Since 2009, a great deal of effort has been poured into assisting the students at Greater Boston Academy on their Christian journey in hopes of best preparing them for their future in this world and for eternity. There has been many trying times, but the end results have been worth it. Our programs have included mission preperation for the trips to the Dominican Republic as well as local outreach ministries. Students have expressed how life changing these experiences have been. One student, now studying to be a pastor, testifies of his disdain for religious activities. It wasn't until he experienced "religion" from a nontraditional perspective that he came to appreciate the essence of God's love. It was by seeing the love that the poor and forgotten had for God that stirred within him a desire to develop his own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
In developing the extracurricular arts program at the school, namely drama and sign language, our focus has been on on spiritual development; the students have been able to develop leadership and public speaking skills, creativity, and spiritual understanding. Many participants of the programs have expressed the spiritual benefits associated with activily taking part in these programs. For many of them, it provides meaning and substance to their religious paradigm. Many of them feel a sense of pride and joy that they have been lacking in other areas of their lives.
The most amazing thing about the 2014 mission trip was the group of volunteer missionaries. This was our first trip that had a complete team; a team of four, plus Ms. Harris (our hostess). It was amazing to see how God worked out everything for each missionary volunteer. From miracles with passports to financial blessings that made it all possible, God had his hand on pulling this team together.
While in Belize, we volunteered a few hours at the Liberty Children's Home in Ladyville. Our task was relatively simple, but the groundskeeping we did was a huge help to the understaffed maintenance team. We spent the remainder of our time volunteering with the MOVE (Missionary Outreach and Volunteer Evangelism) team in Orange Walk. Our tasks included grouting tile, electrical wiring, laying pipes for plumbing, and groundskeeping. In the afternoons, we were involved in door to door evangelism, conducting Bible studies and offering prayer for those in their homes, at the local hospital, and at the town jail. We also conducted a week of prayer for the Belen Church in the Trial Farm village. All in all, the experience was life changing for our missionary volunteers and was a huge impact on the lives of those we came in contact with each day!
After the 2008 hurricane displaced plans for a tent meeting, the 2011 mission was geared towards bringing these plans to fruition. We pitched a tent in the center of the community, went door to door to introduce ourselves, and invited the entire community to join us. Many individuals traveled from outside the community to hear the good news. Many testified of the need they have had for the nightly messages. Several testified about the internal battle they have been fighting in their lives and how the messages brought long awaited answers to their desperate prayers. In the end, many individuals rededicated their lives to God. Others did so for the very first time; of which was a married couple who decided to renew their wedding vows as they started their Christian journey together.
Some of the most memorable experiences included observing some faithful church members. One eldery lady had gone blind since we saw her last. Yet, she possessed a smile that was beyond compare. Her smile told her story of contentment and peace found in Jesus Christ. No longer able to fully depend on herself, she truly learned to depend on God's provisions. She was led by the hand each night to the meetings; she even participated several nights by giving her testimony and singing for the honor and glory of God. Observing others simply fighting the good fight of faith was also inspiring. Belize seems to harbor a culture that is very jagged with little middle ground between living a religious life and one void of God altogether. It can be very difficult for the Christian who is struggling spiritually because they may lack or fear seeking the needed support to regain their spiritual momentum. This was what our 2011 mission trip provided, a sense of peace and reconnection to God that many had been praying for.
The Belen Church had organized plans for us to hold a tent meeting in a new community being built on the outskirts of Orange Walk town. However, the day before the meetings were set to start, a hurricane touched land on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The result was a severe tropical storm in Belize with heavy rainfall and high winds. Needless to say, we were unable to go through with the plans made. We spent the day after the storm digging trenches for the floodwater to recede. After all was said and done, we were not ready to give up on the evangelistic meeting. Since it was no longer practical to hold the meetings outdoors, we moved the location into the Belen Church. Despite the rain and receding floodwaters, the community still showed their support by attending the meetings. At the end of the meetings, several individuals decided to dedicate their lives to Christ. One of which was a young man who decided to do so through baptism.
Throughout the week, we incorporated a health seminar into the evangelistic meetings. We ended the week with a health exposition; offering diabetes and hypertension testing. We also provided demonstrations on natural healing and hydrotherapy.
We conducted a tent meeting in the center of the Trial Farm villege on the side of the Belize Northern Highway. We also conducted a children's program during the day. Both events lasted two weeks and the community support was amazing. In the end several individuals gave their lives to Christ and were baptized in the river that runs through the village.
The district pastor that we were working with was so amazed with the outcome of both events that he quickly organized a second evangelistic meeting. He chose a village that was well hidden and that received little outside visitation. Since no public transportation went anywhere near the village, we had to hike and hitchhike into the village each evening. Each trip riquired much prayer as we went into the village in faith that God would provide a way back out after the nightly meetings. As we placed our trust in Him, He always provided a way back.
One of the most amazing testimonies is of a young man barely in his twenties. A few days before our arrival in Belize, he was riding his bike home at night after visiting a local bar. Unfortunatly, he lost control and fell into a deep ditch. The skin on the side of his face that hit the ground had been peeled off from the force of impact. He had literally hit rock bottom; the experience caused him to realize he needed something to fill the void in his heart. He was well known by the group of young people we were working with from the Belen Church and felt an immediate sense of comfort with our group. He began to help out with the children's program each day and attended each of the tent meetings. At the end of the evangelistic meetings, he was among those baptized in Trial Farm.
Dominican Republic 2013
Our main objective was to finish the construction of the church building. It was amazing to see how the church size had grown tenfold since the beginning of the construction project. Though our aim was to see the church completed, that objective became secondary to the relationships that were being built between the student missionaries and the El Brisal community.
In completing the church (now four times its original size), we had the church tiled, expanded the pulpit area, installed new sliding glass windows, installed new doors, constructed two new bathrooms with running water, dug the foundation for a new fence and gate, and purchased new pews and a pulpit for the sanctuary. Each evening as the construction came to a hault, an evangelistic meeting was held in the street for the community. Between 2010 and 2013, over 100 individuals were baptized and became a part of the church family. The community took notice as God began answering the prayers of a few faithful, and they continue to notice as the church continues to grow!
Dominican Republic 2010
The main objective of our mission was to start the building process of a new church. The original structure was made out of zink metal sheets and tree branches nailed together. It was a small, poor, and humble church. The members confessed to the shame of having such a structure for a church and prayed many years that God would provide a way for the construction of a better building. God chose to answer their prayers through the hands of the students at Greater Boston Academy.
It was amazig to see the pure joy and excitement on the faces of those who prayed for so long as they watched their prayers being answered. Our team's greatest blessing, however, was seeing pure religion in action. Most of the students could not understand the level of contentment and commitment the church had dispite their lack of means. It did not take them long to realize that it was not about what the church had or what they did that made the difference, rather it was about the relationship each individual had with Jesus Christ. The experience left a eternal imprint on the minds of each missionary about what it meant to trust God.
After leaving the mission field in 2007, an immediate desire was felt to return. We returned in January for a 10 day trip. The organization Serenity with Effort, Inc. funded our trip, provided us with two computers and all accessories, and plenty of gifts to warm the heart of each student at the school. While there we were able to meet the school's sponsors from Springs of Hope (a nonprofit organization based in Austria). The sponsors explained how they have been working for several years attempting to teach the students English at the school's previous location. However, this this was the first time they returned to India and were able to have conversations with the students! They were so grateful for the work we did while teaching at the school in 2007.
We returned in the summer of 2008 for another extended stay. The goal was to help the students develop spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally through high quality education. It was amazing to see students gathered together despite their religious differences. It was an unimmaginable experience to sit with them in worship as they all sang and learned from the bible. In one Bible/Moral class, one of the oldest students asked a detrimental question. He asked, "My village is a Hindu village; do my family worship the true God?" A question that should not be answered with a simple yes or no; but he did not hesitate to answer the question himself. He said, "They do no. They worship the idols that do not answer their prayers... But I will follow the God of Abraham!" This was a child that sought to understand religion for himself and came to his own conclusion based on the things he learned at the school in comparision to those at home.
In the arena of academics, the passing marks in the region was 30%. Many students could easily attain these marks, but once they entered high school level education it would catch up to them. Many Siddi students were denied education at this level because they could not meet the passing scores that were significantly different at the elementary levels. Prior to this knowledge, we were upset that our students were scoring 60% and 70% after the first grading period and could not understand their excitment. After we learned about the 30% benchmark, we continued to teach with the high standards and our students started scoring 80% and 90% during the subsequent grading periods! The school was living up to its mission thanks to the service of those individuals who chose to give their all on the mission field.
To talk about blind faith would be to talk about the 2007 trip to India. Imagine standing in front of a class filled with students only to realize that they do not understand a single word you speak! The mission to India was funded by the National Association for the Prevention of Starvation, an organization who help fund the building project to create the school. Our goal on this extended mission trip was to help develop a newly opened school in the jungles of Karnataka. The mission of the school was to help children from a backwards tribe (the Siddi people) achieve a level of education that they would otherwise be deprived in local schools. We had 87 boarding students ranging from age 4 to 12; differing backgrounds and religious affiliations; and all lacking basic English skills.
The opening day of school was delayed due to a last minute delay in construction. The first month was spent in mental and spiritual preparation, things that were very much needed to handle the months that would follow. On the first day of school, children were coming from near and far to attend the school. As parents said their goodbyes, the overwhelming burden that we would have to carry was felt. In feelings of dispear, God provided two complete rainbows that stretched across the entire campus. In our hearts He spoke the words of Jeremiah 1:9, "I am with you." With those words we continued dispite the odds against us.
As the weeks passed, the language barrier seemed to disappear. Conversations were held with the older children and signs were enough to communicate with the younger ones. In all cases, love was the main means of communication. The time spent teaching, playing, and disciplining each student was priceless. The effects of the work done will resound through eternity.