From the veranda at Nabitunich, the farm where my program is taking place this semester, I can look out over the unfolding palms and find ancient Mayan ruins emerging from the morning fog.
The ruins of Xanantunich, breathtaking and ghostly, barely a mile from where I now stand, symbolize just how easily an empire can fall.
As I sip my coffee and wait the arrival of a new day, I reflect on all I have witnessed and what my return home will look like, given the immense changes taking place.
At Eastern, I frequently talked to my friends about environmental crises, but I hadn’t felt or seen it yet. I had heard warnings coming from the world’s leading scientists. I kept up with the late-breaking news and bought tickets to Al Gore’s documentary.
I had heard about the faraway corners of the world where faraway people apparently had no water to drink. But for me, with the exception of my three weeks in New Orleans and along the gulf coast, my awareness ended with my conversations.
A mere twist of the faucet handle and I had water. The supermarket aisles, perpetually lined with food, always greeted me whenever I was hungry. Resources seemed in endless abundance.
But as I live among a people closer to the equator and the poverty line here in Belize, as I do my best to listen and understand their stories, I realize that these issues are not just talked about here, but felt and lived.
Nations like Belize, still stumbling to find their footing in a post-colonial era of free market economics and world-wide globalization, are already feeling the effects of our ecological illiteracy. These hidden corners of the world are where the consequences of my lifestyle have been tucked away.
But a few days ago, as I stood before the wide-open acres of clear-cut rainforests, my illusions were drawn back like a curtain and I wanted to fall to my knees asking Christ to forgive me for the structural sin I have participated in so blindly over the last 20 years.
I often think of how proud I am to be a part of Eastern University, where a biblical vision of justice is critical to both our learning and living. I am inspired by what is waiting for me back home at Eastern–a place where I can return, still hurting and mourning the things I have seen, and yet be met by a community of friends and faculty ready to share in that process.
Through prayer and action, we can together move forward towards hope and change. For those of you who have written and prayed, thank you. You are appreciated more then you know.
Nick O’Ryon is a junior majoring in English literature.