There’s much to read about Belize these days… just Google “Belize,” and a multitude of websites come up.
This was not the case just five years ago. At the time, I was living in the United States. The church I was attending was interested in expanding their mission services, and I wanted to reach out to the global community. We didn’t really know how to get started, because all of our previous missions were in local communities near us.
As life would have it, after the word went out about what we wanted to do, a larger church came to our rescue. We had been fellowshipping with this congregation but were not aware of their international outreach. They invited us to join them on a missionary outreach to assist in the construction of a church in a place they called Belize…
To say that I was excited would be an understatement… that is, until I realized that I had no idea where Belize was or knew anything about it. I had no idea where we would be going, nor could I envision Belize in my mind’s eye.
So I did some research.
Online I learned that Belize was originally known as British Honduras. But I needed some more information… a lot more if I were to be going there with a group of others from my church.
I found out about the Belizean embassy in Washington, D.C., which was less than an hour’s drive from where I lived. I made an appointment to visit the first secretary of the Embassy of Belize and traveled to D.C. to meet with her.
When I arrived, I met a lovely young lady in an office decorated with the colorful flag of Belize and a wall of pictures showing its history. But what I felt was a warm welcome and a sense that Belize was a place I wanted to see and to learn a lot more about. I was supplied with plenty of information and began to feel a connection with this little English-speaking country in Central America.
From that point on, I knew there was much more to this country than meets the eye.
The trip to Belize was interesting all-around. Our group of 41 endured the two-flight adventure that took us to the international airport in Belize City. Waiting for us were a couple of old yellow school buses ready to take us to our sleeping quarters.
I wasn’t thrilled at the sight of open windows—that meant no air conditioning. But as the buses made their way across the rocky roads, songs broke out and comradery began between our group and our guides. It was as if we had known each other for years already. We were already beginning to feel at home.
As we approached the small village of San Jose Succotz in the Cayo District, I saw that many of the houses were on stilts with steps that had to be mounted. Over the next few days as we visited the villagers who lived there, I felt a sense of a warm welcome like we were long-lost friends. We were invited to eat, drink juices, and be merry.
As we neared the end of our week, I realized that we had seen a few parts of Belize, including some of the islands called cayes. The waters were clean, clear, and colorful. I felt a sense of peace and love as the Belizeans showed us around… I really didn’t want to leave. That feeling of peace is something I can’t put into words.
When I returned a year later with two suitcases and a one-way ticket to Belize, I wanted to experience some of the same sights from my previous trip. But that’s not what happened.
Instead of traveling to the Cayo District with its many Mayan and Spanish speakers, I arrived in a town in southern Belize, Punta Gorda, where I had been invited to board until I decided where I wanted to settle. Here I saw expats from all over the world.
Before long, I was pulled into the international family that lives here as we came to know and learn about each other. The local Garifuna population taught us words in their language to make us feel more at home. And I was, for the next eight months, until I moved to the northernmost District of Corozal.
If you Google Belize now, you will find that there is so much information about the various cultures, places, reefs, islands, languages, and peoples, that you will have a hard time trying to decide where to visit first. Wherever you chose to journey in Belize, I suggest that you take it all in and enjoy it.
As I continue on my life’s adventures, I’m often asked how a single, female, senior citizen could uproot from a place where I had lived for decades and relocate to an unfamiliar place. I used to ask myself the same question at times. And I would probably still question myself if I had just seen Belize in a picture book and then chose to move there.
But I didn’t just take in Belize by sight. I felt Belize in my heart. Because what I found out was that Belize is more than meets the eye.