Over the last 11 years St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, NC has been an incredible support to Holy Cross by sending mission teams, sponsoring high school students and fundraising for the feeding program. So when they visited a few weeks ago I had to ask…
What keeps you coming back?
For the team members, many of whom I’ve now known for years, the answer is easy. “Relationships. It’s the people, the children.”
I had to know more.
Nancy is on their third visit to Holy Cross. She comes for two weeks at a time and assists in our Standard 3 classroom. “All the children from last year remember me.” She says. “One evening I was eating at El Fogon and I hear my name – one of my students from last year is peeping through the fence and calling to me.” And being right in the classroom, it’s not hard to see she’s making a difference.
Deacon Jan tells everyone “Miracles happen here every day. Some big, some small, but they happen every day. You just need to look for them.” Jan spent her 3-month sabbatical at Holy Cross and says coming back is like a family reunion. She has many memories to share of the students she has known through primary school who are now in high school, of the one girl with the oh-so-challenging background that she has supported for years to make it through high school and to a better life, and of one little boy who found a place in her heart when he wouldn’t leave her side during the Valentine’s day fair last year. She was looking for him again this year. (And yes, he remembers her).
Rev Helen, the new Rector at St Luke’s is a first time visitor to Holy Cross and admits to being skeptical before coming about why her church spends their dollars to come to Belize when needs exist closer to home. But after walking through San Pedro her first evening and seeing the smiles and hugs as Jan and Nancy are recognized by old friends and students she quickly understands the importance and impact of the connections her church has made.
And it’s not one-way either, as the staff at Holy Cross truly appreciate having St Luke’s come. They’re like your best, most reliable friends coming to lend a hand. They know how everything works, will bring any supplies, take on any job and do it well and their conversation and company is a balm to the soul (which is important to us staff on the coal face). Truly people who make life better.
For St Luke’s, helping Holy Cross is more than just the once a year tropical get-away. For the team it’s a chance to get to know each other better, as they reconnect with old team members and make new friends.
“A part of our Mission is that we welcome members from other churches, so a St Luke’s team often has members from other churches and out of state.” I’m surprised to learn that Clara, who for years celebrated her birthday in Belize with the mission team was actually from a different church. But she loved to come to Belize and only stopped coming when her family insisted she stay in the USA for her 84th birthday so they could celebrate it with her. This year the team was joined by two members of Grace Church in Defiance Ohio, a small church with a big heart for missions. And also by Kim Shackelford, who has served in San Mateo on many mission trips and has now made St Luke’s her mission family.
Throughout the year, former Belize Team members at St Luke’s continue to help and get together by running a volunteer catering service for church events. Food is donated, the team gets together to cook and all proceeds are donated to the feeding program at Holy Cross. Deacon Jan talks about being part of the group with a big smile “It’s just like being in Belize again”.
When I ask what projects St Luker’s have worked on over the years the list is impressive and covers almost everything the school has built and done – classrooms, computer lab, library, medical assistance, classroom help and more. But it’s also clear that while impressive, that list doesn’t mean much to them compared to the people they have met and experiences they’ve had.
“Generations of St Luke’s have come through here, and I see us coming back for many years to come.”
If you’re interested in learning more about St Luke’s activities at Holy Cross you can read their annual mission blog here.