The Weekly Photo Challenge is like a mini-lottery game to me. You never know what might pop up as the topic of the week. But unlike the lottery, at least in my experience, there is a winner every time with the Weekly Photo Challenge, you just have to peruse the photo archives.
I wanted for years to travel to do mission work with my church. In about 2010 or so I finally got the chance as we traveled to the gulf coast of the United States to work on a church roof that needed to be replaced. I have been to the tourist areas in Florida like Orlando, Saint Augustine and Melbourne, but this was my furthest trip into the western side of Florida.
In 2012 I joined a team of 10 others on my first international mission trip to Belize. This picture is from Old Belize, the most tourist centered place we visited and it was only for lunch on the way to the airport on the last day. Most of our time was in and around the capital of Belmopan.
I hope to take in the breath taking beauty of our 50th state this fall as my wife and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. There is an ever-growing list of places I want to see and this seems a great starting point.
Do you ever take time to immerse yourself in an activity? Sure you do. I certainly do. Reading, writing, working outside in the garden or with our flower beds, spending time with my wife and kids, the examples never end. When we immerse ourselves in any activity we set aside all other things to concentrate on a single pursuit.
To be sure the example I will share today is nothing like the experience or commitment of men and women around the world who take on the role of being a missionary that shares God’s love and truth of his Word around the world. No, my limited experience, a grand total of 23 days in a foreign country is only a small sample of the commitment of those I have so much admiration.
In 2012 the first opportunity to immerse in another country came to me as I joined another three individuals from my church along with nine others for a mission trip to the country of Belize. Now hold on, don’t get all judgmental on me thinking of the resorts and tourist traps of the beautiful country. Our time was centered around the capital, Belmopan, and the greatest experience for me was meeting a missionary that I have become very good friends with in the time since.
When I met Carol Heath on that day in December of 2012 I was just another American visiting the country she has adopted as her new home. What she did not know was that for weeks before I had asked God to show me some way I could affect good in the world. I asked him to lay a burden on my heart when he showed me this truth. When I stepped off our old white Bluebird bus to see Heart House, the place where Carol changes the world for the children of Maya Mopan, the village surrounding, I could feel God telling me to pay attention.
Beginning that December the immersion changed with knowledge about what could be done to assist in growing Heart House and the ministry involved. Heart House has changed remarkably, which I ascribe as a testament of following God’s direction in faith. My Christian experience has been enriched by extension. Knowing that my church through our efforts are helping share the burden for Carol and Heart House is some kind of wonderful way to further God’s kingdom.
Looking ahead it is my hope and prayer I can make my fourth journey to this place in December. My first try to immerse was exciting for a different reason. But this time it will be so familiar and anticipated I expect to have a great time.
Today the one word prompt from Daily Post land is Purpose.
I was blessed to have an earthly angel in my life to guide me into an understanding of what it meant to have a Christian relationship with the creator of the universe. Yes, I am a Christian and not ashamed of it at all. I am sure you did not expect to find yourself here, on a faith based blog, but that in a nutshell will describe my primary purpose in life: to share my faith with others.
One of the primary instructions to all Christians is to share our faith. If you do not know, it is called the Great Commission. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. This to me is something I think about every day as I go about my life. Am I living the kind of life others will be interested in? Am I treating others in a way they will want to know more about my purpose?
Without a purpose we are destined to wander aimlessly fulfilling our own selfish desires which not only serves no one else, but can be ultimately harmful to us. A purpose which involves assisting others gets us past a narrowed path that means we will leave this earth no better than we found it. Part of my philosophy grows from the J.O.Y. Principle. This principle goes as follows: Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last. Yes, that is right, you must not focus solely on your desires and wants. I am much happier when I am serving God or others than serving my own selfish desires. You can learn more about the J.O.Y. principle here.
Not so long ago there was a huge bible study by Rick Warren called The Purpose Driven Life. Many folks completed this study and live more fulfilled lives as a result. We have to have a purpose and a direction to succeed. My purpose has grown stronger as I have learned under great bible teachers in the churches I have attended my entire life.
I look forward to reading your description of Purpose.
Do you feel like you have somehow drawn unwanted attention from the enemy of God? Can you feel his demons working their way into your plans, causing havoc and delays as you try to do what you have been taught all of your Christian life? Then you are definitely doing something right.
Satan is God’s enemy, we all know that. From the time he chose to rebel against God he has laid plans to battle God and his angels, trying eternally to prevent what we know is ultimately going to happen, Jesus’ return to earth to reign forever. No matter what Satan does he cannot overcome our Lord and Savior. But that does not mean he will ever stop trying to short-circuit your Christian development or willingness to do as instructed by God through the Holy Bible.
So what did you do to draw Satan’s attention? Was it praying, or serving, or teaching a class? Perhaps it was informing a younger Christian about the way our enemy will try to hinder them. In my recent experience it came as we were trying to set up a plan to witness and share information about our upcoming Vacation Bible School at a local one day festival. Even as we were collected in a prayer circle a week before the actual event began I acknowledged the reality that Satan knew what was coming, didn’t like it and did not want it to succeed, so he was busy laying obstacles in our path. So did this make me want to stop trying to do what I was planning? No, it only convinced me what we were doing was right.
I can share another time when this was true. The other occurrence was in December 2012 when four members of my church went on the first International mission trip ever from our church. Between the four of us (one married couple and two other men) we left nine family members behind and without fail each of them developed some form of the flu. To say it caused no small amount of concern would be true. But due to the nature of the trip, flying 1,300 miles to Belize, no one could immediately turn around and return home.
We pushed through and followed God’s instructions, planting seeds of faith and ministering to the children we were blessed to touch and teach. From this a fabulous and rich Christian service connection has grown that allows us to support a growing mission organization and a couple who have devoted themselves to instructing children about God’s love and provision in their lives.
If we had given in to Satan and allowed his impediments to stop us we would have missed many rich blessings! As you mature in your Christian walk this will become more evident to you and you will know how to deal with the inevitable hurdles set in your path.
Are you an acceptance seeker? You know, the kind of person that wants people to acknowledge what you do and reaffirm you are worthy? It is okay, we all have this innate desire to matter. I hear some people say, with attitude that they really don’t care what people think of them. I think that is malarkey, because humans go to great lengths to change who they are all the time. In fact, there is a multi-billion dollar plastic surgery process to improve looks in many, sometimes drastic, ways.
What we don’t fathom in our human and vain states, is that the real changes that will serve us during our brief time on God’s green earth come from within. We are so much better served by the relationship and understanding we have with God. God made each of us exactly as we are for a reason. We discuss this with our Middle School Sunday School class regularly. With the experience of two children, a boy and a girl behind us we know how they struggle to find their place in the grand scheme of things.
The media and advertisers scream at us, trying to convince us about what is the acceptable body type, face decoration for women or how we can “improve” what the master craftsman of the universe blessed us with. I can remember having similar feelings when I was a teen. Thankfully God’s influence came in the form of my neighbor and Christian mentor Minnie Bryan, who helped me see the commendation that matters the most of all is that we get from our relationship with Jesus Christ. I invite you to read this blog post, The J.O.Y. Principle, to see how Minnie helped me understand this idea.
I’ll tell you something I learned a long time ago. When you lie down at night and conduct a review of your day, if you do such, the one you must make happy is yourself. Worrying about what others think or fell is a tiring and unnecessary task to add to your load. God tells us to give him our burdens as he is all powerful and never tires. God will grow you if you allow to where you will seek his approval or commendation as you make your way through life.
I am just as human as anyone who will read this post, I am not anxious to end the life I am living on earth. I have a wife and two children I dearly love and work to make happy and feel loved and provided for every day. I look forward to the chance to enjoy many more years with them. However, I know that the only resolution for a mortal life is a mortal death. But then I get to experience the eternal life with God promised the day I followed John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
We will all face Jesus in heaven to account for what we did or did not do on earth. I, just as many others, have many missed opportunities that will be recounted on that day, but I know through the instruction I have received that I also will have many positive encounters that Jesus will acknowledge. To me His commendation will matter the most.
It was December of 2012 when I finally stepped on an airplane and jetted off to a foreign county for my first international mission trip. I had wanted to be a bigger part of God’s kingdom and knew there was more waiting for me. My only other mission trip was a domestic based one in Callaway, Florida where I joined with a dozen and a half others from my church to replace and aging shingle roof with one made of metal.
Traveling the fourteen hours to the Sunshine State through Tennessee and Alabama was certainly a good step in the right direction, but it did nothing to quell the desire I had to go on an international mission.
While this was certainly a great trip and helped to confirm the desire I had to do more, it was the next big spiritual leap that opened so many more doors. Many of you remember when the Prayer of Jabez book by Bruce Wilkinson was popular. I read this little book and prayed that prayer. If you would like to read about my experience following that please click here: Prayer of Jabez Experience
When the call came for interested parties I felt God speak to me that I needed to take part. I never regretted that choice. It was the beginning of a another chapter in my life of faith that I could never have imagined.
In our first year we took shoe boxes for the children we served, much like the ones packed and delivered by the millions through Operation Christmas Child. By year two we were fully involved in helping Carol Heath, a missionary in Belize with a place called Heart House build a library for the children she serves.
Carol in December 2012 standing where the library would be less than 1 year later.
Men from the Lebanon Baptist Association of Meadowview, VA building the shelves.
One of the Heart House kids sitting for a photo in the new library.
By this year we had take on another project to benefit the children and families of Heart House. As part of the long term plan for Heart House a kitchen was constructed to allow a meal to be prepared to feed the boys and girls that visit this place of love. As a partner my church collected metal silverware to send to Heart House as a way of reducing their day to day cost. It was so great to see your efforts paying dividends that make a real difference in the experience of not only the kids, but Carol and the others that run this mission.
But undoubtedly my greatest joy was sharing this eight day adventure with my daughter, Meredith. At 17 she experienced her first mission trip of any kind three decades younger than I. What she does from here is in God’s hands as she has shown she is willing to follow his lead in her spiritual life. But the sheer joy of serving with her is one of my greatest gifts from this trip.
When you have children and are a Christian your greatest desire is for them to be exposed to a Christian education so that they can understand the importance of having Christ in their life. Over the last year I have seen such an amazing amount of growth in Meredith’s Christian walk and this mission trip served as the capstone of 2015. In the follow-up to this post Belize Mission Trip 2015 (Part 2), you will get to see the ministry opportunities she was exposed to with Carol at Heart House. Also, in Belize mission Trip 2015 (Part3) you will see the way we were able to minister with puppets from our church on our last day with the Heart House kids.
This is a continuation of my description of our 2015 Mission Trip to the Central American country of Belize. For me it was the third time to this country, but it was my daughter’s first foreign country, excluding the Bahamas. If you did no read the first chapter in this series you can click the link that follows: Belize Mission Trip 2015 Part 1.
On previous trips we had worked with other churches in our area to assemble shoe boxes and then backpacks to deliver to the hundred or so children impacted by Heart House. But for 2015 the decision was made to re-focus the effort on an idea of creating a store for the benefit of parents needing to stretch their dollars as far as possible. This “store” was a collection of items we felt the children would desire, such as remote control cars, puzzles, soccer balls, shoes, clothes and other inexpensive (in America) items.
We set up this store on Saturday, the day after we flew in to Belize. Part of the challenge was grouping the specific items by their perceived value. The reason for this was so that when the mothers came to shop on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday they were able to buy 1 high priced value, 2 lower priced or three lowest tier items for each child.
Following this our ladies offered to wrap the gifts for the mothers and then offered to pray with them about any prayer concerns. My seventeen year old daughter called this one of her greatest opportunities to minister during this trip. To hear the mothers of the children blessed by Heart House share their concerns and hopes was something she likely will not quickly forget.
In Belize Mission Trip (Part 3) I will share the opportunity to minister to the children directly that we completed. I hope to see you come back for that.