Belize Work Teams
By Nancy McCormick
My husband Mike and I have served on several work teams, Friends Disaster projects, hosting work camp experiences for youth, traveling with young and old to Belize City, Belize and while working as Friends Pastors for almost 35 years. It has been our desire to see living water stir within the hearts of those with whom we travel as they begin to look outside of themselves as a way to serve God.
When we serve others, we have the opportunity to listen and learn from those who come from another walk of life. This helps us to learn about God in a different arena. These experiences also offer opportunities to be challenged to a deeper spiritual walk because many times it stirs deep questions within us.
Christ calls us to service, but some feel they have nothing to offer, only to find out it was their gift and their call that was needed at a very special time in their life. Some feel they know everything, only to experience they don’t know much at all, as they see tragic circumstances that surround them. It becomes a humbling experience, which can help them listen better as they pour a cup of water for the one they are serving.
These trips are not always easy, but I can say they challenge me physically, spiritually and emotionally. Our trips to Belize become a way to get to know and love our field staff there. The Barbers open their home to us, take care of us and help us to understand the importance of the children they serve at the Friends School there. We sing, laugh, eat, pray, play games and build a loving community while we are there — another way of serving one another. Although hosting a work team is a lot of work for them, I hope we bring them some hope, joy and a reminder that what they are doing is important.
In order for our yearly meetings to support work teams, we need to believe in them. We need to support them financially and we need to support them spiritually. On our last work team experience in March of 2014 to Belize, Mike and I had 10 travelers, 6 of whom were Wilmington College students who served our Belize mission on your behalf. What a wonderful experience it was.
And last, but not least, it is just plain fun to serve in community; working out kinks and growing in God’s grace.
Cuba Work Team Missions
An Interview with Linda Garrison
QL: How do work teams equip others to serve?
LG: Work team participants can always think of someone who ought to come with them to Cuba — generally, it is someone who our participants think will appreciate the spirit of worship, camaraderie and ingenuity. I don’t think anyone has ever considered it to have been a waste of their time and money.
QL: You have participated in many Cuba work teams. How have the experiences equipped you to serve?
LG: I appreciate the manner in which churches discover the needs of their particular community and fill it. Sometimes it’s as likely to be the giftedness of someone in leadership. For example, Holguin, Cuba, has a recovering alcoholic who is recognized by city dwellers. They’ve begun their own program to encourage those overcoming addictions. The city also has the school for physically-challenged people, so they host a meeting for them and help address needs such as mending clothing, etc. These are needs unique to Holguin, not necessarily the needs of every community. What areas need to be addressed in my community? How can those with whom I minister begin to see the difficulties of others as our needs, as well?
QL: How does this experience equip teams to serve?
LG: We generally have to realize that our own skills may not be what’s needed, but we can still fill a need. An engineer, librarian or general contractor are trained in the United States and manage well. We’re not called to manage in Cuba; we’re called to simply do what our hosts ask us to do, and in the manner they wish, be it in visitation, mixing cement, or painting. We must be prepared to humble ourselves, or realize that it isn’t humbling at all — there is no “lesser work.”
QL: How does a work team equip the mission site you visit to serve?
LG: This year, the team made plenty of visits to church programs, meetings and homes. They moved materials so cement could be mixed and learned the manner in which the job of mixing and moving cement was done in Cuba. The team appreciated those who took time away from their jobs to complete a task that was time-sensitive: One certain day, to beat a weather front, a roof needed to be poured bucket by bucket. As well, they moved approximately 26,000 lbs of materials, one single small bucket at a time, from the ground level to the second story of the building in Holguin that will house retired pastors, the YM office and the Peace Institute. This meant the skilled mason could spend his time doing masonry work and not lifting the materials that he would need.
We also painted several rooms and dozens and dozens of chairs at the camp facility adjacent to the Gibara meeting house. The chairs were finished to have a uniform appearance, though they’d been purchased at different times over the years.