Sunday, August 5, 2007

Belize Journal

What a wonderful week, the things God has done are simply indescribable. God worked and moved in ways that you just cannot explain unless you witness it first hand. I know that many of you have been waiting to hear about my trip to Belize so here it is. Rather than try to place the whole week into a nutshell, I kept a journal while I was there and will be posting it now. This will be a little long, but it is my heart from the end of each day and I pray that if you read it, you will be blessed by at least a fraction of what I experienced. God bless you all and thank you to each of you who obeyed God's call on you to assist the trip.

I am blessed beyond measure to have had this opportunity to serve, learn, and discover. I saw God this week in a real, tangible way. I saw lives change, not just the kids', but my own as well. The song we sang Sunday night in Spanish about "purify me, wash me, renew me, restore me..," God did that this week. My fire for missions was stoked; my passion for His Kingdom and the lost was intensified. It is my prayer that this hunger, this fire, is contagious. That it just spreads through our body and is allowed to build, grow and to burn white hot for the Lord.


Monday 7/30/07 11:45am
The trip begins. Here I sit on the smallest commercial plane I have ever been on, beginning this journal. Notes from the upcoming week in Belize, C.A., my week of Experiencing God, my week of discovery. Bill called this a "discovery trip," and I expect just that. Even last night, our team was threatened by Jeff's chest pain. As Selena and I sought the Father's face in prayer, his pain relieved and here he sits with us this morning on the plane. We are, however, one member short. Teirney, our youngest member, is having problems with her passport. We know that God knew that this was going to happen. He has plans bigger and greater than ours and we trust that He has other plans for our sweet Tierney this week. She has become part of our family and whether she makes it or not, we know that she will continue to be a part of this team in prayer. Even when we get home, she has a place in our hearts that will never be broken.

Father God, thank You for this team, thank You for our prayer partners at home and around the world. Father please use us and mold us this week. Let us to remember that we are not here for any reason other than You brought us here to join You in Your work. Change me Father; make me into what You already see me to be, Lord. I praise You now Father, knowing that You will do great things this week, here and at home. I pray this in the name of Your precious Son, Amen.

Monday 7/30/07 11:08pm – Belize time
It is simply amazing to see the beauty of this jungle. To see God's glorious handiwork, all around me. His presence sings on the breeze, pours down with every drop of rain and hangs like the humidity in the air around me. He is real, He is tangible, HE IS HERE!! On top of that, to share the wonder and beauty of it all with people who I love so much, members of my body, my church family, makes it even better! God is already working in hearts and changing lives and His work has barely begun. I cannot wait to see the wonders that this week will bring. It saddens me that Tierney is missing out, but I praise God for it because I know that He has His reasons.
The rain just came again. It was soft and sweet, like whispers on the wind. It came and went just as quickly and quietly. It was cool and refreshing.

The roads aren't as bad as I had imagined. Pastor Dan said they had them worked on. It isn't as hot yet as I had expected either.

There is a curious little bird outside the window, letting out his happy little call. He calls out often enough to remind us of his presence, but it is too dark to catch a glimpse. The crickets and locusts sing their gentle lullaby, reminding us that it is time to call an end to our busy day – time to lie down our heads and praise Him with our last prayer of the day. Seeking respite in His grace and praising Him for his mercy and the gift of this beautiful place and the beautiful experience to come.

Tuesday 7/31/07 12:02am
Today was a wonderful day! The green team consists of 13 children from the Valley of Peace (Valle de Paz), Corozal, and Bullet Tree. Five beautiful young ladies will join me each night for devotionals, while Shawn and Ismael take the young men. Tonight one of my sweet girls accepted Christ. We had a discussion in devotional about the message, about the love of Christ and about what it means to truly worship Him. After the devotional time and prayer, I told the girls that if they had any questions they could stay and we would talk and if not, they were free to go. All left save one, she asked me what it means to accept Christ. She said that everyone at her church thought she was saved because someone had said the prayer for her but that she had not herself repented and asked Christ to become Lord of her life. So I told her that there was no specific prayer she had to pray, no words that automatically gave you salvation. I told her simply to speak to Christ as a friend and just speak her heart. She prayed such a sweet, innocent prayer. She asked Her Lord to forgive her sins, to make her new, and to make her into a true worshipper. Such a blessing it was for me to be allowed to witness this.

The beauty of this place is unimaginable, but it is dimmed in my mind by the pain that these children live with on a daily basis. Lives filled with agonies that we can hardly fathom and they believe them to be a normal part of life. These girls come from different parts of the country but the Lord brought them together this week and I pray that He moves in our presence this week and changes us all. Tonight, Alma told me she is thankful that I am sleeping beside her. She has had such a hard life, and for once, she feels safe. I explained to her the limitless ways that God can use her if she will allow Him to.

Nothing could have prepared me for the awe inspiring ways God is already moving here. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions you feel in a situation such as this. Nothing could have prepared me to fully experience the Lord in such a real, magnificent way!

Two other boys got saved today! Praise, praise the Lord in all of His awe and splendor! Praise Him for the things He is doing here.

Wednesday 8/1/07 12:01 am
Today was a very full day. God was truly at work in this jungle paradise. Another one of my girls came to accept Christ today. She is one of the quiet girls from the Valley. Yesterday, when I would talk to her, she would blush and giggle and look at the ground. Tonight, God spoke through Bill in a way that I will not soon forget. He told these children that if their world is to change, they have to want it and they have to let God use them to do so. When he asked the children at the end to grab a counselor to pray with them if they needed to, she came and got me. The girl who got saved this morning. She was hurting and broken; she was ready to make a change in her life so that her future children would never have to know the kind of life that she knows. Weeping, we went to the Lord together, we prayed for her, for her family, and for her future children. We prayed that the Lord show her who He sees her to be. We prayed and we prayed. I watched, first hand, as God performed a heart transplant in this child in front of my very eyes. I honestly believe that she will never be the same.

Earlier this afternoon, I got to go to the river with the kids. It was neat, a cool retreat from the heat of the day. Time to play with the kids, time to watch the walls come down that so carefully guard their hearts, time to bond. We played in the water, jumped off of the cliff, and jumped off of the rope swing. The irony of it all was Jeff hurt himself. Jeff, who was worried that he would have problems with his heart, hurt his foot. He swung off of the rope swing into shallow water and hurt his ankle. He says he is not going to go home, he says he refuses to allow Satan the chance to make him give up.

Tomorrow is our last full day together; I don't want to see this end. Alma and I have developed such a strong bond. Tonight she asked me why I couldn't have been her mother. (Hers abandoned her when she was small.) I joked that I was too young but assured her that I will never stop praying for her and that I will keep in touch. She fell asleep with a smile on her face.

Thursday 8/2/07 7:18pm
I don't have much time right now, but I had to begin writing about my day. Another young lady came to know the Lord as her personal savior this morning! What an awesome day this has been. I know I use the word awesome so much, but I only do so because there is not a bigger, better word to use to describe the things the Lord is doing and blessing me with in this experience. The first trip to the river yesterday was fun, but today…wow! We went to a different place today. A place even Pastor Dan had not been to. One of the boys had told him about this place and asked if we could go there today. It was kinda scary; here we are, in a 60 passenger bus, going down a dirt road. The road begins to narrow, the trees getting closer and thicker and Pastor decides that's as far as the bus can go. We all piled out of the bus and start walking through the jungle. Some of the kids didn't even wear shoes. So, if you can picture it in your mind, we're walking through an unknown section of the jungle, to an unknown destination. The end most certainly justified the means. After about a mile of walking through trees and bushes we get to the river and the beauty of our Creator enveloped us from every angle, completely overloading my senses. The water was clear, blue-green, cool and refreshing. The temperature of the water, a wonderful contrast to the heat of the day, caused me to gasp as I waded deeper. You could see to the bottom through the unpolluted perfection that was the stream. The fish swam around our feet, not fearing our presence in their environment. The trees rose around us, giving cooling shade. A canopy of comfort like God's loving arms around us. The kids play and laugh in the water around me. They thrive on our attention. They feed on our love. Love, affection and adult conversation are not things that they are used to. I have never in my life known the sadness that some of these children experience daily. I am reminded constantly here of the way I felt when I realized God was calling me to missions, be it at home or in a place like this, I pray I never again forget that I am called to share the gospel wherever I go.

Thursday 8/2/07 12:21am
The days' activities were amazing before and after the river. This morning we got a reminder that we are, in fact, in the jungle when Adriana awoke sharing her pillow with a gecko.

Breakfast, like every meal here was positively delicious. Eggs, beans, watermelon and FRIED JACKS! If you've never had a fried jack, you have no idea what you are missing out on. All the food here has been great, I'll probably go home 10 pounds heavier than I came, but I seriously doubt losing it will be a problem because the food at home just will never be the same after eating here.

Three of the girls in my group got saved this week, all honor, glory and praise goes to the Father! I thank Him so much for allowing me to be a part of this. Like I told the kids tonight, I will never forget them or this place. These kids have touched my heart and God has changed my heart forever!

Tonight we had a bonfire after a wonderful message! It was so moving. Bill had asked in the service for anyone who had gotten saved to stand and tell the group. Only one person did so, but she did with passion, she was not ashamed to profess her newfound faith. Then at the bonfire, Dan asked the same thing. When he did, there was silence for what seemed like eternity before one boy stood, hands in the air, declaring his salvation – presenting it as the grand victory that it is. After that, more kids stood, not just salvations, but declarations of rededication, challenges to the younger children, and requests for prayer. The presence of the Spirit could not be denied in that circle. If they walked away with nothing except the way the Spirit moved in that circle, I believe lives will still be forever changed. It was truly magnificent.

Friday 8/3/07 10:11pm
Today is a day my heart will never forget. It started out with Shawn opening his mouth and allowing God to speak through him. It was very moving.

Then the campers packed their things and amidst smiles, tears, new friendships, new salvations and changed lives, boarded the vans and buses for home. Saying goodbye to my Alma was so bittersweet. She shook me gently awake at 5 this morning, weeping with joy over the realization of the things God is doing in her life. She sees her life now through new eyes and what a joy it is for me to be allowed to catch a glimpse of that. It pains me to see her go, but I am confident that the Lord will use her and that she will be in good hands with Paul and Alvera as her ministers.

When all of the Valley kids were on the bus, Shawn hollered at me, "let's go." It was time to take the kids home. As I boarded the blue and white bus, I was totally unprepared for what I was about to experience. I've seen all the pictures from last year, but unless you actually see this for yourself, feel what we've felt, you can never fully understand. I've lived with these kids for 3 days. I been allowed a peek into the window of their lives and glance at their souls – but nothing could have equipped me for this bus ride. I was filled with anticipation as we passed the sign reading "Valle de Paz," and with every home we stopped at, my heart sank. I was not saddened as much by the living conditions of my newfound brothers and sisters as I was by the way WE live our lives. The things we take for granted every single day. The blessings that we overlook, so easily dismissing the need for the Good News of a loving Savior in places like this all over the world. We drive our air conditioned cars to our air conditioned jobs and our air conditioned churches, while the men here walk or ride bicycles down rugged dirt roads, 9 miles each way to work in the fields. We go to the movies or rent a DVD. We spend $5 on designer coffee, when some of these kids depend on rain water to drink. Our children complain because the cable TV is out or they don't have the latest game for their xbox. Some of these kids don't even have shoes, yet they get off the bus and run smiling into a hut with a grass roof, thankful for what they have. As the last child stepped off that bus, the intensity of it all just smashed me in the face like the sudden rains here in Belize and I began weeping uncontrollably. As I sobbed, my team could only tell me they knew how I felt, that they still feel it from last year as if it were yesterday. Shawn stroked my hair as I wept. Once again, I was reminded of the day that God laid missions work on my heart. I am reminded that my mission field is where ever I am, not just far away places, but my country, my town, my neighborhood. Lost are everywhere and they need Christ just as badly.

Saturday 8/4/07 8:43am
I've spoken a few times of the showers that come without notice and leave just as quickly, but the thunderstorms, WOW, that's another creature entirely. I thought that Texas had the most beautiful thunderstorms, but you have not seen anything until you experience a thunderstorm in the jungle. "It's rain and thunder," you say, "How can it be that different?" I don't know if words can adequately describe it, but I'll give it a shot.

You hear the thunder, no different from home really. It resounds through the sky, a sentinel of the coming storm. Then, a sound I've never heard, like a thousand whispers on winged feet, running at you. It gets louder and louder, then suddenly the sky pours down a cool, pervasive rain. It doesn't start sprinkling and gradually get stronger like at home, no, when it comes, it comes full force. It doesn't ask pardon or permission, it simply overtakes. Its beautiful!

Saturday 8/4/07 9:41pm
Today was a day of "rest," Bill called it. We started at Big Rock Waterfall in Pine Ridge Mountains. Bill and I climbed down the mountain to the water. When I saw it I was speechless. I don't even remember what he asked me, all I remember is the beauty. It was a hard climb, but well worth it. We jumped into the water, across a small cove, and went to the bottom of the waterfall. It was awesome. And to think, God knew my name when He set those waters in motion. After the waterfall, we ate at the Pine Ridge Mountain Lodge – more wonderful food. Then we walked the 260-something steps (literally, Michelle counted, I just can't remember the exact number) down to Five Sisters, a series of 5 waterfalls emptying into a beautiful cove. We swam in the water and jumped off the rocks for a while before going into San Ignacio for chicken and shopping.

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