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Sunday, October 14, 2007

" . . .marvelous works to be remembered . . ."

This morning was one of three or four times in our liturgical life cycle that we feature and celebrate the presence and ministry of the young people in our congregation.

The Confirmands read all the lessons and lead us in the Prayers of the People. The Youth Choir does the Offertory Anthem. All of the music is taken from "The Fishy Book" - a collection of camp songs - which has been used for years in this Diocese when the first incarnation of "Cross Roads" was known as "Eagles Nest."

In the Psalm appointed for today, we hear "You make your marvelous works to be remembered; you are gracious and full of compassion." (Psalm 111:3)

That piece of sacred text came alive this morning as one member of our Youth Group, Patrick James, gave a reflection on his experience in Belize this summer.

You will excuse me if I am so proud I could just burst.

Well here, see for yourself . . .

But before you do, can I just say that Tim Wong, our Missioner for Youth and Young Families, is totally, completely, absolutely awesome? It's no accident that Patrick's vocational aspiration is to be a Youth Missioner "just like Tim."

Okay, end of shameless gush.

2007 Belize Mission Trip Reflection
October 14, 2007
10am Youth Service
By Patrick James

Today I will reflect on this year’s mission trip to Belize. We visited the community of San Antonio, Belize to build a playground and assist with a health and dental clinic. We also ended up painting the community center. But these jobs weren’t all we were sent to do. We were sent to build up the sprit of the small community placed in the beautiful hillside of Belize and also to build on our community as members of this church and our towns. This aspect of the trip, to me, was greatly underestimated.

The town of San Antonio is a small town with a population of about 1,500 people. The trek to get there almost seemed endless. We spent 50 minutes driving up and down twisty hills on almost all single lane dirt roads. The scenery was not nice until we got to the city limits where all around all you could see were mountains.

It seems almost as that bus ride was a reflection to the country, you went from one beautiful town to another and the separation of these two places was a road full of litter and nothingness.

At one point we passed a hillside covered in used appliances and garbage. It was an image that I had to see twice a day and would make me think “why is this happening? Why are they just dumping it over the side of what could be a beautiful, green, and tree filled hillside?”

When we finally arrived at the work site, the people welcomed us with open arms. Everyday as we started to work on the playground we would be welcomed by a group of men and children.

As the day progressed the children would try to help us work, they would sit in the windows of the community center, play games, and smile. Everyday after work we would take the bus up to the school fields and play both soccer and “American football” with the kids. This was the best part of the whole trip.

On the first day when we played soccer with the kids, a lot of us tried to play competitive and tried to score. I was one of them. But after the second day, I realized that I have been selfish and the game wasn’t about us. The game was about the local kids.

After I passed one of the boys the ball and let him score, he had the biggest smile I had ever seen on his face. I will never forget that smile. It was so awesome to see them smile because of the satisfaction it gave me to know that because of what I was doing, they were smiling.

I strongly believe that even if we hadn’t built the playground, the children would have smiled because we were there and we were there for them.

As we worked during the week, some children would hang around the worksite and the a few men from the community would help out Matasis, the carpenter. They would help with any job they could. We never asked them to help with anything, but if we did need help they were the first people there. They helped us carry wood, hold lumber for cutting and drilling, and anything else that was needed.

One of these men was the bus driver that took us between Clarissa Falls and the worksite in San Antonio. His attitude towards the work we were doing was unmatched. He could have driven there, dropped us off and then taken the bus and gone home to spend time with his family, but instead he was there every day and worked in any way he could.

And the best part of it all was he always had a smile on his face. He didn’t know anyone in the community and had no other reason to be there except that he was of great moral character and saw the good in what we were doing as a group.

Helping the community of San Antonio was one aspect of this mission trip. However, I think the most underrated part of the mission trip was the 21 youth that retuned to Newark airport on July 14th who became drastically different people than the ones that left only seven days earlier.

Even though it took 2 or 3 days for us to realize this, we discovered as a group we are strong and could accomplish great things. By the end of the week everyone was talking and joking as a group and not just inside their “comfort zone” with their friends. For instance, the joke of David Huke screaming at the top of his lungs as the gigantic 6 inch gecko landed on his arm was much more respected towards the end of the week because we bonded and came together as a group.

So, in short, as a group we were able to bond through our jokes, our smiles, and laughs. You may still be asking, so what? What does bonding have to do with anything?

Well, not only was our bonding an essencial factor in finishing what we started that week, but it is an important factor in life. Being able to work as a group is a skill that is necessary in almost every work force in the world and this mission trip helped me realize that nothing can get accomplished without this.

Another way that we were able to connect with each other more was through the different skills that people brought to the project. Each team of youth working on the playground had individuals with different skills. Some were leaders, some were good with directions or measurements, while others were good at taking directions.
This led to each group member working together as a team and bonding closely with each other.

On the last night, RJ and I led our evening program. Here we discussed this same topic, that all the people in the group brought different skills to the project using a passage from the book of Romans chapter 12. It says “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are in many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us”.

We transferred this idea to the anatomy of the human body and that each skill was a different part of the body. For instance, the sanders were the arms while the painters were the legs, and Tim was the head because without him nothing would have happened this week. But most importantly Jesus was the brain because he was the reasoning for going down there to work and was also our drive to finish out each day.

So back to how we as a group of youth changed in just 7 days. I can’t speak for everyone but I know that personally, the growth I made in just one week will play a crucial part in my life.

This trip has helped me to realize that a community of lesser affluence is a stronger more connected community because they depend on each other to survive.

Some families in San Antonio and places similar may have working electricity but not running water, yet your next door neighbor has running water but not electricity. Therefore these two families need to depend on each other to make it through the day. This may be something that we as kids in our privileged communities learn in school, but it really doesn’t mean much until you see it and experience it first hand.

But I have not only learned this, I have learned that teamwork is an essential part of our society and that you can’t make the world a better place on your own. It takes teamwork and dedication.

I believe this is how we accomplished the jobs God sent us to do in Belize as well as the jobs God will send us to do in the future.


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