Serving Through Relationship by Alisha Berkeley

Cost per Student – $2200

Location: Kingston/Knockpatrick, Jamaica

Partnership: Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf – CCCD

In May of 2016, I got the opportunity to return to Jamaica to serve at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf in Kingston and Knockpatick. I was really excited to go back being that I had an amazing experience the previous year. It warmed my heart to see the familiar faces of the students and staff and to recollect on the memories we shared from last year. It was amazing to see growth on the campus and also new faces.

Coming back to Jamaica, I expected to follow the same routine as last year, which was doing construction in the morning during school hours and spending time with the students in the afternoon after school. This didn’t end up happening. Instead of following a set routine, as a team we found ourselves going with the flow of things that were going on through out the day in both Kingston and Knockpatick This was a little frustrating in the beginning because back home, we are so used to following a schedule and we felt like we were useless. What we ended up doing was spending a lot of time in the coffee shop learning how to brew coffee ourselves and watch the new training center come together. We also just got a chance to sit around with some of the housemothers and the staff members and just talk to them and to get to know them. There were other days where we would sit in the cafeteria with the students and color and paint and even go outside. Having this experience made me feel like we were just spending time with family and it was definitely a “worth it” moment. Relationships are so important when it comes to serving other people. Without relationships there is no impact.

At CCCD in Kingston, there is a coffee shop called “Deaf Can Coffee.” The older male students who are also deaf have the opportunity to learn about coffee and make drinks for the team and other students. The students do this work, they spend time perfecting their technique of brewing the coffee and even training other students to work in the shop. This coffee shop has been up and running for a little bit over a year and it has grown so much. One of the purposes of this coffee shop is to give these boys the opportunity to work, learn, build and grow as a team. Looking at the deaf community on the outside, there is a perspective that deaf people aren’t able to do anything and that they are useless to the society. Deaf Can Coffee doesn’t believe in this, which is one of the reasons why it is named Deaf Can Coffee. Those who are deaf are just not able to hear with their ears. They communicate with their hands using sign language and with their hearts. Dismissing the notion of deaf being useless brings motivation to these boys and teaches them “the deaf can.”

I am so glad that I was able to experience Jamaica a second time. I am also glad that I was able to see both sides of serving in the missions field. I am really glad that was able to experience Jamaica and feel like I am at home.

To See and Feel Through God’s Eyes by Jonny Leathe

Jonathan Leathe

Cost of Trip: $3500

Location: Mafraq, Jordan

Partnership: ELIC

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I can’t believe it’s been a week since I’ve gotten back from Jordan. Seems like it was a long time ago and at the same time I feel like I just said goodbye to the many new friends I’ve made. I may be in America but my mind and heart are still in Mafraq. I can’t shake the feeling I still need to be there, maybe God has more planned for me in the future. I have been more than blessed and thankful for the opportunity to serve God and the people of Mafraq. My team and I joined alongside a team from China as well as another American team to partner with ELIC and a local church to show Syrian refugees the love of Christ through teaching English.

Now I have only taught English to kids on one other occasion. For the most part they had a decent grasp and could communicate. This was a totally different ball game. For some of the kids it was there first time in a class room setting. So behavior and rules were largely unknown and if you could imagine, think of 35 kids ages from 11-13, rowdy and restless cramped sometimes in small rooms. We were there to prepare them for formal schooling after the summer ended and teach them as much as we could in three weeks of school. We were split into two locations – one was at the local church teaching a lot of kids from the streets and kids from families close by. The second location was at the actual school run by this same church but farther away. The kids in this area would most likely be coming back for the regular school year starting in the fall. My time was split between these two locations but I ended up at the school location for a majority of it. My class was split with 20 boys and 15 girls. I had one co-teacher and one translator. A lot of my job in the beginning was classroom management and hopefully instilling a set of rules they could agree to and follow. They were loud, wouldn’t listen, and would fight with each other but, wow, were they smart kids. When you could get them to do an activity they would be very absorbent of the information given. These of course were some of my happiest times as a teacher. It was definitely a challenge and I thank God for pushing me outside of my comfort zone.

These kids came from all types of scenarios and reasons but the obvious one is they are all in that classroom with me because they needed to escape the war in Syria. Learning English would help them transition to other countries like the USA or Canada. I had kids in my classroom with scars, burn marks, and trauma. I’m not a Psychologist I have no degree and I certainly don’t know how to help them in that way. What I do know is that I can love them. I can be intentional in the classroom, go up and down on the slide until I faint, I can look them in the eye and tell them how much I care for them. It sounds easy on paper but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done maybe the hardest thing I have ever done. I wanted to see and feel through Gods eyes. So I prayed that prayer for several days in a row. I know I would not be able to handle what God feels but I do think God gave me a taste of what he sees. I saw the pure joy on these kids’ faces running around and playing with their friends. Care free and peaceful, just regular kids. I also saw the utter brokenness and pain that you’d see in kids eyes when they sit down and try to tell you about home and wishing they could go back. A brokenness that can’t really be explained. Honestly for a lot of that trip I was depressed, somedays I’d be sitting on the playground watching the kids and couldn’t help but cry. I was mourning for their losses and the pain and suffering they had to endure as just kids. The amount of death they know is too much for one lifetime. I couldn’t relate with them. I wanted to do more, I want to help but not only that I wanted to fix it. I knew that I would never be able to. God put me there in that classroom with those kids to teach them English with the love of Christ. I pray that those receiving refugees in their countries would receive them not as a statistic of fear but with the love Christ.

Let Me Learn From Where I Have Been by Nate D’Andre

Cost of trip: 2,600

Location: Zhytomyr, Ukraine

Partnership: Mission to Ukraine; Good Mansion Camp

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I have been to many camps in my life time and after each one brings its own high.  After a while, however, the memories and lessons from camp fade away, bringing back the old mundane life that existed before going to camp.  Good Mansion Camp, however, truly is a special place on Earth, different from other camps that are out there.  All of the volunteers who worked at the camp were from different denominations and walks of life.  But that did not matter; we all came together from different places in to accomplish one common goal: loving kids.

There are so many lessons that I learned and so many things to go through in my mind, so I would like to talk about two aspects that hit me in particular: joy and hope.

Joy

In Ukraine, people are expected to fit the general mold that society expects you to fill.  If you do not look or act in that mold, then you are put away from society so that people do not have to see that those kinds of people exist in the country.  This would include people with special needs.  Because they do not fit the cultural mold, they are laughed at, made fun of, and are told to stay in their homes because they look or act in a strange way.  To hear stories how some of the kids who were at camp who were made fun of on a daily basis was heartbreaking.  Yet, because their parents accepted Christ and did not give into the social pressure to keep their kids at home, it was amazing to hear that their neighborhoods are starting to see the kids with special needs as fellow human beings.  That is huge.  It is because of the contagious joy that the kids have that is slowly but surely changing the nation and their view on people with special needs.

The joy that the kids have kept reminding me of the simplicity of life.  Many times we make life so complicated and forget to find joy in the little things in life.  The kids found joy in being given food, or going down a slide, or even simply saying their name by recognizing their presence.  They are shunned by most of society, and when they are talked to directly, they are blown away that someone else is taking interest in them.

Hope

It seems like there are so many different social justice issues today that all demand our full attention.  When so many issues come our way, everything seems so hopeless in the world, because we get so caught up in what is happening in our local area.  Yet, we need to take ourselves outside our comfort bubbles and see the good that is going on in the world so that we can see how God is at work in the world.  In a world that is slowly dying, we need to find the ways to keep restoring the Earth and bring hope to those who do not have much hope.  Just by loving the kids at camp, we were fighting against the system of injustice that the kids feel every single day.

There was one day that we were having staff devotions before having breakfast with the kids, and we were singing the worship song, “You Are Beautiful”.  As we were singing one of the last verses, this line really hit home; “When we arrive at eternity’s shore, where death is just a memory and tears are no more, we’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring, Your bride will come together and we’ll sing, You’re beautiful”  I saw a picture of Heaven that day.  Everyone was running into the gates of Heaven: the volunteers, kids, parents, leaders, everyone.  We were all running as equals, as it should be.  Then, when we finally entered into Heaven, we were ALL recounting the stories of our lives and what we went through on Earth.  The key is that we were all equal!  No matter what we go through here on Earth we ALL have the same hope in Christ Jesus.  Whether you are a kid with autism or an adult with cerebral palsy or someone who is hurting, we all have the hope of eternity to look forward to.  This is why this camp was so different from others.  The kids gave me a hope that I have not experienced in a long time.  I am more alive now after coming home from Ukraine.  Here, I thought I could reach out to the kids, but really, it was the kids who were doing the reaching out.  God works in unexpected ways in unexpected places.  We just need to ask Him to give us the eyes to see how He is at work in the world.

Joyful by Jacob Jones

Cost of Trip: $4000

Location: Bulembu, Swaziland

Partnership: Bulembu

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Being able to go on a short term trip to Swaziland was a great opportunity for me. Even though it is true that there exist many negative views against short term trips, I think that the experience that my team and I had in Swaziland counter those views. We partnered with Bulemebu ministries to help and assist with any assignments that needed to be done.

In Swaziland, we spent the majority of our time in an orphanage in Bulembu. Our main objective was in the clinic; painting murals on the walls in the waiting room, cleaning vacant rooms, and repainting areas where the paint was chipping. We had a blast doing that. Through the confusion, laughs, and cries we were able to render a project that renewed life in the Bulembu clinic. After the murals were painted on the walls of the waiting room, that same room also became a room for functions catered to kids during the hours in which the clinic was closed.

Even though our main objective was to work in the clinic, we also was allotted space to spend time with the children there. We played many games, learned the national dance, learned new words in their native language, spoke about education and our career goals, dined, and even worshipped with them. The time we spent with the children was very joyous. I was amazed to see the joy that these children wore in their hearts. The joy was so impressionable that they influence me to be joyful.

At the orphanage, there were many missionaries. Many people from all over the world came to Bulembu. (Coincidentally, I saw my elementary school principal from Boston, Massachusetts in Swaziland who is now working for an NGO that brings education to areas in developing countries.) I learned so much from these missionaries. Sometimes I fear God sending me to a place to permanently serve in which I had never had any intentions of going to. To see that there were many missionaries who never planned on serving in different capacities and doing so out of obedience to God really challenged my way of thinking in that regard. They admitted that there were many hard times that they experienced. But there seem to be a joy that exceeded all of the pain that they experience. That is something that will always stay with me.

There is so much that I learned that I can speak about, such as how many of the ministries that started there were birthed from deep and committed prayer, or how I learned that many things that I throw away are actually recyclable, or the team and I seeing Christians functioning in love and in the gifts of the Spirit. But the one thing that will stick with me most is the overall experience: That the children at the orphanage in Bulembu who came from difficult and challenging backgrounds now lived their lives with joy. This is truly and utterly amazing because this was done by people acting in love and wisdom, and creating an environment where even those who have experienced a challenging upbringing can now grow and develop in a healthy manner and be joyful. John 3:16 is my favorite verse and this shows me how God acts in His amazing grace.

#NoExpectations by Susi Franco

Cost of trip: 2,600

Location: Zhytomyr, Ukraine

Partnership: Mission to Ukraine, Good Mansion Camp

 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” –Ephesians 3: 16-19

Trust in Him

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Our small team arrived at Camp Good Mansion in Zhytomyr, Ukraine on a hot–like major sweat stains and the painful promise of smelly feet–hot evening in July. It didn’t take long for us to realize that our motto “#NoExpectations” would be put to the test. After a quick tour of the campus and dropping off our bags, our guide asked, “Did you get a schedule for camp?” We nervously chuckled with high hopes of getting one and replied, “No.” He smiled with a blank stare, and motioned us into a big circle where all the staff was learning a dance. We were jet lagged, sweaty, and clueless about the camp that was starting the next day… In hindsight, we did have one clue: this camp always kept us on our toes. We dispersed throughout the circle, joined hands with strangers, and embraced the dance lesson, laughing at ourselves as we exchanged glances. Our trip was marked by moments like these. Moments where our plans had to change, our motivations were tested, and we were reminded that our understanding (among many other things) was lost in translation. Our motto became comedic relief. But, there was more to “#NoExpectations” than a way to laugh in the midst of the harder experiences. The motto was born out of our prayers a month prior to the trip. We prayed that we could enter camp with no expectations; instead, putting our trust in Him for the gifts revealed through the unexpected. It was a bold prayer, but one God provided for abundantly. He kept us strong in his love through each moment. I can’t possibly put into words the depth of gratitude and wealth in lessons I have brought home with me. Even so, I will humbly attempt to share a few of the moments that captured my heart and changed my soul.

How high, how deep

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            I woke up around 4 A.M. on the third day of camp. Jet lag is rough. It was two hours before my alarm, but I couldn’t fall back to sleep. I grabbed my towel and headed for a walk near the showers. It was a cold morning. My heart was anxious, my body exhausted; and being honest with myself, I didn’t want pasta for breakfast again. Tears started flowing down my cold cheeks. I had no motivation to stumble past wheelchairs and sweaty kids in 90-degree weather, up and down aisles to take photos. I had no desire to speak broken Russian with the other camp photographer to explain my camera settings and have him grunt “Bad”. I really, really did not want to eat pasta for breakfast. There was pain and frustration in my heart and I asked God, “Why did you bring me here?” My tears started flowing faster and faster. I prayed, “God, I don’t want to be here today. I have no motivation to do my job. I know you brought me here for a reason. Give me even the tiniest taste of the love that you have for these kids, this camp, and this country.” With a numb heart, I took a cold shower.

Later that morning, I made my way down to the front of the stage. I put one knee on the ground and tried to balance to get a steady shot. Unexpectedly, I felt two little hands wrap around my waist and squeeze me tightly from behind. I looked back and received a big kiss on the cheek from Bogdan. Before I could move, he sat on my knee as I tried to film. I tried to get him off me so I could change the angle of my shot. He wasn’t moving and made it clear that I wasn’t either. I let his hands wrap around my hands on the camera and we sat still there until my heart was at peace. I had a grin on my face, and a renewed motivation to take pictures. I heard God say, “Look at Bogdan. The way he loved you in the pain no one else could see; that’s how I love these kids, this camp, this country, and the whole world! That’s how I love you. Your heart is numb to the need and pain of those around you, but Bogdan’s isn’t. He felt your pain and celebrated you with a hug and kiss until you felt at peace and had joy.” Even now, I tear up when I think of that moment. Bogdan showed me that I was the one with a disability. I was the one who needed to learn how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is for all of us.

Waste not…

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            Laughter filled the hallway and I could trace it to my room. I walked in and found two of my roommates on their beds laughing at the happenings of the day. “They insisted that I fold these scraps of paper and string, tiny scraps that are trash, and save them in a box. I know there’s no way they will use them next year!” exclaimed my friend.  We all laughed as we wrestled with some of the cultural differences we faced. Camp had a steep learning curve for the Ukrainian norms of openness, perfectionism, and frugality. That same night, our team met to debrief. We had finally settled into camp routine and begun to understand the purpose of this place. Awestruck by the fullness of life we experienced, we felt we had entered holy ground. The only words we could use to describe camp were, “a little bit of heaven on earth.”

Camp Good Mansion signaled the fullness of life made complete in Christ’s love in a way I have never experienced before. That’s why we felt so close to heaven! In a society that dismisses, rejects, and isolates children with disabilities and their families, Mission to Ukraine (MTU) was gently embracing and celebrating the worth of these lives. Just like the scraps of string and paper, Camp was restoring the value of what everyone else labeled trash. I am still deeply moved and challenged by the way in which MTU has grasped the depths of God’s love.

I arrived at camp with no expectations. I did not expect to reveal the disability of my numb heart from a child with Down syndrome. But I did. I did not expect to have my faith challenged and encouraged by Mission to Ukraine. But it was. I did not expect to leave a part of my heart at Camp Good Mansion. But I have.

Deaf Ears; Hearing Hearts by Wislene Augustin

Cost per Student – $2200

Location: Kingston/Knockpatrick, Jamaica

Partnership: Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf – CCCD

This past May I was given the opportunity to serve at two deaf schools in Jamaica. I have never worked with the deaf population before so not knowing sign language was a barrier. I was excited and worried going down to Jamaica because I did not know how I was supposed to communicate with these students. I did not know how I was supposed to show them the love of Christ without speaking to them. I was concerned about how well the students would accept the team into their home. Once we stepped foot onto Jamaican soil, our team was greeted with so much love and patience.

When we arrived to Kingston all the students piled on top of us as if they had known us their whole lives. They welcomed us with open arms, which made me think about how many times these kids have had to open up to team after team when they come in. To me it would have seemed frustrating and redundant to be having teams coming in and out of my home constantly. But to them that was their world, their reality and they were happy to accept it. Even though we were only in Jamaica for two weeks, we were able to build relationships that had a great impact on our lives.

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Students attending the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf usually usually does not have anyone in their family that knows sign language. The lack of knowledge slows down their development because they do not learn sign language until a later point in their life. So from the time they are born to the age of five, these students are not fully able to communicate to their family and friends.

 

They were not able to fully express their feelings and what they needed to the ones around them. Half of the time their families did not want to learn sign language. It was wonderful to see what these students have been through and what they have accomplished. Their motto, “Deaf ears but hearing hearts,” rings loudly because they do not see their deafness as a disability as they can communicate with their hands. It is all a matter of people willing to communicate with them as well. These students were so willing and patient with us when we were learning sign language. They would sit there with us teaching and reteaching us when necessary, never complaining when it took us a little longer to get it. They were just happy that there were people willing to learn their language and communicate with them.

 

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While we were there, we were able to participate in what the deaf community was building which was Deaf Can! Coffee. DeafCan! is a coffee business started with the students at the Kingston campus that has recently started booming. The work these students are doing with this business is all produced by them. They brew their own coffee and train the other students in the coffee shop. Through this, the boys are gaining work experience so when they do graduate they have a great form of experience. Their main message is that deaf people can do the same tasks everyone else can and that their inability to hear is not a barrier.

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On the last few days of the trip I learned so much about being still and content where I am. There were times on the trip where we were not doing as much and it felt as if we were just in the way. However, we were able to see the beauty of being present with the people of Jamaica. We were not called there to come in and do everything for the people there as if they could not do it themselves. We were there to connect relationally with the people and work alongside them in any way that we could. We were not their saviors; we were just people coming in to learn about their livelihood and what assets they have that they can utilize for the good of their community.

Jamaica was my first mission trip and I am grateful that I was a part of it because it showed me that mission trips do not have to be only physical labor. Mission trips are also relational. The mindset that Jamaica gave me was that we can go into a place and believe that we are helping when in actuality we are bringing more damage to the community. We need to be able to hear the cries of the community and see how the community itself with their assets can rebuild themselves. We do not fix them but we work alongside them towards a solution and I will forever take that lesson with me

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.

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.

Rebecca2

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!