At this time for the last 2 years, I have been on a mission trip in San Lazaro, Belize. Naturally, I’m feeling nostalgic and want to write this week on the importance of mission trips and how incredible this small village is.
San Lazaro is a tiny village in the district of Orange Walk, about 10 miles from the border of Mexico. When I first went there, I was 16 and very unsure what a mission trip really looked like, and to be honest I didn’t allow myself to be fully immersed like I should have been. All I knew at first was that I was scared and couldn’t have my phone. My outlook quickly changed when we arrived (on a bus that blew a tire on the way from Belize City, adding about an extra hour since we had to drive much slower).
The people welcomed me and my group with open arms. The language barrier didn’t stop any of us either, which is one thing I love so much about this small village. Both trips I went on were the hardest and most rewarding experiences of my life — which is how a mission trip should be.
Many people see mission trips as one of two things: physical or emotional/spiritual relief. And everyone offers something different. This last trip I was lucky enough to go with my dad, and he was all about building physical projects to make their lives a little easier. For others, it’s an emotional connection, often discussing our testimonies and just spending time in one another’s presence.
To me, a good trip does both. Both years we were able to provide physical relief through food, materials, and concrete (literally) objects. Sidebar: mixing concrete Belizean style is not easy. We also were able to give emotional and spiritual relief through giving our testimonies, playing games and doing crafts with the kids to teach them Bible stories, and participating in genuine friendship building.
One of the biggest blessings from God in my life is knowing I have friends outside of my world. My friends in San Lazaro are so far outside of my world, yet we have a connection through faith that will never be shaken.
As a U.S. citizen, I feel overly blessed. But the problem with that feeling is it can’t stop. It needs to be moved and furthered, to use our blessings to aid others. God calls us to aid the weak and the needy, which is why I believe missions are such an important part of being a Christian.
Along with simply helping those who need it, staying in our comfort zones isn’t going to achieve anything, in my opinion. We need to see pain and brokenness in order to be motivated to make a change. Often times on a mission trip, you will see and experience people who come from lost and broken places; they have truly suffered, and in my experience, they are always joyful. They are always showing God’s love.
Mission trips are funny that way. I can go and spend a week building homes and preach to them, but more than anything I can do for these people, they are changing my life. San Lazaro, my team, and the beautiful people I met will always hold a very special place in my heart.
P.S. — To those reading who went on one of these trips with me, I want to say a string of words that will make no sense to anyone else but will absolutely make you smile. Pineapple Fanta, haircuts outside on a stool underneath a sketchy light, tortillas.