Traveling to San Ignacio, Belize to serve God’s people as a family was a wonderful blessing and one of the most special memories we’ll ever share together. The idea to go as a family was planted after our oldest two children, Gabrielle 22 and Garrison 19, returned from their 2017 MOST Eyeglass Clinic trip to Guatemala. They were so enthusiastic and uplifted from the experience, they immediately started talk of going again the next summer. Jeff and I along with Gavin, our 16-year-old, wanted to join them for the next trip, sensing it was an opportunity we should not pass up. After all, how many summers would we all have where schedules would allow for such a meaningful travel experience? Jeff was hesitant; how could we afford it with two in college and a third soon approaching? Friends from church assured us we would fundraise as a team to help reduce the cost; we hoped it would be enough. We soon learned of the LWML Family scholarship and took it as our sign we could make it work!
On June 15th we left the airport with Nancy, Ella, Michael and Evelyn from Hope Lutheran, Shawnee—our home church and Ashton, an adventurous and independent teen, from Topeka. Our Kansas group was joined by six others; Beth, Earl, Adam and Ed from North Carolina and Laura and Chris from Wisconsin which made us a team of 16. Everyone had prior experience with the exception of Jeff, Gavin, me and Evelyn from Hope. God brought us all together as a harmonious team for His purpose! MOST Ministries trained us ahead of time and provided send-off devotionals. The first devotion focused on trusting God to “go empty” as we entered the mission experience, void of any expectation except to serve where needed, taking each day and situation as it came. My children joked that I would need help with that! A control freak mom who could not “let go” was what they were envisioning. I assured them I would do my best and I think I surprised them by being blessed with the gift of being able to do just that! After all, I wasn’t in charge; it wasn’t my show to run—I wasn’t “the mom” for this one.
God, through MOST Ministries, equipped us physically and spiritually with what was needed to provide hundreds in 5 village churches, in and surrounding San Ignacio, with the best vision they had experienced in years. As a mom, I was so proud of our children, who I saw as team members, independent of Jeff and me, working in roles for which they had been trained and jumping in with whatever task was needed from screening, testing, evangelizing, playing with the children and packing and unpacking the clinic. Morning and evening devotions led by each member of our team on the roof of our hotel were among the sweetest times on the trip.
We traveled by school bus to the surrounding village churches we served and back to our hotel again each night. On more than one occasion, we would pass villagers we had met earlier in the week; they would be wearing their new eyeglasses, waving to us with huge smiles as we drove through town! Although it was another country, the small knit community became familiar to us through our daily ventures to the next village church where we set up clinic for the day.
Our family bond was strengthened, and the connections made with our MOST Ministries team members are ongoing through social media. We hope to be reunited on another MOST eyeglass clinic trip soon, although all five of us will likely not be able to coordinate school and work schedules to go together as a family again for quite a few years. Our family will always treasure this trip and we are so thankful to MOST Ministries for the training, logistical organization and physical care given to us, for the support of our Hope Lutheran Shawnee congregation, and finally to the LWML for offering the Family Scholarship that made it possible to trust and “go empty”.