Notes from afar: A hesitant farewell from Belize

I settle into my hammock. The sun is setting, the cows are all draped in shadow and the blithe air is full of their bellowing as they finish their last-minute grazing and return to the farm.

I realize how swiftly the semester is drawing to a close here at CCSP Belize, just how little time we have left.

In the last few months, my fellow students and I have joyfully returned to our place in the world–we have felt restored as stewards of a more full and complete humanity.

I realize this must sound painfully melodramatic, and that many people might read this and cast me as an idealist descending from some lofty mountain top.

I suppose they are right. Here on this small farm in the foothills of western Belize, I have briefly been afforded my idealism. We’ve been given the chance to live an uninterrupted, unhindered dream, free from whatever constrictions held us in place back home.

Momentarily safeguarded from our own mother culture, which is defined by invasive advertising, over-consumption and a materialism unparalled around the world, we students of CCSP have been given a chance to imagine something more real.

But as I lay swaying in my hammock, listening to the groans of the cattle on their way in from pasture, I realize that I have very little time left.

Very soon, we too will be coming in from pasture, leaving behind the wide-open grazing grounds of Belize where we had so much expansive freedom to explore new ideas and grow bold in new beliefs and convictions. I hope we are ready.

Soon enough, we will awake with a start and find ourselves back in a nation where self-importance and instant gratification are still the name of the game, and all that idealism will feel like a dream.

The frantic pace of life, the hyper-independence and extreme isolation, the blaring noise, the endless procession of “stuff” will all be there, intermingled with the long-awaited faces of friends and famil, meeting us as we step off the plane.

I imagine many of us will realize at that moment that in a very real way, we are no longer welcome.

Or perhaps it is the other way around. Maybe it is we who will no longer welcome that old way of life when we return. We won’t welcome it into our churches any longer, won’t allow it to cast its shadows on our religion. We won’t invite it in to our homes and let it shape they way we live. We won’t let it seep back into our minds to distort and skew the very way we see the world.

The message this semester has been too counter-cultural, too radical, too richly biblical for us to answer the seductive call of that past lifestyle.

I hope more Eastern students will consider this program in the coming semesters. The mission and message of Creation Care Study Program is so rarely attended to and yet is absolutely essential for our generation of believers.

As Thomas Aquinas so wonderfully states, “Any error about creation also leads to an error about God.” This program has given me a revolutionary spiritual semester, deepening both my relationship with my God and the earth.

It has changed my life for the better and reassured me that given the current choices laid out for us in America, idealism is preferable to idolatry.

Nick O’Ryon is a junior majoring in English literature.

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