Saturday, July 16, 2016

July 8, 2016 - Farewell to Friends

**This is a late entry to catch everyone up on our trip**

Friday morning...

It is the end of the week, which means an end to the camp.  This is always a difficult day because it involves saying goodbye to many of our friends.

Matt and Sarah headed out early (6AM) while most everyone else was still sleeping.  They had to go out to Mayamopan with Alice to pick up 150 tamales for breakfast.  Then it was quickly back to camp so the tamales would still be warm when they were served.  Following breakfast, the youth packed up their belongings and prepared for their departures.  It is during this time that reality begins to set in for everyone.  The youth and counselors alike know that some of the kids will return to abusive homes, homes where they may not receive three hot meals each day, where they may have to literally fight for food, homes where there is no running water and other circumstances that most of us take for granted back in the states.  These are real struggles for many of the youth that came to our camp.  If you are reading this, take a few moments to pray for the youth that we were able to serve and also for all the youth in Belize.  

When it came time for the kids to load up, they were provided a sack lunch to take home along with a bag of healthcare related items.  They then loaded up and a van took the youth that lived out towards Mayamopan.  The rest of the kids boarded the EQC bus for their ride home.  Most of our counselors went with them for a few last minutes of conversation and well wishing.  When all of the kids had been dropped off, the bus was bringing our counselors back to camp when it broke down on the Western Highway.  Two of the counselors started walking back to camp since the bus was less than two miles away.  A passerby ended up picking them up and brought them to camp.  Just a minute or two after their arrival, the bus pulled up with everybody else.  I really don't think you can spend a week in Belize without some sort of vehicle issue.

We had a brief period of down time and then it was off for a little team fun to help lighten the mood.  We headed to the river for a little cave tubing.  This is a great way to wrap up a week since it requires very little effort once we sit down in our tubes for our float trip down the river.  The cool water is very refreshing and certainly helps with aching muscles as well.

We did have one team member that skipped out on the tubing adventure.  Mike headed off to EQC so that he could install some new lights inside and outside of the church.  We did not get a picture of Mike this year, but I am recycling one from last year when he did some other work at EQC.  Mike is always willing to serve in any way that he can.  Thank you!

As our hours remaining in Belize were numbering fewer than 16, we headed out for one last dinner at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel with the Barrs family and the interns from Camalote Camp.  A special thank you to the people that made this dinner happen (you know who you are)!  We had a great time recapping the events of the week, fellowshipping and sharing a great meal.  Then it was back to camp where we did laundry, packed and prepared for our departure tomorrow morning.

...And home.

July 7, 2016 - And their nails were painted...

**This is a late post to catch everyone up on our last full day of camp.**

Thursday started off like every other day of camp with everyone rising fairly early and hanging out until breakfast was served.  Some took the opportunity to start off with a little quiet time, but most just took the opportunity to fellowship with each other.  Following breakfast, the groups divided out and had their morning devotional.

Then it was outside for activities!  Basketball, volleyball and crafts seemed to be what the majority of the youth wished to do.  Some of the youth also spent time packing bags with medical supplies that would be handed out to the campers to take back home to their families.  These bags included various over the counter medications and first aid supplies.  The youth were also instructed on what each item was for and how it should be used.  This is essentially how we spent most of the morning until lunch.  Lunch today was special because some of the young men manned the grill and grilled out barbecue chicken for everyone.  It was delicious.  Great job guys!

After lunch, we had our afternoon devotion.  While the youth were having their devotions, a couple of our counselors went out to the field and setup our best slip and slide yet.  It was approximately 15' wide and 50' long!  We had a slight delay getting started due to having to get an additional hose to reach all the way out to the slide, but overall it was well worth it.  We had a solid hour and a half to two hours of fun on the slide.  Of course, we used slime to make it even more slick so that we could slide further and faster!  We finished this time out with a water balloon fight!  You would be surprised how quickly 1,800 water balloons can disappear.

After the water balloon fight, many of the kids headed back towards the courtyard area of Camalote Camp where they hung out and relaxed in hammocks.  Some took the opportunity to get an early shower and others headed to the volleyball court and basketball court for some more fun.  Several of the youth challenged the counselors to a game of volleyball.  We played a couple of matches and the counselors came out victorious!  However, it was not without having to work for the win.  The youth were very good.  During this time, Rebecca was called upon to handle some additional medical needs around camp.

Eventually, everyone else headed back to their rooms to catch showers before heading in for dinner.  Following dinner, it was time to go to the chapel for evening worship.  Melvin lead everyone in several songs and then Joseph spoke afterwards.  Joseph spoke about God's promise to always be for us.

This is an important promise that many of us need to be reminded of time and time again.  Romans 8:31 says "If God is for us, who can ever be against us?"  It is very reassuring to hear that God is for us!  After Joseph wrapped up, the youth were told that they would have the opportunity to go to the back of the chapel for prayer, to ask questions, ask Christ into their lives, recommit or whatever else they needed.  During this time, they would also have the opportunity to write prayer concerns on cards and lay them at the foot of the cross.  Many of the youth participated in both with our team being able to pray over 15 - 20 youth.  Melvin led us in some additional worship songs in what turned out to be a great time of response.  What was really awesome is that all of our first time counselors had the opportunity to pray over a youth or multiple youths.  The kids had the ability to pick who they went to for prayer so it just goes on to show that our first timers were able to connect!  Intentional relationships are the only relationships that work!

After worship was over, it was out towards the courtyard where everyone hung out for a while.  Eventually, the girls headed into their rooms for nail painting and a dance party.  Several of the young ladies wished to paint the nails of our male counselors which is always sure to bring a laugh or two.  Fingernails, toenails, pink, blue, rainbows, trucks, beach scenes, sparkles and more... all on the guy's nails.  A number of blackmail photos were likely taken during this time.

Eventually everyone headed back to their rooms and went to sleep.  It had been a long and exhausting day.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

July 6, 2016 - Who Needs Water?

It is our second day of camp and the day started a little earlier than planned.  It was discovered around 05:05 a.m. this morning when the cooks went to start breakfast that we did not have any water at the camp.  It was determined that the camp suffered some damaged plumbing from either vandalism.  Andre was at the camp within 15 minutes and went to work immediately to replace the damaged pipes.  A short while later, everything was restored and our breakfast was only slightly delayed this morning.  The cooks worked incredibly hard to catch up and it was much appreciated.

We then had small group time before heading out for activities.  We kicked things off with a couple of relays and we recorded points for each winning team.  At the end of it all, the yellow team won overall and received Cokes as a prize.  Then it was off to the basketball court, volleyball court and soccer field for some more fun.  The youth on the basketball court were introduced to the game called "Knock Out" and found it to be very entertaining.  I think it was played for an hour and a half non-stop.  During this time, a number of young ladies worked on various crafts and played board games.

After a couple of hours, the team was ready for lunch.  Lunch consisted of beans & rice, stewed chicken and delicious potato salad.  Lunch was followed by another devotion with the groups and then it was back out to the athletic fields for sports or to the chapel for arts and crafts.  I believe that most of the male counselors played a combination of soccer, volleyball and basketball for about 4 hours straight.  Most of us are quite sore and ibuprofen has become our friend.  The non-stop energy displayed by the young men here is quite impressive.  The ladies had more varied activities with many jumping between crafts and volleyball, though a few took the opportunity to find a basketball and play around on the court for a half hour or so.

This carried us on to dinner time.  We were served chicken, bean and cheese burritos in homemade tortillas.  There was also leftover spaghetti and garlic bread for those that were really hungry.  Then it was off to our evening worship experience.  Melvin led us in worship again tonight and Lauren delivered a message to the group about how God Promises to Never Leave Us.  She tied in several of her own experiences as examples, into this message which made it personal and in turn, more engaging for the audience.  One more song and then worship concluded.  The kids were dismissed back to their rooms shortly following worship.

So, here is our hydration tally for the day:  15 gallons of fruit punch gatorade consumed, 8 gallons of lemon lime gatorade consumed, and approximately 10-15 gallons of water consumed.

This will be updated with more pictures later, but due to internet troubles we were not able to upload our photos.  I do have a couple on here that I am sharing, but will have more soon.  Have a great night and continue praying for your mission team!

July 5, 2016 - And it begins...

It is day 4 of our trip and it started off much as the previous days have.  Many sought out a place to have quiet time while Jay and Matt went with Ms. Ethel’s son, Tyrone and a camp intern named Vanessa, on a run through Camalote village.  It was a little humid this morning, but the breeze from passing vehicles never felt more refreshing. 

Then it was breakfast time.  Ms. Ethel prepared pancakes, sausage and lots of fresh fruit.  Following breakfast, our team worked to finalize preparations for camp.  This involved setting up the soccer field, volleyball court, prepping games and preparing a receiving center to greet the campers that would be arriving in a short while. 

The kids were greeted in our reception area by smiling counselors.  Once the campers received their room assignment, Lauren took a photo of each individual youth before they were escorted to their room.  Once the majority of the campers arrived, the kids were served lunch, which consisted of hot dogs.  Then it was off to the chapel to receive the camp rules.  From there, the groups were released for activities.

We always start off camp with various icebreaker activities, which help us learn the names of the campers as well as for the campers to learn the names of each other.  After the icebreakers were completed, the guys went out to the volleyball court and played a quick game.  One game was enough, as they now wanted to go play basketball.  We divided up into teams and played a basketball tournament.  It was hot outside and the games were intense, but we had a lot of fun.  While the guys were playing basketball and some soccer (futbol), the ladies were decorating their rooms which they enjoy doing each year.

We then attempted to take the guys to do some additional organized activities that promoted teamwork and problem solving, but the only teamwork they wanted to do was on the basketball court.  So back to the court we went.  Meanwhile, the ladies were split up with half working on a craft making bracelets while the other half played either volleyball or soccer.


Soon it was time for everyone to head back to the rooms so that they could take showers and get ready for dinner.  Dinner tonight consisted of spaghetti, salad and garlic bread.  The guys served the ladies dinner before getting their own plates. 

After dinner, we headed into the chapel for a little worship.  Melvin, the worship leader from Evangelical Quest Church (EQC), led the camp in several songs.  Latoya then came up front to speak for the night.  She spoke about God’s Promise to Always Love Us.  After she finished, Melvin led us in an additional song and this concluded our evening service.

The ladies were dismissed first and sent back to the kitchen for bread pudding for dessert.  Once the ladies were through, the guys were dismissed and went for their bread pudding.  Then they had a little bit of time to hang out before heading off to bed.  Many of the counselors followed shortly thereafter.

While most of the camp was winding down, Rebecca was tending to a young camper who came to camp with a deep laceration to his finger across the fingernail.  She cleaned it well and wrapped it up in bandages and explained how it should be taken care of so it does not become infected.  Then she provided care to another youth who had two spider bites that became infected.  One was on his foot and Rebecca worked to squeeze as much of the infection out as possible.  A sterile needle was also used to assist in this.  Then it was time to address the spider bite on his arm.  Same thing.  The infection was purged and then both infection sites were cleaned and wrapped in bandages.

Earlier in the day, Rebecca had also addressed a child out in a village that had a puncture wound in the calf, which was caused by knife.  She cleaned it well and then stitched the wound closed. 

All in all, we had a great first day of camp.  We had some minor hiccups here and there, but it is great to serve the children of Belize and show them some love.

Monday, July 4, 2016

July 4, 2016 - A little horsing around

It’s day 3 of our trip and our second morning waking up in Belize.  We had rain again last night, so the temperature is mild and the humidity is high.  After quiet time this morning, we headed into the dining facility for breakfast.  We had flapjacks, eggs, beans and fresh fruit for breakfast this morning.  As usual, it was delicious and also a great way to start the day.

Following breakfast, there was a short period of down time before we headed out to our destinations for the day.  We started off with Heart House just outside of Belmopan.  Heart House is a ministry in Mayamopan for kids that provides after school programs, feeding programs and summer programs to name a few.   While most of the group spent time with the youth there, a few of the guys headed out on some side missions.  Lil’ Mike met German at the well for a little maintenance while Scott and Jordan delivered some medicine to a couple of sick families in Mayamopan.  Once these tasks were completed, they headed back and joined up with the rest of the team at the Heart House where we spent the remainder of the morning loving on the kids there.

Matt parted with the rest of the team and went with German’s wife, Alice, to run around purchasing all the food to feed the campers, counselors and camp staff for the next several days.  This included a trip to The Mall, Quality Poultry, the market, a bakery and a private residence where we spoke with a couple of ladies about making 150 tamales for Friday.  They gladly accepted this task.

The group went back to Camalote Camp for lunch.  It was a lighter fare today since it was just a brief stopover before moving onto the next ministry.  After lunch, the team went to the Boy’s Country Club in Roaring Creek just down the road.  This is a ministry that teaches young boys life lessons in the hopes of making better men and dads.  A man named Derrick leads this group and he uses horses as a vessel to reach these kids and others in the community.  Several of the youth in this program took the time to speak to our team and shared their stories.  This is a very tight knit group that serves in the community together, attends church together and camps together among other things.

After the Boy’s Country Club visit, the team went on to the Hope For Life Pregnancy Center.  This is a Belizean non-profit that is run primarily by Belizean volunteers.  This is a significant fact since the culture of volunteerism is not prevalent in Belize.  The center provides childbirth and parenting classes, counseling services for women, Bible studies and even helps provide for new families during a child’s first year of life.    They will also provide a volunteer that will go to the hospital with a mother for the birth of her child and provide the mother with assistance.  The hospitals down here to not function as they do in the states.  For example, the hospitals really do not provide anything, not even water.  The only way for a woman who is delivering a child to receive water is to have someone bring it to her.

After visiting the pregnancy center, the team returned to Camalote Camp.  Another small group set out shortly thereafter to deliver food to a family in need.  While some of our team members entertained the children by teaching handstands and doing cartwheels, a needs assessment was done to see how else this family can be helped going forward.

This pretty much wrapped up our day.  It was a full day for sure and we are all looking forward to a good night of rest before our campers arrive tomorrow.  Camp begins tomorrow around lunchtime, though we expect campers to arrive anytime after 9:00 a.m.