Belize Mission

08.28.15 | by Kimberly Durnan

Click camera icon to watch video of Belize mission trip.

Going on a mission trip will not change the world, but it might change you.

Earlier this year I traveled to Belize for a mission trip with about 30 others from Church of the Incarnation. Never having been on a mission, I wasn’t sure what to expect beyond our assignments to build children’s libraries, paint playground equipment and engage with Belizean students at the various schools we were scheduled to visit.

My experience wasn’t earth shattering - it was subtle. God sneaked into my heart and intellect while I concentrated on painting, shelving books or talking to children. A sense of God’s presence drifted and swirled about us while we all worked making me feel part of a greater good, less selfish and more connected to the church.

There are many takeaways from the trip, but getting a clearer understanding of what it means to expand the Kingdom of Jesus tops the list. Namely because I grew up in a Baptist church, and am used to a more overt way of attempting to engage others in the faith. This mission influenced others by example. I just love that. We simply came to help. We didn’t preach at anyone, we didn’t say, “follow-Jesus-and-we-will-build-you-a-library.” We just provided our services and time. People were genuinely grateful and our light touch made for authentic connections. Our most aggressive salesmanship came from wearing t-shirts with a quote from Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God… .” It was an accurate anthem for our trip.

Despite good intentions, people sometimes criticize mission trips in foreign countries. Why go far when there is so much good that can be done in our own backyard is a popular reason. That’s somewhat true, but this mission in a foreign country expanded my viewpoint on many levels – particularly materialism. For instance, when I saw Belizeans washing clothes in a stream and viewed their simple dwellings it made me recognize that I have too much stuff. Material objects have taken over my life and I need to dial down the collection of possessions. Belizeans are friendly and content without an iPad, a designer handbag or even a car. Their happiness didn’t seem altered from a lack of stuff. It really made me question who has the better life.

Of course, the absence of school libraries, running water and toilets that made me appreciate the modern conveniences and assets in my life. Outhouses are unsanitary, unpleasant and likely affect the health of those who use it. And I can’t imagine a life growing up without a library of children’s books. One of the more poignant moments of the trip came from a little boy who volunteered to help us stock a library we were installing at his school. He was very intensely shelving the books. Every now and again he stopped to pet the book spines of a newly lined shelf. He quietly contained his excitement until he came across a book about animals, pulled it from the shelf and started flipping through the pages, “ohhhhhh, this is a great book. I’m going to read this one first,” he said clearly enamored. That was hard to watch. I practically grew up in the town library and always had access to books. I can’t imagine his world where reading is a luxury. I was reminded of how blessed I am to have always had books in my life. I was also really proud that we gave that kid a library.

A mission trip also brings to light the delights of hanging out with other Christians. There are wonderful conversations to be had when living a few days among those who are as enthusiastic about spiritual life as you are. For instance, it’s fun to talk about favorite sermons, priests, services and books with people who know their way around a church. We took deep dives into theological discussions, and no one had hurt feelings, got angry or took a big yawn. One missioner played a sermon during our drive back to the airport. Everyone listened intently for the hour drive. Not a peep was made. Keeping company with other faithful people for six days is a definite highlight and allowed me to make new friends with people who have similar interests.

Building libraries in Belizean schools was only a drop in the bucket, but I have returned thinking about more missions. Where can I volunteer, how can I help, what do I have to offer that would be useful are thoughts that have filled my brain since returning. If you are considering going on a mission trip, I give it my wholehearted recommendation. You will connect with God, grow in your faith and advance your spiritual maturity. At least I did.