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To my way of thinking, the four most beautiful words in the English language are:

1. God

2. Love (granted: that’s just another word for God, so I repeat myself)

3. Grace

4. Peace

May God who loves you, and whose will is for you to know love, grace and peace, fill your Thanksgiving plates and cups with abundant love, grace and peace today–and every day.

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(Here’s another snapshot from the other side of the paradise, the “paradise” that Belize is famous for being, in a Thanksgiving holiday series designed to help you count your blessings in what is still the richest nation on earth up north of here.)

You won’t find homes with laser garage-door openers in Belize, nor anything like a garage in what is still a “developing” [poor] country, where most people can’t afford a four-wheel vehicle anyway. And most of the four-wheelers you will see are prehistoric vehicles made in the eighties or nineties and prone to break down and break down frequently.

With the price of gas running always between $5 to $6 U.S. per gallon, those who own vehicles keep them parked at home as much as possible, in the yard of a home if not the side of the nearest road.

People here walk, and walk a lot, more often than not burdened by the weight of something very heavy they have to carry. And on the mainland in Belize, the carrying is quite often up and down some steep and very steep hills.

Try lugging piles of clothes to the nearest river or waterway to wash and scrub your clothes with soap on the rocks, and then lugging those wet clothes to your home to hang up and dry, often making multiple trips. And mind you, this country has six months of much and very much rain–which is not conducive to drying your piles of children’s school uniforms and all the other family clothes.

I’m amazed every day at how the poor soldier on through it all, accepting it all for being what it is, never complaining or whining about how hard life is away from the high-dollar resorts, away from the whole Belize that is postcard Belize to the privileged who come and go. (And thank God they do, for Belize would be even more poor without them–although many old-timers will confide late in the evening that life was better, more spiritual and enjoyable before tourists and developers discovered Belize and brought their TVs and, now, their cell phones and computerized gadgets that the kids want so bad: progress is always a double-edged sword in so many ways.)

I thank God every day for what the poor or supposedly “disadvantaged” teach me (“disadvantaged”: there’s a word that needs to be forever deleted, considering how spiritually advantaged even the materially poor kids still can be), for the inspiration they give me, and most of all for my abundance of blessings of so many comforts and conveniences that so many in the world are lacking.

So what are you thankful for?

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(This is another in a series of snapshots, designed to help you count your blessings for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, from here on “The Other Side of Paradise” in Belize.)

In the photo:

This is a hard way to making a living for a single mother of four who nets a few dollars a day selling hard candy, little bags of chips and flavored ice chips from a push cart.

And by the way–in the culture of poverty here, if you offered to push the cart up the hill for her, or offered her money out of charitable generosity, she would look down at the ground–daring not to make eye contact with you–because she would feel “shamed” by you.

Well-meaning Christians and churches from prosperous countries really need to know the cultures they venture into to help people in mission trips. Some never get that, and go barging into countries doing more harm than good.

The same could be said of those who go into poor or ethnic neighborhoods in their own, local cities and towns to “save souls” and do good works, without getting to know the local ways, the culture or the unique struggles of the people who live there, and first listening to what people truly want and need, not what you may think they want or need based on your life experience, upbringing or culture.

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But the point of the picture is that, considering how hard it is just to survive by working hard in so many places in the world–including the U.S., of course–what are you thankful for this week?

Kids in far southern Belize, where there are massive amounts of rain, trudge miles through the wet routes to school.

Kids in far southern Belize, where there are massive amounts of rain, trudge miles through the wet routes to school.

(This is the first in a series of postings for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday from here on “The Other Side of Paradise” in Belize, designed to help you count your Thanksgiving blessings.)

What follows is a report from the Belizean online newspaper Patrick Jones.com:

    The quest for a secondary school education is a daily struggle for children in remote parts of the Toledo district.

    As evidenced by pictures obtained today, students from Jalacte village have to walk miles through mud and water to get from their village to where they can catch a school bus to take them into town.

    And it is not only Jalacte village where the road is in dire need of fixing.

    Many of the other villages also suffer the same problems including Crique Sarco and San Vicente.

    Some of these children, about 50 or 60 of them, attend either the Toledo Community College of the Julian Cho Technical High School.

    students1

    They have to be up at 4 am in some cases to get ready and make the difficult journey from their village to make it out to town for classes.

    And when the day is done, they have to retrace their steps to get back home.

    Then 8 hours later, they have to repeat the process all over again.

    Former students tell of a similar ordeal they had to endure, and it is a situation that continues to this day.

    Some of the roads to some of the rural Toledo villages are so bad that some days the students arrive at school late or some don’t make it to classes at all.

    It is a sacrifice that continues to be made as the boys and girls aspire to gain an education in order to improve their lives and contribute positively to their communities.

What goes unmentioned is that students in Belizean schools are required to wear uniforms, which poses an enormous burden on many parents all over the country to keep those clothes cleaned. It’s very common for there to be at least four children attending school, and most poor kids never get beyond “Standard Six”–the grade for kids 13 or so. (Many fail and repeat grades two and three times.)

Most Belizeans have small, affordable Belizean-made washing machines, but not even many middle-class people have dryers because the price of electricity runs through the roof with good, American-made dryers even if you can afford one (and air conditioning, which is rare in Belizean homes, also runs the bill up). And then there are the many with no electricity–many people in large neighborhoods villages surrounding the big twin towns San Ignacio/Santa Elena, where I live, have no electricity.

So one sees clothes hanging constantly on clothes lines (including my own, since I have no dryer) everywhere in this developing country.

So considering all that, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

students2

It’s “Garifuna Settlement Day” in Belize, a national holiday involving lots of drums.

We’re talking, lots of de bang on de drums all day. Not to mention night.

Check out more on the rich history and culture of the Garifuna here.

Meanwhile, the situation back in D.C. is desperate, as usual

Which calls for some U.S. Blues music therapy from the Dead–they can take a sad song and make it better.

Happy Holiday From Belize!

Happy Holiday From Belize!

A lengthy but handy and by no means definitive biblical guide to the kind of riffraff and “losers”(?) that Jesus stopped and hung around with–and built up and saved with his healing powers in his journey to Jerusalem–which I’ve compiled just for you, my readers and loyal followers of the Jitterbug Cult. . . .

And for doing this for you I say unto you, with my usual lack of humility:

“You’re welcome.”

* * * *

THE POOR AND POWERLESS

Luke 4: 16-21: “When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'”

Matthew 5: 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Luke 6: 20-21: “Then he looked up at his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.”

Matthew 11: 25-26: “At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”

Matthew 25: 41-46: “Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

Mark 10: 21-22: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’”

Mark 12: 41-44: “He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’”

Too many others on the poor to cite!

* * * *

THE MARGINALIZED: women, children and the sick

Mark 1: 32: “That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Matthew 8: 14-17: “When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed by demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.’”

Matthew 19: 13-15: “Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.”

Luke 8: 1-3: “Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.”

* * * *

THE IMMORAL: prostitutes and other, self-starting sinners

Matthew 21: 31-32
: “Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”

Mark 2: 15-17: “And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Luke 7: 36-38: “One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.”

John 8: 3-11: “The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’”

Luke 23: 39-43: “One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’”

* * * *

THE HERETICS: pagans and the dreaded foreigners

Luke 7: 2-10: “A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.’ And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Luke 17: 16:-19: “He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’”

Mark 7: 24-30: “From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.”

John 4: 7-29: “A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

“Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ 1The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

“Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’”

* * * *

THE IMPURE: lepers and possessed

Matthew 8: 2-4: “and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’

Luke 17: 12-14: “As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ 1hen he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. “

Mark 1: 25-27: “But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’

And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

Isaiah 6: 8

Dr. Salia sacrificed his life in his calling to serve others.

Dr. Salia sacrificed his life in his calling to serve others.

Dr. Martin Salia, the Methodist surgeon who contracted Ebola treating patients in a hospital in Sierra Leone, has died in the Nebraska hospital where he was being treated.

In an interview with United Methodist Communications earlier this year, Salia talked about how important it was for him to work at a Christian hospital.

    “I knew it wasn’t going to be rosy, but why did I decide to choose this job? I firmly believe God wanted me to do it. And I knew deep within myself. There was just something inside of me that the people of this part of Freetown needed help,” Salia said.

    “I see it as God’s own desired framework for me. I took this job not because I want to, but I firmly believe that it was a calling and that God wanted me to. … And I’m pretty sure, I’m confident that I just need to lean on him, trust him, for whatever comes in, because he sent me here. And that’s my passion,” Salia said.

    He talked about his training as a Christian surgeon.

    “And so by the time you finish your training, you are more or less like the pastor, you become a pastor. Whenever we want to start surgery, we pray. I am just being used as an instrument or as a surgeon to carry out God’s own plan for that person’s life.”

http://www.connectionsband.com/news/blog/honor-dr-salia-at-friday-s-connections-show

Some might call a person like Dr. Salia a fool but that would be a compliment in the big Christian scheme of things, because biblically speaking, he was “a fool for Christ.”

More here about Dr. Martin Salia, R.I.P.

    “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals.

    “We are fools for the sake of Christ,

    but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honour, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.”

    — 1 Cor. 4: 9-13

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