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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Final Day for 2015 STM--Joani and Michael

Day 9 – Joani
After an entire week of construction and VBS, it all comes to an end…for now at least ;-). We started off our day with cave tubing and let me tell you, it is gorgeous. We had a Belizean buffet for lunch, went to the Quan family farm, and ended our day with Friendships and Brodies.
It seems a little unreal that today is our last full day here in Belize. I think I can say that the hot, sticky weather as well as every single mosquito bite was worth it. Why? Because I went from knowing only three other team members (all from my own church haha) to gaining many lifelong friendships with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I started off this trip with one thing in mind: to see God’s work outside the bubble of my home, but I think it opened my eyes to so much more. Belize is not a third world country, and it most definitely does not lack people with hearts passionate about changing Belize for God. No matter where we are in the world, God is there and God is good.
Today the concrete contractors finally arrived to finish the pavement, the area where the Belize team had so hard worked on. While the concrete was being poured and smoothed, our team was enjoying a day off at Xibalba, where we went cave tubing. On the way there our team picked up our friends from BCE. At around ten in the morning we arrived at Xibalba, later we rented water shoes after being told that we were not allowed to go bare foot, due to safety reasons. Before we could enter the cave we had to trek through parts of the Xibalba’s rivers, 3 in total, and the beautiful rainforest. On the way to the cave our tour guide, Rick, was constantly explaining specific trees and their uses. This surprised me a lot that the tour guide knew so much biology and the uses for the plants. When we finally arrived at the cave we swam a little in the cold but refreshing waters, and then we entered the cave. While inside the cave I had mixed feelings of both amazement and fear of the magnitude of the cave. Amazement from how long the water took to carve out the cavern and paranoia from the never ending cracks in the roof of the cave. Afterwards we ate at a buffet and swam at the Quan farm where we had more time to swim up and down the river.

As the trip comes to an end, I can definitely say that I learned more than I taught or did. I discovered through the conversations between the local believe campers and counselors at VBS, that the people are dedicated to the fullest extent to the changing of Belize’s future and culture; a change from a drug and crime infested society and culture, to a God based culture. As I look back I can also definitely say that God has blessed this trip with protection—no one died and, with diligence, we finished off the construction one day earlier—and joy. PRAISE GOD!!!

Day Eight--Kaitlyn and Ivan

Hey everyone, Kaitlyn here, blogging on day 8. Today was the last day of VBS, it’s been the most amazing VBS I’ve been a part of. On day 1 of VBS I was overwhelmed by some of the kids from last year, simply because they remembered me and had thought of me throughout the year. So many kids just came up to me and threw their arms around me and just screamed, because they remembered all the fun we had together last year. But at the same time, I noticed something different that I hadn’t thought about before. For example, I met this boy named Denfield last year, but when he came up to me this year I couldn’t remember him. He made a huge impression on me last year, but when I saw him again, he had changed. He grew up, it was so simple, but such a poignant truth: I had forgotten this little boy who I really cared about. It wasn’t on purpose, but I had forgotten that kids grow up and change and live life, but I’m only seeing a sliver of them once a year. Today was the last day of VBS and one little girl asked me why I couldn’t stay and she wished that we could have VBS for the next 5 weeks. This really made me think about missions and how I want to pursue that in the future.
Anyway, besides VBS, I had the opportunity to help shop for groceries for Bradford’s family. Bradford helps us with everything here at BCCC: from guiding us around the area, helping with construction, and helping us clean the church, Bradford helps us with everything. We couldn’t make it through this trip without Bradford or Jerry’s help. We were told by Auntie Edith that his family could really use some groceries, so we used some money from our fund and took over some food. His mom is a really amazing woman, we were lucky enough to hear a little bit of her life; she is so strong in her faith and she’s been through so much in her life. She is so resilient, nothing brings her down… Seriously the definition of someone who seems in sync with God.
That’s about it I think, tomorrow we’re going cave tubing and seeing the Quans’ farm. Please continue to pray for our safety and for our continued grace for each other as our trip comes to a close. This has seriously been the most amazing trip, not only because of the kids at VBS, but also because of the new friends I made and also the friendships that have grown even more. I’m so thankful for this opportunity to serve in Belize and I can’t wait to come back again.

Day 8 – Ivan

In many facets of our lives, we try to control and bring order to it; however, on mission trips, there are so much more that can be gained by staying flexible, expecting changes, and to go with whatever God puts in front of us.  Having fully completed all the construction work we started, we got a chance to decide how we wanted to spend our morning before VBS.  In full democratic fashion, we came up and voted on a couple of options, and decided to split the team up to clean up all the trash in the park we were using the past week, buy and donate groceries to two local families (Bradford’s and Derrick’s), and prepare water balloons for VBS.  As for Vanessa (from SCBC), she accepted an invitation from the BCE crew to join them on their morning VBS in one of the most poverty stricken part of Belize City, where families lived literally on a swamp with “driveways” that are just a single plank of wood on wooden poles.

Since I was part of the trash collecting crew at the park, I’ll share about that.  The park, called the Lopez Mateos park, is a place where neighborhood kids come to picnic, play soccer, basketball, or just to run around in.  The park also has a fountain that no longer flows with water, and is littered with shards of shattered glass bottles.  Having made use of the park all week for VBS, I felt it was only appropriate to give back to the park by cleaning it up.  Compared to working within the church property, it was quite a different experience cleaning up the neighborhood: policemen and neighbors drove by and showed their appreciation via thumbs ups and waves, and even some of the VBS kids showed up and picked up trash with us!  Throughout the week, I was impressed by the positivity and openness to Christianity as well as the diverse but harmonious ethnic mix of people in the neighborhood, and my experiences this morning further reinforced this.  This was a glimpse of what I think heaven should look like, and I pray that God’s work in the neighborhood will continue.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Day Seven--Pastor Brian

Today I found some time to write.  Not the way I would prefer—I accidentally stepped on a nail while helping to finish up the digging for the parking area.  Fortunately it was a new nail, not a rusty one, and although it went through my shoe and pretty far into my foot, it looks like it’s healing nicely.  But pray I’ll be able to get on (both of) my feet shortly!
Right now, the team is out doing VBS.  This is our 8th LGCC summer team and my personal 6th summer STM.  I have to say, thus far, this team has been one of our best.  They have proven to be flexible, focused and self-sacrificing.  Not only that, but they have a contagious energy and joy that has helped us integrate the BCCC youth, the Belize Camping Experience counselors and the Alabama team into our group and allowed us all to work together amazingly well.  Our team of 24 has added on 8 BCCC youth, 25 BCE staff and 8 Alabamans in the last week and we have been like a family.  The family of God is so big and diverse!  When I look at all of us, we are Asian, Black, Latino and White.  People are speaking to each other in Creole, English (sometimes with a Southern drawl), Cantonese, Mandarin and Spanish.  There are people from the poorest parts of Belize City, the suburbs of Alabama, the Mennonite farming communities of northern Belize, and the wealth of Silicon Valley.  Yet none of our differences matter.  They are there, but the differences cannot overcome the unity we have in Christ.
The true beauty of this unity is that, put into action, there is almost nothing that can stop us as the body of Christ from making a huge impact on the community around us.  Because we’ve worked together this week, because we’ve cared for each other selflessly, because no one needs to be obsessed about him or herself knowing there are 50 other people watching out for him/her, we can serve through heat, bug bites, constant schedule changes, Belize time (which is even later than Chinese time), all discomfort and tiredness, to complete the mission God gave us when He called each one to join this team.
Today we finished the construction a day early.  Much of the credit goes to the Alabama team, who had a lot more expertise than we do in the kind of carpentry, landscaping and painting projects we worked on this week.  They were truly a God-send.  But everybody worked hard to get the work completed and tomorrow we’ll get a bit of a break.  Then one more day of VBS and a full day off on Saturday, when we’ll go cave-tubing and to visit the Quan farm for a day of swimming in the river.  Already, this trip is almost over!

I want to thank you personally for your prayers, your financial support, your trust in us taking your kids on this mission trip.  I think each one has grown by being a part of this team.  I have seen tremendous acts of compassion, toughness, encouragement, and love from each person on this team as they’ve lived, worked and played together.  And they’ve made memories that will last them a lifetime and beyond.  Please keep praying for us as we endeavor to finish well!

Day Six--Mira Tan and Austin Quon

Hey it’s Austin and Mira blogging today from Belize with commentary by Michael. We are having a fantastic time here, this morning we started off with meat pies for breakfast. In devotionals Marland (from Alabama) went over how we end messages and how we are God’s messengers. We started off on construction in three teams, digging, painting and stairs construction.
               In the digging team we came very close to finishing up all our work. Today the painting crew helped us while they waited for their paint to dry. Joy and Hailey were very kind in bringing us a frozen Belizean snack that comes in a bag called “Ideals”. Michael and yours truly (Austin) managed to work while holding/eating their Ideals in their mouth. Tomorrow night the contractor will come to put in the concrete so we will be working harder than ever to finish. The paint team put on the next layers of paint, now not only is the wall clean, but it is no longer just a boring white, but has a splash of red instead. Most exciting of all, the stairs team was able to finish their project. Praise God!
               Today was the 3rd day of VBS, it was also Salvation and water games day. Salvation day is when the counselors are given the chance to break up into small groups of 3-5 to share their testimonies with the kids in their group. The counselors also gave an opportunity to the kids to accept Christ. Today we multiple kids accepted Christ. PRAISE GOD AGAIN!!! Today in games my crew and I (Austin still) were a bit worried about how water games would turn out. In previous days, the kids tended to go out of control and in general just hard to manage, and we were extra worried because of water games. Setting up for water games was very difficult because there was no water at King’s Park. So we had to bring over buckets of water from the church to get enough water. However, today’s games went incredibly smoothly. The kids didn’t get out of hand and both kid and counselor had a great time at the same time. PRAISE GOD AGAINNNN!!! To end the amazing day of VBS we took a group picture, promptly followed us soaking everyone with the leftover water.

               After an awesome day at VBS we were told we were going to the night zoo. Pastor Brian gave us one hour until dinner and we all hustled to shower and plan our lessons for the next day.­­­­ After spraying ourselves thoroughly with bug repellent we packed onto the bus for an hour ride to the zoo. I (its Mira now) sat in front of Hailey and Anthony and we quickly discussed the trip and the VBS experience they’d had with us. At the zoo we saw 2 types of snakes, 2 types of alligators, 4 types of cats and 2 types of monkeys as well as a tapir, a picarrey, a gibnut and multiple types of owls. We came back and bid farewell to the Alabaman team as they are leaving us tomorrow for San Pedro Island. Please continue praying for us especially for construction and VBS. Thanks for your time brah. J

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Day Five--Elizabeth Li (LGCC)

Day 5:
Today was the second day of VBS, and continues the repeating schedule that we will have for the rest of the week. It rained a little bit during the night time and morning, but was still very warm. And the sun was very bright today! Andrew (from the Alabama team) had a very encouraging devotion this morning, reminding us that throughout this week, we will face a lot of trials, but we should always turn to God and know that he may use these trials to create something better in the future.
It was also the second day of construction, one team working on a stairway, one painting a wall, and the other digging up the remaining weeds in front of the church which will eventually have concrete poured over. I was helping with the digging, and every single person put all of their strength into getting it done. It’s amazing how much strength God has provided all of us.
BCE joined us for a big lunch and then we headed to set up for VBS. Today we were fortunate enough to have it at a Trinity Methodist School which is right next to the church. We didn’t have as many kids as yesterday, but I think that with a smaller number, it was easier to handle. I taught the lesson today to three boys, along with Mei-Yun, and it went much better than I thought because I was scared to teach. But I know that God was with me while teaching these young boys about coming to Jesus whenever they go through trials. Coincidentally like Andrew’s devotion.
Although we haven’t known everyone for that long, it feels like we are a family who was meant to come together to spread the love of Jesus. I am so thankful for all the work and energy that everyone puts in to everything, and how we can talk about our lives and also laugh together.
During the night, we spent time together going over our testimonies, which we will need to share to the kids at VBS on Wednesday. It was really great to take turns and hear everyone’s testimony and get to know them on a deeper level. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to open up to each other, and it really does feel like a family.
Prayer requests:
-continuous energy every day (but rest when needed)
-remind ourselves to turn to God when we’re tired, weak or hurting
-that more kids will show up to VBS tomorrow!
-prepare our lessons well and teach them by heart, not by reading the handout

-BCE, who does TWO VBS every single day

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Day Four--Judy Chow (Canaan)

It’s Monday in the beautiful, tropical country of Belize.  After devotions and hearty breakfast, our team kicked into high gear with several construction projects around the church.  The 32 of us were divided into three teams: one working on putting in new slats and handrails on a staircase, one washing and re-painting a high wall, and one breaking up grass and dirt in preparation for laying concrete for a parking area.  Despite the heat and humidity, sand flies and mosquitoes, the team leaned into the tasks with a positive, can-do attitude, working up until lunchtime.  
At noon-ish, our partner group, Belize Camping Experience (BCE), joined us for lunch – probably 60 folks moving in and out of the little eating area.  We then headed over to King’s Park to set up for the first day of VBS.  There were several unexpected events that required us to adjust our plans – when we arrived for set up, we realized there was a sports camp happening in the same park, so we decided to move our start time out by an hour to avoid the overlap (the beauty of this culture is that it is so laid back that time adjustments like these are no big deal!).  We were also uncertain of the number of kids who would attend our VBS since no pre-registration was required.   After the other camp finished, many of them trooped over to our VBS to continue their afternoon fun, so at its peak, we had 142 kids participating!  The afternoon went by quickly as we led the kids through songs, dancing, games, a Bible lesson, skits, and snacks.  Our BCE brothers and sisters, who are the lead team for the VBS program, did an incredible job executing on all aspects while we played a supporting role with crafts, music, small group support, etc.
Fellowship time, dinner, and debrief were a really sweet time of fellowship after a long and busy day of serving together today.
Some things I’m very thankful for so far on this trip: 1) great teamwork and working relationships among so many different team members from different ages and backgrounds – truly a picture of how the body of Christ can work together!  2) health, safety, and better rest each day, 3) really positive, fun, learning experience for my two daughters, Allison (age 8) and Josie (age 5).  The team has been extremely loving and inclusive of them.  In addition, on day one of VBS, Allison, already made friends with a very sweet Belizean girl named Kayla...children are such bridge builders!

We would appreciate your continued prayers for good rest and energy since things will continue to be busy and hot throughout the week.  Also pray for safety during the construction projects, relief from the mosquito and sand flies (I personally am getting eaten alive!), and most importantly, that God will make Himself known through our time here!   Peace and blessings from Belize – good night.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Day 3--Daniel Tsai (Canaan)

DAY 3.
Today was a rather interesting and packed Sunday. We started off the day meeting our teammates from Alabama for the first time and eating a great breakfast that Aunt Edith & the Kitchen Crew prepared for us. We would end up spending the rest of the day with these Alabamans, allowing us to get to know each other better before we embark on our journey to serve together in VBS and with our construction projects.
I’ve talked to most of the Alabamans a bit, but there was one guy, Marlan, who really stood out to me because he knew Mandarin and studied abroad in Taiwan at Tai Zhong for 9 months. During our free time, I was also impressed by how intense Marlan is. He instantly became a fearful adversary in the game of Ultimate Ninja and was also an invaluable teammate when rallying a volleyball.
The Alabaman group was all from the same small group in Birmingham, and their church played a vital part in planting Belize Chinese Christian Church, where we are staying. In fact, one of their members was a founder of the BCCC. It is such a cool and unique experience to have the opportunity to partner with them as well as the local Belizean ministry, Belize Camping Experience.
Rewinding back a bit, we attended two churches today. Soon after breakfast, we went to Lake Independence Baptist Church together, where Pastor Rocke preached. Before the service started, he went up to me as well as a few new visitors, hospitably welcoming us to the church. Rock’s sermon posed a self-reflective question that at first seemed confusing and rather unspecific: “What kind of member are you?” However, Rocke craftily used this question to challenge us to exemplify the characteristics of a biblical member rather than just a member who had cognitive dissonance of beliefs and character.
Rocke also reminded us that we, as a church, are the body of Christ so must think about “one another/each other” and not just ourselves. With a few different demonstrations that showed how tasks are often more efficient and easier when we are unified as a team, Rock encouraged us to be Biblical members in our church and beyond. Some of the actions we can take to be a Biblical member are praying for one another, admonishing one another, encouraging each other, and carrying each other’s burdens. I thought it was a beautiful message that is applicable to any church and something we should strive for in the here and now, not just hoping to see in heaven.
In the afternoon, we attended our second church service at BCCC, where Pastor Brian preached about remembering our core identity and legitimate questions we can ask when discerning the relationships we have with others. David’s heart-felt reflection in Psalm 139 presents his thoughts of how he relates with God. There are four questions he seemed to answer in his psalm that are applicable to guiding through our own thoughts when discerning relationships:
-          “Who are you to me?”
-          “How present will you be in my life?”
-          “Who am I to you?”
-          “How should I respond after answering these questions?”
Ultimately, Pastor Brian’s presentation of this psalm as well as his commentary reminded me to remember my core identity in God in the midst of the many different expectations the world has for me. From previous readings of Psalm 139, David’s reflection that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” has stuck with me and has been a powerful encouragement in my life, and today’s revisit was definitely not an exception. Though, I may need to reflect more of my own answer to the fourth question, I think Pastor Brian’s rephrasing of Psalm 139 into Jeopardy/question form has led me into asking the right question going forward in my life.
One characteristic that made both church services rather special and also happened to be one of the reasons I wanted to go to Belize was that they were multicultural experiences. The first was a prominently Black church that had a different style of worship and service than what I am used to. The BCCC service was also rather multicultural, having Pastor Brian speak in English while our ambassador Jerry translated Brian’s words into Mandarin. I am looking forward to more of these multicultural experiences throughout this trip and hope that the experiences will further shape my world view as well as how I connect with others.

Tomorrow, we are finally beginning our construction projects as well as our VBS. A few prayer requests going forward are for safety from the heat & bugs, being energized to do good work & to handle potentially ~200 kids, deeply connecting with the people we are serving, and being open to small opportunities.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Day Two--Vanessa Lim (SCBC)

Day 2.
Coming on this trip for me was like starting on a blank slate. Unlike previous mission trips, I had no expectations entering this one and even now, I still feel like I left my heart and mind back in California. But it’s always beautiful to start over again and stop time, even if it is just for a little while.
Today was Saturday, and the main event was a Sunday school-ish event hosted at the church during the afternoon. The entire day leading up to it was spent preparing. In the morning we joined Belize Camping Experience staffers in the sanctuary as one of the leaders, Alexander, shared his beautiful heart and vision for Belize. It touched me to see two, and soon-to-be three, culture groups coming together in a small Belizean church with the shared simple, powerful goal of testifying to Christ’s love. Personally, and I hope none of my audience takes it the wrong way, I find it reaches my heart at far deeper levels when I hear someone sharing his love for Christ with a certain accent that indicates a different cultural background, or whatever indication really. This is exactly because of what I wrote above: to see how God has touched other cultures besides my own really gives me a glimpse of what heaven will be like.
In the morning we split into groups and passed out flyers around the neighborhood. I had never seen so many dogs in one neighborhood, and the houses were nothing like the ones you would see in America. They were houses I envisioned you would find in Italy or Greece, with large balconies and intricately designed iron gates. My group was lucky enough to pass by the BTL Park by the beach on the way, and we stopped for fresh frozen orange juice. When we got back to the church, we prepped for different aspects of Saturday school. I spent my time filling water balloons for the games. My fondest memory was releasing a filled water balloon into our guard dog, Partner’s eager mouth and drenching his head. The group of kids that arrived numbered around 15-20, and we immediately hit it off playing volleyball or making more water balloons together. The order of events was worship, games, and a Bible lesson. Games were by far the most enjoyable part of the Saturday school especially since they involved water balloons and sponges. You can imagine the rest of what happened.

Excuse me, Ken is by my side, breathing down my neck saying that we have devotions and debriefing to do now. See you tomorrow!! Can’t wait to see what else God will do this week, and it’s only been the first day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Arrived Safely--Day One: Emmett Lee

Hi Everyone!
Well we’ve made it safe to Belize and so far it has been a lot more relaxing than I remember. This is my second year going on the Belize short term mission trip and the last time I came it was seemingly much hotter. I remember being slightly overwhelmed the first time, heat and the humidity crushed me last time but comparatively everything seemed to just move along smoothly with problems.
               Once arriving at the airport we were greeted by the Quans, Aunty Edith giving everyone welcoming hugs and Felicia with a poster saying, “Welcome to Belize!” After that we loaded the bus and headed towards the church. We immediately started offloading the bus and situated ourselves in our separate rooms and buildings, briefly unpacking and inflating the air mattresses. At this time, around 4:50 pm we are just hanging out and waiting for the rest of our adventure to begin (mainly dinner).
               As Bilbo Baggins said, “I am going on an adventure” except this one is with others and with God.

(Also sorry John I already lost Love Letter….don’t kill me I’ll pay you back)

Summer 2015--Day One: Mei Yun Tang

Hey guys! I know you’ve all been waiting months for the first update of Belize 2015—and here it is! It is currently 4:19 in the morning on July 10, 2015 and we have just gotten through security and have settled down at the gate. Most of us are pretty tired—considering this time of night/morning? Anyway, a few of us have passed out, but the rest of us are just hanging out with each other and talking or enjoying the limited time we have left on the internet. The meeting time was midnight at LGCC, to make sure we had enough time to do some last minute packing and gather everyone together. Everyone was fairly on time, so we had plenty of time to pray and chat and eat some ice cream drumsticks. However, the super shuttle that was scheduled to come pick us up at 2 was a little late, but no worries! We arrived at SFO just before 3 and lined up to check in. Everything went by smoothly and we are boarding in around fifteen minutes. Don’t forget to take at least one minute out of your day to pray for us!