Dear Friends and Family-

 

THANK YOU for the blessing you have been to me to be able to travel to Belize and be a part of an amazing mission trip.   There are no words for me to tell you how grateful I am to have had such an amazing trip that continues to change my life.

 

As you know, getting to Belize was quite a journey.  (well you didn’t, because I was afraid to tell you, but now you know J ) All along it seemed like an uphill battle. But what I learned during this season of my life was to be obedient and put fear to the side.

 

I can tell you that we had to be at the airport at 4:30 in the morning.   I got there, but I was a mess inside. All of a sudden, the trip I felt that I was called to be on, that was paid and packed for felt like the biggest mistake of my life.   Everyone was really excited, but I was overwhelmed.   I stopped in the bathroom at 2 different times to cry and ask God, “Did you really want me to go on this trip? Was I even going to make a difference going to Belize?   Did you do this or did I just want it so badly that it just happened?

 

Well here is the run down of what happened in Belize:

 

This was my first time in a third world country.   Yes, I’ve read about it and have seen pictures, but I had never really experienced third world living. I was so angry about being blessed with so much at home when at times it feels like we don’t have much. But we do, we have MORE than we ever could need.   One of the most distinct differences that I noticed immediately was that at home I have the luxury of a toilet that I can put toilet paper in without having to worry about it backing up and blocking up the sewage system. And we can freely use as much TP as we’d like, because we can and we do. One other huge lesson I continue to learn is to live simply, because life was simple in Belize. They are not consumed with all the technology and materialistic things that we have that take us away from living each day fully.

 

Here’s a little bit about the picture: (Top Left and go clockwise)

 

soliMidweek after delivering groceries to 35 families in Caledonia, we took a field trip to the sugar cane farm.   I was able to taste the sweet cane and learn about farming, living, and eating in Belize.   I had the chance to see how organic really works and feels. I was able to experience and understand what their life was like day to day. I was so thankful to have met Soli who shared with me the in and outs of her day, the cooking and prepping that she does and all the ways that she supports her family at home.

 

 

 

machettiIn the next picture is Yvonne with the machete, which is sweet Irian’s dad from the first picture. This cane farm was actually where he goes to do work and he explained the process it takes for him to grow and tend to his farm.   In my world, my reality is that I go to the local grocery store that I get to and buy these wonderful fruits that I enjoy. Yvonne has come over to work in the states and one of his first comments to me about the states was about the “flushing toilets and sinks that just do it by themselves.” Interesting how toilets can make the conversation about lives of the haves and have not’s.

 

business meetingYou’ll see a group of women that at attended our “Vend Belize Conference” that the ladies and I put on for women that were business owners or were seeking to be business owners. They came, took notes, asked questions, and were excited to be able to go and begin their journey. Some of the big ideas we shared with them that were new and unique concepts were about working together and collaborating to grow their business, setting some goals personally and professionally, following their heart, their passion to do what God has gifted them to do, market, promote and refer one another, and how to set up their finances.   And I was blessed to share the financial piece with them about being good stewards of the money and “stuff” God provides for us. Pastora Rosaura and the women really loved the Give, Save, Spend triangle I shared with them, which is something that I continue to learn and apply in my finances as well.   It was a short hour-long conference jammed with Belizean style strategies and encouragement.

 

with roaniThis is baby Roani. She was only 2 months old and was being taken care of by her Aunt Elissa who had taken her in after her mother had left to go with her boyfriend.   She was precious and I loved snuggling this sweet baby.   But it was a powerful reminder that sometimes people make poor choices. But from those poor choices good things can happen. Sometimes that is just part of the plan.  Please pray that guidance, support, and wisdom for all those that are a part of Roani’ s life.   God has an amazing story for this little one too!  And she is wearing a beautiful dress that her Aunt sewed for her by coming to our ministry. That is her gift, she just needed a functioning sewing machine to help her .

 

 

washing dishesThis is Melinda and I washing dishes at Gilda’s house.   She was very excited to get back to church for the sewing ministry, but she had a lot of work to do so we jumped in to help.   We washed dishes right outside while the chickens and dogs roamed around and her parrot watched us.   She was so delighted to have her load lightened.

 

 

 

all of us

These are the 17 amazing women I got to journey with to Belize in front of the Full Gospel Church of God.   I have to tell you, 20 women (our leaders too), 1 week, no drama= “God thing” FOR SURE! I still can’t believe all the amazing ways each woman served to bring glory to Him in all that she did.   Not only did we learn and serve the people in Caledonia, but also one another.   It was one of those experiences that made you feel like you go “way back” with these women. They understood you for who you were, who you are with all your junk. And I truly believe that God intended for the women of Caledonia to see what women can do when they work together for Him.   But I believe through our hair cutting, children’s, washing feet, musical, food, business, sewing ministries they were able to see what they could do and how they can love and support women too in their village. This church is going to do great things!

 

lupeeAnd in the center is Lupe.   She was so sweet to have gifted me this beautiful blouse.   I met her through out my time there, but really had the chance to get to know her on our last 2 days. I am so grateful to have learned as much as I did about her, her family, business, village, church, and country.   What was great and unique is that she and I share so many stories that we connected. She has such passion and desire for the women and people there, but it’s fear that hold’s her back. It’s that self-doubt, and negative talk that holds her back.   And she is my reminder that we will all become overwhelmed by our fears and doubts. But do we have the strength and desire to overcome it? Please pray for Lupe that she will overcome the fears and doubts that she experiences and will persevere.

 

Some other great highlights of the trip:

 

One of the first stops was the orphanage.   And I thought I knew what bad and uncertain conditions were, but this was something that I really wasn’t ready to see.   The children were beautiful and I really wanted to scoop them all up and bring them home.   But being at the orphanage made me so angry that we live in a world with so much, yet these children had so little, but were still happy and content with what they had.   Why? Because their lives were simple and they didn’t over complicate life with “stuff” like we do.   Stephan was the sweet 5 year old who put his hands up for me to hold and carry him around the orphanage.   He provided me the opportunity to see inside and outside what life was like for these sweet children.   Later I had the chance to connect with Joseph who was 16 and had a speech impediment.   We had the best conversation and he as so smart. But it broke my heart that he had asked me to take him home 3 different times.   It broke my heart that he revealed he didn’t like it there.   My prayer for this smart young man is for him to continue his studies, to know that he is never alone, and that one-day great things will happen for him outside the orphanage.

 

 

A portion of our trip funds went to feed 35 families through our grocery ministry. This was one of my favorite things we did. After buying and organizing all of the food we did home visits where we would not only meet new friends, but also learn about a family and have the opportunity to pray for them.   People opened up their homes for us. It was an amazing experience in the fact that when you choose to be present, God reveals so much to us and he makes us vulnerable to share with the families that are a world away that we have the same struggles we just have more resources that we choose not to utilize to make our lives easier. I learned that it’s worth taking the time to get to know your neighbors, to dig a little bit deeper to understand how life is going because simply knowing and understanding people’s struggles makes it much easier to pray for their specific needs and allows us to watch for God’s blessings.

 

On Sunday evening we had our first church service, which was an amazing night. I shared my testimony that revealed my true story and all the brokenness in my life.   This was a very healing experience, but what was even more amazing was to see how many people were able to connect with me as a result of me being vulnerable.   This was something that I didn’t think I would be able to do, but by praying about it and having God by my side, and sharing all the moments in my life that I knew God had not left me was a truly freeing experience.   And I don’t think we ever even realize the magnitude of God until we lay it out and look at where we’ve been to where we’ve come and how none of that was an accident, but placed on purpose to be our struggle, our story so that we may be able to encourage someone else here. After all, isn’t that our mission, or purpose in life to connect and encourage others?

 

So these are just a few of the highlights of my trip. I could really spend hours telling you about it. And when we do talk, there’s a pretty good chance that my conversation might sound a little like this, “in Belize…” I’m pretty sure my family is a little tired of it, but it’s my responsibility to share it. This experience forever changed me and I am so grateful to you, for your love, support, and encouragement that allowed me to have this opportunity. I know now that as I do life day to day, I have a new perspective.   It’s this kind of opportunity that continues to teaching me more and more each day.

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So this is the short of the long story I shared:

When we share our story and our struggles we are actually doing what we are suppose to do. No one is a mind reader and we can’t be our best for ourselves and for other’s if we don’t.

Galatians 6:2

 

And sometimes we struggle with thinking about that (you fill in the blank with your limiting belief)________ is not enough, when it should be that “we are/do/have enough”. And we need some guidance on how we do life. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking about fear, doubt, anger, resentment, retaliation, selfishness, and all the other things that hold us back from being our best selves.   We should focus our efforts and energy on joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control

Galatians 5:22

Philippians 4:8

 

Our greatest lessons will come from the pain we suffer.   And after losing Robert, this has become so clear to me. I have seen this happen time and time again and sometimes I ask, “why me?” But I think that what I am coming to realize more and more each day is that it’s not “why me”, but “what am I suppose to be learning from this moment?”

James 1:2-4

 

And lastly, I am perfectly imperfect and that’s ok.   But somehow through this journey of life there is a reason and a way. It’s about setting my fears aside and doing it scared!

Ephesians 3:20

Isaiah 41:10

 

 

I want to let you know that even though we do not talk often, and maybe I like a picture or status on your Facebook page occasionally, you are always in my thoughts and prayers. Not a day goes by where I don’t stop and say a prayer for you and your family and thank God for putting you in my life during the various seasons of life with you.   I’m truly amazed! I’m blessed to attend a church that not only teaches us about God, but also challenges to apply this in the way we live. I find that I always have good intentions to make a call, drop a note, send a quick message, but I don’t. So I’m slowly trying to be more intentional and let those intentions be known.

 

 

Please let me know what I can pray about for you specifically.   I would continue that you would pray for Keith’s health, our marriage, for Connor and Bailey as they journey into kindergarten and 2nd grade that they would be guided to be little lights to those around them. Pray that those fears not cripple me.

 

And of course if you have any questions about ANYTHTING in this letter, I’d be so happy to answer it! Well, this concludes my long-winded letter. And in the last 3 months, it has not escaped me. Just when I thought, it’s too late to send, God said, “think again.”

 

In love and light,

Irene Gouge Sleep Coach Signature

 

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