The pastor's wife announced to our group, "You know those beautiful white sandy beaches and the lovely blue waters in Belize? Well, you are not going there. This is a missions trip, not a vacation.”
And it was. We saw the real Belize, not the touristy places — from the remote jungle areas where the Mayan people live in thatched roof houses to the even more remote area, where Samuel's Sanctuary started in the midst of the tall green mountains covered with palm trees and vines and jungle brush.
A place where the howler monkeys growl like large dinosaurs, but only look like ordinary black monkeys, to the cities like San Ignacio where some of the sidewalks are uneven and unclean.
The streets smell dirty, but the people are friendly and the market was piled high with fruits and unusual spices. It was better than any farmers market I have ever experienced.
We held two children’s crusades. One of them was at the Mayan church. The children were excited about the puppets we used to share the plan of salvation and many prayed to receive Christ.
They loved the songs with actions and the bubbles and balloons we brought. We gave them new clothes and shoes and the joy and thankfulness on their faces was incredible. This remote jungle area (Armenia) near the border of Guatemala has a Mayan church that might not have existed, except that God sent a missionary couple 30 years ago, Dean and Paulette Jones,.
Now the church, which is a slab of concrete and four rows of blocks with a tent top, is trying to build a building.
They fed us their traditional rice and beans made outside over an open fire and empanadas, burritos and sabutos.
It was delicious! We taught them how to make five kinds of cookies, which they had never tasted.
The light in their eyes came on as they excitedly decided that they would now have a new income stream. These incredibly poor people would sell American cookies they made door to door.
"And you brought us the recipes too," they said with giddiness.
We were there for the dedication of the new Spanish church building in Unitedville. The building swelled with God's praises and even though it was in a language I did not understand, the presence of God was strong.
We prayed for people to be healed. Before me was Elmer, a 16-year-old boy who lived in an uneven house where the water literally ran through and the three boys and their parents that all slept in hammocks.
His shoulder needed healing and he said there was something wrong inside his nose. His greatest desire was to have contemporary Christian music to play on a guitar.
He didn't own a guitar, but had taught himself to play by borrowing one. His mother brought things she had made to sell to the Americans. She had made purses, and headbands and jewelry.
Later, we went to the most remote place of all, with tall pointed forested mountains closest to Guatemala.
Four Texans were putting together a place where delinquent boys ages 14-18 could come and have their lives changed. They were learning to be self sufficient with gardens they were planting on steep slopes.
While the rain poured down and the thunder boomed all around us, the midst rose from the mountains as they shared their vision and hope of changing boys life through Christ.
We painted an outhouse and primed beams so they could enclose an area where boys could meet and have services.
They hoped to be getting boys soon. They told of having to always be at their compound or locals would steal even the doors off of their buildings. The doors were now welded in place.
Missions trips are always life changing events because you get to enlarge your vision of the world and see what God is doing in other places and be a part of it.
You realize how small the world really is and that people are just people wherever you go. We are all a part of the family of God through Christ Jesus.
Reach author Janice Hofstra at firstname.lastname@example.org.