On August 4, 2018 twenty-one people from Cross Point Church rode to Boston to start our journey to Belize.  Unfortunately, our flight in Boston was delayed and we arrived in Dallas/Fort Worth too late to get our connection to Belize.  Another team member joined us in Dallas and the airline arranged for us to spend the night in a hotel where we enjoyed the pool and played games.  Two of our members even went to see a Ranger baseball game taking full advantage of our layover. We arrived in Belize mid-day to a humid 90-degree day with partly sunny skies.  We were greeted at the airport by our medical doctor from Indiana, his grandniece, and our missionaries Matthew and Sylvia Pettingale. Matthew owns a Christian radio station and Sylvia is a dentist and has her own private practice in Orange Walk Town.  

    Our goal for this missionary outreach was to come alongside our local missionaries, Matthew and Sylvia and assist them to reach out to the people in neighboring villages to share the love and gospel of Christ.  Our team was unique in that almost half of our group consisted of pre-teen and teenagers. Approximately half of our team had not been on a missionary trip before. Harvest Bible Chapel pastored by Enrique Novelo in Orange Walk Town graciously postponed their Sunday morning service and held it in the evening, so we could all attend together.  We were treated like family by Enrique and the members of his church while we were in Belize. They prepared three meals a day for us and even delivered our lunch to each village the medical, dental, and VBS were visiting each day.

    Our goals were met by using a team approach – our large 24-member group was split into construction, vacation Bible school (VBS), medical and dental teams.  Our medical, dental, and VBS teams visited a village each day for four days. We were extremely lucky to have some members and their children of Harvest Bible Chapel became our much-needed interpreters in the villages.  Lucy was just one of our most valued Belizean team members, she has a gift of management and was invaluable in helping us organize and maintain the flow of our medical clinics and communicating with ours who did not speak English.  Our medical team consisted of a medical doctor from Indiana, two nurses, a physical therapist, a certified medication aid, a former CNA, a college student who has had life long experience being a diabetic, and a retired pharmacy technician.  The villages were rustic, but it was evident to us that the people of the village did the best they could with the means they have available. We had running water and bathroom facilities in each village. Our clinics were sometimes in schools, homes, or community centers.  The people were friendly and appreciated the medical and dental services our clinics provided. We offered basic medical testing consisting of blood sugars, blood pressures, pulse oximetry, temperatures, and urine testing. The biggest medical needs of the Belizean people we encountered were uncontrolled/undiagnosed diabetes requiring oral medications and insulin, uncontrolled/undiagnosed hypertension, parasite infections, environmental allergies due to irritants (mostly smoke from wood fires), different kinds of infections (mostly UTI, STD, and vaginal infections), and every family wanted vitamins for the entire family.  If we didn’t have the medication on hand that day and it was a medication we could get at the local pharmacy, Matthew would order it, and we would request that the patient see us at a village we would be visiting the next day or later in the week and we would provide the medication the patient(s) needed. We did this several times and all but one of the Belizean patients came to another clinic to receive their medication(s).

         Two of our medical team members visited a woman in her home because she could not make it to the medical clinic that day.  Her blood sugar was over 600. She needed more medical attention than we could give her in her home, but all she requested from our team was more of her oral diabetic medication.  We were able to provide one, but not both of her diabetic medications. This patient saw us the next day in another village and her blood sugar was even higher. Dawn, one of our nurses, convinced her to go to the local hospital where she was immediately put on an insulin drip.  She was released from the hospital and went home on insulin injections, which will better control her high blood sugars. This woman could have easily gone into a diabetic coma and died had we not been there to intervene. There was also a woman we saw at one of our clinics that we believed was having a heart attack given the symptoms she was having, so we tried calling an ambulance.  The ambulance refused to come to the village, so Matthew and one of our team members took this patient immediately to the local hospital for treatment. We encountered a public healthcare worker, who oversees the healthcare needs of several villages, and like the people she serves she was in desperate need of insulin that she could not afford. Her blood sugar was over 400 and she had been without insulin for four days.  She made $100 per month as a public healthcare worker from the government, yet her insulin cost $50 per month, and she could not afford to get any for herself because she needed to help support her family. She too was one of the people we needed to ask to come to another village the next day, so we would have time to order her insulin and bring it to her. These are just three examples of people that were helped during the time we were in Belize.  

    Our dental team consisted of Sylvia and a fellow dentist colleague, who donated his time to assist with our dental outreach.  The dental clinic was probably the most popular draw to our medical/dental clinics. The villagers have very poor dentition and suffer from tooth decay and infections.  Unfortunately, our dental clinic was not able to see every person at each village who requested dental services due to the great number of people needing this service. Every person who came to the dental clinic received a new tooth brush and tooth paste.  In the last village we visited, every dental patient received free tooth brushes and tooth paste for their entire family.

    Our VBS team did a fantastic job reaching out to the children in the villages and also helping the medical/dental clinics get set up each morning.  The VBS team went door to door inviting all children to VBS. They had a sound system to provide music, sang songs, performed some skits, and played games in the 90 plus degree heat and humidity.  All children who participated in VBS received a gift bag at the end of the day. One young boy, Felipe became so attached to Teri, one of our VBS adults that he came to the next village we visited and spent the entire day with our VBS team again.  The children of these villages were so inviting, warm, and friendly to us, and the children were often willing to be translators for us to those who did not understand English.

    Our construction crew braved the hot and humid weather to complete three projects in four days – tearing apart and replacing the side of a house, replacing a ceiling in a house, and laying rebar and cement to assist with water drainage.  Enrique gave the crew a foreman named Eddie. In 2006 when our church was in Belize on a missionary trip our construction crew assisted a young mother of six children put an extension onto her house. Her house was in a swamp and anyone going to and from the road to the house had to use boards put on top of boards because of the water-logged ground.  Our church added an addition onto this house as requested. The young mother’s husband was in prison for drug trafficking. This man had a reputation of being very mean and dangerous. In prison, someone reached out to him and gave him the good news of Jesus Christ and he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. That man was Eddie. Eddie returned home after being in prison for years to find that his home had been improved by a group of people from Maine, who had come alongside his family in Belize and helped them.  God spoke to Eddie then and told him to do the same for other people. Since that time Eddie has helped build six churches and helps others as their needs are known to him. In 2006 the missionary group from our church planted a seed and helped a young mom and her children, and in 2018 we were blessed to see the result of that Godly love in a man who was self-described as mean to a man who just wants to help other people the same way he has been helped. Praise Jesus for second chances and changing lives of people who ask to be changed!  

    As a team, we tried to show the people of each village that they and their families are loved by their own neighbors (the members of Harvest Bible Chapel) and us.  We hope that by providing the medical and dental clinics Matt and Sylvia will start to have a connection with the Belizean people in these villages and build a trust that can, God willing, lead to a life changing and spirit saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

    How can we improve our medical clinic the next time we go to Belize?  We should have pre- printed medication labels and instructions in Spanish and English, so we do not have to take up the interpreter’s time to write the medication instructions in Spanish for us and then we take the time to write by hand the instructions in Spanish.  It would be helpful to know some medical Spanish since about two thirds of the people we saw in the villages spoke very little, if any English. Be aware that the Belizean government needs a list of all the medical supplies that will be entering the country and any medications/vitamins that are brought in as well.  Vitamins in the country of Belize are very expensive, so we would suggest that each member of the missionary team bring a bottle of vitamins in their suitcases to dispense at the medical clinics. We also suggest taking basic wound care supplies and antibiotic ointment because those things are cheaper in the U.S. and take up little space in luggage.