Grateful to Serve by Abby Caron

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Cost: $1700 per student

Location: Punta Gorda, Belize

Partnership: LOL Ministries

This past January, I had the opportunity to go back to Belize with a team of students from Gordon College. We spent most of our time at the orphanage, helping out with construction, painting, cooking, and basically whatever was needed. We also got one day off to enjoy the beautiful country of Belize, and we spent one day in a village working with students.

Going back to Belize, my expectations were really high. The trip had changed my life the year before and I was thrilled to be going back. I was surprised to learn that we wouldn’t be working with the kids in the orphanage this year nearly as much as we had the year before. At first I was disappointed, but this turned out to be the best possible thing for me, my entire team, and all the children and staff involved. I learned a really important lesson about selflessness. I learned that this trip wasn’t about me, the experiences I would have, or even my effect on the children I was with. God really worked on my heart and I developed a new mindset of wanting what was best for the kids at the orphanage, whatever that looked like. It makes sense that the organization we were working with wouldn’t want short term missions teams to bond with the kids too much, as they already have abandonment issues. Instead, we were able to help in ways that gave the kids at the orphanage their best shot at life. While we did get to spend some time with the kids, we mostly did work projects that the long term staff would normally have to do. This opened up the staff’s time to be able to bond with the kids. I realized that the staff are the ones who need to be able to have time to invest in the kids, not me. This realization really affected the way I looked at the whole situation and helped our team to work even harder on the tasks that we were put on. 

While this work was really tiring and the days were long, it was also really enjoyable. I was able to bond with my team and it was really cool to see all our hard work coming into completion. One of my favorite experiences of the whole trip was the day we went to the village. We got to go into a school and work in the classrooms with the students and later just run around and play with the kids for hours. Being an Elementary Education major, I loved being able to see what the classroom looks like and how a class works in the country of Belize. It was so cool to be able to teach a lesson in such a different place and see the kids learning and enjoying the work. Later, we were able to enjoy recess with the students. All the kids were so happy to have our team there and it was so cool to be able to have fun and share in the simple joys of running around and playing games on a beautiful day. The kids were jumping on us, asking for piggyback rides, and simply loving on us, which was definitely one of my favorite moments of the trip. It sounds cliche, but to see kids who have so little, have such infinite joy, was eye opening to me and really did change my thinking entirely.

This trip was not at all what I expected, but it was in so many ways even better than last year and I learned so much more than I ever could have anticipated. Belize and LOL ministries will always hold a very significant place in my heart and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve and learn among these very special people.IMG_0922IMG_0883

Haiti Mission Trip – 2016 by Farnel Maxime

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Haiti 2016

Total Cost of Trip: $1,950

This past January I along with my co-leader Nick Hammes, two faculty advisors, and nine team members, 3 returners and 5 newcomers were given the opportunity to travel to the beautiful island of Hispaniola and be in community with the people of Haiti. This would be my second time to Haiti on this mission trip. I was excited to see God working amongst the Haitian people. As some people may assume Haiti is still suffering after the heartbreaking earthquake that took so many people and crippled the nation. But as we travel through the country the image is changing from a nation that many see as desperately in need of help but a nation that is picking itself back up and rebuilding from the rubble.

When we left Boston it was about 30/40 degrees and about 6-7hrs later we were in Port Au Prince arriving at a temperature of 83 degrees. As we got past customs we were about to face one of the most stressful parts of the trip, baggage claim. You see, we work with an organization called Partners in Development (PID) which I will explain later, but the headquarters is based in Massachusetts and since we are so close to the headquarters they have us bring supplies down to the clinic in Haiti. This issue that we usually face at baggage claim is that we are bringing a variety of medicine so if we are stopped the TSA agents will take the medicine out of the bag and confiscate them. By the grace of God we all got through seamlessly, which hardly ever happens according to Paul Helgesen, who has been the faculty advisor for the trip for eight years . As we leave the airport those of us who have been on the trip before see our first familiar face, his name is Pouchon, the grounds keeper for PID came and picked us up. Once we were on the bus it felt real, all the preparation we had done eagerly awaiting the things God and Haiti had in store for us. As I reflect on my time in Haiti I would break the trip down into three words: See, Immerse, and Restore.

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See: The organization that we worked with is called Partners in Development, it was started by Gale Hull, who had went to Haiti on her honeymoon and her heart was broken by the things she saw. So broken that she felt moved to start this organization. Partner in Development is dedicated to the educational and economic advancement of Haiti, specifically in the area of Blanchard. It has a child sponsorship program, medical assistance program, housing program, and a small business loan program. All of this started because one couple chose to see and acknowledge the issues that were in front of them. While in Haiti we were faced with extreme poverty that made us pause but we also faced another thing, a hope that kept the Haitian people going and us as well. Their hope was in Christ and it was evident on Sunday as you see everyone get up and go to church and throughout the week when you would hear worship services happening into the night. What we saw were people so in love with God that it was contagious.

Immerse: Something that I appreciated seeing my team do immersing themselves in the culture, even when it made them a bit uncomfortable. I witnessed it in their interaction with the Haitian people even though there was a language barrier. I saw the grins on their faces every night as they dined on Haitian food. It was in their questions that they asked me or our translator Jonas. They gave up their daily comforts to not just be in solidarity with the Haitian people but also hear their stories.

Restore: When I think of restoration I think of what can be done together make anew. Throughout the week we worked in an area named Canaan. Our work entailed shoveling the foundation, getting water for cement, moving rock into the foundation, passing buckets of cement to the masons, and anything else they needed us to do. The beauty of this was that we worked alongside the Haitian people in the community to build this house. It was an effort that went smoother and faster because of the cooperation between us. This part of the restoration was the physical restoration of the land. The other restoration I observed was the relationship between us Americans and the Haitian people. At the beginning of the week there was some tension. While some members of Canaan were ok with us being in their community, other saw us as doing the jobs they could do. Since I was able to understand and communicate with them one of the young adults in the neighborhood had said to me, “You know we really appreciate what you are doing here working with us, but what about the young adults who don’t have jobs.” It was in that moment when we were able to talk and understand each other. That relationship with him may not be fully restored but it was certainly moving in the right direction.