By Emily Vaughn
When I think about Belize, my heart fills with joy. I am reminded of the beautiful country, amazing people, and the experiences that have forever changed my life. Our church had the privilege to partner with August Pine Ridge Evangelical Mennonite Church three years in a row. Over those three years we developed relationships that turned into family! Every year we went back, we were excited to continue a relationship that had become so dear to our hearts. There is one relationship in particular I will forever cherish.
Arci was one of those people who betters your life just to know her. A faithful follower of Christ, she was always willing to do anything for the church and its people. She was a single mother who loved her sweet Joshua fiercely. She was a fighter, battling cancer twice. Lastly, she was a genuine friend, always putting others before herself.
I’ll never forget the closing service of our last year in Belize. After the service was over, Arci approached my husband and I with tears flowing down her face as she said, “You all truly love us, you are our family!” I grabbed her and we hugged tightly while crying into each other’s shoulders. I shared with her that we felt the same way. I explained how our lives are so much richer because we know and love them and how they have blessed us beyond anything we could offer them. It was such a beautiful moment as we both sat there so grateful to God for crossing our paths.
I did not know at the time, but that would be the last time I would talk to or hug my sweet friend. A few months after returning to the states we received information that Arci’s cancer had come back. A few months later, she entered the gates of heaven. As much as we celebrated her homecoming, our hearts also hurt for the loss of a friend but most importantly, for sweet Joshua. Being so young, we feared that one day Joshua would not remember what an amazing mother he had, but to no surprise, her village stepped in.
The pastor of the church immediately took little Joshua in and eventually adopted him. It has now been two years since her passing and little Joshua is doing so well. He is now being raised by the community that Arci loved and served so selflessly. The community that will continue to love him and remind him about what an incredible Godly woman his beautiful mother was.
Thirst Missions has given me incredible opportunities that I will forever be grateful for. One of my favorites is the opportunity to walk alongside other sisters and brothers in Christ from thousands of miles away.