the light and hope, the hope they have in Jesus Christ. I just know God has great things in store for them by His mighty power. It is not hopeless!  I would love nothing better that to see them burst into the light and bloom and THRIVE!

Little ones God loves you more than you can imagine.  He wants you to give your life to Him.

He is a safe Daddy and He will not hurt you.  He will take care of you.   He is on the side of the helpless.

You will never be an orphan with the God of the universe as your heavenly Father.

God has a plan for you and a purpose for your life beyond what you could ever imagine. 

He will make a way for you if you let Him, even when it seems impossible.  

HE HAS GATHERED EVERY TEAR THAT YOU HAVE SHED in a bottle and He will not forget one of them!

NOT A DAY OF YOUR DESPAIR WILL BE WASTED because God can turn them into situations for His good!

HE CAN REDEEM EVERY SCAR ON YOUR BODY for His glory and His purposes if you will allow it! 

HE CAN SALVAGE EVERY MOMENT OF PAIN that you have felt to further His kingdom!

HE SEES YOU.  HE HAS NOT FORGOTTEN YOU AND HE KNOWS YOUR NAME!

Exodus 22:22-23  You must not exploit a widow or an orphan.
If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their  cry.  NLT

Psalms 68:5  Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  NLT

 

Copyright 2016 April 18 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission

PROVISION

The photo was taken onCyndi den Otter a New York City mission trip. The team was setting up tables but kept getting asked to move to a different spot. They finally ended up directly in front of an apartment building that caught fire and burned down. You can see the smoke in the air and the fire trucks. People came running out of the building, some still in pajamas or underwear, and barefoot. What did the team have set up on tables that day … … clothing and shoes.

HOPE

Hopewell

Cyndi den Otter

BELIZE – DAY 1

TWO BROKEN PLANES

  • 1/29, 1:28pm
  • Cyndi Den Otter
    In Houston. On time so far.

    1/29, 1:34pm
    Wendy Stewart
    Just boarded the plane for Belize in Miami. Our flights are all good to go too. Had two bags checked for free in Orlando. Blessing number 1.
    See you soon.

    1/29, 3:02pm
    Wendy Stewart
    We’ve had a problem. Sat on the plane here in Miami 1 1/2 hours while mechanics worked on it. Were currently being unloaded. Plane is being taken out of commission. Going to try and find us another plane. I think we’re going to be a while. Back in the airport.

    Jeff Den Otter
    We are delayed an hour. Sitting on tarmac. Fixing plane.

    1/29, 3:47pm
    Wendy Stewart
    We are still in Miami. We’ve been sitting on the plane too. Finally unloaded us. Waiting for another ride.

    1/29, 3:50pm
    Jeff Den Otter
    Is it bad if they are using duct tape? They just sent someone to the parts store.

    1/29, 3:50pm
    Wendy Stewart
    Yikes
    Our new plane they switched us to has one tire laying on the ground. So we still aren’t loaded.

    1/29, 3:52pm
    Jeff Den Otter
    Not funny but we can’t stop laughing.

    1/29, 4:09pm
    Cyndi Den Otter
    The guy behind me has the plague and the guy beside him has both nostrils stuffed with big wads of kleenex. Everyone is out of their seats and I think karaoke is next.

    1/29, 4:11pm
    Wendy Stewart
    They’ve just announced another delay for us and are going to give meal vouchers out. That can’t be good.
    I’d say hold your breath and don’t breath the same air but I guess that’s out of the question.

    1/29, 4:22pm
    Cyndi Den Otter
    Oh oh free drinks here. It could get interesting.

    1/29, 4:28pm
    Wendy Stewart
    Oh man. At least we are in the airport and able to walk around.

    1/29, 4:42pm
    Cyndi Den Otter
    Reboarding. Let’s hope the duct tape holds.

    1/29, 4:45pm
    Wendy Stewart
    We are reboarding now also. Good luck.

    1/29, 4:50pm
    Cyndi Den Otter
    How long is your flight?

    1/29, 4:50pm
    Wendy Stewart
    2hours. Yours?

    1/29, 4:52pm
    Cyndi Den Otter
    2:30

** The amazing ending to this story is that our planes rolled into the airport in Belize one right after another. Now what do you think of that?!

BELIZE – DAY 2

MR. GUY, MISS WENDY, MR. JEFF, MISS CYNDI

Jeff and I were carrying nearly 100 pounds in donations. I held my breath as we headed through customs in Belize. Guy and Wendy sailed on through with theirs but the officer pointed at Jeff and I and summoned us into a different line. He opened my bag and said “what is all this?” As I stammered my explanation, he jerked the zipper the rest of the way back and it broke. After that he looked upset and shocked and he waved us on through. Praise the Lord for the broken zipper! Guy and Wendy were outside the door praying and we had asked friends back home to pray specifically for many things including customs.

We were very late arriving due to our planes both being broken down in separate ends of the country. However, we found our way in the dark through a maze of winding bumpy roads in a very remote area. To everyone’s amazement we drove directly to the home with no wrong turns! Do I hear another Praise the Lord!

In spite of being late, we were warmly greeted and our rumbling stomachs filled with a delicious meal. With great relief we settled into our rooms.

On Saturday, Guy and Jeff started to work right away on the new slaughter house which was to be built of cement blocks. Try that in 90 degree heat and 100% humidity. Wendy and I got to spend some time with the children. Several new children have arrived in the recent weeks and most of them were tiny so needless to say the work load is intense and some are still adjusting. There are 24 children in all including staff children. Please pray for those dear house parents. They have their hands full!

In the afternoon they took out the horses and every child who wanted to got to go horseback riding. What fun! In the evening we took out our games and had a very loud and fun game night. The children call us Mr. Guy, Miss Wendy, Mr.Jeff, and Miss Cyndi 🙂

Wendy and I were the first of our team to experience the fire ants. Now we all know for sure that Baptists can dance ….. even Jeff!!

Double Head Cabbage Church

BELIZE DAY 3

DOUBLE HEAD CABBAGE CHURCH

The little ones are scrubbed clean, hair braids done, all dressed up, and the vans loaded to head to worship at Double Head Cabbage Church. There was much debate about who would get to ride with Mr. Guy, Miss Wendy, Mr. Jeff and Miss Cyndi to church. Finally the negotiations were made and the little ones all piled in to take their turn in the green missionaries car. (Yes, I just read that too. The car was green not us … well actually we were green too – at first).

When we arrived, the children took up nearly half of the church. We chuckled as one woman took a big broom and swept the fire ants out of the church and out on to the doorstep before the service began. At one point during the singing I felt the need to dance. I am not sure if it was the Holy Spirit or the fire ants. One little bat hung in the ceiling during the service. I understand he lives there and quietly does his job of consuming insects – thank you Mr. Bat! Well … I was told there was that one incident when he decided to take flight during the service, got caught in the ceiling fan, and was ejected onto the pulpit … I hear that it is a common occurrence.  Mr. Guy and Mr. Jeff felt it wisdom to not mention the bat to Miss Wendy until after we had departed.

Jonathan led the service with singing accompanied by drums, 2 guitars, and Aaron Stevenson on violin (a teen from Indiana serving at Hopewell for six weeks with his mother Debbie and 4 younger brothers). Miss Wendy got called upon to play the keyboard. My heart was touched to hear the enthusiastic singing from the children. Kendra’s father, Pastor Dinsdale, is the pastor there and challenged us with a great message.  Kendra blessed us with her beautiful voice and closed the service with a song.

… Jesus – He Understands
Right now He’s waiting, just take His hand
Start your life over, and be born again
You need to find, this friend of mine
You need my Jesus …

In the afternoon we all went swimming … en masse. I think there were 36 ish of us in the end. Debbie’s friends/church back home sponsored the day. Things like a day at the swim park that we do on a regular basis are out of the question financially when you are talking about such a big group of children and all of the extra hands needed to watch them. The masses add up! I cannot begin to thank those of you who made this possible for them. They had a blast! There were squeals of joy and much splashing and laughter. “Miss Wendy can you help me swim?” “Mr. Jeff can I jump off your back again?” “Miss Cyndi can you help me float?” “Mr. Guy take my picture, watch me!” (Mr. Guy is a softie and goes to mush with all those little ones around but don’t tell him I mentioned it). Jonathan allowed them to linger and in the end we loaded tired but very happy little ones back in the vans.Debbie’s sponsor money finished off the day with the ultimate – a take-out meal of fried chicken for every child!! THANK YOU! You would only have to see their faces to know your donation was well worth every penny so they could have an experience that we take for granted.

OVERHEARD:
Child #1 – “I am telling your Mom that you pushed me.”
Child #2 – “I don’t have a Mom.”

Cyndi den Otter

BELIZE DAY 4

HOWLER MONKEYS AND PLAYGROUND DUTY

The howler monkeys were especially noisy during the night. I keep scanning the edge of the jungle in hopes of seeing one. As we grabbed an early morning coffee, we noticed that all 5 dogs were barking at something at the edge of the woods. I don’t want to know. A Fer de lance (called Tommy Goff here) was killed in the back yard just before we came. The dogs lay across our doorway at night. We affectionately call them our guard dogs. There are flocks of parrots. They are so beautiful and there are cranes by the water snatching Tilapia out of the ponds. Little geckos are everywhere. It really is a beautiful spot with palm trees and coconuts, cashews, bananas, and mangoes that will be ripe in a couple of months. I like the sounds here. It is never silent. There is always some sort of bird singing or insect sounds, chickens, pigs, a horse neighing, a cow mooing – and the howler monkeys … always the howler monkeys.

We chatted with the kids as they made their way out to catch the school bus. The younger ones ran around and played trying not to get their uniforms dirty. They all wanted to get their pictures taken in front of the car. The school bus came and they scampered off waving out the windows as they left.

We have been eating mostly traditional Belizean food. I love that. I love to try new things. Rosa has been doing a fabulous job cooking for us. Rosa cooks for the teams that come in and her husband Peto is the property manager. He is a smart and hard working man with many gifts.

Jeff and Guy went back out to work on the slaughter house carrying lots of water with them to drink. It is going to be very hot. Wendy and I are staining doors inside today. We went with Debbie in the van to pick up the small kids from preschool late morning. There is no school bus for the preschool program and the parents must drive them themselves. If they do not go to preschool, they are considered to be at a disadvantage. It is an added cost to already strained budget as they have to pay school fees plus uniforms and the task of dropping them off and picking them up.

Wendy and I started staining the shed in the afternoon and hopefully will be able to finish it tomorrow. We got into the fire ants again. The pain from their bites is incredible as they bite multiple times and they never come alone. Then the flaming feet and intense itch afterwards causes dance moves that you never want to see a Baptist doing. However, after the initial biting/itch phase, the Canucks seem to get over it and be okay. Some people go on to have pain, blisters, and profuse itching for a week or more.

Wendy and I are on playground duty after school. Pray for us. If I do not post again within 24 hours, come get us.

Cyndi den Otter

BELIZE DAY 5

GILL NETS AND GRACE

The first hour on the playground went fairly smoothly, games, swinging, going down the slide forwards, backwards, and upside down. Then a certain 5 year old scaled the swing set at the speed of light and walked the ridge pole followed by a middle aged lady who also scaled the swing set (when I say scaled I really mean crawling like a snail) and extracted said 5 year old. With one 5 year old in hand, child number 2 scampered up. After a few of the climb and extract scenarios, I did the only sensible thing I could do. I spotted Jeff across the yard and yelled “HELP” at the top of my lungs. However, he apparently had gone stone deaf or forgotten all of his English words. Smart man. Finally he took pity on me and came over. I said “help me, there are a million kids here!” He said ” I only see 9.” I hate it when he is logical. I pointed out number 10 and 11 climbing to the top of the basketball net like a pair of monkeys and while he was looking, I ran across the yard and hid.

To be serious, the children are beautiful. They are respectful and darling. They slide onto your lap for a cuddle and they love to run their fingers through our hair lol. They have hopes and dreams. Most will tell you what they want to be when they grow up. Others struggle to imagine their future as they are still in survival mode. They have been through every imaginable horror and yes some we can’t even begin to imagine. Some have scars on their bodies. Others have the scars we cannot see. There are telltale signs when their face goes blank and they stare off into space …. going back. The new ones are learning that they are safe and loved here. That is challenging sometimes when you have been programmed to watch your own back. They need love, mentoring, and grace. Can you add them to your prayers?

Kendra, the house mother, works full time as an administrator in the school system. Yes, you heard me, full time and takes care of all those children full time. Yes I know, the hours don’t add up. She is quiet and gentle. The household is run carefully with a lot of thought to the rules and structure. The kids thrive in this environment. Jonathan is the director at Hopewell and runs continuously. He gets to deal with the government red tape, paperwork, works with the teams, and helps with the farm … and parents the children. He can tell you all about his country’s interesting history. Most of all he and Kendra have a love for their Lord and have been obedient to His calling. This couple is the perfect example of what it means to rely on HIS strength and grace.

The carpenters put some finishing touches on the boys dorm. Wendy and I cleaned it, swept it, and made up the beds. IT IS DONE AND READY with the intent of dividing the boys and girls and a new set of house parents are raising support to come and live at Hopewell. For obvious reasons, the sooner they are able to come the better. You can help make that happen.

Miss Eleanor does housekeeping. She paddles her canoe from her home across the river then rides her bike the rest of the way to Hopewell. I want you to picture how much laundry I am talking about. Do you have an idea in your mind yet? Okay, then double it. Miss Eleanor is one of the many pieces of the puzzle that God has put in place to help Hopewell function. God Bless you Miss Eleanor.

Peto, Joshua, and Nathan tried out the gill net today. They had an order for fish. It works perfectly by only snagging the larger Tilapia while the smaller ones swim through. They filled their order in no time.

Jeff and Guy are coming along well with the cement block slaughter house. It is really taking shape. They are struggling a bit with the heat. Wendy and I painted the upstairs bathroom today. We also finished staining the shed. Before supper Wendy filled the tub up and we sat on the edge and stuck our feet in the cool water. It felt heavenly. All I have to say about that is:
FIRE ANTS – 3
WENDY & CYNDI – 0

Cyndi den Otter

BELIZE DAY 6

NO MATERIALS FOR ARTS AND THE BLUE HOLE

The four of us visited the school today. We were not prepared for what we would see. The first thing that struck us was rows of children reciting their prayers together, hands folded. The next thing we noticed was Scripture and Devotions were part of their daily class schedule and the 10 Commandments, Fruits of the Spirit, and The Apostles’ Creed hung on the wall. The rooms were tidy and organized and the walls lined with brightly coloured art work and lessons. It warmed our hearts.

The other part of the story was stifling hot classrooms with beads of sweat on little ones faces, no fans, rotting eaves, no windows, and in two of the classrooms there was only metal roofing above their heads. During the rainy season there is a deafening roar on the metal making conversation next to impossible. How do they teach? The outside area where the children are fed lunch is open to the elements. The dust from the road comes in and it is miserable in the rainy season. The chairs are rusted and the tables are at the end of their service. The playground is no longer functional.

We spoke with the teachers and they graciously took the time from their classes to help us understand their challenges and needs. They contribute some of their own wages to top up in lacking areas but it is far beyond what they can manage. One teacher showed me her lesson plan book. One day she had written in frustration “no materials for art.” The lesson did not happen that day. We unloaded the trunk with all of the donations that you so generously and willingly gave. They were so pleased and grateful. We received hand made thank you cards signed by the children a couple of days later. Thank you for your help.

We got back in the car feeling a little overwhelmed and determined that this is one thing that is within our abilities to do. Is this something God has put on your heart to help with? If so, you can contribute here

https://www.gofundme.com/e52rdcrw

We took the afternoon off.   They were making repairs to the road.  There was a grader and men with shovels filling in the holes and rough spots.  A goat stood in the middle of the road on top of a pile of dirt but the workers did not pay any attention to him.  We explored the nearby towns and made note of where things could be purchased for future projects. We went to Blue Hole National Park where we visited St. Herman’s Caves and swam in The Blue Hole (not to be confused with the Great Blue Hole). It is a “collapsed karst sinkhole which is known as a cenote. At the bottom sits a beautiful pool of sapphire coloured water about 25 feet deep filled by a natural underground spring that never runs dry. It is directly connected to the St. Herman’s cave.” I of course was the last one out of the water . We drove around and drank in the rich Belize culture and beautiful landscapes. I know that you will find this hard to believe but Jeff went Geocaching all along the way. We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and ended the day at Benny’s, a place to grab a coke and delicious fried chicken for about four US dollars!

While we were gone, we found out they killed another snake. I think we picked a good day to be away. As we lingered and talked in the kitchen, Jonathan brought in the biggest frog I have ever seen …

Boy brings giant frog into kitchen.
Boy puts frog on floor. Frog escapes.
Girl cowers in corner and stands on chair.
Mission accomplished.

Cyndi den Otter

BELIZE DAY 7

TARANTULAS AND HOPE

I have a picture drawn by one of the new boys. As he explains the picture to me, he points out 2 homes that he has drawn. One is his old home and one is his new home. He struggles to reconcile the 2 homes as he is explaining it to me. His mother has died. His father is also dying in hospital. The boy will not be going home. He has scars on his body. There is a rainbow and some sunshine in the corner of the picture but he is not able to explain it to me. Perhaps it means that he feels a glimmer of hope here and that somehow he can sense it. That is my prayer for him at Hopewell.

Marc and Dail are the property owners here. They have much experience in non-profit and have devoted much of their lives to missions. They spend weeks at a time at Hopewell and have grown to love the children very much and the children dearly love them. We had many conversations with them and they updated us on the projects that have been going on in the last few years. They are making huge strides but it is labour intensive work. The physical aspects of the property management and the logistics of being self sufficient compound the work load. Brainstorming sessions with the board to strive toward their goals is an ongoing labour of love. They have come far and have accomplished much. Many of their dreams have been realized but they have many more. Marc gets excited when he talks about possibilities. He has seen what can happen when God is in control. When Dail speaks of her dreams for the future of Hopewell and the children, her face betrays the emotion and passion she feels for it. Please pray for this couple that God has chosen to further His work in this place. A place of HOPE.

Wendy and I are scraping and painting the gated entrance fence today. As the kids got off the bus while we were still painting I felt panicked. “Don’t touch the wet paint! You will get it on your uniforms!” Almost every single one of them ran their fingers through the wet paint. Seriously, kids in Belize and kids in Canada are exactly the same. One little one casually stopped by the house, examined a tarantula, stomped the stuffing out of it, wiped his shoes off in the grass, and meandered on to the house. I went on painting. I may be acclimatizing.

We stopped to take Jeff and Guy a granola bar and some cold water. The slaughter house is now up over their heads which means that the sun shining inside the blocks makes an oven.

There are 2 pet parrots at Hopewell and every time we pass them we stop and have a chat. The “English” speaking parrot is outside the children’s home so has a big vocabulary and laughs a lot. It messes with your head when you forget and hear “hello” followed by laughter when you are walking by. It leaves you standing on the path looking around to see who is talking to you. The “Spanish” speaking parrot on the end of the path is not as chatty but maybe it is because all we know to say is “hola.”

It is day 2 with no fire ants finding us but another insect which I am told is a “doctor fly” did. They lick off fly dope like it is a lollipop. They have a bite like a horse fly or deer fly and leave an itchy mosquito like welt. Tomorrow I will wear plastic bags on my feet.

Peto is manning the BBQ for supper and the smell of chicken is making my mouth water. At least I think it is chicken. I cannot identify everything on the BBQ. Peto says something about Gibnut but he has a twinkle in his eye so he is teasing me … right??

Cyndi den Otter

BELIZE DAY 8

SWEET BISCUITS AND BIG MAMA

I woke up in the night with an intense itch in both feet. I wanted to tear the flesh off my feet. I scrounged around in the dark and found some cream that relieved it enough to go back to sleep. At breakfast Wendy was scratching her feet like crazy. “What happened to you” I asked? She replied “I woke up in the night with this intense itch in both feet …” We both wore shoes and socks, insect repellant, and the longest pants we had when we went out to finish the fence. The mystery bites were the beginning of a lot of grief for the both of us, especially Wendy. You can ask her that story.

We finished painting the fence today, a little wiser about the ants and doctor flies!

Every day after school the children get a snack. Debbie mentioned to us and said she was looking for ideas. She had made everything she could think of with what was there. An inventory of the cupboards turned up flour, eggs, powdered milk, and a bit of sugar. We decided on sweet biscuits. Between the 2 houses she scrounged up enough butter. Debbie said that the kids had likely never had biscuits and would look at our biscuits with suspicion because in Belize biscuits mean cookies. I said “throw a bit of sugar on the top and they will eat it.” We mixed them up but they didn’t look like what I made at home and I was worried. However, Debbie baked them and topped them with powdered sugar and they were a huge hit! Please don’t read the lack of ingredients to mean the children are not fed. Please read it as … “lack of excess.” I felt shame when I looked in my pantry when I got home. My pantry is excess with countless more options if I do not have a certain ingredient. I have way more than I need and not just in my pantry – a lesson learned when I looked at my house with new eyes when I got home. I decided to compile a list of snacks that have very few and mostly basic ingredients. Maybe some of you can help me with that?

We scooted in to the city to pick up some supplies to fix the playground at the school. Jeff and Guy planned to slip over to the school when the kids were not there to do some repairs as a surprise.

After the kids were in bed we gathered in the “upper room” and introduced everyone to Big Mama. It was a hit. Linda, Angela – Big Mama has spread from Florida to Canada and now to Indiana and Belize.

Tomorrow is a big day. The plan is to send Jonathan and Kendra away for a much deserved break. We will get to see things through their eyes.

Cyndi den Otter

BELIZE DAY 9

THE GREAT ESCAPE

Jonathan and Kendra slipped away for a couple days rest. God bless them and refresh them. Today we have a small army of people here to do what they do. Good grief how do they do this?!

Guy and Jeff made an early morning run to the school and put the slide back up and made a ladder for it, repaired the swings, and fixed a loose shutter that they had discovered on the back of the school. Since it was Saturday, the guys though they could just slip in and fix it and it would be a surprise for Monday morning. However, one of the teacher’s sons that lived nearby came over to play as the men were fixing it and told everyone “the missionaries in the green car fixed our playground.”

Melissa and her crew came over and had Bible study for all of the children in the upper screened room. They shared God’s word through bible verses, praise and worship songs, and had games, crafts, and snacks. I loved it because they sang all of the same songs that we sing in our Wednesday evening children’s program back home. Melissa is always smiling, good at what she does, and oh soooo patient.
Melissa brought Operation Christmas Child boxes from Samaritan’s purse for the new children. I have packed dozens of those boxes, as many of you have, but I never thought that I would be able to witness it on the other end! I will just say this, the delight and squeals of happiness from those children is forever imprinted on my heart and I will never feel the same about packing one of those boxes as long as I live.

Today was a blur. I can barely decipher my journal notes. There is disjointed scribbling with mention of movie time, colouring and puzzle time (thank you Wendy for bringing those!), folding clothes, dishes, sweeping, and I had written in all caps BATHING TIME FOR 20 KIDS. Approximately one million braids were done. I had written the quote of the day by Wendy“every square inch of my body is covered in snot.” Hahaha some of the wee littles had colds. Jeff did minor repairs around the house – fixed door knobs, repaired closet door hinges, glued and clamped doors, and helped with crowd control. The boys swarmed him. He lifted giggling little boys up high so they could touch the ceiling until he was worn out. It was nice to be Grandma and Grandpa for a day. It would be nice to have some trusted drop in Grandmas and Grandpas there especially on Saturdays. One grandma could rock babies and do braids for an entire day, and a grandpa could wrestle and discuss the merits of one superhero over another.

Good bye

BELIZE DAY 10

GOOD BYE HOPEWELL

We extracted 3 kids from our trunk and among our suitcases.  They are such a tease.  I thought about the 2 empty suitcases that we were taking home.  I could fit a couple of little ones in each of those …  Jeff walked the property this morning.  He had that look like when he is deep in thought.   I memorized each face.  I cherished each final cuddle and hug.  They ran alongside of our car hanging on as we drove away.  We looked back and they were still waving.

I think it would be next to impossible to go home unchanged, ignoring all that we have learned and experienced.   What do we do with what we now know?  The greatest shame would be indifference.

Copyright 2016 February 10 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Cyndi den OtterSatan delights in your despair

He tells you lies – like nobody cares

        He says there’s nothing  you can do

        I’ll tell you now that it’s not true

 

When depression descends like a cloud

And cloaks your joy with its icy shroud

We many not completely understand

But we can reach out and hold your hand

 

When your job is gone and bills are due

And you’re feeling like a failure too

We may not know just what to say

But be assured that we will pray

 

So you messed up big and feel ashamed

You don’t want to show your face again

And we may not know what to do

But we are here to stand by you

 

When tragedy  and loss hits your home

And your whole world comes crashing down

We may not know just what to do

But we are here to grieve with you

 

So your spouse is gone, your marriage done

And you carry on not two but one

And when we don’t know what to do

Then we will stay and cry with you

 

Come out of hiding when trouble comes

Exile is a trick from the evil one

Even if we don’t know what to do

Be sure to know that we love  you

 

Copyright 2015 November 9 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission

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