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.