The Rev. Tess Meadows

Tess Meadows, Deacon of the Diocese of New Westminster, has spent her last year in southwest Belize. She has been working as a Volunteer in Mission with children in the remote areas of the Diocese of Belize. She has been part of a team that has opened a preschool and has worked to support the education and ministry among the children of the area.

Initially, Tess was based in Punta Gorda. She traveled to Punta Gorda to Monkey River and Mango Creek, two small villages about 45 minutes apart located in the remote jungle of Central America. Tess travels with the use of an old 4 x 4 that belongs to the local diocese. In addition to her ministry among children, she takes church services to villagers.

The Diocese of Belize, headed by Bishop Sylvestre Romero, is among the poorest in the Anglican Communion. It has been a profound change for Tess to live in these small villages. Recently Tess returned to Canada for a vacation and was able to share pictures and stories of her life in these communities.

"Village homes are very simple with dirt floors which are swept smooth each day. Cooking is usually done on an open wood fire outside the house. The sleeping area may have bed frames and mattresses, or hammocks or both," Tess wrote in a recent letter.

"It isn't uncommon for chickens and pigs to wander about making themselves at home in the house. Bathroom needs are accommodated by outhouses."

Others serving the Mayan people in Belize include two Americans, the Rev. Malcolm Roberts, a retired hospital chaplain, and his wife, Mary, who is a physiotherapist working with Care Belize.

Deacon Tess Meadows beside her jeep in southern Belize where she is working for two years as a Volunteer in Mission

"Malcolm, Mary and I have visited some of the Maya villages," Tess wrote in one letter. "We attract lots of attention as we are all tall white folk while the Maya are dark and short."

"Some of the smaller children cry with fright at seeing our Anglo-Saxon features, but most greet us with shy smiles. The more gregarious children soon respond to gentle conversation. Singing and dancing are important aspects of Belizean culture so singing is always a good icebreaker with the children."

Tess will remain in Monkey River until January 2006. Her work is supported solely by the donations of the parishes of the Diocese of New Westminster. St. John's has provided the leadership in ensuring that the mission is well funded, and has held many fund-raising activities in support.

The parish of St. John's anticipates that in March 2005, they will coordinate sending a small team to Belize to support Tess and her ministry. This visit will be an opportunity to develop relationships between churches.

If you are able to assist in this mission we would encourage people to have contact with Camilla Amundsen at St. John's (telephone 604 986-1151). We are grateful for the continued support by other parishes as Tess continues her mission.