|The Hopkins, Belize, school. The yellow building on the right is the town library.|
The very first thing we saw in Belize City airport was masses of Americans dressed in identical t-shirts with Bible verses on the back. Lots of teenagers, more adults. I get it--identical neon t-shirts are a great way to keep your group together. And it wasn't as if my family of six exactly blended with the locals. But it was just...so...in your face. "We're American, we're Christian, and we're here to help YOU because you can't help yourself."
Now, I am sure that many of these people had the very best intentions. I have sent both my boys on a mission trip this summer, and actively supported a group from my church going to Honduras to work at a hospital. Jesus most certainly tells us to go into the world, making disciples. But there were a LOT of mission workers, sorted into their neon groups like so many exotic birds. (I don't know what each of these groups were doing, even though I certainly realize that you have to feed a hungry person before you can teach him to feed himself.) I was quite concerned, sitting in the airport, that we had made a huge mistake in coming to a country that was so poor that it required this many mission workers.
We were surprised, then, when we met locals. There were an incredibly varied group ethnically (Belize is home to at least TWELVE native languages in a country of 300,000). And they certainly weren't well-off by American standards. But every single person we talked to was friendly, not demanding, not expecting anything from us but a fair price for the goods or services they were offering to us. We never, ever saw a hand out for anything not worked for.
So of course I couldn't help but wonder about the mission group efforts, and if there wasn't another way to help, one that was more of a boost up than a hand-out. Imagine how surprised I was to learn about Hope International just this week! (I arrived at the interview via Instapundit, my first stop every morning to catch up on all things interesting.)
Hope International is all about supporting small-scale entrepreneurship in developing countries. (Sadly, not Belize...yet.) Training is based on Biblical concepts of responsible business management and work, and on respecting every person's God-given creativity and resourcefulness in providing for their own family and community.
Peter Greer, the founder, also writes a terrific blog. On top of that, we've found out he's coming to Atlanta to speak next month. Bill and I are thrilled to be going. This may be just the kind of organization that we want to work with.
Here's one of several videos with Peter Greer. I hope you'll watch--it's well worth your time!