Fifteen members of First Christian Church recently returned from a weeklong mission trip to Belize. The country, located on the northern coast of Central America, is surrounded by Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean. Despite the hot and humid tropical climate, the group arrived armed with power tools, nails and Bibles, eager to work with the people in Hattieville, a town of approximately 1,300 residents. Not only were they prepared to put a new roof on a church under construction, but also they were ready to minister to the children of one particular elementary school.
Both First Christian Church and Roan Creek Elementary School sponsor an endeavor to feed the children in a small, government run school in Hattieville. Every Wednesday the teachers and staff at Roan Creek each donate $1 to come to work dressed in relaxed attire. On the last Wednesday of the month, students will pay $1 to be allowed to wear a hat in their Hats for Hattieville campaign. The monies raised by the school and the church go to feed approximately 70 children a day. For some, the simple meal of rice, beans and a small amount of chicken may be the only nutrition they receive for the entire day. For many youngsters, the only food they consume is a frozen drink, similar to Kool Aid. If they dont have enough money to purchase their meal, they rely on that drink to keep them going. While the school is run by the Belizean government, the families are responsible for uniforms, shoes and certain fees. If you dont pay the fees, you dont get to go to school, said Pastor Dwayne Dickson of First Christian Church.
Hurricane Hattie hit Belize in 1961. Although Hattieville was initially established as a temporary refugee camp, it has become a settled area. Houses are small and amenities that are often taken for granted by Americans are scarce. While the main highways are paved, the remainder of their roads are dirt paths. They dont drink their water, said Dickson, although it is used for bathing and laundry.
According to Dr. Joe Ray, the group arrived during the rainy season and the ground was saturated with rainwater. The Belizean people do not have screens on their windows, allowing some cool breezes, along with biting mosquitoes, to enter their homes. Our poor people here would be considered well off compared to many Belize residents, but that made no difference to them, he said. Regardless of what they have, they share it with you, said Kathy Terrill, one of the five women to participate in the mission trip.
The volunteers stayed at two different homes, one for the men and one for the women. They were introduced to Belizean cuisine that often consisted of beans and rice that are served with most meals. They discovered johnnycakes, similar to a flat bread or hard roll, that was served for breakfast, along with beans and scrambled eggs. They also were served cow hoof soup, comparable to a stew, made from cow foot and tripe. The group enjoyed pineapple, papaya and guava juice throughout the day.
The men worked long hard hours, up to 12 hours each day, putting the new roof on the church. They had to cut the wood and frame it before climbing up a scaffold 20 feet high. The group had carried all of their tools needed for the project, including electric saws, from Mountain City. Once they arrived in Belize, they were able to use a generator to run the power tools. We came with two boxes of nails and came home with less than 100 nails, said Dickson. It was a huge job.
During the early morning hours, the women helped prepare the meals and assist the men working on the new church roof before working with the children. According to Amy Potter, who accompanied the group to Belize, the people of Hattieville are appreciative of the small things in life. They are very proud people, she added. Potter was struck with the patriotism of the Belizeans as all the houses had flags that were raised and lowered every day. She had never been on a mission trip outside of the United States before. I would go back in a minute, she said. That church will be able to reach many more people than before. Potter immediately noticed the happiness of the people she encountered while on the mission trip. They may not have a lot of money but I wouldnt say that they are poor, she mused. They have more contentment and joy than anyone Ive met before.
Potter worked with the older children during Bible study time after school hours and concentrated on teaching them about Jesus as both their Savior and a friend. Those working with the younger children introduced them to Bible stores. Beverly Teague spent time with the eight, nine and ten year old children. They are very smart and eager to learn, she said. At the end of the mission trip, the children received treat bags with various school supplies, such as pens, pencils and glue sticks. They didnt have a lot and were happy to receive anything, Teague added. According to Dickson, Bible studies are an integral part of the government-run educational system in the country. Scripture verses can be found hanging on the classroom walls.
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