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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Day 8: Pastor Brian

We are at the end of our last full day.  This is our 10th year of sending STMs to Belize and this one seemed to go by the fastest.  (Technically, it is the shortest, since tourism has increased and more flights are available.  That's made it possible for us to arrive a half-day early and leave a half-day earlier.)

This year we saw a lot of firsts: we had our first personnel exchange: we sent Caleb Cheng and Michael Zhang, two of our most veteran team members, to live with the BCE team for the week and we took in two kids from the BCE team--Jackson and Samuel.  It was quite an experience to add two Belizean-Chinese youth to our team.  Both attend the other Chinese church in Belize City, Holy Oil Assembly of God church, and neither had ever spent so much time with a bunch of American-born Chinese people.  They fit in very quickly and we were sad to see them go.  I think we learned a lot about life in Belize from them and especially learned about how difficult it can be to grow up Chinese in Belize.  It reminds me of stories of my parents growing up in Oakland in the 50's.

We also were invited a a team to the BCE base for a dinner and worship time for the first time.  It was a powerful experience to see the close relationships our team built with the BCE team in such a short time.  These friendships transcended language, race, socioeconomic status, and age.  We were all just brought together and bonded together by a common love for Jesus...and isn't that what heaven is supposed to be like?  It sure felt like it on Thursday night as we stood around a campfire and sang songs and shared testimonies of God's goodness!

So it was nice on Friday after all the kids had left the park with the end of our VBS and we didn't have to say a permanent goodbye.  That's because our team gave up a planned trip to the Belize Zoo (at night, a cool opportunity to see all the nocturnal animals in action) so we could use the funds to invite the BCE staff with us on Saturday's excursion.  So today we picked them up on the way to a crazy and exciting day that the BCCC brothers and sisters had arranged for us.  45 of us--our team, BCE and BCCC youth--went ziplining through the jungle, ATV and dune buggy riding, AND cave tubing!  It was a lot of fun for all of us and even better because we could share it with others.

As I write, the team is in the process of packing and cleaning the church.  We've been so well taken care of by the church family here at BCCC.  We've eaten extremely well: one night we had a feast of about 20 fish, another night we had local lobster, today we had homemade shrimp ceviche.  Hardly any fried chicken this year!  So we're going to do our best to leave the church in better shape than when we arrived.  The bus comes to pick up the team at 4am for a 6:30am flight out.  My family will stay behind and I'm preaching at two churches tomorrow--Lake Independence Baptist Church at 9am and BCCC at 2pm.

So pray for a safe journey for the team and thanks so much for praying!

Friday, July 21, 2017

2017 Day 7: Caleb and Michael

    Michael and I were invited to live at the BCE base camp for four days. All the members of BCE welcomed us with open arms and treated us as one of their own. Long story short, Michael and I had a lot of fun and bonded closely with all the members.
     Everyday we would wake up at around six in the morning.We would brush, take a shower and head out to breakfast cued by the blast of an air horn, where we would be treated with a typical Belizean breakfast, beans, rice, fried jacks, and a piece of smoke ham. Afterwards the we would pack the trucks for the day's upcoming VBS at King's Park.
      Each morning we would set up tents, speakers and go around the neighborhood gathering kids to join VBS, which was from nine in the morning to three in the evening. At the end of the each day we would end with praise and encouragement. Later Michael and I would go back to the BCE base while others would go back to the church. There we would shower and participate in different activities: swimming in the ocean, playing cards, and socializing. Thursday for the first time, both LGCC and BCE came together to play on the beach, barbeque and worship God.
      Overall, the exchange, Jackson and Samuel two locals who swapped Michael and I from BCC and BCE, was an exciting experience. At times at BCE we would have to interact with many different personalities and backgrounds--some were born in Belize, others from the States and immigrated in, and all had different histories, poor, abused, rich, the list goes on. After the first day (and bless the lord), Michael and I were quickly accepted in to the BCE family. People like Oshaine, our living quarters manager, became comfortable with us and popped many jokes; Aaron taught us card tricks and showed us his sleight of hands; Emir and Jonathan threw hugs and other friendly gestures at us. On the second day Michael and I had become part of their family: we talked about our problems, offrered prayer and requests, and on the third day the BCE crew even gave us the opportunity to embark with them other Men's Night Out. As a whole, the love of our brothers at BCE opened their hearts, looking past our differences and focusing on our similarities as brothers in Christ.

Thank you Lord for your unfailing, powerful plan for Michael and me.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

2017 Day 5: Chloe & Jocelyn

Today, the kitchen crew and I made French toast and spam for breakfast. After the breakfast, Tim led devotion and sent us off to another day of VBS with encouraging words. As the kids started coming in, I decided to approach a pair of young sisters, Cinnamon and Kayla. I spent most of the time before VBS officially started playing tag with them. The younger ones are usually really active so it drained a lot of energy out of me for the morning. When VBS started, we usually sing a couple of songs before we split off to our small groups. As I was looking around, I saw another pair of siblings with an older sister and a younger brother who were standing at the very back all by themselves. I decided to go stand behind them and encourage them to dance along to the songs. The younger brother seemed really tired and the older sister, Priscilla, kept hugging him and comforting him. Priscilla later on told me that he had forgot to take his medication so he wasn’t feeling the best. She was always there next to him comforting him, making sure he was as uncomfortable as possible. The sibling love was really heartwarming and made me realize how mature some of the kids are due to responsibilities that were put on them at a young age. Later on when I saw them, both were standing in the front with smiles on their faces and dancing their hearts out to the VBS songs. Seeing the difference made me feel really warm and also put a smile on my face. Today was a special day for VBS, as we were going to share our testimonies in our small group and have some one-on-one talks with the kids. During the small group time, I was put with a 13 year-old girl named Ashnita. Natalie and I separated from our small group and brought Ashnita to a quiet place to talk. Today’s purpose was to get the kids open up their hearts but the opposite happened for us. Natalie and I shared our testimony, and Ashnita shared her background with us. She explained how she came from a big family and how she started going to church. After some background talk, we asked her if she has accepted Jesus Christ and with no hesitation she said, “Yes, Jesus is my best friend”. Those words really moved me and I started tearing up to Ashnita’s strong faith. She started asking us about the bad situations we had to go through and how God had helped us through it. She then advised us about life and how God will always help us find our way and that he does everything for a reason. Ashnita’s words really opened up my heart even more and had me thinking about a lot of other things. This small group time was a really heart-moving moment for me this past week and gave me a lot of hope to spreading the gospel in Belize. After the small group time, the kids went off to lunch and they came back at 1 for crafts and games. When they came back for the camp, we started off with a couple of songs when it started to pour rain. It started raining really hard but thankfully it only lasted around 10 minutes giving us the chance to continue on with the rest of the activities. Today was extra fun as we made tie-dye capes and had water games. The tie-dye capes were really messy to work with but the kids were really excited about it. After an hour of crafts we did a water game where counselors sat a distance away from the lines of kids. Each group had to soak a large sponge in a bucket of water, hold it over their heads, run to their counselor, and squeeze out all the water on top of them. I was soaking wet from head-to-toe by the end of my turn. The kids were really excited and hyped about getting the counselors really wet getting everyone hyped and full of laughter. The day ended with satisfied kids and counselors, and a good debrief about today. VBS ends at 3 and we had to go to a prayer meeting at 3:30 at BCCC. It was really chaotic as a lot of us were soaking wet from the games so we had to change and get ready as quick as possible. Pastor Alex led the prayer meeting and ended the afternoon with some graceful prayers. Then a couple of us walked to Sun Shop to buy some snacks and drinks, but we had dinner as soon as we came back. It was a very nice dinner as usual with lobster, bittermelon, dong gua, and sausages. We ended the night with announcements with some free time after. This was how my day went, thank you. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Day 4: Cantonese Visitation Team

Today Pastor Alex, Sindra, Rebecca and I (Thomas) had opportunities to visit some Chinese store owners in Belize City while our other teammates were holding VBS in the park.  We had a busy schedule of going to 4 different stores.  Each one of them had a unique story behind the journey from China to Belize.

In the morning, Alex, Thomas and Rebecca went to visit 2 store owners. The first one we visited was Mei Yan who looks after her store by herself. Those store owners usually work long hours every day. They work behind bars and they usually live there too. Mei Yan is not an exception. She works almost 12 hours a day, wanting to give the best education and everything for her four children. She has been with the Belize Chinese Church for more than 5 years (come and go). She has been approached by Jehovah Witness for a number of times but thanks God that she finally settle at this Chinese Church. We spent a good time (1.5 hours) with her and she shared about her life, her children and her baggage with us. We shared the Gospel with her. She said she understood the message and reaffirmed her faith before the Lord. She did pray with us finally, committing herself to Jesus Christ as her Lord of her life. Please pray for her as her husband still has a traditional Chinese idol at home, which hinders her to consider getting baptized.

The next visitation is a young girl, called Chun Ling, recently relocated from China to Belize. She is very smart, with a master degree at a famous university in Beijing. She was baptized a few months ago by our LGCC’s pastor. However, she was busy working at her store even on Sundays, so she seldom came back church recently. She shared her struggles with us. It is not easy for her as a young girl looking after a store by herself. We encouraged her to stay strong in faith and pray for God’s wisdom in better time management.  Please pray for Chun Ling as she could be a rising star (smart, well-educated, young and easy-going person) for the Chinese Church.

In the afternoon, we split into 2 teams. Sindra and I went to visit Suk Jan, another store owner. She recently retired and sold her business to her relatives but she is there to help out. She recently had struggles with her only son (who has his own family in Belize), so she felt a little bit unhappy. We prayed for her and motivated her to pray God for her ordeals and hope wot find a way out. Please keep her in your prayer.

Another team, Rebecca and Thomas visited a store owned by Ah Yee and her husband.  Her two sons attended the VBS and they loved it.  We listened to her stories of operating the store till midnight every day 7 days a week while worrying about robberies and other crimes.  Her entire mission here was to provide a good education and future for her children.  We then shared the gospel with her using a gospel booklet.  At the end, Rebecca invited her to pray to accept Jesus Christ as her savior and Ah Yee agreed.  Rebecca prayed with her.  PTL.  She still had some challenges as her husband was quite opposed to her faith.  Pray that God will bring blessings to her family through Ah Yee's life transformation and testimony. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

2017 Day 3 Monday 7/17/17- Eugene

Hello again from Belize City!

Today was the first official day of camp. We began the day at the park across the street from Belize Chinese Christian Church where we are staying. We set up an oversize tent for shelter from the sun. At 8:30am, we broke up into teams and walked around the neighborhood to invite kids to our week-long camp co-hosted by a local organization called Belize Camping Experience.

I have to admit, I initially felt a bit uncomfortable. There is no way this would go well in my church neighborhood in Milpitas, CA. "Free kids camp! Do you have any kids? We are having a kids camp at King's Park from Monday-Friday." But to my surprise, there were actually a number of appreciative parents who took the time to talk to us. We ended up with about 50 kids on this first day.

We sang songs, played games, did a craft, and learned about how God worked through the faith and obedience of Moses. The local kids had a great time. Our kids had fun serving. And everyone experienced the love of Christ flowing through willing people with a common goal of telling others about our Savior Jesus Christ.

Two of our team-members went to the BCC headquarters to do some welding and building along with some Mennonite workers.

Also this afternoon, Pastor Alex of LGCC and a few others went to visit a Cantonese speaking shopkeeper. After over two hours of conversation, this woman gave her life to Christ.

On a personal note, I brought my son who is 13 years old on this trip. I wanted to spend some time with him and allow him to experience God in serving on a missions trip. As his father, my view of him is one of a young person and "child" but I do get to see brief moments of faith and spiritual breakthrough from time to time. I am thankful to God for these 10 days we will spend in Belize. It's not only some father and son time, but I am seeing those brief moments when God shows me the work of his Holy Spirit in my son. For this I am thankful and glad we came.

Prayer requests: The weather is hot and humid. Please pray for energy for our team. Pray also for more kids to join our camp this week. Pray for new friendships between the local volunteers and the local kids. Pray for their salvation through these friendships.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

2017 Day Two: Sunday 7/16/17 -Tim and Sindra

Hello everyone back home!

It has been a great and blessed day today. We have seen what God has been doing with the churches here in Belize today.

Everyone woke up around 7 this morning and had breakfast. Got on the bus and went to the morning service at Lake Independence Baptist church around 8:30. It was an interesting service. We were surprised at how much passion the people Belize have for Christ. Everyone was sing and praising the Lord. It was very encouraging to see that people who does not look like us and have totally different culture back worships the same Lord. We wish the people back home can experience the passion that the Belize people have.

After the service we came back to Church and had pizza for lunch. Shortly after, we went upstairs and joined the Chinese service. For some of us it was the first time we've ever been in a Mandarin service. Pastor Eugene gave the sermon in English and was translated into Mandarin. He talked about how as a Christian we have to embrace all God's people and their cultures.

The Chinese church here had a pot luck for us there were so much food and left overs. We are very appreciative of the time and effort they put into welcoming us here.

Tomorrow, is going to be our first day of VBS. It is going to be very busy for all of us.

Please pray that God will use each and everyone of us to plant the seed to the Belizean children and bring them into His kingdom. Please also pray for our safety as it well be very hot in the next couple of days. Pray that God will be with us where ever we go. Lastly, thanks for being here with us in spirit and prayers.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

2017 Day One: Michael, Natalie, and Portia

Hi Everyone,
       Thank you for all your prayers, the Belize team arrived safely this morning. Our flight from San Jose to LAX was on time, but our flight to Belize was delayed due to a problematic communication circuit. We arrived at 6:30am Belize time (5:30 back home). We walked out like Obama leaving his jet on the runway.
       Not long after we arrived, we ate breakfast at Balloons Pizzeria, an ocean side restaurant. Black beans, smoked meats, fired bread and fish arrayed the tables, and orange, watermelon, and cactus juice, freshly squeezed by the kind waitress. Black and yellow seabirds squawked by our sides as the ocean gently caressed the land. After, devouring our meals like a hoard of famished beasts, We boarded our white bus. Arriving back to the Christian Church, we were welcomed by the loving presence of the Belize Camping Experience, a Christian organization devout on the purpose to spread the gospel to younger Belizeans. As we took our seats in the upstairs chapel, Alexander Perez began his presentation for the upcoming week.
         Deprived of sleep, we listened to the ramble and jumble of the speaker. BJ, Adam, Portia, Natalie,Vanessa, Michael and Angelina, barely stayed awake in the bombardment of words: "Blah Bla Blahhhhhhhhhh...We BCE have a passion for younger generation of Belize, a group representative of fifty percent of Belize. Many fell asleep unable to repress the weight unbearable weight of sleep. Suddenly Leah, Alexanders wife and co-director, made her debut, forcing all of us out of our seats into a whirl of dance and VBS music. Stimulated by the sudden physical activity, the youth woke up from their daydreams and half slumbers. Initiated by the dance moves and familiar gesticulations of superheros Hulk, Superman, and Captain America, the twenty six of us and sixteen BCE flowed in gestalt, like a river. Surprised and encouraged by our quick progress, we continued into other games and finally prayer. Afterwards we had lunch with the BCE team and the Chinese Church leaders.
          After lunch, the girls unpacked and took long naps, while the boys played games. After our break, we had dinner at a restaurant, where we ate Chinese food. When we got back, we worshiped and debriefed.
      It's now been two hours and we are finally done with this blog post. Thanks you all. 

Goodnight, sleep tight, mosquitoes might bite

-Michael, Natalie and Portia:)

Answered Prayers:

  • All members arrived in Belize in one piece. (mostly)
  • No luggage was lost or damaged. 
  • The food, especially the fried chicken is good.
  • We were well fed

Prayer Requests:

  • Sleep! Many of the team members have gotten little to no sleep. Pray for us to have sufficient sleep, so we can be energized and ready for VBS.
  • Protection from mosquitoes, sand fleas, and anything else that may want to eat us alive.
  • Preparation for VBS on Monday.
  • Weather and Humidity. Many team members are not use to the humidity and hot weather. 
  • Safety