Travel Log: Mission Belize
The following are excerpts from the Report to the Presbytery of Lake Erie from Alysabeth Mahood, the Belize Trip Coordinator for 2018-2019. This travel log highlights the work accomplished and what the students and youth leaders observed and experienced on this mission.
Edited by Marsha MacKinnon, Webmaster for the Presbytery of Lake Erie
Dear Rev. Oyler and the other mission minded members of the Presbytery,
Firstly, I want to sincerely apologize that this update has come so late. Please know that words cannot express how thankful we are for the grant. Because of the grant that you so graciously gave us, Fairview Presbyterian was able to serve in Belize even more than we had ever anticipated or imagined. We were able to take so many members of our youth group to Belize giving them a life-changing experience. Because of your grant, we were able to complete even more work projects while in Belize. Furthermore, we were able to solidify our partnership with Kuxlin Ha, a Mayan school on the outskirts of the capital. Additionally, Fairview Presbyterian has partnered with Gannon University. Our goal is to alternate trips every year. Gannon just returned from Belize in March( 2019). Again, thank you so much for everything. Sincerely, Alysabeth Mahood / Belize Trip Coordinator
Fairview Presbyterian Church Belize Mission Trip / July 2018 – by Alysabeth Mahood / Belize Trip Coordinator
- During the first week of July of 2018, sixteen students and leaders of the Fairview Presbyterian Church (FPC) youth group, traveled to Belize to complete repairs and construction work in two communities outside of Belmopan, Belize. One group was focused at St. Michael’s School in the village of Las Flores, where they spent the week hand mixing about 100 pounds of concrete, built a ramp, and started to build the roof of an elementary school.
- Another group worked in the village Maya Mopan at Kuxlin Ha Government School, where they replaced floorboards, replaced an entire railing, and painted the complete interior and exterior of the office building.
- In addition to the actual physical work, we sent 25 suitcases of curriculum and school supplies. More importantly, we were able to solidify our partnership with the ministry, Pathlight International (pathlight.org), and the school, Kuxlin Ha. During this week, we were able to strengthen our relationships with both Pathlight and Kuxlin Ha, enabling us to plan for the future of this ministry.
- Upon returning home, we sponsored Kuxlin Ha graduate, Leslie, who is now a Pathlight student. On top of all of that, the group had the opportunity to visit Mayan ruins and go cave tubing. Both were amazing experiences that pushed some people out of their comfort zone. At night, after dinner, we had time for daily reflections which allowed us to form small groups to discuss God’s love, the purpose of serving and missions, and to grow in community with one another.
- This was a life-changing trip for all who participated. For more information on the history of our partnership since 2013 and to hear from those who went on the 2018 trip, check out this video: https://bit.ly/2Hn8HDm
The following are Impact Statements are from the students who participated in the Belize Mission Trip:
- “Going to Belize was such an amazing adventure because I got to experience a new culture and grow in my faith. Because I went to Belize, my life has been forever changed. I have never experienced such an exponential growth in faith before going to Belize. I had the opportunity to see God working around the world which I am so thankful for.” – MacKenzie Hancock, college freshman
- “Going on the mission trip to Belize showed me what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. I learned that my talents and interests can be used to show the beauty and share the love of God. It’s something I will never forget but always cherish!” – Katelyn Whitman, college freshman
- “My 2018 trip to Belize was absolutely incredible and 100% life changing. I spent the week alternating between times of quiet reflection with God and loud, boisterous moments enjoying my group. I learned that it is not as hard as I thought it would be to unplug and truly be in the present moment. I faced my fears and tried new things. I realized that the world is a MUCH bigger place than I thought it was. The culture and traditions are so interesting, and the food is delightful. I am fully confident that I will be returning to Belize on the next trip down, provided that nothing comes up that may prevent me from going. I can’t wait to see what else I learn and how I’ll grow as an individual on the next trip.” – Jasmine Lewis, college freshman
- “When I returned again to Belize in 2018, I expected God to use me once more, but even I didn’t know how much good God can bring. The school was able to get a number of new buildings, including a library, in the last five years that grew from our support of them. Even while we were there, our perseverance through the week led to our eyes being opened to the people around us as well as being an immense help to the schools we served at. The Belize mission trip grew my faith in God exponentially because I was able to see his plans to give this school and our group hope and a future in Him. I loved both of the experiences I had in Belize so far and I cannot wait to go again!” – Emma Evans, college freshman
- “Seeing the poverty in Belize really made me appreciate how much we have back home and how much we don’t even think of our resources. There are many people and families in poverty and in bad places with a lot of crime. It made me very thankful for what I had and happy that I could give some of my time and effort in trying to help in any way I could. I learned that the people there don’t just go to church, they worship and praise and really enjoy it. Back at home people just go to church and most of the time don’t pay attention to anything. I also loved seeing the kids play outside everyday. At home we have our devices and phones that we are glued to, and these kids don’t have that. They make their own fun outside playing with their friends. I am not sure yet if I am going back because it was a very long trip, but I think going back would be really awesome because it was an experience of a lifetime.” –Eric Marn, McDowell senior
The following are Impact Statements are from the leaders who participated in the Belize Mission Trip:
- “Our mission trip to Belize in 2013 is one of the most impactful events of my life. The perspective gained was truly life changing. Very few times in my life have I been able to block out the noise of life and can say that I directly felt the Holy Spirit in an undeniable way, but at Kuxlin Ha Government School in 2013, was certainly one of those times. My subsequent trips in 2015 and 2018 were equally impactful. The amount of growth that I got to observe in the group of teenagers that we led in 2018 was simply remarkable. It was one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever been a part of.” -Jake Tobolewski, Youth Group Director
- “Belize was a great eye opening experience. It definitely made me re-evaluate my daily priorities. It was so nice to take a step back from the day to day busy-ness and obligations and just enjoy nature and getting to help people. It made me so grateful for everything we have. It also made me sick about how much we take for granted. (I still have no sympathy when my kids complain that the wifi isn’t working since this trip! ha) I was so humbled by how happy everyone was that we interacted with and how much compassion we saw in Adrian (our Pathlight leader). I loved talking to Adrian about the pathlight students and to see how he cares so deeply for them. It was an incredibly moving experience how just a few of us could make a big difference in the projects we helped with in that short of time. I learned how to make concrete!!! I learned that I had muscles I never knew I had–because they all hurt from mixing concrete! But I loved that the principal and teachers were there working with us on their own time, to help get the projects done. I would definitely go back, and I really look forward to taking my children there when they get older to experience a whole different way of life.”-Jill Iszkula, Youth Group Leader
- “This mission trip…was also a life changing experience for all involved. Even though I struggle with anxiety, and this trip brought on a lot of anxiety; I had a scorpion next to my bed one night, was terrified of running into a snake at night, and had a broken mattress. I loved every minute that I was in Belize because it taught me that I can overcome my fears, that I am strong, that I can serve God’s people, that I am privileged compared to many, and that there’s so much more of God’s work to be done! I can’t wait to return next June and serve more and show God’s love to Belize!” – Shannon Sanders, Youth Group Leader
Gannon University/Belize Mission Trip/March 2019
In March of 2019, nine students and faculty from Gannon University also traveled to Belize to work with our partner school, Kuxlin Ha. The main project of this trip was to repair broken desks. Most of the desks at Kuxlin Ha are the traditional desks where the workspace is attached to the chair. However, dozens of those desks were in disrepair because the main workspace had rotted and fallen off, leaving just the students just the arm portion of the chair to work on. Gannon’s students took new pieces of wood and attached them to the chairs, giving students space to work. Afterwards, they painted them vibrant colors, creating a safe and exciting environment in which to learn. Furthermore, students went to the different classrooms to ask teachers how they can help serve. Gannon students completed various projects such as fixing tables, creating a projector stand, and hanging up posters. Other students painted a mural on wall of one of Kuxlin Ha’s classrooms.Because school was in session, Gannon students had the unique opportunity to interact with the Kuxlin Ha students. They were able to play games and soccer with Kuxlin Ha children during recess. In addition to all of the physical work, Gannon students were able to visit the Mayan ruins and go snorkeling, thereby creating community and understanding the culture better. In the evenings, participants broke up into small groups allowing them to grow and reflect. They were able to grow emotionally, spiritually, and as leaders.
The following are impact statements from Gannon University students who participated in the Belize Mission Trip in March:
- “Belize helped me grow in many ways… Belize was an amazing experience. Not only did we get to help a school, we also visited different spots in Belize and learned about them. I didn’t know anything about the Mayan ruins, but after our tour there, I learned about the markings on them, when they were built, why they were built in those spots, and what happened in the different ruins. I’ve traveled a lot, and this trip was my favorite by far.” -Megan McCartney, Gannon Sophomore
- “I was able to make meaningful relationships. I learned I am capable of making a difference in other people’s lives while they also impacted me on how to think and appreciate the things in my life.” -Nichole Sommers, Gannon freshman
- “The Believe in Belize trip impacted my life in so many ways and allowed me to grow as a leader. I was able to meet so many wonderful people in Belize and learn about their culture. I gained a better understanding of the importance of service and leadership. This experience was meaningful to me because I was able to see the impact we made on others by doing an act of service.“ -Caitlin McKee, Gannon freshman
Into the Future: Working with Pathlight International to achieve our goals, Fairview Presbyterian Church, Gannon University, and Kuxlin Ha are committed to continue this partnership far into the future. Fairview Presbyterian Church and Gannon University would like to alternate going to Belize. Fairview Presbyterian Church already has confirmed dates to return to Belize in June 2020. Gannon University will most likely go back in March of 2021.