Mission Spotlight: Belize
By: Tori Zander
Yes, that’s right. Belize. Otherwise known as the first place to actually steal my heart. I got the opportunity to go on a mission trip this past summer in July to a little village called Guinea Grass in the Orange Walk District of Belize, and oh – what a blessing it was! Not only to get to go and love on some of the most precious children I have ever met in my life, but also to learn so much about what we take for granted. Here’s the story:
The trip began for me a year before I physically stepped foot into an airport. I remember my good friend Sophie asking me to pray for her as she was about go on this mission trip in the summer of 2014, I agreed and could not wait for the week to go by so I could hear about the time she had. After 6 days I got a call and she explained to me how wonderful it was, then said to me right then and there, “You’re coming with me next year.” So…that was it. I was going the next year.
About 6 months rolled by and the prep for the Belize 2015 trip was already underway. Raising money and support was only part of it. (THE PAPERWORK WAS ENDLESS or so it seemed.) Somehow, with the help of my parents, I got all my stuff together in what seemed like the knick of time.
A year had already gone by and the next thing I knew I was packing battery powered fans and TONS of snacks for this week long adventure that I was about to take part in.
I think one of the hardest parts for me, was getting over the fear of what could have gone wrong. I am kind of a worrier, so getting lost in the airport, being kidnapped, and coming home with malaria were all running through my head, (kind of silly now that I look back.)
The early morning to fly out came and the next thing I knew I was off, away from my family and home for a week. On the plane I sat by Ryder on the way there. Ryder is a super nice guy who’s not really one to complain, so when I fell asleep on the plane and drooled all over myself and probably him he didn’t wake me up all disgusted (which is kind of shocking now that I know him better…). So that was really embarrassing, but when I woke up we were basically in Belize.
I remember everyone telling me on the plane as we were getting off to really enjoy my last few minutes in the AC of the plane, because as soon as I would step off, I would basically already be sweating……..and they were SO right. At the airport we met Andy, who basically was our dad for the week (and I only say that because it was basically his responsibility that nobody got themselves into trouble or attacked by some sort of Belizean monster) and then we hopped on a bus for a 2 hour ride to Guinea Grass. On this bus ride was my first real culture shock. We left the airport in Belize City and I’m pretty sure my mouth was wide open as I stared out of the window leaving town. It broke my heart to see how some of these people were living and to think of how easy we have it here at home. It was a good lesson…..then the tire blew out on the bus and it sounded like we were being shot at so of course my worried self quickly snapped out of the temporary culture shock and kind of accepted that things were different there, (including that you don’t stop to change a blown out tire on a school bus.)
Once we got to the village, we unloaded our stuff, and kind of made the school we were staying at our home. Aired up our mattresses, broke out our battery fans, (mine stopped working after 3 days ha!) and went to dinner. After dinner we kind of hung out and then took showers, which was the next culture shock to realize how sorry the water pressure was and the only way to wash your hair was to fill a cup then dump it on your head. The water was freezing too, but so refreshing after a long day in the humidity.
The next few days in Guinea Grass were absolutely amazing. I got to meet so many beautiful happy children and develop these language limited, but awesome relationships with them. Most of them knew how to speak some English, but not much. Once I learned this, I really regretted getting out of Spanish after Spanish 2, Ha! There was one boy who was pretty shy, so he pretended to only speak Spanish in order to avoid conversing with me, but luckily I tried my hardest to ask him the basics and he answered me (in Spanish)…but after a few question I asked him how old he was, and he replied “Eight.” and I just nodded, them remembered this kid said he didn’t speak English, wouldn’t he have said ‘ocho’..? Then the boy’s eyes go really big, and he said “Oops!” and covered his mouth and kind of giggled. Of course I died laughing at the though of this kid having to deal with me trying to speak Spanish to him when he could speak English fluently. His name was Jonny, and we became friend that week. I knew he was going to open up to me after he said, “You’re not really good at speaking Spanish.”
We put on a VBS and Basketball camp for the week and if you know me, you know I am the worst basketball player you will ever see in your life. During the basketball camps I would just sit around and talk with some of the village girls about how we didn’t like basketball and stuff. Those were sweet, sweet moments I’ll never forget.
A few days, we would catch a break from all the heat and humidity with some nice, refreshing rain. No storms, just rain. It was so great. The boys would go out on the basketball slab and use it as a slip and slide…this seemed rather painful to me, to throw myself at the ground and slide across concrete so I stuck to sitting under some type of roof outside to enjoy the rain but not be soaking wet, because as soon as the sun came back out you might boil in wet clothes.
I was a picky eater before I went to Belize. The first few days, I didn’t eat much of the food they provided and stuck to my snacks. Needless to say, I ran out of snacks after about 3 days, then was forced to eat what they provided, which continued to get better as the week went on. (Maybe because I was hungry, but who knows..) After we visited the cooks one day, I really started appreciating what they were doing for us; they would wake up at the crack of dawn to start breakfast for us, then cook all morning to prepare for lunch, then all afternoon for dinner. Those ladies seriously rock, and the love that they shared made my heart so happy.
Saying goodbye was the hardest part. Although it usually always is. Lots of hugs for Jonny and the rest of the kids I got to know and love that week. I remember crying and crying on the plane because I knew I would miss the people there so much. They were so happy, with so little. This is something we all need to learn to be. I cant wait to go back next year and experience it all again.
If you ever get the chance to go on a trip like this, go. Not because you get to help others, but because in helping others, you learn so much about yourself and to be thankful for all those little things you take for granted.
Belize was such a blessing, and a great, great adventure.
See more from Tori at www.unorthodoxhappiness.wordpress.com or on Instagram @tori_zander
A lot of these photos are by Tori’s good friend, Alex. Check him out! http://www.alexmphotography.com