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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Living lives of passion and purpose 1 comment

Our Team:

For many years the novel studied in Gr 11 English at Woodland was Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge.  Despite its greatness, it begins with as bleak a picture of life as any I can remember.   On a hot summer day where everything is so uninspiring that even the English song birds could do little more than wearily repeat the sorry tunes of their species, a couple appears on a19th century country  road.  Like the song birds, they are described as tired and silent, plodding wearily down the lane.  As their lack of communication continues, Hardy makes the horrible statement that obviously the two were married for nothing else could account for the air of stale familiarity that enveloped them.  While it was not his first indictment of the institution of marriage, it was probably his most damning.

Unfortunately that 'air of stale familiarity' is something that settles like a fog on many aspects of our lives.  The routines of being students and teachers are familiar and functional but they can easily become very stale.  We stop seeing the people around us as fearfully and wonderfully made and instead begin to fear the choices they might make and shake our heads in ‘wonder’ when those choices inconvience or infuriate us.  The vibrancy that we want to experience in our relationships, our work and our worship wanes, and soon we too are plodding down the lanes of our lives.  It is never intentional, but it is as common as mud.

Very happily this week our team has had no experience with the stale or familiar.  We have found ourselves in a culture and geography that is as different from our own as is possible.  The vast coastal lowlands filled with mangrove swamps that surround Belize City have no parallel in Dorking, Clyde or Guelph.  The sights, smells and sounds of the community are equally foreign.  The people we have worked with are commonly trilingual, slipping between English, Spanish and Creole with complete ease.  Finally while we have met and worked with people of Spanish, Indian and African ancestry, the only people with a Dutch background that we have met came with us from Woodland.

Overall this has been an exciting week.  10 years ago the plot of land that now holds a church and school was a mangrove swamp.  4 years ago construction began on the current school building and today 231 children from the community now have the opportunity to get a Christian education.   People of great vision like Pastor Betson saw a need while standing in a swamp a decade ago.  Work teams from across Canada and the United States caught that vision and the result is inspiring and humbling.  One of Pastor Betson’s favourite phrases is “its a blessing.”  It is impossible to see what has happened here in Belize City and not feel the truth of those words.

Today we make the long trek home.  We return to the routines of our lives in Southern Ontario and that is very good.  As we do so, we pray that we do not settle into the stale and familiar patterns of our lives once again.  We have met and we have been people of passion and purpose.  With God’s blessing, we pray that that continues for years to come. 




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Monday, June 25, 2012

Our Final Day of Work 2 comments

Today our team completed the work component of our service trip.  The day began like almost every other on this trip.  Some of us got up before 6:00 (still on our Ontario internal clocks) and were shocked to discover that even at that hour, the heat of the day was on.  After a delicious Belizean breakfast of scrambled eggs and fryjacks we were off to the job site.  Floors were the order of the day.  Jason, AJ, Joel, Steven and David spent much of the day mixing and pouring a large concrete floor in a large classroom while the rest of the team was working on the floor of the stage, building stairs and doing trim carpentry in the church.  Despite the heat, we were able to get a great deal done today.

One of the great things that we have been able to do as a team is work with three Belizean tradesmen.  Manuel Yama, the job foreman, his brother in law Edwardo and our driver Luciano have all worked side by side with our team, teaching us Belizean work practices and respecting the practices that we have brought from home.  Getting to know them has been one of the added bonuses of the trip.

Tomorrow we travel by water taxi to the island of San Pedro and marvel at the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.  Then on Wednesday we return to the school for a final visit, a farewell assembly and then our travel home begins.

We hope to post one last time tomorrow.




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Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Day of Rest 3 comments

After a very long and hot day of work yesterday, our team was exceedingly happy to have a Sunday day of rest.  This morning we worshipped at St Andrews Presbyterian Church in downtown Belize.  This evening we worshipped at Unity Presbyterian right beside the school where we have been working.  And this afternoon, we were able to enjoy a number of different restful activities.

Two members of our team who should remain nameless (Brock and Joel) decided to take the Fourth Commandment very literally and slept for about four hours.  Henri spent much of the afternoon with David Betson, the son of Pastor Betson and his wife Carolyn, while the other members of our team either read or spent hours in the Caribbean just outside our front door.  Unfortunately, as our picture attests, Jason and AJ were not good ambassadors of our school.  They jumped into the sea and promptly taught perfectly innocent Belizean children the ancient Canadian martial art form of Chicken Fighting.  We hope their mothers don't find out.


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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day Four 2 comments

It is 6:00 a.m. in Belize and our team is groggily beginning Day Four.  The sun has been up for an hour now and already we can anticipate a day of considerable heat.  Unlike last year, the wind is not blowing in off of the ocean offering relief.

Today we return to work at Unity.  Pastor Betson has many jobs for us to attempt.  Many of the boys have been busy painting and parging.  Some have been helping me work on the construction of a stage in the church.  Joel has been asked to paint a sign on the church, a job that he hopes to start today and I have been asked to build a pulpit, a fascinating, meaningful project, but not all that easy given the absence of our beloved table saw and routers.

Despite being strangers to the heat and humidity of the tropics, we are all in excellent health and good spririts.  We pray that that will continue.

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