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Reflections from the Senior Service Trip to Belize

March 06, 2018
By 12th Grader, Lauren O'Steen
Belize

Each year, our Senior class has the opportunity to go on a service trip in the spring. Students are involved in numerous service and adventure activities and have the opportunity to attend local church services. We asked Senior, Lauren O'Steen, to share some of her reflections from the Senior trip to Belize in this week's blog. Check out her story below!

 

God works in more ways than anyone could ever imagine. I know it’s a cliché; Christians use this statement to account for all sorts of possibly random instances that “go right” throughout their lives. When I took part in the Senior Service trip to Belize with my class in late February, however, God definitely surprised me in the ways He was able to work in and through me and my classmates, to hopefully have blessed the world.

To be honest, I have been very skeptical of the “service” aspect of the Senior Trip in the past. How can I, a relatively unskilled teenager, really do lasting good for a people who may not even have running water or electric lights? What a country like Belize needs are lawyers to settle land disputes and engineers to build infrastructure, not me getting in the way of a teacher trying to prepare her students for end-of-the-year exams. After struggling with these thoughts for a while, I decided to go on the trip, only prepared to grow closer to my classmates and have unique adventures in a beautiful place, but not really thinking I would be able to make an impact of some kind.

The day we arrived in Belize was the hardest for me. We traveled for more than twelve hours to reach the country (leaving every member of our team exhausted); my luggage had been taken by a stranger at the Belizean airport; and I was very (unreasonably) worried about what I was going to be able to eat. All of these different stresses manifested themselves into an intense feeling of helplessness that I was not able to shake off throughout the day.

That night, we rode in our three battered vans to worship at Unity Presbyterian Church. I was wearing a borrowed, salamander orange dress and was not in the mood to be attending what we were warned would be a long church service, preached in English Creole.

Ernest
Ernest, the worship leader

My mood changed the moment the service started at Unity. The worship leader/preacher Ernest, who decisively did not have the voice of an angel, brought to the ravenous congregation upbeat versions of some of my chapel favorites, such as “How Great is Our God,” accompanied only by his guitar and three backup singers. The crowd reacted to his music in a way I had never seen before, dancing and singing with an immense joy that left me absolutely positive that God was in the room, hopefully smiling as wide as I was.

The sermon Ernest shared with us detailed the faith of Job. The message hit me like a truck. Why should I be making the choice to wallow in my relatively insignificant problems when the Belizeans around me, who came from very different lifestyle situations than me, were being so joyful and responding to the message so earnestly.  Ernest hugged each of us as we got back into the vans after the service, giving us each his blessing, “I love you, God loves you, you are special.” I made it my mission from this point forward to show God’s love to everyone I met and remind them that they are special.

"I made it my mission to show God's love to everyone I met and remind them that they are special."

 

Carlito and Lauren
Carlito and Lauren

While on the Senior Service trip, I learned that I can sense God’s presence most in situations that leave me with a feeling of overwhelming joy. One morning, we met with preschoolers in Cayo, singing songs and putting on a skit before joining them on the playground. At the seesaw, I met a energetic little boy with a gold chain named Carlito. He had an arm full of the toys we had brought and wanted to play. He loved to talk, and I grew to realize that Carlito had so much information stored in his brain that he wanted to let out, telling me why some toys can float and others cannot and the name of every single flower growing on the preschool grounds. Calling me only “friend,” he loved that I paid attention to what he had to say, just wanting show me everything he could including the chairs, steps, and water jug. The light in his eyes and the joy it brought me was amazing. Looking back, it’s ironic that in this situation where I did not mention God once, I was able to feel His presence the most out of any other time in Belize.

Lauren and Girl
Lauren with a student

The Senior Service trip was a blessing to me personally, one that I hope everyone reading this has an opportunity to take at some point in their lifetimes. Reminders of God’s light were everywhere to me, for example, in the eyes of a Standard Four student in Orange Walk when the concept of ratios just “clicked” to him for the first time and the pride that Carlito showed when (with a little assistance) he was able to count all the way to 100. In Belize, I grew to realize that for a trip to “count” as a missions trip, one does not have to build a house or school, but simply want to spend time and show love to others around the world. While I do not feel as though I changed the world while on the trip (or even the country of Belize for that matter), God was still able to work through me to listen to people whose opinions are normally brushed aside and show them that there is a bigger world that they have a place in and, as Ernest would say, that “I love them, God loves them, and they are special.”

Curry McClurken says:
March 08, 2018 09:18 AM CST

Beautifully written and well stated. I love seeing God working through the eyes of youth and making a difference in today’s world. Especially, my neice’s eyes!!


Corinne Steinbauer says:
March 08, 2018 09:24 AM CST

Beautiful recap warmed my heart. Lauren you are a blessing to all


Hali Christopher says:
March 08, 2018 10:56 PM CST

I loved seeing you grow during the trip, God’s hand was with you every single step of the way, from lost luggage to new foods, to that lovely rattle from the van door...grace embraced you and you embraced grace. Christ’s love for us is so strong, it’s always there. Sometimes it just takes getting out of our comfort zone to remind us of His love and how easy it is to love others.


Tammy Oedewaldt says:
March 09, 2018 12:36 AM CST

Lauren, you have been a blessing to our family because of your friendship with Connor for many, many years. You have so much knowledge beyond your years. I am thankful for your post/words about the little things that brighten other people's lives, because we often forget. Glad you had the experience and YOU were shared with others!


Kristy Austin says:
March 10, 2018 06:47 AM CST

Lauren - what beautiful insight you have about God’s love and what it means to make a difference - even one person at a time.