Hello and greetings from the team in Belize. This is Gerald Archer from the Baseball team and I wanted to give a quick update on the work that we have been doing here.
We left Nashville bright and early, 4:00 am Wednesday morning. We first flew to Ft. Lauderdale, then to Belize City. Unlike the States, we got off the plane through the back, right onto the runway, and walked into the airport to clear customs. This was a personal first for me; I had never been out of the county before and was terrified that I was going to be drug away for an illegal granola bar or toothbrush. Thankfully, we all made it through (hallelujah) and then were then picked up by Shaleen and Kevin, and our bus driver Norman. The three of them took us to eat Chinese food for lunch, and then we headed inland for Benque. The bus ride took about three hours and drove us through some of the most beautiful areas that I have ever seen. The houses were also very interesting because most were open air roofs, placed on stilts above the ground, and painted vibrant colors, a sea of greens, blues, yellows, oranges, and pinks dotting the landscape. As we came into Benque, we began to drive next to a beautiful turquoise river and over some rolling green hills. Looking at the stunning natural beauty surrounding us, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I couldn’t comprehend how it couldn’t have been perfectly designed by a loving God.
Once we arrived in Benque, we were welcomed by Pastor Cayo and his wife and showed to our rooms for the week. Air mattresses were quickly inflated and then we began playing a games of pickup football and soccer in the yard. People walking by would smile and wave, and the pastors kids came out to play with us. One of them, Rachel, clung to our own Rachel like glue, and Lisstera came out to teach us all a card game. I was amazed at how welcoming these people were (especially the young children) to us strangers. That night, Haley shared her testimony.
The next morning after breakfast we headed to the local school to visit some of the kids during their last day before Christmas break. We moved from classroom to classroom, being greeted with a rush of cheers and hugs. Bogle in particular was the superstar of one classroom; all of the kids were so excited to see him and the entire class ran to give him a hug. He told us that it was one of the best moments of his life. In another room, baby shark was playing, so Haley began dancing with one of the little boys. He began to imitate everything she did, and then more and more kids began to follow suite. Next thing we know, Haley was leading a dance party with all of the kids trying to follow her lead. We then went outside and began to play an assortment of games. The kids loved soccer (or football as they called it, causing us some confusion), volleyball, and football (American style), and many of the younger ones simply wanted us to chase them around. Ryan and Evan taught the kids a game called tails, which was a major hit with all of the kids. They taught me a game called taca taca, something that sort of resembled tag that I still do not quite understand. The happiness on their faces was one of the greatest things I have ever seen. I see the love of Jesus in these kids in the way that they are so excited, full of pure joy, and so willing to love us total strangers.
After lunch, we returned to the school to continue the sports camp. While Ryan and the rest of the crew played tails with the majority of the kids, I found a few older ones sitting back in a classroom. They quickly jumped up and told me that they were going to teach me how to do a Belizian dance, which I struggled through because in their words, “the white boy’s hips don’t move.” We then went outside to play volleyball and began to talk. After about 20 minutes they began to open up, telling me about their dreams, where they were going to go to high school next year and how it was hard because they were all going to be split up, about their Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, the different cultural groups in Belize and the ones that they came from, and how gangs around the area would kidnap kids and force them to commit armed robbery. One of the kids even yelled at the others to stop speaking in Spanish and to only use English so that I could understand what they were saying to eachother. Again I was amazed at how willing these kids were to open up with someone who was a total stranger. At the end of the day as we were preparing to leave, one of the girls grabbed my arm and said “I wanted to say goodbye, and I will see you in heaven.” This struck me to my core, as something both sad (knowing that we both knew we would never meet again on Earth), but also so amazing knowing that the kingdom of God is so large, and that what happens in life is not the end for Jesus followers and that someday we will all be able to reunite in heaven and spend the rest of eternity praising God together.
I was also so proud of the others in our group, Payton and Caroline spent the afternoon teaching the kids track, Nigel came alive playing with the kids and even offered himself as a human hurdle, and Joshua found a couple of kids on the side who were not really interested in playing sports and began to enamor them with a series of magic tricks. I bet there are still a bunch of kids running around trying to uncross their arms they way he can (trust me and just ask him to show you the trick). Julia floated around and helped everyone, playing with kids that didn’t want to be in one of the larger games, and checking on all of us and making sure that we were ok. I think that this was by far the best part of everybody’s day.
In the evening, Shaleen and Kevin surprised us by taking us to a park in a neighboring city to get ice cream. The coolest part about that was not actually the ice cream (what a great waste of a pun that would have been though), but that in the park people were gathered to see a worship concert/church service. It was so cool to see so many people gathered and worshipping the Lord in a public place. This was very inspiring to me, and I wish that things like that happened more often in the states.
We are all exhausted (but in a great way), in good health, in great spirits, and quite excited for today’s juices of the day (there is a new exotic juice at every meal). Blessings in peace from the Belize team!