I traveled to Belize, Central America, a couple weeks ago with a small team from my church. Our purpose was to see whether we might be able to set up long-term relationships with the people and start going there for mission trips a couple times per year.
We chose this country because a family in our church had recently adopted a Belizian child and had several connections in the country already. In addition, travel to Belize is relatively inexpensive, and it seemed like a great place to start mission partnerships.
What a beautiful country and even more beautiful people! While in Belize, we visited Belize City, Belmopan, Bladen, Red Bank, Santana, Caye Caulker and San Pedro.
We experienced Mayan villages in the rainforest where the people lived in thatched-roof huts. They greeted us with open arms and offered us anything they had. We discovered a tiny, rundown school building where 68 children embraced us and taught us new games and songs.
We visited a new church being born in Belmopan, where a man is converting his place of business into a church. He also is building apartments to house boys living on the streets.
He spoke with passion about his desire to be a church that exists for those not in church, for those most hurting and struggling in his city.
Can I be honest? I went to Belize thinking I had something to give, something they needed. Though there are certainly things we can give to the beautiful people of Belize, I learned an important spiritual lesson.
They have what we need.
I received more than I gave. I received the gift of unconditional acceptance and friendship. I witnessed the joyful hearts of a people without all the comforts of my American culture. I came to appreciate my family, friends and church in much deeper ways.
I look forward to returning to Belize many times. I will be a better person for it. My world will be enriched and grow bigger through my relationships there.
It is my hope that we all grow in our love and appreciation for not only our own culture and country, but also the culture and countries of this amazing world God has created.
The Rev. John Kenney is the pastor of The Quest Church in Martinez, Ga.