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Recently the Office of NFP was called upon to offer an NFP teacher training for the Diocese of Belize. This opportunity clearly had the hand of God written all over it, as it began with a dream by Kay Allen, lay SOLT missionary for Belize to have the Diocese of Phoenix come to her new country to provide this much needed training. After Belize's Bishop Wright approved and promoted the training, funding still needed to be identified. In record time a partnering grant was written for St. Timothy Church, submitted, and approved by Bishop Olmsted for about 80% of our budget. However, by the time that the grant was approved, airline tickets dropped by almost half, so that nearly 100% of the trip was funded by Catholic Relief Services. Surely this was an act of God and a sign that He would provide! We got another sign at the Belize airport when the taxi driver turned out to be a man who has long known Margaret Robinson, the founder of the pro life movement in Belize and Belize's only certified NFP teacher.
This training was an incredible experience and exceeded even our highest expectations. Beginning with a visit and blessing from Bishop Dorrick Wright in Belize City, we traveled to Santa Familia Retreat Center in Santa Elena for the weekend training. We had been praying that everyone who God wanted there would be able to come and that the teaching would be anointed by the Holy Spirit. The meeting room where we had the meetings could not have fit one more person! God brought 40 individuals to the teacher training: 5 women, 13 couples, 3 trainers, 3 observer/coordinators and 3 infants. Four of the teaching couple candidates have already been teaching under the supervision of Margaret Robinson, who also attended the training. Most of the other couples and married women have used NFP in their marriages, taught by Margaret Robinson, and now want to train to teach. One woman is a family doctor, one a nurse. Only one couple was completely new to the method and seemed to be there just to learn the method, not to become teachers themselves.
We were able to get really far with the training and have high expectations for all the couples. All of the training was conducted in English, though there were two couples there who were bilingual but for whom Spanish was more comfortable, so Josefina Camou was able to speak to them between sessions in Spanish to check with their understanding. We brought Spanish training materials for them as well.
Mike and Cindy Leonard provided the Theology of the Body teachings and an introduction to NFP, including Reproductive Anatomy & Physiology, and the Side Effects and Action of Contraceptives. Josefina Camou provided the rest of the training as Master Trainer for Family of Americas Ovulation Method.
God blessed us in other ways too! We had Mass both days with Fr. Leo who is a big NFP supporter. We were also was able to speak to three couples who are on the Bishop's commission for re-writing their marriage prep policy. They were very happy that we brought copies of the Diocese of Phoenix' new policy for them and copies of the 'God's Plan for Joy Filled Marriage seminars' for them to review. They told us that previous to the training and speaking to us, they had decided the best route for Belize's policy would be to simply introduce NFP during Marriage Prep but not require it. After the training the couples who attended were on fire to recommend full NFP training as a requirement for marriage prep. We believe that the training was indeed anointed because of the enthusiasm and excitement of all, even though the training was in a very warm room with a very loud fan! Josefina's voice held up even when rain pounded on the tin roof and she had to shout to be heard over the din!
Just when we thought our work was over on the Sunday night drive back to the capital, we received a call asking us to provide a presentation for our teen program (Catholic Academy for Life Leadership) to St. Catherine's High School the next day before heading to the airport. Of course we agreed and the next day we were greeted there by representatives of five high schools and about 50 teens! We were able to spend almost two hours with them, presenting the CALL program, promoting it, and answering questions. High School teachers and campus youth ministers wanted the program for their own. We brought two copies of Years 1 and 2 on cds and gave them to two teachers who will share with the other schools.
We are not sure if we'll get funding to go back next spring or not, but the Belize couples seemed motivated to try to raise funds to bring back our little Phoenix group for further training, especially to help the high schools train speakers for Catholic Academy for Life Leadership seminars. They were extremely appreciative of all the supplies which were bought from the Catholic Relief Services grant, the books that the Office of NFP donated, and the AV equipment (laptop and digital projector) that was donated from St. Tim's and the Diocese of Phoenix. They loved the posters that a St. Tim's NFP teacher laminated for them. With such a humid climate the lamination is really necessary. Each teaching couple/single also took pictures that we brought of our Diocese of Phoenix NFP teachers. They promised to use these pictures as a reminder to pray for us and we will be asking our St. Timothy's partnering parish to pray for our new Belize teachers as well.
Kay Allen is the instigator of this work as a SOLT lay missionary stationed in Belize for 3 years. For six years she worked as Executive Director for 1st Way and in that capacity became a friend of the Camou' and the Leonard's. We stayed with her in Belize City and she has agreed to be the first Volunteer Coordinator of 'NFP Belize', helping these new teachers for us and keeping them on track in their studies. She will be in Phoenix for a visit soon and will meet with Bishop Olmsted and Fr. Charlie Goraieb as well. We ask for prayers for her, Bishop Wright, and this dedicated Belizean group as they study and form themselves for the work ahead: Go "NFP Belize"!Check out a couple of pictures here: Diocese of Phoenix blog