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Cultivate Change, Build Relationships

A guest post by Stacee Strickland, our Field Director in Belize

When I was in college, it seemed like making friends was easy, but as I was getting ready to

graduate, a mentor told me that making friends in college is easy because they are built in relationships. There are tons of people, in the same age range, in the same place, all working towards the same thing: a degree. As an adult, making friends is hard. I didn’t believe him at the time, but man was he right! Making friends as an adult is hard, and if I’m being honest, making friends in a foreign country is even harder! BUT, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

When relationship is important to you, you find a way to establish and cultivate it. Just like anything that is worth anything, relationships need to be cultivated. Deep friendships don’t happen overnight, but once you have those relationships, man, you have to fight for


Relationships are God’s idea. He designed us to be in community, and so I know that it is important to Him. I’ve been in Belize for just over a year now. And to be honest, one of the hardest things for me has been making friends. Don’t get me wrong, I meet a lot of people and am connected to a lot, but in the beginning months, it was hard to break the “missionary” wall. I still face it every once in a while, where people just view me as a missionary, instead of just a person wanting to build a relationship with them.

BUT, through consistency and just showing up, I’ve seen walls fall. You see, in order to cultivate relationship, abroad or stateside, you need to just show up for people. People need to see that you are willing to be there in the good times, or in the bad times; when things are great, or when they're grieving. When we show up for people, it shows that we genuinely care for them.

I’ve seen relationships grow here in Belize through a simple girls game night. Once a month, I open my home to ladies in their 20s and 30s: anyone is welcome and we just play games and LAUGH! Anybody can invite anybody, and it’s been so great to watch relationships grow, not just between me and them, but between them! Another way I’m seeing relationships being built and cultivated is through sports! We all know that sports is a connector, but as I have been faithful to show up at Solid Rock Christian Academy, kids and teachers see that I’m committed to them. Over time they have seen that I care for and love them deeply. So now, as soon as kids see my truck, or me on the bike, they

immediately start yelling “Coach Stacee!!” before I’m even on the campus! It’s so fun! They

don’t do it because I’m amazing, they do it because they know I care.

It's been quite a journey for me this year. From arriving in Dangriga, really only knowing a

handful of people (not even having relationship with them yet), going through months of

wondering if I’m making any sort of impact in this town, to now a year in, driving around town and realizing as people and kids call out my name, that through just showing up and loving people, I have cultivated relationship. Through these relationships, my prayer is that people ultimately see my relationship with God and ask about that, but even if some of these people never step into a relationship with Jesus, it’s still worth cultivating relationship with them. They are still worth our time and love. Why?

Because Jesus did it. Jesus loved those who didn’t love Him. He spent time with the outcast, the ones who were sick, broken and in bondage. He didn’t do it “so they would follow Him." He did it plainly because they are God’s creation and He loves them.

When I first started this journey in Belize, I was looking for friendships so a void would be filled in my life, but as I’ve walked with the Lord through this process, I’ve learned how to trust Him with my relationships. I’ve learned that I can’t go into loving people with the goal or hope that they will love me back. Ultimately that is God’s job. I’ve learned that God is the closest and best friend I could ever have. As I’ve learned that, and started shifting my perspective, He has been faithful to bring people to encourage my heart when I needed it most. Those fuel me to keep on keeping on, and I LOVE that I get to spend so much time loving on people.

So I ask you…When is the last time you took time to really invest in people, regardless of the

outcome; regardless on if they reciprocated it to you? Like I said earlier, community and

relationship is God’s idea. He will provide what we need as we are faithful to show up

for Him and others.

Remember, you are loved.


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