There’s no doubt about it – All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas knows how to put together an effective mission team. In just 1 week their team of 23 aged 11 to 60+ managed to…
- Move 90 yards of sand to create an new basketball court, and improve the bicycle parking area
- Cut and weld rebar into three 19’ long bike racks
- Paint the new bike racks
- Repaint the entire playground – all swing sets, tables and palapas
- Re-hang all swing sets with new hardware and paint the swing chains
- Remove and re-stretch 180 linear feet of fencing around the playground
- Install five new fence posts and build 40 feet of fencing 12 feet high
- Build a ping pong table from scratch using scrap wood
- Re-roof the area near dental lab and library
- Install and repair joists and install new roofing for the courtyard
- Move all scrap wood and PVC in the large woodpile and re-stack it in an organized manner
- Paint a Crocodile sign for the new basketball area
- Cut wooden pallets to size and fit underneath decking to protect balls from going under the school
- Removing and rebuilding termite infested shelving in the storage room.
- Install three basketball posts and hoops, and build backboards out of used floorboards
- Deliver 30 brand new Chromebooks to the Holy Cross Computer Lab
- Taking photographic portraits of all the teachers
But most interestingly, “getting a lot of stuff done” wasn’t this mission teams’ primary goal. Achieving this much was a natural outworking of their true mission – forming strong, meaningful and enduring friendships and connections between the families at their church while serving and connecting with the people of Holy Cross.
I had to know more!
Creating intentional friendships
When All Saints Episcopal plans their mission trips, they don’t just hope the team members will form connections; it is their primary focus. The mission trip is open to families with older children and at least 1 parent must go on the trip with their child(ren). The team works together before they come to Belize by planning fundraisers and gathering supplies. The fundraisers are a key to the mission’s success – not so much because they need the money, but because it forms a team that knows how to work together long before they hit the mission field.
On the mission field the families split up into different groups, with two unrelated adults working with a few unrelated youth. The groups change each day, so over the course of a week many new friendships form. During each day the groups chat, figure out how to solve problems, face the same frustrations and successes and experience the bonds that form over shared hard work. Sons are mentored by other men. Mothers connect with other girls who give them insights into the next generation. The youth make friends with each other and get to see their parents through the eyes of others. Parents connect with a wide group of other parents in a similar stage of life. And in the background school playgrounds are repainted, sand is moved, fences are built and roofs are repaired.
Building strong families
It’s not surprising that many of the Belize mission team families return each year. I spoke to a couple of families whose members had been to Holy Cross 6-8 times already.
Wife and mother Karen says “Sure, we could go to a lake house for a holiday together, but there’s just something deeper about doing it this way in Belize. It’s more meaningful.” Karen’s family members have all been to Belize at least 6 times. When they first came their oldest was a young teen. Now he’s graduated from college and left home, but he still rejoins his family as they serve in Belize. The family plans to return to Belize for many years to come.
Mike adds “Our children have grown from boys to young men, from follower to leaders at Holy Cross. Karen and I are equally thankful for the boys’ ministry to Holy Cross, and Holy Cross’s ministry to them. Ben has gone from bouncy and unfocused adolescent to a thoughtful and joyful young man, a mentor to the younger ones on the trip. Caleb has gone from times of struggle within his own heart to moments of deep acceptance within the mission team and keen appreciation for the Holy Cross community. His physical and emotional strength have inspired his elders who find the heat more difficult to handle. Matt has gone from the sock-puppet king and tag-along little brother to being his own person. He has exercised his gifts by harvesting used parts from computers in the states and installing them in the ones in the Holy Cross lab and generally helping Mr. Aaron’s keep things running.
“As parents and educators we talk about preparing our children to do important things in the future. Holy Cross gives my boys the opportunity to do something important now, and that makes all the difference for them and hopefully for those they serve.
“Each time we return to Holy Cross, my family delights in seeing the bathroom and playground we helped build, the posts we sank, the sand we moved all still in place. We’ve all changed schools and jobs, but the nails we banged (if sometimes crookedly) into ironwood remain. These small tangible things remind us that the good we do with and for each other, through God’s grace, can last, can serve, can connect us all quite literally across time and distance.
“We’ve smiled as Miss Lydia’s children were born and as Mr. Aaron’s grew. We cried when Mr. Freddy’s dog died. Although we are only occasional and temporary residents of Ambergris Caye, we somehow and gratefully feel permanent members of the Holy Cross community. We try to be as much a blessing to Holy Cross as Holy Cross is to us, but so far we have been delightful failures in that effort. We thank everyone at Holy Cross for welcoming us to play our small part in the grand celebration of life.”
Building up strong youth
For Laura, it’s the confidence the trip gives her and the youth that keeps her and her family coming back. “In Belize the youth get a chance to try new skills and feel proud of their achievements.”
Laura gives me a great example. “Because I took a welding class 20 years ago, I was asked to make the bike racks. I was working with a wonderful younger girl on the team. She goes to a private girls’ school. She’s a cheer leader. A really sweet kid. At first she was happy to help, but was adamant she wanted nothing to do with the actual welding. But as the morning went on I saw she was watching the work and seeing others learn. So I asked her again if she wanted to try. She did – and she was good. She loved it! It was incredible to see her pride and new found confidence. Where else would this girl have learned to weld?”
Laura continues, saying her own confidence has grown, too. “I’ve fixed fences, repaired roofs, done painting. Now when a friend asks for help back home, I know I can do it.”
You can join in the mission
Are you interested in doing something similar? We have a lot of work that needs to be done and have projects available for mission trips to Belize. Click here to find out more.