17 from Parkway take mission trip to Belize

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By Felicia Gray

Parkway Baptist Church and its pastor, Brother DeWayne Gibson, are no strangers to international missions. Earlier this month, Gibson took a group of 17 youth and adults to Belize City, Belize, for five days.

“Parkway feels really strongly about getting outside the church walls—and not just internationally, but locally too,” said Gibson.

The group was asked for a visit by previous Campbellsville University student, R-Lee Vicente, who played in Parkway’s praise team during his time as a student. Vicente, the son of a pastor of Galilee Baptist Church in Belize City, asked for Parkway’s youth to assist in the church’s orphanage.

In reflection of their trip the week before, many of the youth admitted that the orphans and citizens of Belize touched them more than they had expected, and said that they made a huge impact on their lives.

“It was life-changing,” said Cameron Howell, “just seeing how things are so different there… We took a spaghetti meal to the house and there were two 14-year-old twin boys and a disabled boy and by the time we had gotten all the food and drinks passed out, he had already finished his entire meal and his brother was like ‘oh, he just eats fast’ and so, I hadn’t ate my food yet, and I was like, ‘are you still hungry?’ and he was kind of shy and he was like ‘yeah.’ And there’s no way that I could eat my meal when he’s so hungry. I mean, I can go back and I can buy food if I’m still hungry, and they don’t have those resources. I gave him my meal, and he and his brother were just shocked that I gave them more food — just the look on their faces. Some of the others, I know, chose to give them their meals because they were all just hungry.”

Howell said that was what broke her heart the most, “seeing someone truly hungry and in such poverty.”

“It was eye-opening. We saw a lot of poverty. We made meals and took groceries to people’s homes. It makes you feel like you take things for granted, seeing how we complain about what we have and they’re happy with anything,” said Tori Banks.

Most every member of the team had their own story of how seeing the impoverished people of Belize impacted them.

“One of the places we went to was literally a shack,” said Andrew Bennett. “But they were cool with it — they were content”

“It was humbling to see how they had so little and yet they gave us so much. It was a blessing to see them so happy with what they had. It made me realize how ungrateful I am for the little things such as air conditioning, clean water, and a bed. I’ve always been a worry wart about every little thing, but this trip made me realize that I just needed to put all of my trust in God because he will provide,” said Sarah Stults. “We met this one woman there, Ruth, who was very sick and knew she could die any day now, but all she kept saying was ‘Praise God!’ She wasn’t worried about anything because she knew it was in God’s hands.”

While on their trip, the team helped out with vacation Bible school, donated books to a preschool class and the orphanage, and made home visits, in which they cooked food and delivered it to their homes.

“As we took food and clothing, it opened up the door to talk about the families’ spiritual needs as well,” said Cassie Allen.

Tori Banks, whose mother, Theresa Banks, also went on the trip, met a girl named Aaliyah during vacation bible school that became attached to her almost immediately. Even though Aaliyah was only there for one day, they had a special connection.

“A couple from our church donated crosses to us, basically the whole point was to pray over it and find someone to give it to and share your faith with them, then you give them the cross. So I was talking to her and telling her that my mom was there and she said ‘no, that’s not your mom, that’s my mom, ‘cause we’re sisters now,’ and that’s just really sweet. I took the opportunity to give her my cross and pray with her, and this kind of goes back to the poverty thing, they just, they don’t have a lot, but she had gotten a bracelet at school that week and she wouldn’t let me give her something without her giving me something in return,” she said.

Austin Stillwell said one of the people who touched him the most was the associate pastor of the church in Belize, Brother Sidney. He said that even though he had many health issues, including back problems and cancer, he never gave up hope and kept a good attitude through it all. He said to Stillwell, “If the Lord wants me to be in pain, I’ll gladly accept it and go on.”

“You’re doing what we know we’re supposed to and want to do, but we’re not able to,” said pastor Vicente, according to Gibson.

“There were several of the members of the church that would help us and take us places when we’d go out in groups, and the guy that was in our group, his name was Ralph, and Ralph was pretty awesome… but he just really reached me because he had his own job, yet he was still being such a servant to us. Like, every day he would bring us some kind of fresh fruit that we normally wouldn’t find up here. He took us out into the community and just exhibited a boldness that I strive to get. Like, he didn’t care who he was talking to, he’d go up and invite them to VBS and people were just so welcoming too. Around here you start going door to door and you get dirty looks and doors slammed in your face, but they would listen to you. He was actually the one I ended up giving my cross to, because he was just such a light to me,” said Andrew “Roo” Bennett, reflecting on his experience in Belize.

In the two days that they visited the orphanage, Paul Dangerfield said there was a boy who impacted him the most. According to Dangerfield, most of the children looked happy and were having a good time while they were there, but there was one little boy who had his head down and didn’t want to speak. All he wanted to do was see his family, who he said he was taken away from.

“He just wanted to go home,” said Dangerfield.

The next day they went, Dangerfield hoped to see him and give him some encouragement and the cross necklace he wore, but he wasn’t there, because he got to go home, which he said was bittersweet.

In order to gather funds for the trip(s), the team had many fundraisers, including a car show, selling T-shirts, Bunco, and having bake sales. One of the many people who helped them on their way was Paula Varney of Paula’s Hot Biscuit. Gibson said her assistance made a tremendous difference.

Gibson said there were also many people who donated money without any fundraisers, “just because.”

“The cool thing was, with so many of them that had never flown and never been on mission before, we went and it was really like pieces of a puzzle, because everyone had a role to play and everybody did such an awesome job of reaching people and doing what God called them to do,” said Gibson.

“I think we’ll definitely be sending a team back, we built strong relationships we hope to continue and grow further,” said Tori Banks

“There’s just such a great need there,” agreed Howell.

The church plans to build another orphanage in the next couple months and Allen will be leading a team to return to Belize to assist in getting the orphanage up and running and to hand out Christmas presents in the fall.

Before heading to Belize, though, members of Parkway Baptist made two separate trips to Ireland, one in conjunction with Campbellsville University and another with Immanuel Baptist Church. Gibson and Dangerfield were two of the Parkway members to go to Ireland. Dangerfield left for Ireland on May 5 and stayed for a total of two months. Gibson and his family flew to Ireland on June 16 and returned on July 5 with Dangerfield in tow.

Gibson takes a group to Ireland every year. He first felt called to the country when he was working at Campbellsville University and he and Ed Pavy, director of Campus Ministries at CU, took a team of 25 people to Ireland 15 years ago. This year was his ninth trip and Dangerfield’s third.

“There’s a definite division between Catholic and Protestant there, not like there is here. You’re born into that and they think that’s enough to save them, and so they get caught up in religion and not relationship. So they think they’re saved, they think that’s all they need, so we’re trying to teach them the importance of a relationship with Jesus. We go in, helping build relationships so the ministry can come in behind us and deliver the message through Jesus,” said Gibson.

While Dangerfield was in Ireland, he helped Jen and Richie Shilliday with their ministry by coordinating the various missionary teams that came to Ireland—keeping them on schedule, making sure they knew where to go and what they needed to do.

“They like to bring Americans in because we’re not really seen as Catholic or Protestant, we’re seen as American Christians, so we can do things that people in their own country can’t do because that barrier that’s there between the two religions,” said Gibson.