Bethel International United Methodist Church
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Being Embraced by the Belizean Children of Louisville

Every time I step onto the grounds of a village elementary school in Belize and see the children racing toward us, I know why Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). It’s as if we’ve entered that very kingdom.

We come to the children strangers and welcome us with hugs and hands that want to be held. They stand up as you enter their classrooms and say in a unified voice, “Good morning, Sir” or “Good morning, Miss.” Always smiling. Always eager to hear our voices. Always ready to jump into any activity we might bring. They linger with you during their break times and at lunch. They hang around with you after their school day comes to an end. I often wonder, “Could heaven be like this?”

Belize Zacchaeus1We spend hours back home planning the details and collecting the things needed to make this a Vacation Bible School kind of day. This year was framed around the biblical character of Zacchaeus. We dressed in costumes and the children had fun calling Zacchaeus out of the tree, “Hurry up and come down. I must stay at your house today!” (Luke 19:5).

Belize Zacchaeus2They love that Zacchaeus changed. That Zacchaeus would no longer do bad things and take advantage of the people. The children love to see the power of Jesus and the hope in Jesus. It’s a power and a hope they cling to because the prospects of a bright future are not many. Being trapped in the sugar cane fields is hard labor at $75-100 for a 6-7 day work week, and then for only 5-6 months a year.

So, we sing with the children songs like, “What a Mighty God We Serve,” “God Helps Me Do Good Things,” and “This Is the Day the Lord Has Made.” They always love to sing for us, “Jesus Loves Me” in Spanish. There are few shy singers. They sing with voices that touch heaven itself, and I know heaven sings back.

Belize CrossesBelize ParachuteWe pray continually. Do crafts and decorated crosses. Kick around new soccer balls we bring. Play with the colorful parachutes some had never seen. They teach us their own playground games. All in yesterday’s hot sun, but our youth, in particular, were given energy late in the day as if the day had just started.

Belize FreemanThe children were fascinated by Freeman Griffin’s saxophone. What surprised me was how spellbound they got when Freeman first sang and then played the song Louis Armstrong made popular, “What A Wonderful World.” But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. We were all caught in the dream of how heaven had come down in our midst. 



                  I see trees of green, red roses too
                  I see them bloom for me and you
                  And I think to myself what a wonderful world                 

                  I see skies of blue and clouds of white
                  The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
                  And I think to myself what a wonderful world 

                  The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
                  Are also on the faces of people going by
                  I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
                  They're really saying I love you 

                   I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
                  They'll learn much more than I'll never know
                   And I think to myself what a wonderful world
                   Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

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