Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Laura's dad's article from Olean Times Herald

I waited to post it since I did not want to reduce OTH sales, but it is so good that I had to share and it is not on their website...so...

" By the time you read this, we will be back in the United States getting ready for church on Sunday, but my wife and I have spent the past two weeks in Central America.  We have been visiting our daughter who is a Peace Corps volunteer in the nation of Belize (on the Caribbean coast bordering Mexico and Guatemala.  For those of you who grew up prior to the 1980’s (when Belize became independent) you probably learned about it in Geography or Social Studies class as British Honduras. 
It is the smallest country in Central America (about the size of Vermont) and it has the approximate population of Buffalo.  It is also the only nation in Central America where English is not only commonly spoken, it is the national language.  That is one of the factors that makes Belize a popular tourist destination for Americans (although we found tourists here from many countries across the globe during our journey).
            The people of Belize are extraordinarily friendly and welcoming.  When I got sunburned our first day here, several people who were strangers to us went out of their way to offer helpful advice on how to treat it.  Word also spread quickly throughout the community where we stayed that I am a Pastor.  In the course of a friendly conversation I was asked one time how I made a living and from that time forward as I walked down the street various merchants would greet me by saying, “Good Morning Pastor!” or “Good afternoon Pastor!”  One wanted me to know that he is a believer and another even asked me for a Bible.
As you might expect, the religious beliefs here are somewhat diverse due to the history of Mayan and Garifuna cultures, but Catholic and Evangelical Protestant Christianity predominate.  The school where my daughter has focused most of her attention in the small village of Barranco in very rural southern Belize is a Roman Catholic school.  Classes on the Christian faith are taught every day there and in one classroom a permanent display of art work depicting key stories from the Old and New Testaments hung on the wall.
There were several things that we experienced here that reminded us of things we take for granted in our lives stateside.  Dietary choices are much more limited here, and many things that are part of our common diets (like beef and cheese) are prohibitively expensive.  The roads outside the more urban areas are not paved and extremely rough.  Traffic enforcement comes primarily through speed bumps when the roads are paved and law enforcement (including the court system) is widely criticized.  Nevertheless, the upcoming election has captivated the country.  Groups of campaign volunteers were commonly seen on the streets and we heard several animated political conversations during our time here.
Our daughter (Laura) grew up in Baptist churches before attending St. Bonaventure University (graduating in 2009) where she was deeply impressed by the Franciscan values she learned there.  Her strong involvement in “BonaResponds” played a key role in her decision to join the Peace Corps.  Of course the Peace Corps is a government organization so her involvement here has not been religious but I suspect the religious values she picked up along the way have a lot to do with her motives for serving here. 
In a world where Americans are commonly thought of as “ugly”, selfish and arrogant she has made a strong positive impression on her community and has helped make one rural school a better place to learn by improving the library and suggesting more modern educational techniques.  The 14 days we spent here were certainly an education for us as well! 
Fortunately none of us have to leave the country to make a difference.  Check out BonaResponds.org to learn even more about how volunteers from our community are changing lives all the time."

No comments: