Sometimes when I tell people about my taking a trip to Belize for work and service at Holy Cross Anglican Primary School, they ask me why I go to Belize. Why go to a foreign country, when there is a need here at home? It is a good question, but often I find that it is really more of an attempt to deflect rather than to engage. There is, of course, great need for service close to home, here in Cleveland County and Shelby. As a church, and as individuals, many of us who have gone to Belize from Redeemer spend much of our time volunteering and some of our working lives serving our neighbors here, close to home. So why then have the option to go to Belize?
For me, there are two primary reasons, or motivations, for traveling to serve neighbors in far away places. First is friendship. I believe that it is important to make and foster friendships with Christians throughout the world, especially Christians whose lives and cultures are different from our own experiences. I believe that seeing Christianity lived and experienced in places other than the United States helps build knowledge and unlocks new understandings in the lives of American Christians. Finding the common ground and understanding the differences of faith journeys in contexts different from our own helps us to separate our faith from our culture and politics. It also expands our sphere of “neighbor” and gives greater weight to the idea that all of God’s creation is wonderfully made and that all of God’s people are our brothers and sisters in Christ. In Belize, the culture is different, but the language barrier is lessened because English is the primary and official language.
The second, but equally important reason that I promote travel is the idea of humble service itself. Jesus makes it clear that the path to discipleship is to give up power and to become one who is willing to serve the least among us. One way to do this is to go to places where the least of these live and to serve them, thereby raising them up, and modeling for the world the upside down nature of God’s Kingdom. Holy Cross School in San Pedro, Belize serves children from some of the poorest families in Belize, some who have fled from worse places in search of safety and a better life, and is built at the entrance to the poorest neighborhood on the island, San Mateo. The presence of the school, built entirely by volunteer teams from the US and Canada, working together with Belizeans from the community, has been a catalyst for positive change. The community has built roads where once a swamp stood, turning garbage into soil and forcing the city government to install electricity and plumbing.
This year, a small team from Redeemer returned for the second year in a row to replace aging and rusted roof panels to stop leaks into classrooms. Team members repainted the wooden classrooms to help preserve and make fre
sh the spaces where children will sit and learn important lessons to better their futures. The school is built over water in a mangrove swamp, so the buildings are all connected by elevated decking. Several areas of deck had to be removed and the joists replaced before new deck boards could be returned.
One classroom had its wooden door replaced and painted, and a second classroom received all new wooden window shutters, which are closed during rain and at night to prevent trespassing and theft of materials. The work was hot, but the team of Rebekah Hopkins, Judy Hopkins, Gwen Gadaire, Donna Logan and I worked hard to make sure that as much work was completed as we could. Our team is the last volunteers of the year before classes resume in September. We deeply appreciate the prayers and encouragement from our Redeemer family, and hope that we can share more stories with you in person. If you are interested in serving God and serving God’s Children at Holy Cross School, Redeemer plans to return again in July 2024 for another week of service.
Please contact Ben or Judy Hopkins for more details.
By Ben Hopkins
Ben Hopkins is a long-time member of Redeemer and is due to begin training for the priesthood in the Fall. He will still be with us as he is doing a distance course at General Theological Seminary in New York whilst he continues to work on his farm.
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