Today was our second day in San Pedro and was supposed to be the least eventful day of our entire trip. There was snorkeling (or sleeping in) in the morning and we technically had the afternoon off. Thankfully, God had other plans.
Those of us who signed up for snorkeling left at 8:00AM for the docks and were soon on our way to explore the world’s second largest coral reef. The guides were friendly and helpful and showed us all kinds of fish including jacks, barracudas and groupers. Tim and I separated from the group to chase down a sea turtle we have thus named Harvey. Afterwards they took us all to shark infested waters where we all got to swim with nurse sharks and rays. The wingspan of the rays flirted with about 5 feet and was scarily impressive.
Apparently a good majority of the team felt that the best way to spend their afternoon off would be to have another block party on the nearby basketball courts. So at around 4:00 PM we all managed to gather once again at the courts and begin arts, crafts, and other performance arts so that we could reach out to the children of San Pedro. Sadly, this is when disaster struck.
By the time I reluctantly arose from my sea breeze siesta, Nicky, one of the more popular team members among the children, had gone missing because his bag had been stolen by some of the kids. I won’t go into the specifics of what happened and when, partly because I can’t say for sure. What we do know is that his wallet was emptied and his credit cards were taken.
Eventually, four specific children were isolated as prime suspects and witnesses by Kevin Ko and having been fed up with the chaos and lack of initiative I charged in to resolve the issue, justice and vengeance in mind. However, the situation quickly became more complex and I was forced to make a decision which I can only pray was correct. (Or rather pray that God could use no matter how much I screw things up).
There were a number of children involved in the crime but the one young lady who actually bought something with the money she received was being accused of masterminding the entire ordeal. She was the only child who admitted she had taken something and returned was money she did not use. The sun was quickly setting and a storm wind began to blow meaning we needed to get this children home. At this point I was presented with a choice: administer justice to the children who were trying to get away with what they had done or reward the one honest child with forgiveness.
The boys who claimed she was the culprit spent most of this time threatening the young lady and calling her horrible things that no grade schooler should know about. They vanished quickly, however, once the authorities were mentioned to straighten this entire mess out. Seeing as how I had no real idea how guilty any of the suspects were I related to the young lady that what she did was wrong but what made it worse is that Nicky would have bought her those snacks in a heartbeat. Even if it wasn’t her idea or she wasn’t alone, what she did was a betrayal of the very people trying to love her. I wanted to make it crystal clear that what she did was wrong, ungrateful, and completely forgiven.
Few tasks proved more difficult than convincing that child that I wasn’t accusing her of anything. That I know she did something wrong but didn’t care about it nearly as much as I cared about her. It pained me to see how alien this idea was to her. Still, after it became clear that we cared about and would protect her no matter what she did, the reality of God’s love began to sink into her heart. She even managed a meek apology as we drove her home.
Diana, the young lady, essentially had no real home to be taken to. Her mother would be out drinking all night with a “friend” her father and step father had both left and her older brother would rather leave her in the rain than invite her in. After driving her home and devising a way to break into her own locked house she initiated the conversation for the first time.
“Why did you come here?”
“To tell you that God loves you. No matter what you do, God and God’s people, will always love you”
I cautiously hoped for some sort of reaction and was instead met with the same pensive silence that filled the majority of our conversation. She tossed me a look as if trying to figure me out then quietly turned away and went home.
That night, after dinner and a rather serendipitous fixing of our busted little golf cart we held a prayer meeting headed by Nicky. His heart broke for the little girl who stole from him and he urged us all to pray protection over her and growth of love in her heart. We prayed for revival and that this might be the humble beginning to an amazing testimony someday.
At the beginning of this trip we were each asked what we thought our role was on this trip. As I as a last minute addition to the trip I figured my role would mostly be manual labor or dead weight depending on how my back held up. Today I realized why I was here on this trip. Why it had to be me. Why it had to be someone who viewed Nicky as a brother. Why it had to be someone who could take off from the VBS to chase down a girl who needed forgiveness. How God placed all the pieces together to plant a seed in this one girl’s heart.
If you’re reading this blog I implore you to pray for little Diana. Pray that the humble amount of God’s love we managed to show her would grow and redeem her and her broken community. My father (biological not heavenly) says that this incident happened as much for us and it did for her. I’d like to believe that too. What I do know for sure is that there’s one more little girl in Belize who knows that God loves her. And for now, that’s enough for me.
1. Orphanage ministry
2. Youth Hostel Kids so that we can connect to them more.
3. Safety in Belize and when we head home.