Change is a necessary instrument for our survival. Wherever you are in life, at some point, the many trials or mistakes that incite growth begin to reveal this same truth. And of course, I do not mean us climbing out of some primordial ooze and suddenly being able to exist, as in evolution. I am talking about the processes in our lives that force us to grow, be better, and strive for a greater purpose. As I started my internship here at BCE, I was quickly exposed to this. I heard how the current conditions and difficulties of living and doing ministry during this challenging time of the current pandemic have been a “Blessing” to the ministry at BCE. I heard of how they overcame many of the challenges of not being able to do ministry as they have done for years, and how it has led them to a time of reflection on how to do things better. And to make things work and continue to focus on the vision, still, which is to see “Belize change Belize”.
I have never experienced what a ‘typical’ summer looked like for the people who volunteer during summer and assist with camps, reaching out to the children around the city, so that is where I started the conversation with our children’s ministry leader, Danielly Peña.
I wanted to discuss her experiences in ministry, and how she has been able to keep doing the call to minister to children. We discussed when she began volunteering for camps around 2017. Of it, she says, “it was very intense because [of the] camp itself. We would have two camps a day. We would have a camp in the morning and a camp in the afternoon. That means we would leave here 7-7:15 after ‘stand up’ meeting and we would go to camp…”. That experience sounds challenging and as we discussed further, she also mentioned, “when we would leave Friday, we were dragging to get into the vehicle to leave. Like We were excited, [that] we served but we were tired.” So for those first two years of volunteering, Danielly experienced this way of operating summer camps which was testing for everyone involved.
The following year there were some major changes to be noted, of them, Danielly says, “when I became [part of the] core team that’s when things started to change, you know, having three camps but in the morning, and dividing it. We were running like one camp in Hattieville, two camps in the city. But it was just in the morning. That’s when we would have the afternoon when would basically be freer”. Each year there were some changes applied from the lessons learned from previous years of summer camp ministry and evolving in pursuit of doing ministry the best way possible for everyone involved.
As ministry was in full swing there was some feedback that the leadership began to take in from the people who served in camps during summer. Of the discussion around the details of camp, Danielly remembers “I think the leadership itself decided [on making changes] because that’s how changes start happening. Because they realized this can’t be happening anymore. We were just draining our volunteers.”
The biggest change or challenge faced recently was the fact that they could not do summer camps at all due to many restrictions the Government set in motion due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Danielly recounts the meeting they had with the staff of BCE to discuss how they would carry out Ministry. “We would have Zoom with the team and we were like ‘how we are going to approach this?’ Ozni came alongside Leah with this idea of productions, having our partners (Ministry and churches around the city we come alongside to do camps or other ministries with) more involved.” The idea was to film and re-write the curriculum more simply to be used during summer camps and come alongside the partners, give the material to them and challenge them to execute it. Danielly remembers how the partnership played out, “we did the whole thing in packages for our partners. We printed it out, the curriculum, the videos… and then we went to each camp and we trained the partners… and that’s how we empower them and tell [them] it’s time.” This was the turning point. The reality of the times allowed the ministry leaders to say, ‘now it is time to put the ball in their park’
However, the partners have not been left the swim on their own. Danielly details other ways they also came alongside with our partners: “there was a time of two months where it was a bit freer (restrictions due to the pandemic), where we could meet with 50 or an amount and that’s when we decided we would still go help as a partner… we would go support… it was them spearheading, they would open with a word of prayer, they would tell us what to do… and so giving them the leadership, we have always wanted them to have.”
The proverbial “give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but teach how to fish and you feed him for life” comes to mind. That is not to say that BCE taught these people how to fish. These partners have been working in their communities for years. They have always been fishing. But it was what else they do apart from fishing. What else can they be challenged with? Danielly comments on this “It was stretching for them and we got to see that they have so much potential and me leading the children’s ministry that’s something I have always wanted.”
In this new year of ministry, the current situation with the regulations put in place by the Government at the time of my writing in many ways the same as the onset of the whole pandemic. The challenge to continue to carry out summer camp ministry is still somewhat the same. But, with a new purpose and goal: encourage our partners to continue being part of the ministry as much as they can.
With that goal in mind, Danielly explains the direction she wants to see the ministry go, ” We are using our partners to be part of the production this year… so each one of them gets to play a role when it comes to either memory verse, Gospel hand motion, the songs or just maybe the dropbox or the little details… Which I think its really important because that is the same kids that get to see themselves being part of it.” It is different when your hands help lay either the foundation, a brick in the wall, or any trivial thing that might not seem like much in comparison with the task at hand, yet you say proudly to yourself ‘I built this too”. The vision and the story to be told is how God has been working in the ministry to allow for everyone to play a part in building his Kingdom here in Belize. He moved whatever he needed to be moved, gave inspiration to whoever needed it, and ultimately the purpose remains; to see Belize Change Belize.