Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sally: The Last Days

The youth trip to Belize definitely ended on a spectacular note. Friday was special in that we got to do a little less manual labor and a little more hanging out in classrooms. I particularly enjoyed it when a class spontaneously asked us to sing some songs for them, and then they sang for us in return. It was also fun to see all the Standard VI kids getting excited about graduation; I even got to sign one girl's uniform. We also spent some time on Friday meditating on the beach, afterwards going out for some lobster burritos. Saturday was also a great day, despite getting off to a bumpy start on our malfunctioning water taxi. The best part of this day for me was definitely getting to go to the youth group meeting of a church in Belize City. It was really interesting to observe the similarities and differences between their meetings and ours. They were very welcoming, and many emails and Facebook names were exchanged before we left. The Sunday morning worship at the Cathedral was definitely memorable for me. It seemed much shorter than its 2+ hour length, just because there was so much to absorb: the time they took to honor the fathers for Father's Day, the countless plaques from the 1800s lining the walls, the different ways in which they said the prayers. The travel home went very smoothly, and as much as I loved Belize, I was surprised by how nice it felt to land in Miami and feel back at home. This trip was all that I had hoped for and more. I think we all learned a lot about our group and ourselves. The people of San Pedro, San Mateo, and Holy Cross were incredibly generous, welcoming, and inspiring. I really hope I will have a chance to go back someday.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Elizabeth: The Last Days

From Friday forward was such a whirlwind experience and I can't believe it's already over! Friday was full of little children running around and saying goodbye to us. It is so nice to be appreciated like that. Saturday started with a bang...literally. Well I guess it was more of a bump than a bang, but our water taxi hit something in the water, probably a rock, and so we were slightly delayed coming into Belize City. Once we got there, we made the hike to the Diocesan House. It was a nice house, with only so many fans, but we survived. Later that afternoon, we met up with a Belize youth group. That was really interesting. Just talking to them and participating in their normal weekly meeting was really cool. We brought back some neat ideas. Sunday at the cathedral was interesting as well. We left early ONLY two hours into the service. During the service, we were called up to hold hands in a circle in the middle of the church with the bishop and the church sang the traveler's song. That was so sweet. I wish my birthday was during that week because they sung Happy Birthday to some folks. It was also really cute that all or most of the elderly ladies in the church wore fancy or elegant church hats. Coming back to the United States was so comforting and relieving. Even though I wasn't even in our home state, it was nice to feel at home in the Miami airport (after customs, of course.) I am so glad that I was able to go through this experience and I am especially glad that I got to experience this with the group I was with. I am so grateful to everyone on this trip because it was fantastic and each person made it great. =)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Belize youth pilgrims are home: watch for trip reflection posts this week

The Belize youth pilgrims had a smooth journey home and arrived at RDU airport shortly after 11:00 p.m. on Sunday night. We were tired but truly invigorated by all that we experienced. Thanks be to God!

So much happened on the last three days of our pilgrimage. Friday was a wonderful day at the school followed by some reflection time on the beach. Saturday we arrived back in Belize City (after a slight engine malfunction on the water taxi) and got to join with a Belize youth group from All Saints Anglican Church for their meeting that afternoon. We celebrated with dinner at the Bird's Isle restaurant (where we had lunch the very first day). That evening, each pilgrim received a wooden cross made from pine timbers salvaged from St. John's Cathedral in Belize City. Sunday morning we went to church at St. John's and got a blessing from Bishop Wright before boarding the airplane for home.

I have invited the youth pilgrims to make individual posts summarizing their thoughts and experiences of the final days and the trip as a whole. I hope you will continue to visit the blog over the next week or so to check out what they have to say.


Keith: Last days In Belize.
We went to a youth group meeting in Belize City at All Saints Church. It was fun meeting with kids our age in a different country. That night we went to that Restaurant by the sea, which was really good (double beef bacon cheese burger). Sunday we woke up early to go to Belize Cathedral. Unfortunately we didn't get that memo that the church was starting an hour later. We went back later and had a good time at the service, which was really different. Flew home after that and got to Miami. Had dinner there. Then it was time to come back to RDU and go home.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wednesday and Thursday: Holy Cross, Snorkeling, and more...

Abby: Wednesday I started out the day with waking up at 5 to the sunrise which was incredible and completely worth it. The rest of my day at the school was spent reading to a group of kids with Elizabeth and painting while singing songs like I Just Can't Wait To Be King and Hey Jude, loudly and way off key with Elizabeth and Sally:) Even though painting is always fun, the snorkeling was definitely the best part of my day. I will admit that swimming with stingrays and hugging a shark were completely terrifying experiences but at the same time it was so cool. Today has been spent singing songs to the children, stacking and picking up roof pieces, and being hug-attacked by multiple kids at once...which is the part of Holy Cross I think I am going to miss the most.

Sally: We started out Wednesday with our second delicious trip to "Casa Pan Dulce" on the way to school. My job for most of the morning was painting the outside wall of a building. After lunch, we headed off to snorkeling, which was just incredible. Our guides led us through an unbelievable journey through the coral reef, and let us get up close and personal with sharks, sting rays, and sea turtles! So far today, we have participated in the three chapel services for the different age groups. We taught the kids a few songs and learned some new ones from them as well. I've spent the rest of this morning working on a fencing project with Harris and Amy, with occasional breaks for never-ending high fives and hugs from the kids!

Jessica: I started out Wednesday in the best way possible: viewing a beautifal sunrise. It involved getting up a little earlier but I'm so glad that I did. When we got to the school, me and Naomi spent the morning preparing backpacks that will be given to the kids and decorating them, which we had a lot of fun with. Later we went snorkeling, which was absolutley amazing. I held a shark and touched a stingray, two things I never thought I would do. Today, we got to sing songs for the kids and later I got some adorable pictures with them. :)

Naomi: Wednesday morning I got up and watch the sun come up. Joe and Amy had the youth walk to school by ourselves, which was a challenge, but we did morning prayer and went to the bakery, and still got to the school a little early. At the school, I prepared backpack prizes with Jessica, which was fairly easy, but at the same time a bit tedious and time-consuming. Then I went outside to paint one of the front walls of the school. After lunch, which was amazing as usual, we went snorkeling. It was a great experience, and I got some amazing pictures of the beautiful sea-life. At the second snorkeling spot, I held a shark, which was terrifying and totally awesome. It had rough skin, which I was not expecting at all. The stingray was a bit velvety, almost slimy, and that was really cool, although we didn't actually get to hold it, just touch it. Overall, it was a great day, and I'm gonna miss Belize- the work AND the tourism- A LOT.

Joe: It has been a blessing to watch these young men and women embrace this opportunity. They work hard, they play hard, they even pray hard. On Wednesday, I watched them step outside their comfort zones: getting in the classrooms with children (actually they seemed quite comfortable doing that), getting into the ocean with nurse sharks and rays (which felt almost as chaotic at times as the classrooms...I guess a "school" of fish is crazy just like a school of children). On the way to the site, we remembered those who had asked for our prayers and those who helped us get here...thank you! It has also been a blessing to work with my co-leader, Amy, who has also jumped in with both feet and is really gifted. She led us in a wonderful exercise the night before snorkeling in which we opened our senses and hearts to experience the Holy in God's natural world. It really helped me as I dove under the water and swam with the sea turtles. Today we heard the sound of the Holy Spirit in the singing of children's voices at chapel services. I was impressed by how they prayed and sang and shared a bit when I spoke about God's creation of human beings in God's image, and the responsibility of humans to take care of God's gifts and creation. I'm looking forward to spending some more time tonight with Mr. Kenny, our local cook who has not only showed us how to cook but also shared with us some of the values of his culture: not worrying so much about the material and always being willing to share of your abundance with your neighbor. Thanks, Mr. Kenny.

Keith: Wendsday morning we got up without the assitance of Joe and Amy (I guess we're big kids now) We did everything, suprisingly, that we would normally do if Joe had been there. We walked to school and stopped by the bakery, which wasn't as good today because the bread was kind of hard. We got to the school and did the norm: scrubbing, painting, working with the kids. The kids really made me happy when we walked in and they were like Hello Mr. Keith!! You've come back!!, etc.. We left earlier today at 1:00 p.m. so that we could get ready for snorkeling. As you probally don't know, I'm not a all, So the whole snorkeling thing was kind of strange for me, but I did get in the water and I'm really glad that I did because it was something I will never forget. The coral reef is like God's underwater Jungle with huge flying sting rays and eels, barracudas, and all other stuff you see in the aquarium. Really fun! Thursday Morning we came and worked on the bathroom (I swear God must have forgotten to turn the a.c on this morning) It Was HOT!! Also when I was working with the kids one of them asked me for my autograph. It was really a WOW moment and it caught me off guard. Made me feel really special and appreciated. Coolest kids.

Harris: Okay so Wednesday the leaders let us get up and ready in the morning by ourselves. No wake-up call and no telling us when to leave, but we were able to get to the school EARLY and still stop by "Casa Pan Dulce" (the best bakery EVER!) At school I scrubbed some walls and I got to take some of the Infant classes to the library to read. At about 1:00 we left the school and we got to go snorkeling, which was the coolest thing. We got to see turtles, sharks and stingrays. We also saw an abundance of so called "Horse-eye fish", and apparently one thought my hand looked appetizing around the chum bucket. Now I have a good story and am going to have a killer scar! So the next day (today) we came to the school and we had chapel. Joe told us we now knew what it was like to be clergy members, because we did the same service three times. It was still all fun and I later got to go to the Infant classes. There is one class that I have become particularly fond of, and am really going to miss them. OH! and don't forget to watch the USA vs. Slovenia World Cup game tomorrow! I know I'm watching it (at 5:00 in the morning!!!) GO USA!!!!!

Maggie: Good afternoon everyone! Well, Wednesday morning brought more scrubbing. I believe as a collective amount, I may have scrubbed half of the school by now. It wasn't all that difficult once we found out we could use rags to get the dirt off instead of brushes. (Which only took a total of two and a half days to figure out.) Once that was all finished I moved on to pulling out random nails in a railing leading up to the office of the school. That proved to be a bit more difficult seeing as the nails were jammed in the infamous "hardwood" and the entire area was being hit by direct sun. Once that task was complete I held a ladder for Naomi as she painted. After that was another delicious lunch served by the lovely cooks at the school. Okay, skipping ahead.....SNORKELING! We got to the sight and everyone was eager to jump right in. We had a very knowlegable guide, Herman. He showed us many beautiful things as we swam for about thrity minutes. As some of the parents know, those of you who have been to Belize with me before, I have a waterproof bag that I can seal my camera in to take underwater pictures. Unfortunatley, more than half of the trip was over before I realized there was a hole in the bag. Needless to say my camera is now out of commission. Mom, I am sorry you had to find out about this over the blog, but I have money for a new camera :) Our second stop was to shark and ray alley where I got to hold a rather large shark. It was pretty dang amazing. Once back at the hotel Elizabeth and I got to follow Mr. Kenny around Belize and shop for food. (amazing experience) When we got back home and Mr. Kenny prepared his Marinade, Elizabeth and I wrote down the recipe, for any of you who would like to know it! Okay, I will make this next bit was EXTREMLY HOT! And of all the days, Abby, Jessica, Elizabeth and I got to scour the basement of the soon to be finished bathroom. What a task that was! I won't say anymore about that because I am tempted to rant about how hot it was. I also got to help with kids. Okay, sorry that was so long. (and possibly boring) Talk to you all tomorrow!

Elizabeth: Good morning!! On Wednesday, we all went to Casa Pan Dulce, as you've probably heard 9 times by now. Then when we got to school, I got to play with the kids after breakfast but before school started. That was so much fun! I played tennis ball catch with these 4 Infant I boys, and they were all so cute. Then another little boy, Levon, came up to me and said, "A pretty shell for a pretty girl," and handed me a really pretty, small white shell. It made me feel really appreciated. I painted for the first half of the morning with Abby and Sally and we made that so much fun by singing songs and goofing off. Later that morning I read to some kids from Standard I and also Ms. Spain's Infant I class. Snorkeling was FANTASTIQUE. I'll go on and on if I start talking about it, plus you've already heard about it by now. Well I will say that I did get to hold the nurse shark. Moving on to Thursday: Maggie, Keith, and I got to take some awesome pictures with Ms. Elsie's Infant II class. Maggie, Jessica, Abby, and I cleaned out the basement of the almost finished bathroom house. (It's a big basement.) That was quite the experience!! Chapel was also a lot of fun and the kids were so cute when they prayed. They really liked us teaching the Pharaoh, Pharaoh song. Shopping with Mr. Kenny was amazing! Okay jumping ahead to this morning, we met up with this little girl who had a kitten in her bookbag. She wanted to take it to school! We were all scared for the kitten's life. It was quite an ordeal, but very funny. Until next time, bye bye!

Amy: Everything about this trip has been a blessing. I have enjoyed getting to know and working with our youth group "pilgrims" so much. They have a talent for embracing each experience and finding the fun in everything, whether that be playing with kids at the school or scrubbing walls. (Even on our way to Lamanai, squished and huddled together under a tarp in the pounding rain, I heard no complaints.... but a lot of laughter!) It has also been a joy interacting with the children and staff at Holy Cross. I have spent some time giving math tests, reading, attempting to teach juggling, and especially enjoyed the chapel services yesterday - hearing the Holy Cross children sing, and watching the smiles and giggles as our group led them in an exuberant rendition of "Pharoah, Pharoah". I've gotten to try new things and stretch myself as a group leader, and have learned so much from working with Joe. And the beauty of this place sinks into mind, heart, and body... the sunrises, the breeze, the coral reef, the faces of the people all around.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 2: Holy Cross :)

Elizabeth: Today was full of hard work. On the bright side, I was able to read with some pretty awesome Standard I kids which was a lot of fun. I also scrubbed a wall all morning. Maggie and I helped Joe drill holes in a window. I also enjoying playing with the kids in time-out.

Maggie: This morning I woke up to my first breath-taking sunrise! (I couldn't bring my self to wake up early until today) All of this morning I scrubbed a very dirty wall. I felt very accomplished to see all the dirt wash off with the water! I got to read with some very cute kids, and I used a power drill with Elizabeth to drill a window into the wall!

Naomi: Jessica, Keith and I started painting today. Jessica and I painted a wall on the outer office building of the school. At first, it wasn't too hard, but then as we got further along the wall, we got to the swamp, which made painting hard. It was fun.

Jessica: I did a little of everything today, which was great. I got to scrub the walls with everyone, work with the kids a little, and Naomi and I began painting. Working with the kids is my favorite part of working here.

Keith: Today I was scrubbing and I fell through and off the ladder. Worked with the kids and played soccer with the kids which was pretty fun. Then I read to the kids the same stories we read yesterday :(. Then I painted the area by the air condition. Paint dosent come off =/

Abby: Throughout the day I scrubbed buildings, read to kids, gave a 5 year old boy his exam, and folded pamphlets. But the one thing that made my day was the little girl coloring this morning who looked up at me and said "I like the way you smile". It was adorable:)

Sally: Today I gave a math exam to a 5-year-old girl, scrubbed walls, and read stories with some Standard I girls. Highlight was when Elizabeth and I were invited to play "Telephone" with some kids who, we later found out, were supposed to be serving out a time-out sentence. Oops!

Harris: I started out today by waking up to the sunrise. Then we went to the bakery and came to the school. I scrubbed walls and read with the Infant I and Infant II classes. I have made myself quite a few new friends. And I found a conch shell!!!

Joe and Amy and Jan Lamb: Reminding us to drink water, wear sunscreen, and look for holy surprises, and do your best.

Tonight we head to Jan Lamb's house for supper. Tomorrow, another day at Holy Cross and snorkeling in the afternoon and a cooking lesson with Mr. Kenny...Belize style!

Good Marning Visitars....

Day Two: LAMANAI (or so we thought until we found out the correct pronunciation is Lama'nayeen)

Monday morning began early with a short morning prayer and then boarding the boat headed straight to Bomba (our first stop, a wood carving village.) Within twenty minutes of our 3 hour journey, rain began to fall. At first it was quite refreshing, but then as it increased intensity it hurt more and more. We were forced to hide under a very large blue tarp. Once we got to Bomba we had breakfast and took a bus to another leg of our trip. We finally made it to Lamanai after yet another boat ride through the mangroves and rain. After lunch, we explored the museum and took a hike through the jungle with our ever so knowledgeable guide, Eddie. We tasted allspice, which has natural Novocaine in it. The first temple was the jaguar temple and that was breath-taking. We were able to climb that one and then we moved on to more impressive sights. The next temple was the Stela 9 temple. There, Eddie gave us some natural bug repellent from a berry. The next temple was the BIG one. It looked tall from the bottom, but from the top it felt like you were on top of the world. It was a very spiritual experience and even though there were many people around you felt like you were the only one there. We could see for miles and the people below looked like little ants. Our tour guide put it best, "Climbing up is physical, but climbing down is psychological." The final temple we went to was the mask temple. This temple has a sealed grave on the inside and the mask, which were two faces, on the outside represented immortality.


This was our first day to see the school and it was exciting to see what we had heard about for so long. It was also nice for some of our veterans in the group to see familiar faces at the school. Jan Lamb gave us a tour through the school, where we stopped in a few classrooms. We were greeted very warmly with all the students standing up and saying, "Good marning visitars! Welcome to Standard V." After our tour through the school, Jan took us through the nearby under privileged neighborhood, San Mateo. To see this neighborhood was very humbling. Due to light rain, the outside work was limited. Some of us got to work with the kids either playing games or administering exams. Others were able to put the prizes together for the top three of every class. Others were able to go food shopping with Mr. Kenny, a professional chef who cooked for us that night. After lunch some of us scrubbed the outside walls of the office to prepare for painting. Some of us graded exams and organized the library. Finally our first day at Holy Cross came to an end. We retired back to our house and practiced a bit of relaxation (playing cards, exploring the town, and swimming in the pool and ocean.) We found a baby sting ray and a cool conch shell. Mr. Kenny proved to be an amazing chef and mango smoothie maker. Some of us helped with the smoothie making. For dinner we had snapper, sautèed vegetables, and rice and beans. We had a worship service that night and then we went to bed soon after that.

This morning on our way to school we stopped by the REALLY good bakery called Casa Pan Dulce. There was a multitude of pastries all for a reasonably low price. We also included pictures of this morning's sunrise. You should also note that the pictures are in reverse order. We had some trouble uploading this morning...

Until next time, forever yours,
-Maggie and Elizabeth

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Youth Pilgrims Have Arrived in San Pedro!

Thanks be to God for smooth travel, beautiful weather, and graceful guides. After a smooth check-in at RDU and a farewell to parents, we arrived on time in Miami and Belize City. At the airport, we were met by Mr. "Sonny," older brother of our beloved Mr. Phillip. Mr. Sonny guided us to a wonderful place, "The Birdsnest" for lunch and showed us around Belize City. While waiting for the water taxi, some of our soccer fans got to watch some of the U.S./U.K. World Cup match. The best part of the day was coming to the dock and seeing Jan Lamb with a "welcome St. Luke's" sign. We toted our luggage (including the heavy school supply suitcases...getting us ready for some hard work this week) down the beach to our great house at The Tides and then took the school stuff on to Holy Cross. Now it's on to dinner and some group orientation tonight before waking early tomorrow to head to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai.

Thanks to everyone who has supported us and helped us get here. We have stopped at each step in the journey and said a big "thank you" for all the little blessings along the way. Keep us in your prayers as we arrive here in spirit as well as body and as we continue to look for signs of the Holy Spirit. -Joe

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Team Memories of Belize 2010

Some Team Memories

Below are some favorite pictures sent by team members from or 2010 Mission Trip.

The Palace Theatre now greets you as you come across the bridge. It is as yet unopened. Mr. Gordo's house (Freddy's Dad) is in the forefront. We used to eat our meals there in the early days. Had to watch your step getting to the tables, but the view was stunning.

Ah, and there to the left is Holy Cross Anglican School.

The kids keep us coming back year after year!

All dressed up for the Valentine's Fair! What a day!

Kids patiently (?) waiting for their vision screening.

Dr. Peter examining the cooks in the kitchen. Their first encounter was when the scales came out! Most had not been on one for years.

Pam Spatola's skills in Spanish were invaluable this year, particularly with the adults and the very young students, most of whom spoke very little English.

Cleaning up the endless pots, pans and dishes from lunch!

Mr. Freddy sharing the story of the Mahogany tree ( in white planter) planted by the children with Mr. John.

Miss Rosalia, Freddy's wife and head of the kitchen, and her crew of five produce wonders every day. They feed over 525 students, all staff and any volunteers who are around a wonderful nutritious lunch as well as a liquid breakfast supplement along with a carbohydrate of some kind for the students who qualify and then a nutritious fruit snack mid morning. The Anglican schools are the only schools in Belize that have feeding programs. All other students are released for the lunch break to go to their homes. For many Holy Cross students, this is the only food they consume during the day.

The jacks come out before school while the students are waiting to go to their classrooms. Note the bagels for breakfast and the glass of liquid supplement on the table behind...part of the feeding program for those in need. The boys play marbles in the sand beside the school until school begins.

Ah our fearless leader waiting for more sand on the deck. Note all that new land beyond the deck....tons of sand into the swamp made that possible.....all shoveled off the deck into a wheelbarrow and then moved to the edge. There's lots more land behind the tool shed to the right. Some sore shoulders from this activity!

The view from the deck at Ruby's provided us a good vantage point to watch the Guatemalan women who came each day to sell their wonderful weavings. Some had small children with them and some sold with their husband, particularly on the weekends when the men were not working on construction jobs.

Destiny's Mother's House. We met Destiny four year's ago when we first came to Holy Cross. and have followed her history since then. It's been a sad tale from the beginning of illness, neglect and unheaval. This is where Dr. Jim, Sandra and Kim (a visiting Social Worker) made the video on the blog. Note the board pathway leading to the house.

Dr. Jim examines Destiny two days after his home visit and treatment. She came to the school to be seen at the clinic on the porch.