I have been so privileged and blessed this week to teach, interact, and play with the children here in Belize. It has also been sweet to work with an amazing team who have all displayed a lot of leadership and flexibility in an unfamiliar place. But another wonderful and eye-opening aspect of this trip has been to experience the culture of this gorgeous country. One thing our team has been reflecting on is the way beauty and burdens exist alongside one another, or even might be the same thing. We have seen so much beauty in the friendliness, hospitality and joy of the people here, but have also witnessed the burdensome reality of the poverty that exists in third-world countries. Most of us are seeing this for the first time. It is so incredible to think that beauty springs out of the burden when one is in Christ. We have seen people whose lives are full of pain, but who have so much joy because of Christ.
This reality is what many of us reflected upon last night as we attended church in a tiny garage. The service was packed out, and the garage door was open to allow the overflow to stand outside in the pouring rain and worship. The people here sometimes rely on a dollar a day to provide for a whole family, and yet they stand in the rain, lifting their voices in song because they know their hope is in Christ. I was so humbled to have the opportunity to preach in this church last night and share some personal reflections with the congregation. In preparing for this opportunity, I was afraid that the cultural barrier might keep me from communicating effectively. I decided to preach on Mark 12:41-44, the story of the widow’s offering. This story became close to me this last semester as I wrestled with my own weaknesses and realized I really don’t have much to offer to God. The fact that Christ accepted the widow’s small offering above the offerings of the rich has encouraged me because it shows that Christ desires a humble, broken and contrite spirit more than a showy sacrifice. After I preached, it hit me that this is exactly what I was witnessing during the worship service. Though many in the congregation had very little to offer God according to worldly or physical standards, they had much to offer them out of their humble hearts that knew their own weakness and need for the strength of Christ. The way that my own personal experiences collided with their experiences in a way that pointed to the same truth and the same God was incredible. As we experience the beauties and burdens of another culture, it is truly encouraging to know that, as the pastor read in the church last night, “The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash hear, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people” (Ps. 113:4-8).
James C. Zeller