Sunday, July 10, 2011

Belize Day 6:Goodbye

The Team . . . Lee Freace, Mike Freace,
James Thomas, Aaron Harris &
Jef Flournoy
Today was our last day in Belize. We spent the morning closing up camp and packing up our gear. Camp was concluded by a worship service which was pretty special. It was awesome to see the Belizean people worship so honestly and openly . . . challenging one another in their walk.

Near the end as we were leaving, they brought the five of us up front to 'say goodbye.' The lady who was in charge of the service invited anyone up who wanted to say goodbye to us and thank us for our time here to come up to the front and thank us personally. It was really moving that about 3/4 of the camp came up and gave us hugs and thanks. It was really a great moment when it became evident that we had made an impact for God on some lives. . . some seeds had been planted. It was the perfect ending for all of us.

Jef on the ferry to Xunantunich
with "Hiro" looking on
The kid who led the way was Hiro . . . we had gotten close to him over the week as he is one of the boys that works for German. He took us to Xunantunich Ruins and had really just connected with us during the time. I think sometimes when you are in the thick of ministry, it is hard to notice what is going on around you. We actually met as a team last night and one of the questions that we truly had was how much of an impact did we make for God. He provided us with a very clear and tangible answer . . . as Hiro led the way up, you could see it on his face that we had touched his life this week in some way. An answer to prayer.

Late in the morning we headed out of Belmopan and up to the border. Romelio and his wife Priscilla offered to drive us and it was a great time of fellowship with them. On the way there, we were able to stop and visit the Monteyo family . . . special friends of Joey and Heather Barrs. It was great to meet the entire family and bring greeting from Quest Church and the US. After getting through the borders rather uneventfully, we said our goodbyes and jumped on a bus to Cancun. We continued to have a great time of fellowship together on the bus and over dinner, reliving some of the moments and just letting loose a little bit.

We now only have one step left to our trip and that is getting on the plane to Atlanta. We praise God for his protection as we have traveled and that things have gone so smoothly. We are pretty worn out and are looking forward to being back at home but have mixed emotions about leaving.

Thank you for all your prayers during this time. We look forward to getting back and sharing stories of our time here with you.

Mike for the guys.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Belize Day 5: Blessings

Today has been pretty much a blur honestly. It was day two of the camp and we had a full day of activities. This morning I had a chance to bring a message to the camp during our worship time. I was kind of thrown on the spot so it was good that I had something planned. I spoke to them about John 10:10 and the fact that God has come so that we might have life abundantly and what exactly that looked like. We looked at how this gift applies to our lives whether we are following him strongly . . . are lukewarm in our walk . . . or are far from him. We talked about how this abundant life was a gift and that we did not have to have any preset criteria to qualify for it . . . it was free. I hope and pray that some seeds were planted . . . there were a handful of people that I had a chance to pray for throughout the day that communicated that they wanted to take their lives to the next level.

Throughout the day, we basically spent most of our time on organization and structure of activities and running the soccer portion of camp. Jef and Aaron continued to lead the planning of the activities and provide the counselors with a structure and map to follow . . . from my perspective they have been an invaluable  blessing to this camp. James . . . chauffeur James . . . always being called upon to drive and run errands. Even as I write this at midnight, he is out somewhere driving a group of youth home on a bus. He has been a true servant. And finally my dad Lee . . . he has kind of the glue that has held us together. He basically has been a blessing in serving not just the people of the camp, but also us as a team. He has done a lot of running around and 'dirty jobs' that have made this trip a real success. We actually all sat down tonight and talked about the week and our experience, and one of the things that came up unanimously was that we were all so blessed to have each other on this trip. We have really bonded and supported one another.

This evening we had a chance to go out to eat together with Romelio . . . a local guy who serves as German's right hand man at the camp. He took us out for a traditional meal of Papooses (sp). We all enjoyed it thoroughly . . . Aaron definitely won the award for most eaten. We even had a chance to sit at a table and eat with a local young man. It was the only table open so we all sat together. It was fun to converse with him and do something that we would never do in the US . . . welcome someone into our world over dinner at a public restaurant. We all really enjoyed it . . .

Tomorrow is our last day in Belmopan as we will start to weave our way back up to Cancun sometime tomorrow. This trip has flown by and it is hard to believe that tomorrow we are leaving and headed back to Georgia.

Continue to pray for us as we close out our time here. Pray that we will be a blessing to German and his wife Alice. . . the camp has been a ton of work for them and I know they are pretty worn out. Pray that we will somehow in the short time tomorrow, have a chance to connect with more of the youth. It has been such a short time with them that we wish that we had more time to get into their lives. Pray for traveling mercies as we head out tomorrow. We will have a lot of traveling to do over the next two days . . . once again probably a couple of buses to get to Cancun to catch our plane.

Sorry I have been unable to post pictures . . . we have been running to crazy that I have not been able to find a place where we can upload them . . . where we are at I can write but it will not allow me to put pictures up. We will be sure to post them when we get back.

Thanks again for all your prayers.

Mike for the guys.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Belize Day 4: Checkpoint

We knew today that the first day of camp was going to be a great cultural experience for us. There are moments where I think we are still struggling to get ourselves out of our american mindsets and into the hearts and minds of the Belize people. Just being honest and speaking for myself more than anyone. I think I sometimes approach things too much from the mindset of how we can help them, and maybe miss the moments where I could be blessed by them.

From american standards, the day was . . . different. But we are not in America. It was actually great to hear one of the locals here, Steven, say that it was the most organized camp he has ever been to. It gave us new and proper perspective. I can say that they guys have been awesome . . . willing to jump in and do anything that needs to be done. We were involved in organizing soccer games, running soccer training sessions, teaching the kids how to throw a frisbee, as well as a lot of things that just seem to creep up on you that you have to drop everything and do. In addition, we were the go to guys for any logistical questions with the activities and schedule.

We were pretty much on the go at the camp from 7am until 5pm. At that point we left to run a couple of errands and get some dinner. It was great to catch up with Diane (Heather Barr's mother) at Chamilote Camp. From there we headed to Pasquale's Pizza for a great dinner.

On the way home, we had another experience as we hit our first checkpoint. We were in a jeep with two seats in it . . . my dad Lee was driving with Jef Flournoy shotgun . . . James Thomas, Aaron Harris and I were all in the back riding Belizian style. When we came to the checkpoint, we explained to the police officer who we were, what we were doing and where we were going. After asking Lee for his drivers license . . . he asked him to get out of the car. Hmmm . . . it was a moment. He then said to him that he did not appreciate the way Aaron was sitting in the back of the car and as the driver that he needed to fix that. Aaron quickly changed how he was sitting to appease the police officer . . . Lee luckily got back into the car. And off we went. It was one of those moments.

Upon arriving back at camp, we had our evening service which was full of great singing, worship and testimonies. At the end, one of the youth pastors from Mississippi spoke and about 20 youth came forward to receive Christ. Definitely the highlight of my week so far was leading three of these young men in prayer as they prayed to receive Christ. One of the boys was a young man from Roaring Creek who we had kind of hit it off with today. It was a sweet moment for me personally.

Continue to pray for us . . . that we will be a blessing to both the kids and also to German and his staff. Pray that we will get more opportunities to connect with the youth . . . pray for me as I will be sharing a devotional/message at some point tomorrow . . . pray that God will give me the words to say and allow me to be bold . . . continue to pray for our health and fatigue . . . I anticipate that tomorrow could be our toughest day fatigue-wise.

Thanks for your prayers and messages of encouragement.

Mike for the guys.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Belize Day 3: Breaking laws, bruised shins and bug spray

Today was camp preparation day. It was a very busy yet very fulfilling day. We basically started the morning off with planning for the camp . . . setting up the camp schedule of activities, the soccer games and organizing a supply list. We are blessed to have Jef Flournoy's organization gifting as he has basically taken over the entire scheduling for the camp. We then headed over to the grounds and began physical preparation.

The day was full of numerous miscellaneous tasks. A number of us were involved in hauling mattresses, setting up tents, lining a soccer field with lime, unloading trucks, fixing doors and showers, pumping up soccer balls and running around Belmopan for supplies. Meanwhile, we know James is somewhere driving bus but never quite sure where. He is the go to guy for transportation around here and they are using him to run in a million different directions.

We were thinking as we were driving around the city with four of us in the back of the truck, how many laws we would have broken today if we had been in America. We lost count. Just after that, the truck broke down . . . it wouldn't be a day in Belize without one of the trucks breaking down. So we tried to jump start it by pushing it and throwing it into gear. No luck . . . although maybe one of the funniest moments was when Aaron hit his shin on the hitch, bent down to rub his shin and hit his head on the back of the truck. Quite comedic. . . like something you would see in a movies. No worries though . . . a can of bug spray later, we had the truck up and running.

We have enjoyed getting to know some of the kids around here. Especially Hiro and Douglas . . . they are pretty cool kids. Both work for German with his business and have been a huge part of putting the camp together. We spent a lot of time with them today and feel like we are getting closer with them. They are very thankful for what they have, have a great sense of humor and are very humble. Just a real joy to spend time with. In addition, we have connected a little bit with some other kids from Arizona Village as we have transported them to and from their homes a number of times.

Finishing off this evening, we had a FANTASTIC dinner. German's wife Alice is an incredible cook. When she comes to Augusta we have vowed to get her together with our wives to share some recipes.

Thanks again for all your prayers. Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day. We are not sure what to expect but are ready to get the camp started. Pray that the logistics will come together and that everything will start off smoothly in the morning. Continue to pray that God blesses us with good health. Other than Aarons bruised shin and a bump on his forehead, things have been good. Lastly, pray that we will have grateful hearts. God has given us an opportunity . . . and we pray that we step into his will fully so that he can use us fully.

Mike for the guys.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 2: Blessings, Ruins and Striding Freely

Well, it's the end of day two on this trip already. I am already seeing how this is going to go by so quickly. When I went to Africa in April, one of their sayings was "Haracka, Haracka, Hakuna Baracka" which loosely translated means "Hurry, Hurry, you'll miss the blessing." In other words, we can be so focused and so forward thinking and so busy that we miss the blessings that God has for us in the moment. My hope is that when it is all over, we will look back and know that we have impacted lives and made a difference for God. 

Today was a good day as we did some preparation work for the camp in the morning and were able to continue to fellowship with German and his family. What a blessing they are to this community and it is evident God's blessing on their lives and ministry. As far as our group goes, everyone one has jumped right in with driving, helping out and being part of the culture right here in Germans world of ministry. It is great to see how we can be a blessing even in the small ways. 

In the afternoon, some of us went to the Mayan ruins south of Belmopan . . . the Xunantunich ruins. What a great adventure to see and experience. We had to rush up to the top as we only had 1/2 an hour before they closed. It was a great experience though to stand on the top and look out over God's creation. Pretty sobering to think of the history though, but a great reminder that we serve a God who has rescued us. (I wish I could post pictures but the connection right now is extremely slow)

This evening we had a meeting with the full staff of the camp. It was good to meet everyone and start to get organized . . . tomorrow will be a full day of setup and running around. We have taken on a lot of the setup responsibilities so it will be good to work as a team in accomplishing that for the camp.

Continue to bathe the camp in prayer. Specifically pray that we would be able to connect with the youth there and show them the love of Christ . . . that we are able to show them how cool it can be to be part of his kingdom . . . that we can gain some credibility with them so that when we share it has some personal connection . . . that we can communicate the fact that through Jesus they are rescued . . . and that we will share David's proclamation in Psalm 119 . . . "And I'll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom; Then I'll tell the world what I find, speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed."

Thanks for your prayers and continued support!

Mike for the guys . . .

24 Hours

24 hours later and we finally arrived in Belmopan . . . long day, but great to be here. This will be a quick post as we have a lot to do . . .

Probably the highlight of the trip was the Mexican border. After 6 hours on a bus that was so cold we could have transported meat, Romelio picked us up at the bus station. As he was helping us get past Mexican customs, something funny happened. Somehow . . . and we lost this in translation . . . but we became American Diplomats that the US Embassy was expecting in Belize. It certainly made for a smoother transition through the border. We asked Romelio what happened, and he just smiled and said "lets get in the van and get going . . . quick, quick, quick."

We then got a chance to experience some great driving . . . and arrived in Belmopan about 3:30am Augusta time.

We are off and running . . . James is driving a bus somewhere . . . Jef Flournoy just jumped in a jeep to drive somewhere to get something that German needed . . . the rest of us are planning for camp and trying to stay cool.

Thanks for the prayers and keep them coming . . . pray that the camp will come together and that we will continually get our of our comfort zones and stretch ourselves.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Planes, Trains, Buses and Automobiles

Think it is kind of surreal sitting here in Atlanta Airport . . . after leaving at 4am this morning, we arrived in ATL in plenty of time (special thanks to Brian Evans for driving us). Now we are hanging out, getting ready for a day of planes, trains (does the ATL train shuttle count?), buses and automobiles . . . possibly a taxi . . . hopefully no mopeds, but who knows.

We are flying into Cancun this morning. From there we will take a shuttle to the bus station . . . then catch a bus to the border . . . where we will meet German to help us "cross the border" in a smaller bus that is sure to be an experience.

From there we have no idea what in the world we are doing, other than at some point helping at a soccer camp. And yes, we are ok with this.

In case you don't know, the five guys going on this trip are James Thomas, Jef Flournoy and me (Mike Freace) from Quest. In addition, one of my former soccer players Aaron Harris, and my dad (Lee Freace) fill out the group.

One thing I have noticed as this group has come together, is that God has gathered a group of men who will fit right in with the need to be flexible and do what is needed and asked. It is obvious that we all have different talents and gifts and it is exciting to be in a place where we can just open our hands and ask for God to use us.

One of the things that I have been praying for is that God will fill us in such a way that we experience Him like never before. I think sometimes as Americans, we limit how God can come alive in our lives. I think that, as much as we talk about it and try to even predict, that God is going to work in ways through us that we can not expect . . . we just need to be obedient. This is a real life opportunity for us to be the church . . . not just go to church. We know without a doubt that we will Experience God, Experience Relationships and Experience Change over the next 6 days.

We look forward to sharing stories, pictures and experiences over the next day. Internet access will be spotty so please be patient.

Mike for the guys.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 2011 Mission - Day 6

None of us could believe today was our last full day here in Belize. At times, because of fatigue, the week has seemed very long. When we step back and look at it, though, the time has passed almost unbearably quickly. Our hearts will be torn to leave tomorrow, though we will definitely be glad to get home to our families.

The teams set out early again today, heading to their job sites for one more day of intense mission work. The Medical team held a clinic in the village of Salvapan, where we have held a very successful clinic before. The day was a busy one (the team saw around 130 patients) but it was a fantastic day of mission and ministry. Once again, the people of Belize captured our hearts as we spent time with them and worked to make their lives a little better with what we bring to the table.

The Construction team got an early start, too, as they worked hard to finish up their projects for the week. The first house - that was begun on Monday - is completed, and the entire Quest team came together to dedicate and bless the home. It was a sweet time of prayer with the family who will live there.

The Care and Connections team was hard at work today distributing care packages around the villages. Thirty more care packages went to families around Belmopan and the surrounding villages. The team members who were able to go on this mission were blessed by being able to personally interact with families in their homes.

We ended the week tonight with a special worship celebration together with the EQC community. This was an incredible time of rejoicing in what the Lord has done this week and openly celebrating what He will do in the future of our relationship with Evangelical Quest Church and the people of Belize.

We're getting up in the morning and heading to the airport. It will be hard to say goodbye to the friends we have made in beautiful Belize, but we're eager to get home and share our experiences with those who have supported and prayed for us as we have been gone. The calendar says that this trip is over, but the Lord is just getting started with our story. Greater things are still to be done in this city.

April 2011 Mission - Day 5

On Wednesday, we rested.

Sort of.

As has become tradition for our teams visiting Belize, we took some time off from intense mission work to do some sightseeing. We visit Xunantunich, a site of ancient Mayan ruins in southern Belize (almost in Guatemala). The grounds there are beautiful, and the view from atop the ruins are breathtaking. It is a welcome respite from the hard work of the week, and the team (despite their physical exhaustion from climbing the ruins) was refreshed in a spiritual way from the break in routine.

After the ruins and lunch at a local restaurant, the team went for a visit at a local children's home. Members of Quest had visited the home when we came to Belize in November, and it was decided months ago that we would return there and do something more in-depth with them on this trip. One of our team members had planned a special time of worship, games, storytime, and testimonies with the children in the home, and it was a blessing to everyone as the two groups came together in fellowship and friendship.

As part of the mission team was spending time with the children at the children's home, part of the team was also working with EQC to distribute food care packages to members of the community. Representatives from thirty different families came to EQC to receive packages of rice, flour, beans, and bibles. The personal time of on-on-one outreach was powerful for everyone.

Everyone, by Wednesday night, was really tired.....but we were all ready to see what else the Lord could do through us. It was a good thing, too, because Thursday was a big one!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April 2011 Mission - Day 4

Today was the most amazing day so far for our team. In all, the Quest mission team was in 5 different locations today, tackling 5 different jobs. Camalote Camp is echoing tonight with everyone's stories of their days: challenges, victories, God moments. We'll all rest well tonight!

The Construction team worked on two different jobs today, nearly finishing the house they began yesterday and making real progress on the second. For their second construction project, which they began this afternoon, they are placing stucco on the existing house of some of the members of EQC. Currently, the house is made of bamboo poles strapped together; the spaces between the poles are wide enough to see through, and for rain and wind to make their way inside. The Construction team, though, is placing stucco on the walls to seal those gaps, making the house more safe and comfortable for the family who calls it home.

The Medical team worked in 3 different locations today! This morning, a small group of Medical team members went to the nearby village of La Riverra to hold a clinic in a church there. The team saw 40 patients in just a few hours, treating conditions such as allergies, parasites, pneumonia, and diabetes. Many referrals were made to the hospital, and many of the patients seemed to feel better after just having spent some time with someone who wanted to help.

Meanwhile, a few more of the team members made a visit to a school in the Arizona village for a lice treatment and prevention clinic. Our team washed hair, applied treatments, and even gave haircuts to the children who were seen. It was a powerful - and humbling - experience for everyone.

While all of that was going on, more Medical team members were holding a clinic at the location of EQC, addressing various health needs there. When the team arrived in the morning, people were already waiting to be seen; the pace didn't slow down much for several hours. Nearly 40 patients were seen there, as well, and the team enjoyed the fast-paced environment.

Finally, members of the Care and Connection and Spiritual Support teams were bustling from village to village, distributing care packages to families in need. Each family received rice, flour, and beans, in addition to Bibles and other necessities. The team was able to pray with the families and were blessed, in particular, by the prayers of some of the families for the team. Providing such basic needs to families in need was fulfilling and humbling.

This afternoon, many members of the team went to Arizona Field to play with the children there. The children here can't seem to get enough of our team, and the feeling is mutual. We are all happy to spend as much time as we can with the beautiful children of Belize.

Tonight, the Quest team joined the members of EQC for their weekly Bible study and worship. Everyone came to Camalote Camp - it was pretty chaotic as everyone scrambled to different places with their groups, but everyone was blessed by the discussions and lessons. The evening was rounded off with worship (singing "God of This City," which is emotional every time), and the EQC bus took the church members home as the Quest team relaxed for the night.

Today was a very, very full day, and we are very, very tired tonight. While everything we have encountered thus far has been challenging and has stretched us beyond our limits, we are all confident that we are better and stronger because of what we have experienced. We are so thankful for this opportunity, and are eager to continue in the mission field tomorrow evening. Tomorrow morning, though, we get to be tourists! Expect lots of pictures tomorrow!

Monday, April 4, 2011

April 2011 Mission - Day 3

The Quest Mission Team hit the ground running this morning, beginning the day with a time of reflection and prayer before heading out to their job sites.

The Construction team was working today on building a house for a woman and her children who have had no home of their own for approximately 5 months. The team is building them a house measuring 16 x 20 feet, and it will be a home she and her children can call their own. It will be a tremendous blessing for them, and it has been an honor to be able to minister to her in such a concrete way. They are ahead of their schedule for the week, and will likely finish that project tomorrow afternoon....and will start another one!

Nearby, as the Construction team was hammering nails and putting up walls, the Medical team was checking blood sugar and administering medication. The team held a clinic today, under the supervision of the Regional Health Director, in a small church in the village of Arizona. A total of 48 patients were seen, three of which were critical enough that they were taken immediately to the hospital for further treatment. There were so many wonderful men, women, and children that came through the clinic, and it was a privilege for the team to be able to meet them and bring peace to situations that have been causing them stress and pain.

One change we made in the team as a whole for this trip has been the addition of two new work teams: Spiritual Support and Care and Connections. Those teams, as their names suggest, are responsible for the less tangible aspects of mission work. As the skilled teams (Medical and Construction) are doing their jobs for the week, Spiritual Support (SST) and Care and Connection (CCT) are working alongside them to ensure that relationships are formed in the name of the Lord and that spiritual needs are met as well. These teams are instrumental in being the hands and feet of Jesus as they reach out in whatever ways are needed to make sure that everyone experiences the love of the Lord in real, life-changing ways.

It has already been a phenomenal experience for our team. Tomorrow is another big day, and we're all looking forward to more flexibility as we make ourselves available to do what the Lord needs us to do. We don't know exactly what tomorrow will look like, but we are sure of one thing: it will be good.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 2011 Mission - Day 2

Day two of our Belize mission was a very full - but very, very fun and fulfilling - day. After a good night's sleep, the team awoke and prepared for worship with our friends from EQC at Camalote Camp's tabernacle. As we gathered together, friends from another Belizean church in Mayapan (a neighboring village) joined us for Sunday morning worship. Our relationships with each other and with the Lord were strengthened as we worshiped together - very powerful!

Following worship, families from EQC joined us for a family reunion-style lunch of hotdogs and chips - - - and the Belizean children discovered a new love: chips and cheese dip!

Once everyone had eaten, the games began! One of our team members had planned a great afternoon of games for the children of EQC to enjoy together, and everyone had a blast playing soccer, volleyball, and other games at our camp. More time together meant relationships were solidified more and more!

It was a hot, hot afternoon, so after we finished the games, some of the team relaxed while others took a trip to the river to swim, relax, and spend more time together. This was a nice break from the organized activities of the day, but the team found plenty of ways to reach out to and love the people of Belize.

Tonight, teams are preparing for their first day of field work tomorrow. The medical and construction teams will be beginning their work, and the Spiritual Support and Care and Connection Teams will be accompanying them as they go into the villages to meet the needs they find there.

God is working - in the team and in each individual heart here - and it is more exciting than words can say to see everyone seeing Him in new ways and changing so deeply. We're already eager to share what we've experienced - and the week has just begun!