Belize Mission and Ministry Trip – 2016 by Rebecca Pasceri

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Cost: $1,700 per student

Location: Punta Gorda, Belize

Partnership: LOL Ministries

This winter I had the opportunity to travel with a team of 11 other people from Gordon College to an orphanage in the Toledo district of Belize. We spent most of our time working in the orphanage helping in the kitchen, cleaning, painting, and spending time with the 27 kids who call LOL Ministries home. We also spent one day teaching and playing with children at school in a nearby village.

One thing that stood out to me on this trip was the staff at LOL (most of whom are unpaid volunteers) and the impact that they have made and continue to make on the children by showering them with love, giving them hope, a purpose, and a new life in more than one sense of the word. They share the gospel are radically changing the children’s lives for the Kingdom. While there, I could clearly see God use the dedicated staff as tools when they consistently poured into the kids. The staff colored the daily atmosphere at the orphanage with love and gentleness. For me, having the opportunity to interact with both the children and staff was a huge blessing. It was extremely encouraging to see the same children from last winter (this is my second year on this trip) remember myself and other returning team members to validate that, though our time spent there’s brief, the moments and connections made are something that will endure beyond our visit. I was taken aback by how much all of them had all grown, both physically and spiritually, over the course of the year when thinking back to how I had remembered them previously. This was a very special moment in the trip for me because while watching them thrive it was almost like I could see God tangibly filling and healing them.

As far as lessons learned, I feel that I came away from the trip with two major takeaways: to be humble and that God is good. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking you traveled over 2,000 miles to come away with the belief that ‘God is good’? Seriously? But to be honest, as someone who grew up in a Christian home I could not tell you the number of times I had heard this sentence uttered. Yes, I knew it to be true but I had never really thought much of the depths of its meaning until my father passed away last winter. After that, I had a hard time believing that a good God would allow such pain to resonate within me. To fully grasp and understand the concept of God always being good, it took me traveling to Belize. While there, I realized that being joyful is a choice and if these children who had been through much worse than I could fill an orphanage with laughter than being bitter was no longer going to be an option for me. In church that Sunday, God took my anger and brokenness, and turned it into praise. I began to understand that praises to the Lord are something that should forever remain on my lips –regardless of the pain in my heart and the world around me – during the seasons of prosperity and abundance as well as the ones filled with despair and anguish, God is still good.

The physical work projects we did around the orphanage were often mundane but by working with joy for the Lord and to His glory, it made the tasks of painting the interior of a garage and organizing a toolshed humbling and worthwhile. By serving the staff at LOL with our hands and feet, it allowed them more free time to devote to the kids afterschool. This was so important because they are the family who see and interact with the children on a daily basis, and having them invest extra time with the kids rather than our team who would depart later that week was something they were all very appreciative of. Overall, serving at LOL was an incredible experience and it was truly a pleasure to be part of the continuing of a relationship between LOL Ministries and Gordon College.

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Punta Gorda Belize: Mission Trip 2016 by Jen McGrady

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Cost of Trip: $1,700 /Student

Our team arrived in Punta Gorda, Belize where we partnered with an amazing organization called Laugh Out Loud Ministry. We spent our time ministering to children at the orphanage as well as completing service projects.

After a long, bumpy van ride, we arrived at Toledo Christian Academy, which became our home for the next ten days.

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While at the orphanage we played games, beaded bracelets, danced, painted a garage ceiling, cleaned out a toolshed, and much more.

We had the privilege of spending one day in a local village where we were able to get completely immersed in the culture of Belize. There we taught the children about healthy living, had fun doing some science experiments, and taught them about Noah’s ark. We played many energetic games, colored, and played games with the kids. We also had the privilege of eating homemade lunch with families in their huts. This was such a life changing experience!

Later in the week we led a VBS for the children in the orphanage. We taught them dances, taught them how to decorate cupcakes, planted banana trees, did fun arts and crafts, and many more activities. I loved learning about each child’s story, as well as listening to their laughter and hanging out.

I think my biggest take away from this incredible week was to step completely out of the boat with both feet. I learned to walk upon the water and not let anything hold me back for my dreams. Loving on each child brought me more joy than anything I have ever experienced. I loved every minute I got to spend with the kids and went to bed every night with a full heart. The mission of LOL is so beautiful! God has done an amazing work amongst my team and myself!

Haiti Mission 2016 by Nick Hammes

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Total Cost of Trip: $1,950

This year I was asked to lead the Haiti team for a second time. As scary it was, having lead the year before made the role ahead a little less so. What blows me away was how God moved amidst our team from the very beginning. Before our team was selected, God was working in each of the members’ lives; showing them individually (and us leaders) what it meant to rely on Him as the Rock and Foundation of our lives. That idea of God as our Rock, permeated our trip and became our focus and theme. Before we left, each student was asked to raise $1950. Although it’s a lot of money, we tried to work with our team in seeing fundraising as an invitation to doing ministry with others, rather than awkward phones calls and letters.

When we arrived in Haiti, it was like arriving home. The smell is always the first thing that gets me, filling my head with a rush of memories of food shared with friends, soccer played with kids, and examples of God advancing His Kingdom at the compound and the worksite. Stepping off the bus at the Partners in Development compound in Blanchard, we were greeted by familiar faces and some new ones as well. Moments like those affirm my belief and faith in the value of short missions. It fills my heart to come back to Haiti and pick up relationships right where we left off, sharing in life together, and uniting despite differences.

For me, this trip was one of deeper connection. I found the language barrier not as high as it had been in previous years, with the help of a French class I had taken and informal Creole lessons from my co-leader. I found myself able to communicate and connect on a deeper level with the Haitians we worked with and encountered. There were many times after dinner when our team and the workers on the compound would stay behind to play cards or chat about life. Those evenings always ended in belly laughs and unbreakable smiles. We were able get to know one another beyond just the “how-are-you”s and “hello”s. It was a blessing to watch and be a part of.

During the day, our team traveled to the nearby town of Canaan where our worksite would be for the week. This was my third time working in this community, and it was so encouraging to see how PID continues to work in the year between the Gordon trips. Not only had the house we worked on last year been finished and filled with families, but two more had also sprung up. As encouraging as seeing the new homes can be, looking past them into the surrounding community is sobering. Every time I am struck by the juxtaposition between the poverty present and the attitude of the people. The Haitians we work with have true joy in Christ, and they exercise it while they work. Some days, people from the community came and joined us in our work; helping us to move rocks, teaching us how to correctly swing a pick-axe (hint: it’s better to let gravity work than your lower back), or singing some American pop-songs at the top of our lungs to lighten the load. Our translator, Jonas, was especially helpful. Always energetic and with a mischievous glint in his eye, he helped to keep our spirits up despite the unrelenting sun and hard labor. Quick with a joke and with a sharp eye for need, he kept us safe and productive over the course of the day.

The worksite was where I saw God the most. He was so tangibly active and working it was humbling just to be in His presence. We began every day circling up to pray for the day ahead. Prayer was something that we kept going throughout the day, praying over everything from our health to the rocks we were chucking into holes. And God continued to answer prayers and show his faithfulness. There was one particular day when the sun was brutal. We were all tired from the day before, and the sun was sapping what little strength we had left. One of the team members suggested we take a break and pray for clouds (there are hardly ever clouds while we are there). Within the hour we had complete cloud coverage and the temperature had dropped about ten degrees. It was such a powerful moment of God working; I find myself thinking back to it often.

Our last day on the work site, before we left asked Jonas if we could pray with the workers before we left. When the bus pulled up, our team, the Haitian workers, and some members of the community circled around the house. The first half of the prayer was in English, and the second half in Creole. That is a moment in time that I will never forget. To pray in different languages, from different cultures, from different places in life, all to the same God still gives me chills. Experiencing even a piece of the magnitude that is God’s Kingdom is humbling beyond belief. We serve a global God who truly came for all people. Amen!!!

While working with PID, it’s easy to forget that they are only a small solution to a much larger issue. On our second to last day, we traveled into Port au Prince to visit the Museum of Haitian History. It had been a full two years since I last traveled through Port au Prince, so I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. What struck me was how little everything had changed. Buildings were still in disarray; broken and crumbled just as they were the day of the earthquake. The slums outside the city were still as large and impoverished as they were the last time we passed through. I’m not sure why, but that image hit me hard and has yet to leave. I often find myself thinking back to that drive, and my heart breaks each time. I’m not sure what the solution is, or if there even is one; all I know is that there is still work to be done in Haiti. Although by participating with PID we are only taking small steps towards restoration of the nation, they are steps nonetheless. My hope and prayer is for a leader to be selected in the upcoming election that prizes God above all else and has a true heart for the helpless and broken.

Coming back home has been more difficult this year. I’m not entirely sure when I will be able to return to Haiti, but I feel as if God still has work or experiences for me there. I’m not sure what that will look like, but I am excited for the future ahead and what God has in store.