On our last full day in Belize, my husband and I had chosen to spend time in the jungle. I sat in solitude looking out at the lush tropical vegitation. The sounds of the jungle were lulling me into a deeper state of rest. The gentle rain, songs of the birds and frogs, even the occasional bark of the howler monkeys were stilling me within. I was in quiet reflection, listening to my heart and mind, trying to process the previous days spent with the Belizean brethren. I kept trying to put into words the experience and how I felt. I knew upon our arrival back home, the question ," How was your trip?," would be asked many times. So how was I to describe it - in a short concise answer? Exhilarating, edifying, exciting, wonderful, humbling? No- none of those words described how I felt. The only word that kept coming up was full. My heart is full, mi corazon esta lleno. There's no other word to describe how I felt. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say my heart was overflowing, so much so that tears spilled out easily when goodbyes had to be said to our Belizean brothers and sisters in Christ.
My husband and I went with another couple to Northern Belize, which is the farming area of Belize, fields and fields of sugar cane were in the process of being harvested. We were working with two churches there, one in Orange Walk town, and one in the tiny village of San Narciso. Our goal was to teach, strengthen and encourage these mostly first generation Christians, these hungry babes in Christ, and perhaps give a shot in the arm to the mature Christians who are there working among them. I felt as if we were transported back to a 1st century church. The level of enthusiasm for the word of God, and for each other was immediately apparent. Their hunger to learn and understand was humbling. It reminded me of the Ethiopian eunuch, who when Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading, the eunuch said, "How can I, unless someone teach me."
And so we did. We tried to share the meat of the gospel, and tried to encourage those already laboring there. We had men's and women's studies, and combined preaching and teaching sessions. In the little village congregation we spent 7 hours one Saturday in mens and women classes, in singing, in praying, and feasting. I have never experienced such hospitality. (And all without Pinterest folded napkins and elaborate decorations!) We had a meal in which they shared what they had, pooling it together to produce a feast not just for the stomach but for the heart. True hospitality isn't about the table or the food, it's about sharing one's heart. Hospitality seeks to bless the recipient, and bless they did. Full, overflowing full, is how much they blessed us.
We spent 10 wonderful days with the brethren in Belize. And we fell in love. Not with the area-(where we were staying was NOT a tourist destination!) We fell in love with them. We were enamored by their hunger for God and their gentle way. I miss the Belizean greeting, of a kiss on the cheek. I miss how they honor each other-especially the elderly. I miss the children-oh the children-who so easily come to you and hug you and hold your hand and want to sit near you. I miss the simplicity of their devotion to Christ. I miss being called 'Seester', in that beautiful accent. I miss sitting around a table with a cup of coffee in hand with open Bibles, learning of God. I miss singing in Spanish-or 'trying' to sing in Spanish! I miss the emphasis on the spiritual, not the physical.
Yet, they have their problems, their struggles. Satan is active everywhere the Lord's people are trying to grow. His church is perfect, yet the people within are broken, forgiven sinners, whom He is restoring and transforming. We are all- even on our best day- a forgiven sinner. So yes, the churches in Belize have their own set of struggles, they have things to overcome. But they have a hunger for knowledge, a love for each other, and a humility of spirit that I personally don't often see in the churches in America. So though they are in what we would call a third world country where poverty is the rule not the exception, they are RICH, oh so rich. It is that richness of spirit that I miss so much. Oh that we could all attain to that richness of spirit.
This scripture is inscribed on the sign of the door to the San Narciso village church. It's not just a sign on a building, it is who they are.
So then those who had received his word were baptized...and they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2: 41-42 (emphasis mine)
This depth of devotion is what spilled over into me, filling me up to overflowing. Devotion: pure, undefiled, simple~ not dependent on outside circumstances or events, not dependent on what we have or don't have, not dependent on how much time or energy or ability we have. Devotion to learn, to grow, to love and to serve. A devotion which produces a fruit as evident as the bananas and papayas that grew everywhere. A fruit called joy, which fills their hearts, and any others who are blessed enough to be a recipient of their outpouring of love. A joy that transcends anything this world has to offer.