June 6, 2013

What's Your Role: HANDS Team Member

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In line with this year's "What's Your Role" theme, we asked Steve Harmer, a member of the Promise Keepers-Canada HANDS Team to Belize, to share a bit about his role and the impact that participating on a HANDS Team had on him.  His reponse thoughtfully exposes another key role he is fulfilling now that he is back on Canadian soil - sharing how God is at work in another culture and context and pointing to the roles of our partner and hosts in Belize! 

My role as a HANDS team member was to participate in a short term mission project as one of the team members on the PKC Belize Team. We had three objectives:

  1. To help upgrade Unity Presbyterian School by adding a security fence, pouring concrete, doing some parging on the 2nd floor and setting up the new computer lab with some donated computers;
  2. To offer encouragement and build relationships with students;
  3. To participate in a Promise Keepers Retreat along with local Belizean men and teenagers. 

(As an aside, because of some skills I have as a teacher and Christian illusionist, I offered to do several Gospel presentations to the students.)

Here are some fairly random thoughts and insights regarding my HANDS trip with the PKC Team in Belize, my very first short-term mission experience:

Happy People

At Unity Presbyterian School, where we did most of our work, there are happy students. I would say the students were more settled, attentive and respectful than average Canadian students. They are joyful as reflected in their beautiful smiles. The children have a gentleness of spirit which is beautiful. Although they are poor (by our standards), they are clean, well-dressed and well-groomed. They seem very grateful for the structure and routines they find at school everyday. This is similar to what I found in my Canadian teaching experience. For instance, especially high needs kids are at school early in the morning and can’t wait to get into school where they find order, routine, love and consistency.

VISION matters

This school exists because Pastor and Carolyn Betson saw a need in a poor community where kids were not attending school and believed that, with God’s help, they could do something about it. Today they have over 200 kids K-8 and have a vision for a high school too.

Ministry starts with LOVE

After a Sunday night service at the school’s chapel where I did some Gospel illusions, about 8 teenage girls rushed the platform. I was sure they were rushing to examine my props, however, they were rushing up to give Mrs. Betson a big hug. They were some of the girls she had invested her life in for 6 years and the love of Jesus radiated from all of them.

Empty churches

A powerful way to cause revival in a post Catholic, secular country, often plagued with fatherless-ness, seems to be through children and Christian education (which is embraced by the government but not always financially supported). Sooner or later, children immersed, discipled and challenged in the Truth of the Gospel grow up and can change the world. The Betson’s are planting seeds of faith. Let’s watch how God will honor their faithfulness.

Promise Keepers-Canada

This country seems to be virgin land for a group like Promise Keepers-Canada to call out men of all ages to God’s design for manhood. At our retreat, with just 40 men including the 14 Canadians, we were challenged to be the workers, husbands, fathers and disciples God designed us to be. Ian Nairn and Jamie McArthur lead us through some excellent teaching and prayer which facilitated the beginning of a healing process for those of us who attended. Like in Canada, men need to step up!

Mission trips must be about relationships

Andy, who was the director of Jaguar Creek (a beautiful jungle retreat center) where we had our conference said it well: "If you are coming to Belize just to build a building, please don’t come. Just send the money instead. We can build it much more cheaply with local labor. But if you are coming to build relationships in the name of Jesus, we need you desperately as our county, like yours, is full of lonely, hurting people, living isolated lives."

Ministry lifestyle

Pastor Betson modeled for all of us a “24-7 ministry lifestyle”. Using his vehicle of choice, an older school bus with a unique horn, Pastor Betson drove us everywhere, being sure to stop to pick up friends, neighbors, students, strangers, as well delivering meals, bags of cement and re-bar. He is a friend of everybody and everybody’s friend. He is a professional “hugger” being sure to tell everyone, “I love you!!” and “You are special!!”

Gift of Hospitality

When was the last time you invited 14 big, snoring, Canadian and sometimes smelly men to stay with you for 8 nights? The Betsons do this with grace and joy. That would be with one just sink and two showers. I was challenged by the whole-hearted generosity the Betsons showed each of us. The Pastor cooked us a hot breakfast almost every morning and Carolyn still opens her home to us while suffering from her life threatening illness, Lupus.

Community

I knew from the beginning that living in close quarters with all these men would be “my growing edge.” And I must say that it went pretty well, even on the top bunk. All those great years at summer camp were relived, even with some joy. Our Canadian culture does often lead us to isolation, self sufficiency and independence.

Garbage and Litter

We Canadians could not help but notice all the garbage and litter everywhere, especially on any vacant lot. People literally would throw soup cans out the windows of their shacks into the yard. While we all had a desire to start picking it up, we realized that it would be a hopeless cause without an associated behavior modification education program. But I wonder if we really have it all together in Canada. The litter in our lives is cleaner and more expensive and we organize it in garages and rented storage units. But maybe all our materialism is a more serious problem than the litter in Belize. We pollute our souls with stuff that separates us from God. And isn’t the hidden interior stuff always more difficult to deal with than the stuff that is on the table? Jesus talks extensively about this.

Christian Brothers

I have learned in my lifetime so far to “trust the process.” I signed up for this mission trip, without knowing a soul that was in attendance. But I trusted that God would bring us together. It isn’t easy learning to fit into new situations and meeting new people. I am grateful to our leader, Ian Nairn, in particular for helping build our team. The good news is that we did come together, in the name of Jesus. And through some fears, honest tears and frustrations, we did become brothers. One day in particular “the guys” prayed for me, as a group and had my back. It made all the difference. And I will never forget that act of love and understanding. We need brothers and sisters in missions and at home.

The Work Project

We put in many hours in the heat, building a fence, pouring concrete, parging walls and setting up a computer lab. But as I reflect on the trip these tasks are indeed secondary to how God was working in each of our hearts and in the lives of the people in Belize.

Thank you Promise Keepers-Canada and EduDeo Ministries for facilitating this mission experience.

In His Service!

Steve Harmer
HANDS Team Member

What's YOUR role?



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