Sunday, January 31, 2016

Belize Mission Trip

If you're reading this and didn't know that I was planning to go on a mission trip to Belize, you're not alone, and I apologize for that! I sent out some emails to raise support and my family knew it was in the works, but I never made a wide announcement and have had several people tell me that it was news to them. 

View from the Hearts of Christ mission house

I went to Belize with a team of twelve, led by my friends, Doug and Leanne Goddard, who are the founders/leaders of Access-Life, a ministry to people with disabilities and their families. For the past six years, I have volunteered at one of their Expo events in East Tennessee, and it has been such a blessing to be able to have a small part in showing these families the love of Christ by giving them a fun day at a local lake. My role has been to take photos and help with the photo booth (printing photos on the spot so that the participants can have a memento of their day to take home), and that's what I was able to do in Belize.

Access-Life partnered with another ministry, Hearts of Christ, to bring a version of the Expo experience to people in Belize, as well as provide medical items and supplies to people in need. Our team also built some ramps for people in the local villages and got to visit a nursing home.

I have already been home for a week and I am so ready to tell some stories and show pictures from my trip to Belize! Every day was a highlight of the trip and I'll post separate stories about the people we met and served during the week.

Last Sunday, we had a free day and traveled about two and a half hours by bus to the coastal town of Placencia. After lunch and walking around, I found a hammock on the beach and while I relaxed in it for a few minutes I jotted down a summary of the week:

Monday:  Traveled to Belize City and met up with the rest of the team who came from East Tennessee, Texas and Florida. Once the team had all arrived, Korie and Alicia Williams, who coordinate the Hearts of Christ ministry locally in Belize, met us and we drove about an hour to Roaring Creek Village, near the capital city, Belmopan. Hearts of Christ has a mission compound there and it was our home base for the week. One fun serendipity was running into a Nashville friend while eating lunch at the restaurant at the airport. She was getting ready to fly home after spending a week in Belize with some of her students from Brentwood Academy and it was fun to connect with her unexpectedly.

Tuesday:  Built a ramp and provided an electric wheelchair for a woman named Mary, who had just had her second leg amputated. Her grateful spirit and her testimony of God's faithfulness was such a blessing to us!

Wednesday:  In the morning, we went to the village of Ontario, and built a ramp for Eli, a paraplegic who had recently become a Christian. Some of the team also went through the village distributing rice and bean packets to the people who lived there and got to meet and visit with several people. In the afternoon, we drove to another village and built a ramp for a man who was an amputee. We also distributed rice and beans in that village.

Thursday:  We spent the day at the mission getting prepared for the Expo event. Two shipping containers had been sent full of medical equipment that needed to be sorted and cleaned, and we also had lots to do to organize the supplies for the activities at the Expo. At the end of the day, a second team of women with Hearts of Christ in East Tennessee arrived.

Friday: All 24 of us loaded on the bus and drove to San Ignacio, about an hour and a half west of Belmopan, near Guatemala. We visited residents who live at a nursing home and were blessed by their sweet, welcoming spirits. The highlight was singing hymns together and sang "Happy Birthday" to a sweet woman who was having a birthday that day.

Saturday:  Expo Day at Roaring Creek Village! By our best counts, we had over 200 people in attendance (including volunteers and our team) and gave out nearly 50 wheelchairs and lots of crutches, canes, walkers and medical supplies. It was an incredible day!

As I said earlier, each day I'd get to the end of the day and think, "this was the highlight of the week" and then the next day would come and another highlight! The common theme running through the week was that God is good and hears the prayers of His people. Over and over again, we heard people tell us, "I prayed for God to send me some help, and then you came!" That is very humbling and also faith-building to see and hear how people who don't have much materially are so faithful to pray and believe that God is with them. On the last night, Korie Williams shared, "When you don't have much and you pray to a God you can't see, and someone shows up with what you prayed for, it strengthens your faith."

Beautiful Belizian Sunset

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