Petal residents volunteer for annual mission trip

By NIKKI SMITH,

Each year, a mission team from Calvary Baptist Church travels to Belize to minister to children in nearby villages.

Katie Pittman, a Petal resident, just returned from her third year of taking part in the annual trip to Belize.

“After the first year, I fell in love with the people of Belize,” she said. “We had such a great response the first year and our whole group felt like God was calling us to Belize long term.”

The team takes part in a children’s camp designed to engage them in Bible study, while also offering games and crafts.

“We have a children's camp for the children in the village near by,” Pittman said. “It's a three-day camp, and the children stay on the Global Outreach campus.”

During the first day, the team registers the children and helps them find their bunk on campus.

“After that, we divide into four teams,” she said. “In those teams we have Bible study, crafts and compete in game time activities for the next few days.”

Pittman said that they also offer a “track time” that is set aside each day for campers to sign up for. They are able to choose from soccer, basketball or craft time.

“This lets the kids get outside of their team and just hangout with the counselors and other kids with similar interests,” she said. “There is also a music time where we learn moves almost like (Vacation Bible School).”

Then, on the last day, the teams set up what they call a “critter race,” during which each team finds a “critter,” such as bugs or lizards and race them.

“Each team then adds up their points for the week that they got from game time, Bible trivia, critter race, and we give out prizes for whoever wins first and second place,” she said.

While the team works hard to provide the best experience for campers, the mission trip is not all work.

“Each year we set aside one day of fun with the local counselors there,” she said. “It is a way to spend time with one another as well as explore. This is important because we see this trip as a partnership more than us going in and doing it ourselves. We usually go to a local beach and hangout. This year we also swam in the Belize River, which was a lot of fun.”

As for the most memorable part of her trip, Pittman has a hard time singling out one thing.

“I really enjoy it all,” she said. “I guess what I enjoy most are the children. They are so full love and life. I get such a blessing from them. A lot of them have hard lives and yet all they do is love. God really uses this camp in more ways than I could express. We had 17 children accept Christ this year.”

Even after her third year taking part, the most challenging part for Pittman is returning home.

“Every year I leave a little part of my heart there,” she said.

Pittman added that the response from the locals has been nothing but positive.

“We have around 60 children every year come to the camp, if not more,” she said. “We actually had a family this year travel a very long way just to come back to our camp. God has proven over the three years that I've gone that this is an important ministry.”

“It has shown me that in spite of circumstances, with God, you can still have joy and still show love to others,” Pittman added. “Most of the children that come to camp don't have much and they have a bad home life. I've cried many tears hearing what some of them go through and yet they still have joy and show love. It amazes me really. I've seen how God can work in the most hopeless circumstances and it has changed me forever.”