Milo Mission to Belize

Thirty-nine people, mostly Milo Adventist Academy students and staff, spent their spring break in Ranchito, Belize, building onto a church and presenting two Vacation Bible Schools each day during an uncharacteristic heatwave.

“Hi ho, hi ho! It’s off to work we go!” John Kelley, Milo’s maintenance director, sounded a little more chipper than most of the crew felt at 5:30 a.m., especially since at home it was only 3:30 a.m. At breakfast, a line formed downstairs for endless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fresh fruit like papaya, pineapple, mango, watermelon, guava and custard apples.

“It’s hot up here in the rafters; it’s hot up here in the rafters,” Nick Hough and parent Tom Harmon sang as they worked on high scaffolding inside the church, hammering boards for a ceiling. Their song drifted to the girls who painted the front of the church and the window shutters. Others painted interior walls. And in back of the church, Al Andrieux, history, math and science teacher, Kelley, and Don Bovee, manager of Thunderbird Wood Products, coordinated the process of mixing cement, laying block and cutting rebar. Slowly but surely a Sabbath School room grew onto the church.

On Sunday, everyone worked all day because there was no VBS. Nearly a dozen Belizeans joined them to help lay block. Mortar flew between the walls and peals of laughter echoed around the church as everyone worked together and got acquainted.

On the last day of VBS, all were sad to say goodbye. The eight grade government school was home to about 240 students who stretched the limited craft supplies but stole hearts. Although not a Christian school in name, there were no rules against teaching about Jesus, so every classroom was able to hear character-building and Bible stories and learn new songs and games, all with the intent of drawing them closer to Jesus.

English is the official language of Belize and its schools, but everyone speaks Spanish at home, so the younger kids had some trouble understanding English. But whether everyone understood each other or not, they got to know each other. Although it was difficult for the few VBS presenters to remember so many names, the children learned theirs and shouted them whenever they came to the school.

Getting to know the kind, generous Belizeans made the trip worthwhile for many. Although the mosquitoes and heat were a constant stress, the lovely people more than made up for it.

On the last evening, their new friends came to bid the mission team farewell. Several of the church leaders and mission trip participants shared their thanks for their experiences. After those formalities and a few songs, everyone wanted their pictures with their favorite team member. Lines of children followed the VBS helpers, wanting their addresses or asking them to send pictures.

The mission trip participants now look forward to seeing their Belizean friends in heaven, where they won’t ever need to say goodbye.

June 01, 2003 / Oregon Conference