It was a sense of relief for twenty Iowan United Methodist Volunteers in Mission to board a Delta flight to Atlanta and on to Belize after a winter of snow, sleet, ice and below zero weather. From fourteen United Methodist Churches across Iowa, volunteers were loaded with painting equipment, Vacation Bible School materials, sewing and canning supplies, snacks and good humor. The final destination was Dangriga, a small community on the Caribbean Sea, about 3 hours bus ride from Belize City. Here the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and Americas is responsible for the upkeep of the elementary school.
The priority on the team’s “to do“ list was to repair a cement block perimeter wall surrounding the school and church property. After blocks had been replaced, the wall was painted yellow and coral which brightened up the entire area. A large “Noah’s Ark” mural was painted on the front of one building with coconut palms painted on pillars. Several painted animals peeked out of the ark which enthralled the school children.
In the library new book shelves were made and installed. The parsonage of the church and water cistern was painted a bright turquoise color.
During the school day women and older children learned how to can a variety of fruit compotes, vegetables and salsa. With two new sewing machines, classes for older students and local women were held for eight days of learning basic sewing, measuring and cutting patterns and then learning how to use the machines. There was much excitement when the sewers showed their handiwork. A women’s sewing group is being formed to continue the tailoring classes.
Following the school day, Vacation Bible School for lower and upper elementary students was held with stories, music and crafts. The children enjoyed their lesson time and were thrilled with hand made items to take home.
Three Iowa clergywomen preached at small rural churches on Sunday while the majority of the team worshipped at the Dangriga Methodist Church. Andrew Cunningham, a Methodist missionary from Ireland, is moving to Australia so assistance was given him to sort through books, Sunday School materials to be given to the various Methodist churches.
The group was housed in a Catholic Parish and resort called Jungle Huts so there was lots of walking between the two places and to/from the housing to the work site. The group was divided into four teams who prepared the food and did clean up.
Several people found odd jobs as installing a window frame for a van, resetting a sink, repairing and painting swing sets, replacing wooden boards on the veranda floor, and placing linoleum in the school canteen.
The Epworth School children presented a musical and cultural farewell program for the team with the giving of Belizean gifts.
Two days prior to our return to Iowa, the group rode the Express Bus from Dangriga back to Belize City, took a 45 minute water taxi to Caye Caulker, a small island on the barrier reef.
We enjoyed sea food, sitting on the beach, a water tour out to the barrier reef to snorkel, swim with the sting rays and feed the tarpons. A full moon over the Caribbean Sea was a delight to behold!
It was with reluctance we journeyed back to Iowa with a 60 degree temperature drop but
our bodies reflected a deep tan and our hearts were full of love from and for the people of Dangriga.
Larry and Kathy Bigelow, Jesup, Jackie Caffrey, Clear Lake, Dave Duffe, Moscow, Bill and Katherine Howell, Coon Rapids, Beverly Marshall-Goodell, Tiffin, Martha McCallister, Wilton, Mike and Lanette Morgan, Wilton Nola Moser, Amana , Beverly Nolte, Des Moines, Crystal Oberheu, Meservey, Ruth Owen, Guthrie Center, Jane Punke, Nevada, Linda Rowe, Bloomfield, Eric Shumate, Dow City, Vickie Steffes, Knoxville, Gary and Judy Taber, Lake Park