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Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer STM 2013: Justin and Jonathan Zhang Reflections 7/19/13

Jonathan and Justin Blog Day

First off, on behalf of the entire team, we apologize for the negligence in keeping up with the blog.  The past few days have simply been a frenzy of activity and arduous effort from every single member in order to finish our murals on schedule. As always your prayers are greatly appreciated even in light of the lack of updates.

It has truly been God’s miraculous will that we have been able to finish our three murals before Friday and devote this last day completely to the people of Pickstock. Too many times, mission teams fail to recognize that the ultimate root of evangelism is for the hurting people of the nation. Drawing on a wall and waiting for the next lucky missionary to repaint it accomplishes far less than the sowing of seeds and the nurturing of the locals to create strong leaders and warriors for God. Of course, our sweat and blood, mixed with paint and slathered on the walls, testifies to an obvious growth of pride in both the youth of the Youth Hostel and the members of Pickstock. And of course, there exists a deep level of accomplishment and hope for the future of Belize with our symbols of peace and faith. However, the relationships that we build with the kids and adolescents of Pickstock are able to carry far more influence in the furthering of God’s kingdom.

In truth, during the week, my time was unduly spent far more on the materialistic side of mural painting than the building of relationships among the people. Therefore, Friday allowed for an opportunity for me to focus solely on the true purpose of our mission. My acquaintance with Tristan and Stephan began in an almost ironic and nostalgic reflection of teenagers meeting in the Silicon Valley: through an iPhone. I was able to simply talk with the two as they were entranced by this foreign piece of technology that the poverty of Pickstock is unable to afford. Through this conversation, which began on very simple questions, I was able to hear about the widespread violence in the area, the dissatisfaction that their generation had towards Belize but also the work that God was doing in their lives and in their community. I pray that the teenagers of this age that will soon take on the responsibility as leaders of their city and their nation will be able to fully give their lives in service to the Lord. Only through His grace and power can the broiling hatred and tension be transformed into a powerful peace and joy. The teenagers here have truly opened my eyes to the power and need of God.

            Justin: Friday morning was a morning full of anticipation for our team; it was a day of closure and goodbyes. Everyone was excited to see the people they had been sharing with for the past few days, but it was also the last day to show and spread God’s love directly to the kids. For me, I focused on my relationship with a young boy named Tyler. It was the first time I felt I had any influence on anybody. He treated me like an older brother as he took my hand wherever he walked. This was the point in the entire trip I had learned the most from. This was when I had realized that this was the type of adoration and admiration God wants from us.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer 2013: 7/16/13 Day 5 - Kevin Mo

Belize STM- Day 5 July 16, 2013

Both teams amalgamated and joined forces at pick stock today! Before we set out today, I thought I already knew what to expect since the team two years ago held a block party there. But God really had something different in store for me today than what I expected. Our team's goal for today was to start on the murals led by the brilliant Belizean local artist, Bri. While some of the team helped paint, others were able to play with the cute little kids heheh. My reflection doesn't have much about how the awesome art on the walls magically appeared or how painting is so fun because frankly, I actually didn't do any of that hard work LOL. But it does consist of a story about a six year old adorable boy by the name of Antoine and an equally adorable (okay, maybe not) seventeen year old by the name of Kevin.

When we first got to pickstock (I'm gonna skip the part where I complain about the sauna-like weather and the burning sun on my skin because everyone already knows about that) we were unloading the things onto the basketball court and I found a small, metal cylinder with a keyhole in it. I thought it was interesting so I put it on my pocket for the time being. We began to settle down as the kids started to come out and this beautiful little boy caught my attention. As I walked over, I noticed that he was holding a lock, and we soon found out that the piece I picked up earlier actually turned out to be the key to his lock! You can say it was destiny, but I'm going to say it was God's wonderful will. Antoine and I instantly connected (also literally, thanks to the lock) and before long, he found his way onto my back and had made me his handsome horsey. The next couple hours became a brilliant blur and although at times I had to leave Antoine so that the other kids could have a chance to play with me, we always ended up looking for each other when we had the chance and we always found our way back to one another. I still remember that whenever I came back, he'd point his tiny finger up at me and exclaim "I looking for you!" I noticed that Antoine wasn't like the other kids--others were very aggressive and forceful, but God helped me teach Antoine about sharing and selflessness. Towards the end, this little ball of energy somehow got tired, and he sat down in my lap as we rested in the tent. Antoine fell asleep cuddled up next to my chest, and as I looked at this sleeping beauty, I began to think about how much I adore him, care about him, love him. And this was when God said, "Kevin, this is how I look at you." I started to tear up a bit as I was able to learn a little more about God's wonderful love. 
He used Antoine as a reminder to me about the unconditional love that He has for all of us, and allowed me to better understand what his love and compassion for us means. And as a missions team, we are called to mirror this love. I'm confident this isn't the end to this story, and I don't even know if I'll even see Antoine again, but what I do know is that I'm not the writer of this story--God is, and I'm just a character called to plant a seed in little Antoine that God is going to grow. Please add this little boy to your prayers! :)

God is the best,
Kevin Mo

Summer 2013: 7/16/13 Day 5 - Jimmy Wong

Belize STM- Day 5 July 16, 2013

(Read this in a Kriol accent) It’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through our trip! Our entire team went to Pickstock today to continue working on the culturally inspired mural. Going into the day, I didn’t remember too much of Pickstock. The only time I’ve ever been there was the very first time I was in Belize, five years ago. Pickstock was also the place where I had infamously stepped into the open sewer system. I have tried to forget that day ever since… All jokes aside, I was excited to go back and paint. Right as we arrived there, it became apparent to our team that not all 24 of us needed to be painting the wall at once. We were encouraged to go out and play with the children there! Over the next seven hours we spent there, our team gave at LEAST a million piggyback rides, the most ridiculous face/arm/leg paintings, and sang the craziest renditions of “Boom Chicka Boom” I have ever heard. However none of this could even compare to the look of joy and happiness I saw on the faces of the children there. God has really blessed our team with people of so many different personalities and talents. This has allowed us to connect with these kids on so many different levels. I watched as my teammates were able to spark some meaningful and intimate friendships with the kids there. By the end of the day, it was almost as if we had been there all of our lives, some of the children and our team were nearly inseparable.

I was especially thankful for the way God was able to use me today. I was extremely joyous to be able to share my talents in a country that actually used the term “football” correctly. Throughout the time in Pickstock, I was constantly on the basketball court, playing soccer with the kids there and they were all so thrilled to play soccer with “Jet Li”! I had the privilege of meeting so many of the kids that way, and as I started talking to them I found out the commonalities we shared. A kid named Edelle pulled me aside and the conversation went:
“Sir, what team you like?”
“Madrid, Real Madrid!”
“Me too!”
Hala Madrid.
Shortly afterwards, I found myself sitting next to one of the first boys I met at Pickstock that day, talking about his favorite team, FC Barcelona (Also the world’s worst team). We talked about various soccer stars from around the globe and about the different matches he saw on TV. He even got around to showing me his brand new Puma soccer cleats, the exact same brand my prized cleats were. I was blown away by how this common ground we shared transcended all of the differences we had. That was when I realized that God gives us these exact personalities, interests, talents, abilities, for this exact reason: To be able to connect and reach out to His children. Our team returned back to the hotel safely, tired, but with renewed hearts.

Thanks for your continued prayer and support,
Jimmy Wong

Update: 7/17/13

So we are currently working on the mural in PickStock as we speak, we were temporarily stopped by rain, but after a wonderful rest, we have started up again. It should be done by tomorrow. (7/18/13)

I will update the blog, whenver I can. Hopefully the internet at the hotel is stable enough to post it tonight.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer 2013: 07/14-15/13 - Day Three & Four

Hey guys! We have an extra special treat for you all back home: We have a blogging TEAM for you! YAAAAAYYY!!!!!        This is Adam, Ivana, Karis, Jessie, Andrew, and Austin reporting in!
Sorry for not posting yesterday, but we got a little sidetracked. To sum up the day in a few words, God really blessed us with a day of rest. We were planning to hold a block party at Pickstock, but the rain had flooded the streets, so we couldn't have it. But when God closes one door, He opens up another. Despite being only a few days into our trip, we were all suuuuuuuuuuper exhausted. We were so grateful for the time of rest we got (on the Sabbath :D).
This morning, after we were able to rest, we had breakfast and our morning devotionals. We talked about the passage in Acts about Philip and the eunuch. We focused on how Philip really listened to the eunuch and met his needs as he was. We then prayed for God to open up our hearts and our ears to the needs of the people in Belize.
            After our devotional time, we all went to the Youth Hostel, where we finished priming the wall from the other day. We had a fun lunch, and then split up into two teams: one to stay at the Youth Hostel to sketch the outlines for the classroom and the mural, and another team to go to Pickstock to prime the canvas that we were painting.
            After lunch, the Youth Hostel team and the kids who participated in the design team split into two groups in order to sketch the outlines for the classroom and cafeteria mural. The cafeteria mural has animals and trees floating above the clouds and the doors have a rising sun. While in the classroom, many of the Youth Hostel kids offered up different positive words which were placed all over the classroom. Everyone was very encouraged when the Belize kids offered their skills. Some felt a little uncomfortable because they felt they didn't have much to add, but they chipped in by tracing over the pencil sketches with Sharpies and adding grass and other little funsies (ninja stars?) to the wall.
            It was cool that how we got to know some of the youth as we worked with them. While we were working a lot of youth wandered by and seemed to take interest in what we were doing, particularly in the classroom. We hadn't really expected the classroom to be a place where the youth would want to hang out. Hopefully, with added personal touches to the classroom now, it will be a place they’ll be even more excited and encouraged to be in and learn.
            While Ivana, Jessie, Andrew, and the rest of the Youth Hostel team were doing their thing, Austin, Karis, Adam, and the rest of the team went to Pickstock. Pickstock is one of the most impoverished areas of Belize City. Now, because of all the rain the past few days, we were 2 days behind on this project, so David, our missions coordinator, was very anxious to get the job done quickly. The artist that we’re working with can only come to sketch the design the next day, so we really needed to get the priming done. David warned us that he was in “drill sergeant” mode, and he apologized in advance for being so tough.
We lugged a bunch of painting supplies from the bus over to the area that we were painting. As soon as we got there, we saw a bunch of kids gathered around who wanted to help. Right when we set down the supplies, the kids began to run over and grab the paintbrushes. They immediately began painting with us. David was a little late in telling us that he didn't want the kids to be painting, so we had to take away all of their paint brushes and tell them to just watch.
Adam immediately saw that the kids were disappointed that they could not join us in painting, so he decided to entertain them by playing games with them. Adam shared with us that he really saw a reflection of how God works in answering prayer. He sees our desires and our wants, especially when we’re really excited, but sometimes He has something better in store. David eventually let them just paint another section of the yard, and they had so much more fun with it than painting the wall. The joy that resounded through the place just made everything so effortless and joyful.
While Adam was entertaining the kids, Austin and the rest of the team were experiencing David’s wrath. In response, Austin started to paint faster than he should have been. While he did get most of the paint on the wall, he may have gotten some of the pain(t) on others. But even though it was messy, it still got the job done quickly, and also earned him David’s praise (that quickly disappeared :P).
During Austin’s frenzy, Karis was experiencing some unexpected joys from the kindness of the kids. As Karis had the misfortune of getting paint in her eye (*cough* AUSTIN *cough*), she had to blindly walk to the faucet to rinse off. A little boy saw her and noticed how painted she was. He said that her arm was really dirty and started to scrub her hand. It was just so amazing to see how generous and kind these kids were.
            Overall, today was a very tiring day for both teams. Tomorrow will be even more tiring. We’ll be waking up earlier tomorrow to leave and get even more work done! Please pray for the teams continued safety, unity, and energy, as we will need plenty of all of that. Thanks for all of your support and prayers, and we’ll continue to be in touch! J

            This is Adam, Austin, Karis, Ivana, Jessie, and Andrew signing off. Be blessed! <3 next="" o:p="" time="" until="">

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer 2013: 07/13/13 - Day Two

Belize STM
July 13, 2013

Hi Everyone,

Thank you all for your prayer support.

Our team has arrived safely in Belize yesterday afternoon. Right after checking in our hotel, we went to Belize Chinese Christian Church and were treated with a delightful dinner made by the church members. The dinner was also a great opportunity for us to get to know them, and our youth quickly bonded with their youth, some of which would join us in the missions work for the following ten days.

Today, because of rain, we went to the youth hostel instead of the flooded Pickstock area. As you may know, many of the youth in the hostel were there because of some troubled past. After given the brushes and rollers, we started painting the white base layers for the murals in the front of the kitchen building and the classroom, Then our art team, comprised of Craig, Kevin, Ivana, and Jessie met with some of the youth in the hostels to discuss what we should paint on the murals. They shared the same vision of painting positive, encouraging images and words. 

We are building relationship with the people we met. I saw Andrew listening intently to our Belizean bus driver. I saw Adam, Caleb, and Jessie laughing with the youth in the hostel. I saw Craig sharing stories with the artist who will design the mural at Pickstock. I saw Jimmy, Kevin, and Jonathan Zhang having a good time with the Belizean church youth.

Please pray that when some of go back to the youth hostel on Monday, we are able to finish the murals and that the murals would be a message of hope and our prayer of blessing to the youth there in the hostel. Please also pray for a better weather so we can begin the mural project in Pickstock.

-Chii Yang

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

About to leave!

Hello :)
Our 2013 team is about to depart July 12th to go to Belize again, we won't be returning until the 21st. Please pray for our safety and any final logistics that we need to prepare before we depart.