Then we spent much of the day in the neighborhood we want to do the most ministry in, San Mateo. The team had a mix of people who have seen and interacted with San Mateo before and people who were seeing it for the first time. But there was one thing everyone noticed: the size. In the 10 months Sound of Hope has been gone from the island, San Mateo seems to have almost doubled in size. There's no way of knowing for sure the population, or growth statistics. And it may be larger to us in part because of a recently improved roads system allowing us to access more of the neighborhood safely, but either way, lots of people are moving in to the neighborhood. This also means that there is a more diverse group of people living there. People move to San Mateo because they can own the land and therefore don't have to rent (renting in other neighborhoods can get expensive, and the price goes up at any time without warning), or because the rent is a little cheaper. So some homes are actually quite nice. But they still live in dangerous conditions. And while the roads are nicer, the water system is still in danger of breaking and contaminating water supplies in homes. And electricity ("the current") is being spread through extension cords from the entrance of the neighborhood. Hundreds of cords run every direction.
I say all this because it is overwhelming to think of what all these changes that we could notice just by looking at the neighborhood mean for the people who live there and their community. Some questions just can't be answered in a day.
We were able to spend some time with a contact from Holy Cross school named Lydia and her family over dinner. We are so grateful for them because they have such great hearts and such wisdom about this place to share. They too have moved to San Mateo from other countries like New Zealand, and deal with the extra steps it takes to live in Belize as a foreigner. While it won't be simple or easy to move to Belize and build relationships with people on the island, it was encouraging and helpful to hear from them what life has been like here so far.
The week is about half over, but it feels like the journey for Sound of Hope is just beginning.
Please pray for our relationships with people on the island to continue to develop, and for our preparations, as tomorrow we go to share with the school and help out in whatever ways we can.