Words of Encouragement

Cyndi den Otter



April 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?



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!


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


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.



Cyndi den Otter



  • 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
    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

** 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?!



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



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.

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

Cyndi den Otter



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



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:

Cyndi den Otter



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


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



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



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



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



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


Christmas Memories

Cyndi den Otter


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


Cyndi den OtterOur youngest child has just completed university.  We watch our children make their way as they are young and freshly into their careers.  We can see how God is molding their lives in ways that perfectly fits their personalities and interests, the way God wired them. We remember this uncertain time when our lives stretched in front of us and we had dreams and hopes.

We hoped to do mighty things for God and we were ready … so we thought.

Jeff  had a degree in Psychology from McMaster and a mostly completed Social Work degree. His best friend in Ontario was originally from NB so Jeff travelled with him here many times.  He fell in love with the province and a girl that lived there 🙂  When he moved to NB, he went to work as a mechanic because he spent all of his teen years doing mechanical work in his Uncle’s shop.  He went on to study and received his Interprovincial Mechanics License.  He worked as a mechanic for a while and even had his own shop.  God nudged him into a job at CIEVA and he was the shop foreman working with handicapped adults. While he was there, he felt he should complete his degree in social work.   After doing so, he began the career that he first planned in university.  Proverbs 16:9  We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.  NLT   Many times he wondered WHAT is God doing with my life? What is God’s purpose for me?

We hoped to do great things for God … anything.

Why the long meandering route?  We talk about it now and laugh because we can see how each and every part played into his current role.  He can relate to many professions.  He can sit and talk cars and engines  for hours.  His days in the wood working shop allowed him to have a hobby in wood working that relaxes and refreshes him.  His role as an advocate is firmly lodged in his heart due to his time at CIEVA.  It all prepared him for his current job as a Advisor for Autism and Early Childhood Education for the Province of NB.

I studied to be a secretary and my placement for this course was in the ER for 2 weeks.  When I completed these studies, I promptly went to work … waiting tables in a restaurant which is what I had done in high school.  However, my route was quite different than Jeff’s.  After working as a waitress for a year,   God snatched me out of my job and plunked me into my role as a medical secretary in the ER – literally overnight.  I have been a medical secretary ever since.  Whenever one door closed, God opened a new one for me.  When the doors close for good, I will know that it is time to be done.  Psalm 32:8 The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”  NLT.

Through the years God led us to do many things in our church.  We sat on committees and boards, volunteered in our community , and participated in everything going on at the church.  Jeff was a deacon, an elder, played the organ, and was on the worship team.  I organized events and worked in children’s ministry for decades.  We raised our children, worked, and made a home.  We tried to be obedient to God’s call and seek His will.  We floundered at times.  We had seasons of set-backs, discouragement, and doubt.  Sometimes we wondered what  God was doing.  Did we measure up? We hoped that God would reveal with great fanfare what He would have us do with our lives, preferably written  in the clouds and signed.

We hoped to do good things for God … something.

We all have an idea in our mind of what the measuring stick looks like.  Is it perhaps someone who stands on a stage in front of thousands of people to preach and teach?  Is it a Christian singer with loads of fans and lots songs recorded?  Is it a missionary to foreign lands? Is it someone big and powerful?

What is the measuring stick of mighty, great, good, or at least anything-something for God?

Does it depend on how many failures and success that we have?

We did not realize God was leading us all along to what He wanted us to do and that the things we had already done in our jobs and our church were all part of His plan.  As we fret and fuss about deciding what and who is important, God is already at work.  In spite of the fact that we pat ourselves on the back for the good things we think we have done,  GOD is actually the one who is doing the great and mighty things.  Yes, He wants a relationship with us and He has a purpose for our lives but the “something” we do is the design made by Him that exactly fits our lives if we are obedient.  Sometimes people get the great “AHA” moment but often  it is a gentle nudging through time and a molding to His purpose and His will.  He is  asking us to stop struggling and be ready to obey and live each day for Him and He will lead us to where He wants us to go. Proverbs 3:5,6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. NLT  He uses all of our pain and life circumstances to create a beautiful plan. We will exactly fit His measuring stick.  God is saying –

“Just wait and watch and see the great and mighty things I will do.”




Copyright 2015 June 10 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission


There is something going around.  It is terribly contagious.  In spite of taking all of the precautionary measures, you caught it.  You had the very best intentions.  You thought you had been careful where you went.  You were sure that you stayed away from all those places where you were most likely to catch it.  You are not sure where you got it.  It may have been at the mall when you were browsing all of the beautiful things, or riding in your friends brand new car, or possibly chatting with your neighbours while leaning over the white picket fence by their massive new house with a paved drive.

When you least expected it, when your guard was down,  then BOOM you caught it.  You came down with a full blown, hard to cure case of AFFLUENZA!

When Jeff and I were young we drove old cars because he was vehicle savvy and a great mechanic, but as our family grew and we needed more reliable transportation, we carefully shopped for a “newer old vehicle.”  We prayed, shopped, and were delighted when we found a great minivan in excellent condition for our family.  I was very pleased and told a friend but was taken aback by the  reaction.  In exasperation they said “why do you drive used vehicles, have you NO desire to keep up with the Joneses!?”  I pondered that scolding for a long time.  I looked at the minivan with  shame and a little contempt when only one day before I had been so happy.

Cyndi den OtterWho are the Joneses and what do they look like?

Do the Joneses make the rules? 

Are they truly wealthy or do they just pretend to be wealthy? 

Am I a better person if I seem to be like them?

Will I be an outcast if I reject this value?

Will I fit in if I am my transparent self?

Will our family participate in this game?

If I play this game, When do I arrive and when is it enough – or do the rules keep changing?

Is there an actual end point where you become Mr. and Mrs. Jones?!

This was a new game for our young family and we decided early that we did not want to play!  Through the years we lived within our means.  We paid cash.  We waited and went without.  We were dead last to get the newest coolest thing, and more often than not, we did not get the “thing.”  We looked at others with envy many times.  We longed. We wished.  We coveted … but most of the time we did not cave in.  In the early years we bought second hand, recycled, and repaired.  I am sure we thought we suffered but  as an adult looking back I see that we had all that we needed … not all that we wanted.

In the end we still did not do everything right because here we are as adults and empty nesters saying where did all of this stuff come from!?  Now we are in the process of getting rid of as much as we can.  We also learned  that  appearances mean nothing when getting into the actual bank account comparing game.  Things are not what they seem.

We sat in counseling rooms with couples facing us that were deeply in debt with marriages flying apart.  All of the material goods in their hands did nothing for their happiness. Objects with no meaning  were suffocating them and they could not see the people in their lives past the possessions that came between them.  We saw lives ruined in pursuit of the next “thing.”

Don’t hear what I am not saying.  I am not saying money is the cause of misery.  Being wealthy is not the cause either.  All income levels, both the rich and poor, can suffer from this affliction.  I still struggle with the Joneses.  They are very powerful.  I flinch when I get caught up in the comparing game.  The problem lies in the heart and attitude about money, status, and possessions.  God does not condemn wealth but he does warn those who chase after wealth more than they seek God.  He warns against our self reliance.  I love how Colossians 3:2 reads in the King James because it uses the word affection. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Other versions say set your mind on things above. As I work through this, it is with this mindset that I am going to try to view the things that I have.  These are the questions I am thinking about.

How can my possessions be used for His Kingdom?

Do I rely on myself or do I rely on God?

What is my attitude about my possessions?

Are they really MY things anyway?

How will I deal with the Joneses and their constant pressure on my life?

Have I set my affection on things above?

My possessions are temporary and so am I, but God promises us another inheritance for us as believers that is  far greater than Mr. and Mrs. Jones can ever attain. 1 Peter 1:4  And we have a priceless inheritance–an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.  NLT

Affluenza can be cured.  Set your mind on things above!

Copyright 2015 March 23 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission


Cyndi den Otter

The idea was hatched long ago in the dining hall of our beloved Camp Shiktehawk. Sandra, one of the camp leaders was cornered. I imagine the conversation went something like this as Dale used all of his powers of persuasion – “could you lead a choir Sandra? If we could get 20 kids together we could have a choir. You are a teacher, you are great on the piano, you could do this.” I bet Sandra’s mind was swirling “twenty kids, every Sunday! That would be a lot of work, I teach full time. Let me pray about it.” Sandra recruited Leonard, a fellow teacher who had music oozing out of every pore. The answer was yes and in 1977, The Carleton Victoria Youth Choir was born. They achieved their goal of 20 teens –

and 20 more

and 20 more

and 20 more

and 20 more

and 20 more

Leonard and Sandra had no idea what saying yes to God would mean. They had no inkling of the plan that God had for a bunch of acne faced, hyperactive, awkward teens, but they were obedient to His call. I am sure they must have been overwhelmed when God multiplied the dream born at Camp Shiktehawk more than anyone could ever have imagined. They soon would learn just what could be accomplished –

all because of God’s amazing grace.

Numbers went as high as 120 and settled in at a steady 80. We came from the country, the villages, and towns over a 155 km stretch of road from Grand Falls to Nackawic. We met every Sunday en masse at big churches and tiny churches. Imagine teen age drivers travelling on back roads laden with moose and critters and in snow storms for a period of 3 years and no serious accidents –

all because of God’s amazing grace.

All were welcome. There were no auditions. Some could sing, and some of us … not so much. Some of us were there because our friends were there, some of us to occupy our time and keep us out of trouble, and most because we loved to sing. God had a plan and placed each of us there for a reason. We practiced, the churches fed us, and in the evening we put on a concert for them. At times we did not fit on the platform and spilled out in front and to the sides. As we practiced the songs proclaiming God’s glory all afternoon Sunday after Sunday, the words worked their way into our hearts and we were forever changed –

all because of God’s amazing grace.

Leonard and Sandra taught us discipline as we spent long hours practicing. They had the gift of making learning fun and they taught us respect. They were wonderful mentors. We learned what it meant to use our gifts for God’s glory and what it meant to serve others. We gained friends, some for life. And in those uncertain days of our teen years, we learned to have confidence. We grew up in those 3 years and were on the edge of adulthood. We had many decisions to make but we had gained friends that would pray for us. As the choir years came to an end, we stepped into our adult lives. Some would go into full time ministry, and many others would serve for decades in their own communities and churches. Life wasn’t perfect or easy and sometimes there was pain. Sometimes we were obedient even though we had no idea what God was up to, but He guided us safely through –

all because of God’s amazing grace.

Thirty four years later God brought us back together again. Some of us were a little grayer, a little balder, and yes a little plumper. We sat in our seats in the right front of the church automatically as we always did and caught up. There was much laughter and tears and of course stories as we remembered our adventures. We lingered and swapped photos of our grand babies. The inevitable happened and we gathered on the platform with a few pieces of yellowed music to sing one more time.   Sandra said “I haven’t played these songs for 34 years, I’ll never remember!” But she did and as her fingers hit the keys, they defied the three and a half decades of time and the music poured out. Leonard said “I can’t stand for long periods of time anymore.” But he did and he stood in front of us in full director mode and we loved it.

As we stood to sing the years fell away and we were teenagers again for a little while. We faltered through some songs and others we remembered well. One special song has deeper meaning for us now. It is a song that summarizes our journey and we have seen the proof of God’s faithfulness and guidance as we grew older. It fell off our lips with a little more wisdom than it did decades ago. We sang in perfect 4 part harmony as if it was just yesterday that we sang it last –

Amazing grace, oh how sweet the sound
That saved a poor sinner like me!
Though once I was lost, yet now I’m found,
Though I was blinded, now I see!

Through disappointment and danger, too,
Through labours and sorrows we’ve come!
But God’s grace has guided safely through,
And it will surely lead us home!

Then with the ransomed around God’s throne
We’ll praise our redeemer and King!
We’ll tell how His mercy for sin did atone,
Through countless ages this song we’ll sing!

It was all because of God’s amazing grace!
Because on Calvary’s mountain He took my place!
And someday, some glorious morning
I shall see Him face to face,
All because of God’s amazing grace!

(song by Stephen Adams)

Copyright 2014 September 15 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission


Cyndi den OtterWe Maritimers are accustomed to hurricanes heading up the coast bearing down on us. However, when they reach the cooler waters they often lose power and move out to sea. We are left with the outside swath which brings wind and rain and some minor damage, but miss the fury the hurricane had in the south. Hurricane Arthur was different. It swung further inland and churned up trees by the thousands, washed out roads, and downed power lines. When we tried to leave our cabin to check on our house, our hearts sank when we reached the end of the road and found the power lines like spaghetti. We attempted to go home one way but the road was flooded. The other way home was littered with trees across the road. It quickly became apparent that it would be a long time before we got power.

Suddenly the things that we never gave a second thought became foremost in our minds – how to keep our food cold, water to drink, bathe, and flush the toilet. Phone lines were down and even cell coverage was gone. It was a challenge to think up things to cook up on the BBQ or propane stove. Generators became a hot item and stores sold out. It was a lot of work to do our day to day tasks and all we could do was wait and “make do,”  helpless to do anything about it. We did not appreciate our access to power until it was gone. The process of restoring power was a daunting task as crews worked around the clock to clean up the mess.

When we met up with our neighbours, our usual greeting changed to “you got power?”

I had a lot of time to think in the quietness of our home without the hum of the fridge and the computer silent in the corner. I realized that I had access to power in my own life that I had not tapped into for a long time. When we become Christians and give our lives to Christ, we have access to power at the moment we believe. HIS power. So many times I have gone through storms and ended up feeling helpless and vulnerable, waiting for my life to be restored to normal or else run around in circles desperately thinking of ways to fix things. Relying on ourselves is like scurrying around hooking up things to the generator – first the fridge, then the freezer, then making rounds to other essential household items after the power lines were already repaired. It is the same as bringing buckets of water from the stream to bathe when there is already water gushing from the tap.

Why do we rely on ourselves when God is saying

“Hey, I am right here, I am your source of power, connect to me!”

Why do we go through our lives with the breakers set to OFF?

I am guilty. Are you?

19I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power 20that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT

God knows our lives are hard. We live in a fallen world but He wants us to stop struggling and trust Him with our lives. He desires to help us in those storms which roll in without warning and create a huge mess. He is the one that can restore us.  The battle has already been won!

7We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.b This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NLT

When we are trying to maintain the balancing act we call life, and start to feel hopeless that we keep failing and can’t keep it all together, put your trust and hope in Jesus your source of power. We no longer have to “make do,”  we can connect to His unlimited resources!

16I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. 17Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. 19May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.20Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:16-21 NLT

So when you are greeted after the storm what is your answer to the question now?

You got power?


Copyright 2014 August 15 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission

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