By Joey Martin, Special to the Message
VIDALIA — Where in the world is Belize?
Charla Knapp of Vidalia can tell you. She’s been four times.
For the record, Belize, formerly British Honduras, is a country located on the north eastern coast of Central America. It is bordered to the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala and to the east by the Caribbean Sea.
And while Belize Barrier Reef is the second longest in the world and home to more than 100 diﬀerent kinds of coral and some 500 species of ﬁsh, the trips have been anything but a vacation. But they have been just as rewarding for Knapp, a nurse practitioner at Concordia Medical Center.
“I made a vow to God to serve in missions,” Knapp said. “I started googling international missions and two or three came up. I sent out feelers and the first and only one came from Paul (Whisnant). It felt right and I started raising money and asking friends if they would like to go with me. Four months passed and I couldn’t find anybody. I was starting to get cold feet, but God kept telling me to go on and I raised the money and applied. My husband (David) was unable to go, but he was very supportive.”
Charla made her first trip to Belize two years ago on May 11 and has been four times since.
“I’ve had 10 people join me at one time, from Vidalia and Natchez,” Knapp said. “The first time I went, I was overwhelmed. Everybody was very friendly and welcomed us with open arms.”
Dr. Paul Whisnant, who founded International Servants 22 years ago, visited David and Charla Knapp last week and spoke to First Baptist Church Vidalia at a gathering.
“There’s only one requirement,” Whisnant said. “You have to be a believer who loves God. Our main focus is sharing the love of Christ. And you will find out, it’s not just what you did while you were there, it’s what God does in your life.”
Whisnant said he and his wife visited Vidalia to not only thank those who have made trips and supported those who have made trips but encourage others to get involved. We can’t do what we do without people getting involved. We are ambassadors to God, but people like Charla are ambassadors for what we do
International Servants is a Christian Mission bringing hope to children in Belize through our Medical Mission, Children’s Ministry, Feed-A-Child, Save A Childs Life, Construction and Belize Mission Trips.
“I grew up in a small church in Cordele, Ga.,” Whisnant said. “At the age of 18 I was attending a Baptist college in Tennessee when I felt God calling me to be a missionary. My dad is a full-time missionary in America. I love my father and people like him, but I didn’t want to be a missionary, I wanted to be a lawyer and support people like my dad.”
Whisnant said God kept working on his heart until he finally gave in, and at the age of 18, made his first out-of-state trip to Belize with his Bible, a backpack and $50.
“I had a miserable time and didn’t like it one bit,” Whisnant said. “There was no electricity at that time and you had to bath in a river with crocodiles floating around. But then God helped me lead this little boy to Christ and we were walking back through the hot jungle. Ninety percent of the people in Belize live in grass huts. We were going to his hut and he kept pulling my arm and asking if I was coming back. I was thinking, ‘No way on earth.’ I was thinking I would help in other ways. I was trying to ignore his questions, but then God convicted my heart. I thought, ‘Somebody needs to come back, but I didn’t want it to be me. Then the boy asked me, ‘Are you going to come back and tell me more about Jesus.’ Right then, time stood still. I heard myself say yes. He was all excited. So I came back at Christmas break.”
Whisnant has now lived in Belize for 22 years and his wife, Amanda, a nurse practitioner, is the Belize Medical Director.
Belize now has 53 churches, three schools and 1,000 children in an orphan ministry.
“Without volunteers like Charla, this would not be possible, they are a huge part of what we do,” Whisnant said. “And people supporting them, even with a $5 donation, make a big difference. That can buy Tylenol, which is so valuable down there. And we also are asking for prayers for our missions.”
Whisnant said many of the churches are now self-sustainable, which allows him more time in the United States for fund-raising projects and recruiting volunteers.
“And we want to keep multiplying down there,” he said. “It’s amazing to me to see what God has done and what he is doing.”
Mission trips to Belize are planned for May 19-25 and June 9-15 this year.
A fund-raiser auction is being held Saturday, March 16 at Elks Lodge at 5 p.m.
Anyone interested in participating or donating items (reading glasses, hydrocortisone cream, antifungal creams, Children’s Tylenol, Ace wraps,, splints or pedialyte powder packets) or money for the trip, can contact Charla Knapp through First Baptist Church Vidalia at 337.336.7111.