Release Date: 11/5/2012
Twenty-four members of the university's Alpha and Omega spent a week this past summer volunteering in Belize. The children and families they helped may have been in spiritual and material need, but it was the members of Alpha and Omega whose lives were changed.
Alpha and Omega, a non-denominational Christian organization at Ozarks, is renowned for its tradition of mission work, particularly in Central and South America. This past June, the group spent most of its week-long trip assisting a small school in Ontario, located in the Cayo district in western Belize.
For Glenn Hawthorne, a sophomore from West Fork, Ark., and membership coordinator for Alpha and Omega, this was more than his first international mission trip. It was an eye-opening reaffirmation of his faith.
"For me, it was a big deal to experience this. I knew that things would be different in Belize. I expected them to have less, but didn't know how much less," he said.
Alpha & Omega member Glenn Hawthorne works on a computer during the organization’s mission trip to Belize. The group was able to restore several computers to help keep a computer lab open in a rural part of the country.
While in Belize, the mission team stayed in the capital city of Belmopan and drove about a half hour every day to the village of Ontario. There they devoted most of their week to helping the staff of a small, private Christian school in the village.
"It was just a small, little building without many staff members. This school offers kids scholarships to attend, because very few of them could afford it otherwise" Hawthorne said. "The problem is that the school offers so many scholarships and cuts the prices so much that they can't actually operate off what they charge. They run almost exclusively off donations. It gets extremely difficult for them sometimes."
Hawthorne and the other Alpha and Omega members donated their time to helping refurbish the building and materials.
"We helped with some odd jobs, like fixing the plumbing and painting. The school also recycles their textbooks for their students, so the students don't have to buy their own." Hawthorne said. "We spent a lot of time refurbishing textbooks and, at the end of the week, we donated $1,000 to the school so they could provide more scholarships to area kids."
In addition to their work at the school, the mission team broke into smaller groups and went out into the surrounding villages to deliver food packages, visit an orphanage, and assist a computer lab called the George Price Center.
"The George Price Center has computers set up so people can take classes and study. They were about to get rid of the lab because the computers were falling apart and so outdated. Some of us took those apart, cleaned them, and put in new processors, so they could keep that lab open," Hawthorne said.
For Hawthorne, seeing the needs of the people of Belize opened his eyes to plight of the world beyond the United States.
"The house we stayed in was a little concrete building with no air conditioning, and it was in an upper middle class area of the capital. Then, we would go into the villages. People were living on the sides of hills in little shacks with wild dogs running everywhere. I realized how lucky we were to have our little concrete building," Hawthorne described.
Hawthorne said the images that will stick with him forever are the memories of the children.
"The kids in general are what I remember most," he said. "They were are all so happy. They don't pity themselves or feel bad about their situations."
"In particular, I remember this four-year-old kid named Randy. He lived in an extremely remote village in a flood zone. Even though his house was on stilts, everything up to his front porch was underwater. I remember carrying him through the water to his house. We were all shocked by the area. It was literally like living in the middle of a lake, but Randy was happy and dancing. He was pretty cool," he recalled.
For Alpha and Omega members the trip was a success. They were able to provide the people of Belize with both spiritual and material assistance and learn more about their own faith and calling.
"To show people God's love by providing them with things they couldn't get otherwise, to actually give them what they needed to survive, to make their lives just a little bit easier, was extremely satisfying," Hawthorne said. "It definitely changed our lives. A lot of the members that hadn't done anything like this before are much more active now. We are all learning more about our own faith and what we can do to help more people."
Several members of the Christian organization Alpha & Omega participated in a mission trip in Belize this past summer.