Meet the Mango Jammers

Let the 3rd annual Volunteer Coordinators' Conference begin! 

I love this group so much. We laugh lots, but we also make stuff happen, oftentimes engaging missionaries from each of our respective regions or even other Synodical departments. Belize 2022 was no different; the ideas started flowing at breakfast on Wednesday, our first full day together, before we'd even held our first official business session. 

Our goal in meeting together - annually in person and 2x/month on Zoom - is to analyze and improve upon the OIM volunteer experience through streamlined processes, innovative new ideas, and industry best practices. A sampling of our agenda: 

My session on High School Student Mobilization, including an interactive exercise. You've heard of brainstorming, but have you heard of question storming? 

Matt's session on The 3D Gospel (which has been duly added to my reading list). We started by analyzing our host cultures using The Culture Test.

Chelsea's session on short-term volunteer on-field orientation. 

Throughout our time together, we enjoyed the hospitality of the entire Belize missionary team, who tag teamed housing, feeding, and chauffeuring us. 

The Wildauers had us over for a typical Belizean dinner Wednesday evening. Of course there was a rainbow of Marie Sharp's, Belize's world renowned hot sauce, on the table; Erin endeavored to taste them all and pick a winner (Smokin' Marie's, if you were wondering). 

Cacao originated in this part of the world. Micah was thoughtful enough to buy us a selection of flavors/brands, so we held a tasting before devotions that night.

The Kesslers (4th and 5th from left) arranged for a beautiful, family-style supper at a local golf course's clubhouse on Thursday.

Friday was set aside for learning - about church planting in Belize, and about Belize. We started our day by attending biweekly chapel with the preschoolers in Valley of Peace. Their wiggles were no match for Micah's and Benjamin's patience as they reviewed the commandment and Bible verse of the week and started rehearsing "Silent Night."

(Behind the scenes...)

After chapel, we toured the grounds to get an idea of the team's vision for the future, including involvement from short-term teams. 

Sadly, we had to bid Ashley good-bye before our afternoon adventuring...ironically, so she could go host a short-term team! Before she left, though, may I present to you, your OIM volunteer coordination staff! From L to R: Gary (Belize), Steph (regional, Africa), Ashley (Puerto Rico), Courtney (STL operations), me (regional, LAC), Chelsea (regional, Eurasia), Erin (STL operations), and Matt (regional, Asia). 

We had lunch back at the ranch and then split into 2 pick-ups for a short roadtrip to Xunantunich, a Mayan archaeological site on the Guatemalan border. You have to take a hand-cranked ferry across the Mopan River to access the entrance; Chelsea propelled us on the way back! I [mistakenly] thought a visit there would let me check "Mayan ruins" off my list of Belize must-sees. Wrong. There are at least a dozen similar sites scattered throughout the country, and I now need to see them ALL.

The pinnacle of the tour is the El Castillo temple. Countless elements of its architecture have symbolic meaning in the Mayans' religious system.

Oh hey - there's a frieze on the side that you can't even SEE from the central plaza. 

You better believe we climbed it. 

That smoke in the distance? It's in Guatemala. 

There's a frieze on the opposite side, too!

From there, we went to San Ignacio for the best kind of "class," tracing the history of chocolate all the way back to the earliest known cultivation of cacao.

This was harder than it looks! 

But then we got to make it into hot chocolate: first plain, then with chili, then with cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Dinner at Hode's Place. 

We spent the remainder of our last evening together reminiscing around a bonfire. The next morning at breakfast...we realized we hadn't re-named our WhatsApp group, which still bore a moniker from 2019 that no longer represented the current group of coordinators. Even the hilarity of our annual game of Telestrations hadn't produced anything worthy. After ruling out a number of alternatives, we finally settled guessed it...The Mango Jammers (in honor of Marie Sharp's mango jam and, more so, Markie Burch's homemade bread to slather it on). Until we meet again next fall (in Asia?!), I'm looking forward to another year of dialogue and collaboration, via WhatsApp and all the other tools we use to communicate across oceans, all for the glory of Christ and the good of His Church. 

Until next time, blessings in Christ!


Carol said…
This looks amazing! Love all the adventures you had a chance to enjoy!