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Go on a mission trip? You better Belize it!
BELIZE, CENTRAL AMERICA -- The distance from Floresville to Belize may be great, but the hearts of a mission team made the distance seem insignificant recently, leaving Texas to help a small congregation in need.
A mission team of 10 people from Oak Hills Community Church near Floresville flew to Belize, Central America, on a mission venture in April 2012. Pastor Joel Odom strengthened a connection between Bob Farley, the missionary at Punta Gorda, and the church in Floresville. The primary objective for the men in our mission effort was to provide teachers for the Seminary Training School for native pastors in Belize. The training center is under construction, and both Dr. Odom and Silverio Ornelas have been asked to return to teach theological courses for men who desire to become native pastors.
The team also assessed needs for future trips. Ornelas is currently the interim pastor at Pandora Community Fellowship, and was invited to return to preach a revival in their thatched church. Dr. Odom also was invited to preach over the Christian radio station outside of Punta Gorda. Although the official language of Belize is English, Spanish and Kriol are commonly spoken among many of the people there. Kekchi, a Mayan dialect, and a host of other indigenous dialects are spoken, as well.
Another possibility for a future trip is to help repair the thatched church. This would require that the men of the village collect and dry the appropriate palm leaves, and that they come together in an effort similar to a barn-raising to thatch the mission church in one week. The roof needs to be repaired before the rains begin in July. Belize averages 170 inches of rainfall annually. Our team traveled during the dry season, so it only rained twice during our one-week stay.
While in Punta Gorda, the team committed to adopting the students at the mission school in Boom Creek. We were able to purchase and distribute more than 50 pairs of “Crocs” for the children in the school and community. Crocs are the most practical shoes for the climate and terrain. We purchased the shoes from local vendors to help their economy, while meeting the needs of the community.
In visiting the school, our team was able to distribute previously shipped Good Samaritan gift boxes for each child in the school. It was gratifying to watch children receive and open gift boxes that we had actually packed for a nameless child back in August. We had a great time blowing up the balloons and showing the children how to use even the simplest of toys. To show their appreciation for our gifts, several young children ran to get coconuts for us. The boys expertly sliced through the coconuts with their machetes to offer us coconut milk to drink and refresh ourselves in the 90-plus degree weather.
The children were dismissed early from school to run home and show their parents their treasures. In all that activity, the women of our group noted the need for backpacks for the children. All children either walk or ride a bike to school. We watched as two or three students tried to ride or walk and balance their school supplies all at the same time. The idea to launch a project to collect used backpacks from our schoolchildren to give to Belize students was born.
As our school year has come to a close, we would like to ask any student who plans to buy a new backpack for fall to consider donating their old backpack to the children of Belize. Collection sites will be announced through the area schools or they can be dropped off at Oak Hills Community Church. We will later fill the backpacks with school supplies and underwear for the children.
Plans were made for a Vacation Bible School in several of the villages. Although Americans can easily meet physical needs in Third World countries, our mission’s team is committed to the spread of the Gospel and changing people’s lives from the inside out first.
People say that nothing changes your life like going on a mission trip. They also say, “Nothing changes your attitude about your lifestyle until you see real poverty and need.” Both of those things happened to our group. We may not be able to change the entire world, but we can plug in where God is already at work and join in the efforts. The missionary, Bob Farley, plans to visit Oak Hills Community Church in July to collect the backpacks and plan for our next trip.
On the final day of our trip, we visited Placencia, Belize. There we paid for excursions to snorkel and scuba in the second-largest coral reef in the world. We swam with giant sea turtles, manta rays, barracuda, nurse sharks, and a host of neon tropical fish.
For more information, or to donate to the backpack project, call Dr. Leo Ornelas at 210-288-8917.
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