I would like to tell you about Blue Creek through the lens of the first my wife and I took to this village. We first became interested in Blue Creek when my in-laws returned from a large family gathering there in January 2005. When they came back they told us of this strong community with a Christian school in desperate need of some teachers. We kept feeling God's tugging on our hearts so we flew over to see for ourselves what we might be getting into.
This picture is of the airport when we arrived. Of course we had to land in the hottest week of the year where they had not had a good rain for about four months (Even the locals were complaining of the heat). The air conditioner on the plane was on full blast so Cory and I were all bundled up with jackets and blankets when we stepped out in the hot humid air.
One of the things that really struck me is how much the people of Blue Creek support their school and the people who invest into it. When the school board heard we were on our way they got together and sent someone to pick us up, a truck to drive for the week, a place to stay and they everyone in Blue Creek kept fighting over who would have us over for dinner. Maybe it helps to be related but it seemed to me they were going out of their way to help us with our decision.
This picture is of John, he is on the school board and the fellow who picked us up. He and his family were a blast as they described driving in Belize and showed us around the countryside. Let me throw in another picture for you, this one is of the sugar cane trucks (a major industry). These trucks are lined up waiting for processing (sometimes it takes 24 hours in line)
After we made it to Orange Walk (the nearest major city) we turned onto a gravel road and headed another hour or so to Blue Creek. What was really amazing is when we were a few miles outside of Blue Creek everything transformed from dry dusty fields and jungle to lush green corn and rice plantations. The soil also changed to a deep red and instead of having endless flat stretches we began to enter something of rolling foothills. Apparently the people of Blue Creek build their houses on top of hills so they can enjoy the nice refreshing winds.
The story goes that many Mennonites left Russia near the beginning of the 20th century in search of religious freedom. Some of these Mennonites (like my in-laws) came to Canada but when the government started backing out of their agreement about not going to war and not having to send their children to school they started a colony in Mexico. Over time things changed in Mexico (politics, bad crops, shortage of land, crime) several families moved to Belize (the Belize government offered them excellent deals in order to increase farming of the country). So on April 28, 1958 the first mennonites arrived by boat along the Rio Hondo River and started three colonies (Blue Creek, Shipyard, and Spanish Outlook).
At first the group in Blue Creek had neither a school or a minister. All the same they pressed on and broke up the hard ground and pushed back the jungle with a number of new tractors and caterpillars. Sadly in 1960 they received a directive from the Old Colony back in Mexico that they must return to steel wheels on their tractors. Two groups then formed, one which complied and the other which did not and was excommunicated So for several years this latter group went on longing for spiritual nourishment. At last in 1966 some ministers arrived and over the next few weeks led many to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Over the following years the Church grew to include about 400 of the 700 people in Blue Creek (another 200 enjoy a more conservative church and the other 100 do not attend).
So we got up early the next morning so we could be at school by 8:00am and help with chapel. My mother-in-law had flown in a week early to do some ministry and introduce us to our numerous second cousins. She spoke that morning about hearing the voice of the Lord and my wife read Scripture. It was so fun to watch the kids running out to chapel and singing their songs. Here is one of my favorites,
I may never take a nap in Mexico
Ride a donkey ooh so slow
I may never wear a sombrero
But I'm in the Lord's Army - Cee Senior
Following this we went and sat on the different classes. This was lots of fun because I got to freshen up on my grammar with the grade 2's, take a spelling bee with the grade 1's and watch the kindergartners play "What time is it Mr. Wolf" after they finished celebrating a birthday party and took turns reading outloud.
Did you know there are actually three schools? The first building (see on the right) is for k-3. The second is just below it and is for 4-6. Finally there is a high-school for 7-12 (although grade 11 is meeting in the Church basement until they finish the expansion on the high school this summer)
This picture is of me playing "bump" against the grade fours for PE class. I told them they get one chance because I might miss the first shot but when I go for my second I am going to "slam-dunk" it into the hoop. Fortunately I won because I sure talked it up :)
As I mentioned earlier everyone was wanting to have us over for dinner. This was no different for the school board whom had us over for a great steak BBQ and fellowship. This picture is of John Krahn (center) and Abe Rempel (right). That reminds me did you know everyone in Blue Creek has the same name, check out this phone book. Anyhow John's nickname is Cookie and Abe's is Umpus. Of course there is more people on the school board than just the two of they are just the only ones who made it into this picture :) To be on the school-board, they joke, you have to either have the name "John" or be a pilot (I think there are about 18 crop-dusters in Blue Creek). Upon hearing that I promptly made some excuse about making a web page for the school and said I needed a flight over the school for some photos... so here they are.
I should qualify right away we did not go "hunting" but we did go looking (I just wrote that so you would read this). My mother-in-law introduced us to her cousin Jake whom we were able to spend some time with. Jake decided to take us on a tour of Blue Creek and it was a blast. We started off with his chicken barns in his backyard (a major industry in Blue Creek - did you know the Mennonites in Belize supply about 80% of the food for the country?) then took off to see the town.
He showed us the rice fields, the jungle and even his own private lake (that he shares with everyone). That was only one side of town because we ran out of time. We did however find an alligator. This one sadly was dead because Jake likes them when they are alive so he can look after them.
The only thing dividing Blue Creek and La Union, Mexico is a small river. For $1 you can pay a fellow and he will give you canoe ride across and you can pick up a few groceries on the other side. Quite frankly I was not interested but my wife was so I put the pictures on here for her.
Personally I love fruit so when we went and visited people I really enjoyed all the fresh bananas, pineapple, mangos and coconuts. Something that I found really interesting is the kids like to take green mangos (they call them mongos), cut them up and add vinegar and seasoning salt.
While I was playing "bump" with the grade fours Julian invited me to his birthday party down at the river. So the next day as Jake was taking us around I asked him to swing by the river. Now to tell you this story I need to tell you another story. Many years ago the Dyck family wanted to bring power to Blue Creek (the government did not bring it in for about another 20 years after this). He bought himself an old plane that had crashed in the bush and came to Canada to study power-dams. In the course of time he built his own dam which still runs to this day and powers his home and a few others.
So just upstream from that there is another dam which I do not know the story behind but I suppose when they made it they wanted to make it fun so they poured into it a waterside. So it seemed to me the place to be on a Saturday afternoon. I didn't mind and heh, I got to know the kids better.
I mentioned earlier that two groups formed in Blue Creek. One group thought it was okay to use rubber tires on their tractors and the other did not (I'm sure it is more complicated than that). The group that used rubber tires stayed in Blue Creek and formed a progressive mennonite community. The other group moved to one of the other colonies and one of those colonies is called Shipyard. So one day we had our second-cousin George take us for a drive to see some of our other second-cousins. We found it really interesting to see the difference in the way of life between the two communities. Did you know that Blue Creek has started a Church and a school in Shipyard? We stopped in and prayed with that pastor.
As our week went on I tried to listen and understand the community. One of the problems I picked up was that some students drop-out of school around grade 10 or so. For some there is a great appeal to get out of class and start to work on their uncle's farm. The problem is the world is changing and getting smaller all around us. In tomorrows new global economy these students will have to compete on a global scale and will need a higher education that was not required of their parents. So as I prayed through the week I came to the stories of Moses and Joseph and everyone else in the Bible who was on a journey. The important part is we cannot short-cut the plans of God. A time will come when we are ready but we need to go through the path God has before us. For these students I got a hunch it is to stay in school and continue to build on the legacy their parents have set for them of changing their nation for God.
One of the last things we did in our ministry in Blue Creek was setup some computers for the school. Back at home we had picked up some old 1GZ computers from Trinity Western University (where I work). I set these computers all up and loaded them in our suitcases. I was kind of worried about this with the way the airplanes handle bags and all. Surprisingly they made it in one piece - praise God!
So now they have 8 computers and three have satellite internet on them. My last funny story for you. Cookie and I were setting them up and rearranging all the other computers. Just as we were to turn the power on a lighting bolt hit a telephone poll an hours drive away. That poll burst into flames and pulled down two other poles. Power was down for six hours and here I was having had moved everything and not knowing if anything worked standing in the dark. That would have been fine but we were leaving the next morning.
So we went to the Church (which has it's own generator) where I was to lead the Bible study. Finally near midnight the power came back on and fortunately, all the computers were in good working order.
We reserved our second week for holidays so my wife and I just sat on the beach on some island off the shore of Belize City and prayed about it. For the last four months we had been working on our marriage mission statement, values, vision and life-plan. I pulled out my computer and we began to work through it. It is not really that one choice is right and one choice is wrong it was more like if we stay at home that would be good and if we came here that would be good too. The question was; which gives us the most opportunity to do what we believe God is calling us to do. The answer is to go to Belize.
We still don't know about our condo or our car but we keep coming back to the idea that if the only reason we do not go is financial because we want to enjoy the comforts of home then are we really trusting God? How can I expect God to bless me when my obedience is conditional on my comfort? Instead, we believe that God will look after us, in fact, we have faith God will bring an incredibly blessing to us and Blue Creek... how about you? Will you join us?