Raleigh Small Business Women Bring Business Guidance to Women in Belize, Central America
I started international mission work in 2011, traveling twice a year. The newest ministry for me is leading an annual all women’s trip to Belize. We just returned from the latest trip, and 8 of the 18 women were Vend Mompreneurs! I can say that this was the best working team ever! That is evidence that each individual went with the mission and others ahead of self. Not that it totally surprised me. I’ve always had wonderful experiences partnering and creating great events with Vend Mompreneurs!
Eating termites- because “they are minty”.
Climbing Mayan ruins over 100 feet high. There were tears, people!
Jumping in a river with village children. (Crocodiles? Maybe!)
Taking a school bus crammed full of team members and people of the village into a sugar cane field to find all the treasure inside!
Someone’s life shaken because she didn’t dream she’d actually make a difference there.
Friends asking friends to baptize them in the Caribbean Sea.
Illuminate in Belize
Our annual Vend Raleigh Illuminate conference prepared us for an impromptu conference while in Belize! Amy Edmonds is a wife and mom of three young children, she is a long term missionary with Praying Pelican Missions currently living in Belize. Amy knew several of our team members own their own businesses and asked that we bring some type of business leadership course. We had no idea what that would look like. We did know that the small business owners there wouldn’t have QuickBooks, everything was paper bookkeeping, so we simply brought business planners, notebooks, calculators and pencils- no plan on how we would approach an actual class.
Irene Gourge was on this trip, you must know that she’s the visionary behind Illuminate. After talking with the women through the week, we organized a mini Illuminate conference right there in the church! With about 12 or more women were in attendance, Irene spoke on finance, Clare Luffman spoke on managing personal and work time, Jessica Throneburg spoke on customer service, Kelli DelSorbo spoke on loving what you do, I spoke on community collaboration with other small business owners, and Erica Courtrine prayed for our businesses.
As I visualize the meeting I think of women writing pages and pages of notes, women nursing babies, someone washing a woman’s feet in ministry, someone spraying bug spray right outside the church, our childcare was one team member juggling several newborns, the pastor would give approval of our comments with an occasional “Amen!”, and our team translator Caitlin working hard! I wouldn’t have been anywhere else then right there!
Sewing Machine Ministry
We were asked to bring sewing machines down as a ministry. It took months to figure out a plan because we just did not know how much the women already knew about sewing, or what they wanted to sew or if we should help them start businesses with these machines. Erica was the lead for the ministry. We had 5 machines donated from friends and with that we had a fun project of wrapped skirts to get the women started. We also bought school uniform material (children’s school uniforms are expensive and some children simply don’t go to school if they don’t have the right clothes or shoes). We opened the church every afternoon for open sewing time, the first day was more of a tutorial on how to use the machines (some women did sew and actually had sewing businesses), then every other day was independent sewing time. The women were very excited and proud of their wrapped skirts. They also made dresses for their babies and beautiful pillowcases for their beds. It’s my understanding that the pastor has continued to use those machines as we did and one day a week she opens the church and to let anyone from the village craft there.
So what was the ministry? We had several women that don’t normally come to church actually come to church everyday. Some ended up coming to worship services with us. One special story is about a women that felt like an outcast. She was given a Bible by one of our team members and she reported back each day that she’d been reading it to her children at night and they loved it. This ministry was half planned and ended up being the one with most impact!
Our thought for our next year is not to return to this community, but to bring these ministries to another part of Belize.
First World Women in a Third World Country
It’s always very interesting to watch first world women adjust to third world pace. (Some don’t do very well.) What does that mean exactly? Say the church service is supposed to start at 7, people start strolling in at 7:30. Or maybe we were expecting 30 women and we get 80! Another big stressor can be that we’ve come with ministries prepared and we really don’t know the the vision of the church till we get there. We are under the leadership of the local pastor and there can be miscommunications or the pastor’s plan is different than our plan. For instance, we had a budget for our food ministry for 10-15 families, and the pastor has a list for 31 families! These are moments when the team can feel a little stressed and underprepared, to say the least. In the months of preparing for the trip, we constantly remind team the importance of being flexible and team unity, so those moments of surprise are met with open minds and trust that we can get the mission done.
How do you think you would react to being stretched to serve with limited communication, funds, supplies, and team members? I’m learning to go with the flow, but there are certainly “human moments” (read- sometimes I freak out!). Team members always step up and we get through just fine. I must state the obvious that God knows how it’s all going to work out, we just have to be patient and peaceful enough to figure out how were are going to deliver.
Interest meetings for the April 2015 trip will be in October. If you’d like more information, make a note in your calendar and contact me for dates then, I’d love to have you join us!