by Youth Pastor Javin van Kaam
(A picture gallery of the Belize Missions trip at the end of this post.)
Arriving in Belize you feel like you’re stepping out of a time machine into a world forgotten by most of us in the U.S. Beautiful tropical backdrops are filled with broken down cars, dilapidated buildings, rocky roads that are both dirt and concrete, and out-houses. If you don’t know what an outhouse is you should google it and be thankful there are no “scratch-n-sniffs”.
The fourteen of us who made up Grace Church’s first mission team consisted of high school students, college students, and three adults all of which were stunned by what we saw. We were excited to serve the local church in Belize but never could have imagined the impact they would have on us!
We arrived at the monastery in Santa Erena after a two-hour bus ride with highlights of mountains, rivers, and Belizian life. Our adventure had officially begun.
Over the course of the week we served one of the local churches by helping them build a wall on the second story of their building. I watched as our student’s hand- mixed concrete, cut and bent rebar by hand, and played with the children who flocked around us to play and do crafts with the girls. This was very hard work even by Pastor Clark’s standards!
In the afternoon we put on a VBS for the children in the city where we painted nails, did crafts, colored, and performed skits and songs. Everyday we shared that God loved them and every day the number of children who came grew. We won’t forget their little faces anytime soon; they are so precious. I’ll never forget the mental snapshot I have of children jumping up and down in the doorway of the church as the bus pulled up. The team has so many memories of the week that it would be impossible to capture all of them in a blog.
However, one way that we were impacted by the trip was in observing just how thankful everyone was. This was hard to wrap our heads around because they had nothing by our standards. In our kingdoms of “stuff” they had very little. You could fit one of their houses inside of one of our master bedrooms! We would consider this poverty. One of our teenagers almost broke into tears when one of the children came up to the team wearing the same clothes for the third day in a row. Yet, in the midst of economical struggle, hands were lifted high and thanks were given to God.
- When it rained… they praised God.
- When it didn’t rain… they praised God.
- When the bus worked… they praised God.
- When the bus had issues… they praised God.
- When things went well… they praised God.
- When things completely fell apart… they praised God.
Seriously, they did.
I would estimate 90% of the Belizean prayers were comprised of praises to God and thanking Him for all that He had given and provided. It’s hard to understand how people who have so little thank God more than I do when I have so much. I’m sure there are times when they ask God for things but I was amazed at how thankful they are to Him and how they depend on God for everything they have.
It’s hard to bring myself to ask God to “bless me” here in America anymore. After seeing all that we saw in Belize, I am reminded that I AM blessed. Instead, God let us BE a blessing to others because even in our worst day here in America we have so much to be thankful for. I choose to instead pray that God would bless Belize even though they seem content with what they have – Him.
What an amazing trip and we are so thankful to Grace Church for sponsoring the trip and helping to offset the expenses for us to have this experience. Thank you!
Here is the photo gallery of the Belize Mission Trip. Click on the image to see the larger version. Please continue to pray for the Belizian people and for our youth as they think about their experiences.