It was an early start for the Belize mission trip in January of 2019. Twelve people, comprised mostly of members of the Crosspoint College & Career small group, set out for the Portland jetport at 12:30 a.m. on January 11th for a week of service to the people of Belize. Pastor Mick also accompanied the young adults on the journey. For many participants, it was their first time out of the country and their first ever mission trip. It was also one individual’s first time on a plane! There is no doubt that excitement permeated the attitudes of all who were involved as we made our way from Maine to Philadelphia, Philly to Miami and finally Miami to Belize.

Our team arrived at Belize City Municipal Airport in the early afternoon that same day. We were greeted by Crosspoint missionary, Matt Pettingale. Matt will have served in the country of Belize for nine years come June 2019. It all started when he embarked on a mission trip by himself to the country in 2001. Matt soon realized this is where God wanted Him to be. He and other members of Harvest Bible Chapel in Orange Walk gave us rides to from the airport to Hotel de la Fuente in downtown Orange Walk where we were staying. The ride over allowed us to take in the beauty of the country of Belize and get a feel for the culture we were entering. Brightly painted concrete buildings in varying conditions were generously spaced out across the countryside. Livestock littered the fields and a number of small business stands lined the roads. Kids in uniforms from various faith-based schools were getting out of class. While the new landscape proved a fresh new perspective, it was clear that the people of this Central American country do not enjoy the same benefits we do living in the United States.

After arriving at the hotel and unpacking, we headed over to the home of Harvest Bible Chapel’s Senior Pastor, Enrique Novelo. Pastor Enrique was preparing to officially launch his church on Sunday, January 13th. Our team, along with members of Harvest Bible Chapel in Granger Indiana, would be assisting him in the process. With just a day until the launch, Pastor Enrique’s family showed no lack of hospitality. His wife, Claudia, along with Jessica Lima, Karia Reyes and Jessica Reyes provided us a home cooked meal and would continue to feed us for the next few days.

Following dinner, we headed over to a nearby park in the city of Orange Walk for a concert to help raise awareness for the church launch on Sunday. Savannah Whitaker from Indiana led worship at the Trial Farm Village basketball court. A few locals and our team gathered to watch and listen to her sing with a few members of Harvest Bible Chapel Orange Walk. She shared her testimony and described her experience with homelessness and thoughts of suicide during a difficult stretch of her life. She emphasized her need to repent and give her life to the Lord after failing to take responsibility for her history of lies and manipulation. She said the day she surrendered to Jesus Christ, her life forever changed. Now she uses her musical talent to give glory to the Lord.

Our mission team headed down to Orange Walk Central Park the following morning to pass out slips of paper with information about the upcoming church launch. During our brief interactions, a few members of our group were able to talk about their faith and connect with the local people. We then headed to Harvest Bible Chapel to set up for the week’s medical clinics. The nurses on our team were able to see and treat a few patients before we headed off on an afternoon excursion to a Mennonite village. We visited a cheese factory, a sawmill and the local Mennonite store. Mennonite’s make up an important part of Belize’s economy and agriculture. They also contribute in the areas of carpentry and engineering.

Later that evening, we returned to the Trial Farm Village basketball court for another concert to promote the church launch. We were joined by a team of Harvest Bible Chapel staff from Granger, Indiana. The church’s senior pastor Trent Griffith preached as more people from around Orange Walk joined to listen. Even on the outskirts of the park, kids could be seen stopping by and listening to the worship and message. We’ll never know the amount of seeds planted that night in this lifetime, but hopefully, the message and worship was the push somebody needed in finding their relationship with Jesus.

Our team was up early Sunday morning to help with Harvest Bible Chapel’s church launch in Orange Walk. Our group helped set up chairs, put up signs and put out Bibles for everyone in attendance. Worship was led by Savannah Whitaker and the team at Harvest Bible Chapel Orange Walk. During the service, two members of our team, Rachel Hobbs and Jacqueline Dougherty, sang “Ever Be.” A few members of our team also helped lead VBS for the children while the service was held. Following worship, Pastor Enrique preached a message on how knowing Christ is to know Jehovah God. A number of men on the Harvest Bible Chapel team, as well as Pastor Mick and Matt Pettingale, prayed over Enrique, asking God to lead him and bless the new ministry, the new church and Enrique. The launch saw around 65 people attend service, while nearly 20 kids participated in VBS. Many in attendance seemed excited for the new place to worship and learn about God. Following the service, we sat down for lunch at Maracas restaurant at the El Gran Mestizo along the New River. There we were able to take in the beautiful sunshine and enjoy a variety of Belize wildlife along the river, including a few crocodiles!

We held four days of medical clinics in total. Saturday kicked off the first, followed by consecutive clinics held on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Our team of nurses saw about 50 patients each day which allowed them to spend some time with everyone who stopped by. Medical care is often too expensive for the average person, so many of the patients were thrilled to just know the levels of their blood sugar and blood pressure.

Our team not only was able to minister to the physical needs of the people, but also their emotional needs, as they had numerous opportunities to share the love of Christ with patients. One lady came to the clinic and told one of our nurses she was suffering from depression. She came in with her head held low, but with some encouragement, she shared her story, possibly, for the first time without fear of judgement. She said she has been in an abusive relationship and was told her whole life that she was crazy. This woman ended up leaving the clinic with a renewed Spirit and a head held high, knowing that she had been heard and loved that day. Pastor Enrique will continue to follow up with her and other treated patients, as well as support them in prayer and the truth of Scripture.

During our time in Belize, some of us were asked to help out Matt Pettingale at his Christian radio station, Kairos 89.7. The task was to create wooden frames that would serve as sound absorbing panels for his studio to improve the audio quality of his broadcasts. Our engineers and craftsmen made several sets of frames of varying lengths. The frames were then filled with insulation and wrapped in vibrant Belize themed fabrics. The fabrics not only provided an extra layer of sound absorption but also served to brighten up the dark studio esthetically for in-person interviews. Once the frames were created we had to measure and mark the locations where the frames were going to be hung to ensure that the panels were symmetrically hung. We made a total of 11 panels in our time there, managing to hang seven panels completely. Due to a last minute design decision, our ability to finish this task was cut short. Matt was going to finish the mounting of the panels as soon as he could.

A number of us also spent a majority of the week covered in paint as we helped touch up the Trial Farm Government School down the road from the church. When we arrived on Monday, most of the old paint on many of the buildings had been chipped, dirtied and washed away. By Wednesday, the buildings were coated in fresh shades of bright blue. We also restored color to many of the pillars and repainted the school’s windows white. The principal of the school was so thrilled by our work that she allowed us to paint a Bible verse and Harvest Bible Chapel’s logo on a wall near the entrance of the school. We chose Matthew 19:14 which says, “Let the little children come to me.” When we had breaks in between work, we would interact with the children of the school and even play tag with them. In Belize, they call tag “catch” instead. On our final day, the principal opened up to Pastor Enrique about why she hadn’t gone to church since she was a young girl, but told him because of the hard work we did, she was going to give Harvest Bible Chapel a chance. Praise the Lord!

VBS was held around 4 o’clock Monday through Wednesday for the kids in the area. The program averaged around 50 kids per day, with 63 attending the final session. Many of these children were just getting out of the school for the day, but they had no lack of energy and excitement. In fact, our team had a tough time keeping up with them! We began each session with some games to help them use up some of that energy, then sang VBS songs about Christ and followed up with a lesson of the wordless book. The wordless book uses blank, color coded pages to help describe the plan of salvation to the children. Each day after the presentation, we helped the children make bracelets with colored beads to give them something to remind them of the plan of salvation. We closed each session with more games and prayer. A surprise rain storm crept up on us the first day, forcing all activities inside. It definitely made for a muddy lesson! The most encouraging moment was when Ryan Cullen taught the wordless book on the final day. He pretended not to know what each page meant, allowing the kids to have an opportunity to guide him through what they had learned during the week. The response was overwhelming. Nearly every kid knew the meaning of each page and was able to describe the plan of salvation. As Wednesday evening wrapped up, we said goodbye to the children. Although we had the opportunity to make an impact on the kids that week, it was evident that they had also made an impact on us.

We also heard stories of God’s redemption during our trip. One in particular centered around a man named Eddy. We headed over to his house after dinner Monday night to hear his testimony. Eddy told us about his troubled past as a womanizer and drug dealer that landed him in jail, leaving his wife and five children alone. A pastor had made several visits to Eddy to share the Gospel with him while in jail, but each time, Eddy rejected the Good News. It wasn’t until one day that Eddy was walking in the prison yard and a gust of wind blew a Gospel track into his path that read, “This is the day.” Shortly afterward, the pastor again presented him with the Gospel and Eddy made the decision to accept Christ Jesus into his heart and turn from his sin. Almost miraculously, he was suddenly released from jail a short time later. He came home to his wife and kids, but was still living in a barely habitable shack. In 2018, Crosspoint had taken another mission trip to Belize and helped build him a new home. He told us because of what the Lord and Crosspoint did for him, he dedicated his life to building churches around the community.

Our final full day in Belize allowed us to take a river boat tour to the Lamanai Mayan ruins. On the ride down, we saw plenty of native birds, iguanas, bats and more crocodiles! We visited a number of the temples at Lamanai, including Stela 9 and the High Temple. We even hiked to the top of the High Temple! Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and gave us a brief overview of the Mayan history. During our tour at Lamanai, we also saw howler monkeys, an all spice tree and plants that make glue. We wrapped up with lunch and a visit to the local gift shops before heading back to the hotel. We bought pizza and ice cream later that night at a local business in Orange Walk and finished the night playing cards with a woman named Lucy, who lives in the room behind Harvest Bible Chapel. During the week, we got to know Lucy very well. She helped with VBS, medical clinics and the church launch. Nearly everything that happened at the church was aided by Lucy. She is a beloved member of the Orange Walk community and an incredible woman in Christ. Her spirit and joy were undoubtedly an encouragement to everyone.

It was difficult to leave Harvest Bible Chapel, Matt and Pastor Enrique on Friday January 18th. We hope we were an encouragement and help to them as much as they were a blessing to us. We pray for their continued success in the country of Belize. We hope God continues to bless Enrique and reveal Himself to those in His church.