Peace Through Perspective
The distance between High Point, North Carolina, and Belmopan, Belize is roughly 2,862 miles, traveling by car it would take 53 hours, and by plane, it would take a little under 6 hours, without any delays. But for me, every time I close my eyes I am back in an instant, smiling as Jonathan sings his heart out, with his father plays the guitar, or DeAndre calling me Sir every time he wanted to talk to me even though I told him my name 100 times. I think about the kids no older than seven or eight walking hand in hand, with their younger siblings, down a busy and very bumpy road just to get to church or to VBS in this old yellow build with no A/C and little to no breeze. Every time my heart beats, I am reminded of the love that was given to me by someone who cooked our dinner over a dirt floor and prayed over me as if I had finally come home after being lost in the world. Belize is more than a destination, it is a place where God moved in lives, in front of our eyes, between the hearts of us all. His mercy and love was poured over 9 individuals from a small church named after a wireless route from Belize. We started our journey being prayed over on the basketball court of an elementary school and ended our journey worshiping that same God 2,862 miles away on a basketball surrounded by a community who took our hearts but filled us with joy and compassion.
PEACE (Mark 4:35-41) – Jesus Calms the Storms
Flying into Belize, each one of the 9 was bringing our own storm with us. Waiting to hear about a new job possibility, the loss of a husband less than a year ago, depression that brought doubt and frustration, and worries about an uncertain future promised by God. Each of us being tossed back and forth in our own ships lost in, what seemed like an endless storm. All of this He knew, He knew the storms we were fighting, the storms we wanted to battle alone, the ones we hoped no one could see us struggling with in public. God was there when that plane in Raleigh, NC left the ground and carried all our problems. It was on that flight that God calmed our storms, it was on that flight that God gave us a promise that He had a plan and we just needed to trust Him. While up thousands of feet in the air, our flight fearing Heidi braved a peek out the windows and looked out over the horizon, it was there God spoke, not in words but in a sign we all know since children’s church. He gave us a rainbow, a promise, but unlike most rainbows, this one was upside down, almost vertical. God just gave us all a smirk in the sky, a sly smile foreshadowing what was to come. He was there already promising to calm our storms and give us PEACE.
STEADFAST (1 Corinthians 15:58) – Our Labor Is Not In Vain
Church in Belize is not what we are used to. Yea, Hope4u meets in a gymnasium at an elementary school but there are still projectors on the walls, AC to keep us awake, all the instruments needed to make the music sound perfect. But in Belize, not one of those things mattered. All they need is, a way to plug music into their one working speaker and then let it all go. The room was small and yellow, the leader, Luke, was slow to move but quick to speak what was needed. The leaders that lead worships were still kids themselves, and yet when the music started the same God that I am used to in my little town church was there. The same God that was with us on the flight was there as we praised and thanked him. We were reminded in that moment and time that no matter how far we go, God is still in all situations. These people who have little praised Him with everything and held nothing back but back at home, I am worried about raising my hands because of what people behind me may think. The sermon and the service was a blur of the same reminders of things we take so lightly until the church pastor stepped up, still weak from a long battle with dengue fever. He spoke to us, even though it wasn’t planned and opened his heart for just a brief moment of time. In that moment, he spoke of being steadfast in our walk with God, in our journey and not wavering as we are to let Him lead us. Little did the pastor know that a week prior, that same word was chosen as our word of the day during our trip to Belize. Out of all the words he could have used, he chose steadfast on this day. We all knew we would have to be steadfast for the week ahead.
PERSPECTIVE (Phil. 1:9-11) – Filled With The Fruit of Righteousness
Have you ever tasted a mango pulled straight from a mango tree? Did you know that actually hang from the long vine-like stems from the tree? The first bite is so refreshing and the taste dancing around your mouth like a celebration of flavor. All this is happening as I stand in a home held up but sticks, rope, and thin walls. The roof was covered in palm branches and the kitchen was nothing more than a pot over top an open fire. And yet, there we were being served dinner by a lady from Ecuador who spoke only Spanish, leaving the translating up to her son Enderson. All nine of us were invited in to sit at a table that sat maybe 6. She hugged us each long and strong as if we had known each other forever. As we sat around, snacking on fresh mangos and talked about the chickens walking through the home, she was outside over top her stove preparing dinner. She prepared each of us a bowl of soup and a cooked chicken that probably had been walking through the home earlier in the day, just at the wrong time. We all ate and listen to her tell us stories of her life and answer questions about her village. It was what a family dinner was supposed to be, no distractions, no rush, no drama, just time standing still in the middle of the Bush in some little village in Belize. And then before we tried to leave she wanted to pray over us. As each of us stood there, heads bowed, eyes closed, she unleashed the Holy Spirit within that house. The language barrier was gone, all we felt was the power of God in the room. She walked around laying hands on us all and praying individually with such fire and confidence, she spoke as if God was there face to face with us. The tear rolled and the chill bumps raised, she opened our hearts and we left with eyes opened to a new perspective of God love over us.
CONNECT (Ephesians 3:20) – According to His Power, We Can Do Immeasurably More Than All We Ask or Imagine.
You know, I could talk about how we connected throughout the week but why not just show just how God used each and every one of us to connect with over 200 children in the Roaring Creek Village of Belize.
Take RISK and Be FEARLESS (Luke 10:19) – Overcoming our Enemy (Snakes and High Towers)
Belize is also known for its wildlife. Large lizards, small salamanders, tarantulas, scorpions, and snakes. It’s all we heard about before we left but even though we saw and encountered each of these creatures there was one predator that attacked us the most. Working with 100 to 200 kids from the ages of 4 to 19 is a big job for anyone but for these 9 “visitors” it seems like easy prey, at times. As much as the children wanted to do what they wanted we knew we had been sent there for a reason. We were to take the risk and reach out to these children and hope that they see our hearts. We fought the heat, the noise, the lack of separation and still showered these children with love. After the day was over, our risk was not over, as hard as we worked, we found ways to let it all melt away. Whether it was diving into bottomless 50-degree water, or pulling the van over so our pastor could run down a dead 8-foot snake and throw it over the windshield, and even climbing to the top of XUNANTINICH and looking over into Guatemala and over Belize. We let go of our fears of eating new foods or cross long rusty bridges, over even walking to the edge of a high peak to make sure we wouldn’t regret not trying.
PRAYER ( Psalm 23:4 ) – You Are With Me
Looking back, each of the memories that stand out started with prayer. The people of Hope4U prayed over us, the pastor prayed for being steadfast, our prayers each morning as a group before we left to meet with the kids and the prayer in the hut in the Bush. Letting go of our storms and letting God control our lives that week led to hearts on fire and joy beyond measure. He gave us memories that will last a lifetime. He healed wounds left on our hearts by the people we trusted most and He took a little piece of each of our hearts and placed it in each of the places where we knew He was there. Prayer led 9 people to a country with no promises of safety, prayer challenged us all to go fearless into the day and risk it all for His will. Without prayer, none of what we were part of would have happened. For as much as God is with us know we PRAY that He continues to be with the people of Belize.
Even with all the Fun Parts, we all came back changed, wanting more, and ready to let God lead us to our next journey.