Senior leads spring break mission trip to Belize for fourth straight year


Bearden senior Lauren Hunter (middle) started “We Belize in Him” as a freshman and has continued her spring break tradition ever since.

Abby Ann Ramsey, Staff Writer

Spring break is a great time to relax and recuperate from school by going on vacation, hanging out with friends, or binging a show on Netflix, but one Bearden student has spent every high school spring break in a life-changing way.

Senior Lauren Hunter has been organizing a mission trip to Belize for the past four years and has an indescribable passion for the small, overlooked country where she was called to serve at only 14 years old.

Ever since middle school, Hunter wanted to go on a mission trip, but due to her overloaded cheerleading schedule, it seemed like just a dream far in the distance. When she decided to quit cheerleading her freshman year, however, she felt her dream might be attainable after all.

She sought help from her dad, who mentioned the small country of Belize, located in Central America. She learned that the impoverished nation struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, gang violence, and broken families. On top of that, people often fail to notice these issues.

“Belize is a country that a lot of people forget about and most don’t even have knowledge of,” Hunter said. “I didn’t even know where Belize was or had ever heard about it before my dad mentioned it to me.”

After deciding where to go, she brought the idea to her youth pastor who referred her to an organization entitled Praying Pelican Missions that began in Belize. Eager to start the process, she contacted PPM that same night, and at age 14 became the youngest person in the history of the company to organize a mission trip.

She named the group after presenting a project in Mr. Cody Martin’s leadership class about a goal for her future. When she said she wanted to go on a mission trip to Belize, he said “we Belize in it,” inspiring the title “We Belize in Him.”

By the following spring break, she and a small group of seven other people made their way down to the country, nervous, but excited for what the week would hold. Everyone was pushed far outside of their comfortable day-to-day lives to interact and build relationships with the citizens of Belize. All the participants became used to introducing themselves to strangers, sharing testimonies in front of a crowd, asking for prayer requests, and even just trying new foods.

“One of my favorite quotes is ‘a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there,’” Hunter said. “We were all uncomfortable, but we learned so much from stepping outside our comfort zones than any other experience could have taught us.”

Since that first trip, the group has been back three more times, expanding more and more in number each year. When Hunter began the trip, she thought it would only last until her senior year of high school, but after the most recent trip, she has decided to keep planning it and going back through college.

She was recently offered an internship in Belize this summer with Praying Pelican Missions for six weeks where she will serve as assistant trip leader and help the mission teams coming to the country.

In the distant future, Hunter plans on living in a third-world country with a normal, 9-to-5 job and furthering her mission work outside of her career. Once she is ready to pass the project on to somebody else, she hopes “We Belize in Him” will keep going.

“One of the things that makes the trip so unique is that high schoolers are the ones who take charge of leading while the adults stand back,” Hunter said.

Belize has made an enormous impact on Hunter’s life. Without the small country, her life and future plans would be completely different. The experience has been extremely eye-opening to her as to how impoverished, yet joyful other parts of the world can be.

“It has taught me that you don’t need ‘stuff’ to be happy,” Hunter said. “The Belizeans are some of the most grateful and happy people I’ve met for the simple fact that they are content with what they have.”