On Oct. 8, 2001 hurricane Iris hit the country of Belize. With winds of up to 145 mph, it was the most violent storm in the Atlantic that year.
More than 18 divers from Richmond, Virginia perished and almost 15,000 people were left homeless in the Placencia region because 70 per cent of the buildings were left without roofs.
While sending money is a good way to help, five students from the Concordia Christian Fellowship (CCF) and seven from the McGill Christian Fellowship (MCF), along with their leaders Cathy and Hank Pott, are sending themselves on a missions trip to Belize.
Their mission is to help out anyone affected by the disaster with relief aid and by spreading the news of God’s love from May 2 to 21. This, in fact, is the second year the two Christian Fellowships will be going to Belize.
When asked to define the term “missions trip” Hank Pott, the MCF staff worker, says, “It is an opportunity to go as a group to share Jesus’ love by the things we speak and the things we do. We are invited by the local Belize student movement to come and help them.”
In collaboration with mainly the Belize Intervarsity Christian Fellowship student movement, along with the support of the local church association in Belize, CCF and MCF, which are part of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Canada, will be picking up where they left off.
According to Pott, last year the group helped school teachers with after school sports and activities in order to give them a break and in doing so got to know their Belizean university peers through working together to paint a school building replaced after the hurricane.
This year they will continue making presentations in schools and churches about Jesus’ love and working with Belize university students in clearing hurricane damage and painting in Placencia.
Placencia will be the second destination visited after the capital city Belmopan where the CCF and MCF will meet with local high school and church members. Also, Punta Gorda will be visited for the first time.
Located in the Northern Hemisphere within Central America, Belize has a population of over 262,000 and its neighbors include Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the southwest, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The colony’s name was changed from British Honduras to Belize in 1973 with Belizean Independence being declared on Sept. 21, 1981.
Consisting of 10 ethnic groups that include the Mayas, Creoles, Spanish and English, Belize claims English to be its most commonly used language along with Creole, although Spanish is becoming more widely used.
Going to Belize is extremely exciting for CCF President Edward Joseph who went on last year’s trip.
“It was amazing and challenging; amazing because I got to meet people from a different culture [and] challenging because it [meant] dealing with culture shock. There were mainly black people around and, being black, I felt that I should fit in, but I didn’t,” says the 21-year-old drama for human development student. “Also, I’m so North American, and there’s people living in a house the size of my bathroom. It was wild.”
This was not Joseph’s first missions trip, however, since he has traveled throughout the United States and was able to go to the Olympics in 1996 when he went to Atlanta. “[Belize] was my first real overseas trip,” he says. “It was somewhere new, somewhere warm, and it was Spanish, so I was excited.”
This year Joseph will be one of the student leaders specifically looking after working with the team to develop programs for churches and high schools, which might include universities as well.
His definition of the most rewarding aspect out of the missions trip is clear. “Serving people who are in need [and] just seeing God work through you and around you is big; it’s awesome,” he adds.
Cathy Pott, the CCF staff worker, who is a 2001 graduate of applied human sciences and no stranger to missions trips, is anticipating the development of the team. “I’m looking forward to applying my knowledge of team-building and small group leadership as well as sensitivity to cultural diversity to this situation,” she says.
Fellow Concordia student, Kris Gibbs, on the other hand, is a little nervous about going on his first missions trip, though eager to help out in any way he can and hopes to grow in his faith at the same time. “I’m really depending on the Lord to guide me in what it is that He wants me to do, but I hope that I can at least give my testimony to let others know what a huge impact Jesus Christ has had on my life,” he says.
Depending on God in order to raise money is something both Gibbs and Joseph insist on since it costs $2,345 to go to Belize. As a fundraising endeavour, Joseph says CCF will be stationing a booth on the seventh floor of the Hall Building from April 9 to 11 selling cards and chocolates and where people can make a contribution and get more information.
As well, the CCF will be standing on the corner of Mackay and de Maisonneuve on April 9 from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. to collect donations.
And as the trip gets closer, Gibbs knows the time to make a difference is near. “I’m very excited that I will be able to help others with repairing the damage caused by the hurricane. Currently, I don’t do a lot of volunteer work, and it is something that I have wanted to get involved in for a while,” he says.
According to Gibbs, through this experience he hopes that it will open the doors to future volunteering endeavours which are the most rewarding aspects of the missions trips like those to Belize.
For more information visit http://ssmu.mcgill.ca/mcf/