An un-Belize-able experience

Story by Emily McMaster, copy editor

Daydreams of interacting and sharing my faith to a different culture captured my thoughts for years. I prayed daily for the time to come, that I would be allowed to go, and that I would receive the courage to expand outside of my comfort zone.

I was overjoyed when I was informed this dream was to become a reality in Belize, but a sudden toll of doubt emerged as the day approached. Soon I would be stepping on a plane with people I had never met, traveling to a third world country for the first time.

People tell you, “take a leap of faith.” And this was its testimony. I found peace in my heart that this was a calling. On July 25th, I began an experience that changed my whole perspective on life and people.

I began my training, making friends with other team members. Being placed on the drama team, I took part in making powerful messages come to life for all ages. We shared our testimonies with each other and prepared for the next week in Belize. Although I had been a church camp counselor the month prior, I felt spiritually challenged on a new level.

Upon arrival in Belize, I learned to not be fooled by the ocean resort photos that pull up on Google. Not to be mistaken, Belize is full of beautiful scenery and people, but behind the stereotypes lies a culture of poverty. The airport lacked advanced technology and failed to meet cleanly standards.This was recognizable upon arrival at the airport as it lacked advanced technology and cleanliness taken advantage of in the U.S.

Our main sources of transportation was an old school bus or the back of a truck. I quickly discovered that the villages lacked road rules. I gained a new respect for speed bumps along roads. We stayed in a compound with a Belizean couple who provided us home cooked meals, bedding and a breathtaking view of the country, which I constantly miss.

Each day was dedicated to a new project in which we reached out to different villages. These included running a Vacation Bible Study, a women’s tea party, visiting  churches and nightly services with a message and worship. Whether we were conducting an event or making a run to the grocery store, walking up to and connecting with people was a must.

Every day was a new opportunity to learn about their culture, share testimonies, and pray with people ranging from elementary students to the community elders. Instead of worrying about myself on the trip as I had earlier, I began to worry I would miss an opportunity to speak into someone’s life.

On previous vacations to other countries I had a glance of life there, yet that was incomparable to living side by side the people in the heart of the country. Despite the obvious hardships the Belizeans faced, the majority still came out to our events welcoming us to their country; their hearts sparked with a passion to learn more about our faith.

I had multiple opportunities to talk to students and found that although they were enjoying summer vacation, in which taking trips was not affordable, they could not wait to return to school. The students professed their love to learn and claimed that they would never take their education for granted. Those of my age were at awe that I would be attending a college next year.

I rarely hear of such positivity about school here. In the midst of complaining about homework and teachers at school at home, the Belizeans praised the opportunity to take any classes. I consistently remind myself now when I am annoyed at college applications that someone in a third world country would give anything to be in my position.

I gained multiple life lessons during this whole experience. Although it took a strong mindset to save up for and embark on the journey, the outcome was priceless. It clarified to me that your desire has to meet your willingness to do something, whether in school or in a different country.

I made friends that I continue to talk to on the daily and developed a stronger desire to provide service to others. I came to understand that life is not about me, but something so much greater comes out of providing to others.

I believe that everyone should find a mission project to take part in; it does not have to to be religious. One does not have to be in a third world country or even out of state to do mission work, but can start a community service project or have a simple act of kindness a day. Take a calling in your life and act upon it. As stereotypical as it sounds, those you help can give you more than you give them.