“Thank you” for Mission Trip to Belize
By Carolyn Cromer
This year, I was lucky enough to receive the scholarship that the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth award to one employee each year to participate in a mission trip to Belize with the Lay Mission Volunteer Program. I felt like I was Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: I had won the “golden ticket!”
Twenty-five years ago, before spouses and children and mortgages, I participated in numerous mission trips like this, and it was an important part of who I was and what I did with my time. But 25 years felt like a long time ago, and I didn’t know if I could participate with the same energy and emotional commitment.
This trip was special: we would be building a house in honor of a beloved Bardstown teacher, the sister of a Nazareth resident from the Villages. When sponsor Barbara Cecil spoke to our group at orientation about her sister Carol and how important this build was to her and her memory of Carol, I felt a responsibility to represent Barbara, to take her hopes and memories with me. In addition, I was representing the SCNs who made it possible for me to go, who allowed me the time off, and sponsored my airfare, room, and board. What an incredible gift to give an employee, the chance to take time away from my life to help others. And, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, of my husband, who would be taking care of our 9-year-old and 6-year-old boys, and my mother, aunt, and sister, who would be helping out. There was a lot of love and generosity that went into enabling me to go. I felt humbled and very grateful.
And what a trip! Seven of us made the journey from Kentucky, led by the ever-patient Ellen Sprigg. We were a diverse group but quickly found common ground. The trip centered around the house we built for Sharette and her four boys, a woman who was living in a small house with her mother, sister, and her sister’s family. Hand in Hand Ministry, our host organization who was managing the build, hit the nail on the head with their motto: we weren’t just building a house, we were changing lives. Our whole group felt that: we could see the pride and responsibility Sharette took in her house and the excitement on the faces of her sons as they saw their home being built. We saw it in one another, too, as each of us faced the challenges in our lives that we brought with us. For me, it was rediscovering who I was beyond mother/wife/daughter/provider, and being reminded of how fortunate I am to be born where I have opportunities and access to education, employment, health care, and safety. With every nail that I hammered, with the floor I helped lay and the roof I helped build, and with the help of the Belizeans and my fellow missionaries, I felt that rediscovery emerge.
I am so grateful to the SCNs to have had the opportunity to participate in a mission trip to Belize, and to the Belizean friends and hosts we met who took such good care of us and allowed us a brief window into their lives. I hope that others may go on mission trips like this, to show ourselves what we are capable of, to gain perspective on our lives, and to build international friendships that make the world a little smaller and a whole lot better.