Today was our last day at the school, making it the hardest day of this trip by far. We went to the school so I could teach our last lesson and say goodbye. As I walked into the classroom of one of the little boys I befriended to hug him for the last time, a fuller realization of how much Jesus has loved me throughout this trip, and has led me to love, came over me. I searched through the faces of little ones until I saw the biggest smile staring up at me. My little buddy welcomed me and showed me the picture he just finished and I showed him the picture he had gifted me with so he knew that I was taking care of it. After a hug and a kiss on that little forehead I left and got in the bus, broken by the way Jesus moves and sad to be leaving these sweet people. The kids we have been working with are kind, open and will forever be blessings to me. I am struck by the way the Lord weaves his people into communities because He always uses it for our good. I realized today that it could be selfish to come and build a foundation with another only to leave when it is set. But my prayer is that Jesus will use the time he allowed our team and this school of kiddos to spend together to bless the kids as much as it has blessed me. I know I serve a sweet, mighty God. And I am so thankful the children I communed with this week showed me more of Him. I pray also that I was able to reciprocate that gift and that Jesus will bless my new friends more than I could ever think or I imagine to be possible. He is good. Amen.
This trip has been one in a lifetime! For those of you who do not know me, I grew up overseas as a missionary kid. This trip represents my first overseas mission of my own choice. I have been processing all week what missions will look like for me, why my parents had chosen to be missionaries, and what the Lord’s plan was for this week. On Monday, the education team had the privilege of teaching at the Billy White school. I have recently completed my student teaching semester in suburban Missouri with a third grade classroom. In my classroom we had five Ipads, two Chrome books, a Mimio board, white boards, chalkboards, and many more resources too numerous to name. I felt the lack of resources in my class back home. “We don’t have enough books”, “the wifi isn’t working” and “can you call the tech guy?”, were questions and phrases I muttered all semester long. At Billy White, they don’t have enough markers for their one, struggling white board, no air conditioning, a very small amount of paper and writing utensils. To say that I am blessed back home would be an understatement. I taught my lesson in an Infant 1 classroom. This would be the equivalent of a kindergarten classroom. There were 33 kindergarten students crammed into approximately 25 desks – and I mean the old school, desk attached to the chair, row style desks. Although the national language of Belize is English, most students do not begin learning English until they enter Infant 1. So my kiddos have been learning English for 2 months and speaking Spanish for 5 years. I played a game called “that’s me!” And proceeded to try a line up and group activity that didn’t work out. Thankfully one of the things that teaching in the states does prepare you for is thinking on your feet and I was able to jump in with another activity. The entire time I was teaching I was thinking about my students back home. These 33 five year olds, most of whom couldn’t understand me, were more attentive than my 8 year olds who understood every word I spoke. I have rarely felt as appreciated as I did then. It made me sad for my 24 students at home who have everything they need, even the poorest one. And yet feel underprivileged and dissatisfied. How mistaken we are?!
At the end of the lesson, I was invited to observe the teacher as she led her students in some transitional songs. Let me tell you, they have transitions down! That is something that I will take away for sure! My lesson was not even close to perfect. As I processed through the day, I noted so many things that I would change or reword. But what an experience! To teach students who know so little English is such a great learning experience. I pray that I am a better teacher because of this!
I am typing this in the airport as we wait the three hours before our plane departs for Atlanta and reflecting on the entire trip. During the last week, I have revisited emotions from my early days as a missionary kid, taught in a foreign school, played soccer with 8 year olds who destroyed me, eaten termites, climbed the Maya ruins, swam with sharks, sea turtles, and stingrays, fallen in love with the children, broken my heart for those same kiddos, and lived to take it all back with me. Last night we had a small worship service and one of the things that we meditated on was the quote by Derek Webb, “let the bread on your tongue leave a trail of crumbs that lead others to where you came from.” I pray that as I leave this beautiful place behind, my heart will drop its crumbs in the lives of the people that I meet, worship with, and teach to lead them all back to my Great Big God! He is so good! Thank you College of the Ozarks. Apart from the free college education, and meeting my husband, this is the greatest gift that you have given me during the four years I have attended. What an incredible blessing!
Day 5 is here! We began the day gathered around the breakfast table. As we ate, we were charged to continue to think about the Beatitudes. As we continued to go forth with this focus, we loaded up the bus and headed to the Billy White School. We made a quick pit stop at the market and store (what they call the Chinese Walmart) to pick up food for the kiddos at the school. We wanted to gather with them and fellowship over a great meal! Before we knew it, we had arrived at the school. As we pulled in, kids continued to gathered. I was welcomed by a sweet girl named Jessica. She quickly told me she had made me something. She then continued to hand me a small package wrapped in paper. As I opened it, a drawing was inside with a sparkly pencil. As I looked at the Palm trees, ocean, and a sunrise she had drawn, I immediately thought back to the church service we attended yesterday. The Pastor discussed how when we choose to give, God blesses us abundantly. This precious 8 year old girl who is given little, chose to give me a gift. I found myself so humbled and thankful to see her childlike faith. Why is it so hard for us to give to others? Why is it so hard for us to give our own items and hearts to JESUS? These are a few questions that have been pressed on my heart after witnessing this childlike faith.
After this beautiful welcoming, we continued to embrace the children and play outside with them. We took a quick break to serve lunch for the kids, but quickly returned to playing games. Soccer, hopscotch, Simon says, chalk, crayons, and volleyball became the popular games of the day! Overall, today was an amazing day filled with so much joy and love. I am excited to return to the Billy White School tomorrow. I know I will learn so much more from this sweet village in Belize!
As I type, the pitter-patter of rain drops on the tin roof greet me, the feel of the cool breeze brushes across my skin as I sit on the balcony. I can see the village lights that point to no particular direction, the night sky is full of clouds with promise of more rain, there is a fog descending slowly across everything I can see, and I hear the village. It is a sound I am unfamiliar with. Never before have I experienced such culture rich in taste, color, music, work, diversity, family, friends, and need.I sit in a melting pot that hasn’t quite yet learned the way of melding, but is on its way. The people that I am surrounded by are so lovely and strange. I don’t know if I have ever been in this predicament before. To see a culture that could become great (and in my opinion already is) and not “need” help from outside sources. One thing is clear though, the need is there. The need to strengthen communities, families, cities, villages, schools, hospitals, the people’s unity, and the one that hits home for me, is mental health.
I came on this trip and arrived in Belize with the thought that my team of Psychology had over prepared for what we had planned from the counseling perspective. I thought that the culture we were stepping into was not civilized enough to learn the ways of how to counsel. I was wrong. So very, very wrong. These people are just as smart, kind, happy, friendly, willing, and joyful as the average person that you might run across. They also, just as the average person, suffer in sadness, loneliness, despair, fear, and hopelessness. A good way to maybe describe it would be, “the same, kind of different”.
To stop rambling though, I will state that the psychology team had the opportunity to present a gentle way of producing change in a client or patient by helping them realize the need themselves instead of just presenting the “answer” from the service provider. While my team was presenting, the Educational and Christian Ministry team went back to Billy White Village and ministered to the children and teens there. Oh, how I wish to have been in two places at once. My heart and soul will never be the same once I return to Missouri. Not with what God has shown me. The not so unexpected thing though, is I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We awoke to the quintessential tropical downpour Friday morning; rain pummeled the tin roofs with a deafenig thunder.
As we set out to Billy White for another day with the kids, we shared stories and laughs along the muddy roads. Our driver, Elias (the BEST in Belize!), maneuvered with ease as the bus fishtailed across the pothole-laden road at one point! The trip back to the school was exciting, but the best was yet to come.
When we arrived at Billy White, kids came pouring like the morning rain. We were barely off the bus when they pushed through for welcoming hugs and cheerful embraces. Their excitement invoked such a pleasant feeling in our hearts; as much as we want to love them, I think they’ll always love us more! The hearts in Belize are so BIG!
I had the joyful (yet always difficult) task of sharing Jesus’s love with these big hearts Friday. We learned about the four relationships for which we were made, and how they’re broken with our sinful condition.
Five boys held hands in a circle, representing our relationship with others. Sin, however, breaks that relationship, so the boys let go of one another’s hands. But Jesus came and healed that relationship, so the boys joined hands again!
One young man held his own hands together, fashioning a circle with his arms. He stood for our relationship with ourselves. Sin, like in our relationship with others, breaks our relationship with ourselves, so he broke the circle made by his arms. Again, Jesus came to heal that relationship, and the boy’s hands came back together!
God also created us to be in relationship with His creation. Here, a young girl stood with a palm branch in her hand. She threw it down, representing how sin has broken our relationship with creation. But Jesus heals even this relationship, and she took up the branch again.
Finally, and perhaps most deeply, God created us for relationship with Himself. One young volunteer stood with arms and face toward the sky. Yet sin has even ruined this precious relationship, so his hands and face fell. But Jesus, in His great love, has healed this relationship, too. Praise God! And the boy’s hands and face returned in worship–an offering of thanks.
After this amazing time of sharing Gospel hope with the kids, we enjoyed a delicious meal of fresh fruit (WAY better than “fresh” in the US) and, of course, PB&J! But the kids’ patience began to wear thin as the soccer field beckoned.
After a long, hot, competitive game, the reigning champions lost the title, and the US took the cup! The match was exhausting, and there was a bit of bickering and name-calling amongst the boys and girls, but the kiddos played a great game. For only half our size, they put up quite the fight!
Life slowed down dramatically after the game. We arrived back at Cahal Pech after enjoying some delicious, fresh icecream, then we relaxed in the pool. After dinner, we took some much-needed time to debrief in our small groups, praying for areas where we felt mournful today. Then a group of us cooled down (Actually, it was quite warm and humid!) with some hacky-sack. We finished off a great day with a beautiful view of the distant night-life scene at San Ignacio and a great conversation about relationships!
As I write this, I’m reminded of Andrew’s challenge this morning: think about some area in which you mourn today. I found one, and it hurts a bit to recognize. I know thousands of people have attended these short-term trips and experience the same thing, and I’ve been warned many times it would happen. But today I realized how challenging it is for these kids–who were so excited and welcoming and loving–to live with a variety of groups of people. They are so quick to trust, yet most still don’t know my name (and I can’t remember theirs!).
Friends and family, please pray for us that when next week comes (so quickly!) we will have both peace and longing as we depart. Thank you for your prayers already, and God bless you richly in His Grace!
“Dear Lord, Thank you for this opportunity. I pray over this time in Belize and ask that you would bless us and all of the people you are guiding us to interact with. Please work how you see fit, and use me as a vessel despite how distracted I have been until now. Guard the hearts and minds of our team members, and give Satan no power to disarm the good you are putting into motion. I pray as I struggle to understand this culture, that you would protect me from making assumptions. Keep me from arrogance and open my mind, Lord. Help me not to pity these people for things you have given them as blessings, and help me mourn for them for things you mourn for. Let us love well. And keep us safe please. Jesus, your will be done. Amen.”
I’m excited to work with the awesome team we have and to experience the people God is allowing us to meet!