Magis Moments: The Butterfly Trip to Belize

By Spencer Rosenbohm ’19

Belize. A place where I have lost a piece of my heart- twice now. A place of much poverty but so, so rich at the same time. A place where God can be seen in all His mighty ways. Cruising through the country side, I couldn’t help but think that only God could create such a unique and beautiful country with the sun gleaming through the clouds rolling over the rainforest covered mountains. Through the landscape, animals, Caribbean Sea, Caye Caulker, San Jose Village, Mayan ruins, and on and on, I have never felt such a divine presence. God’s handiwork could be seen everywhere. 

I felt God’s presence not only in the beautiful nature around me, but also in the people specifically the loving villagers of San Jose. We put on a camp for over one hundred Mayan children of San Jose in which we taught classes in the morning, and sports in the afternoon. 

Establishing so many relationships with many different families from the San Jose Village, I would like to tell the story of my connection with one particular family that has opened my eyes and changed my life to become a man who trusts, puts all faith in, and actively pursues a relationship with Jesus Christ on a daily basis.

On my first trip to Belize, I met this family, the Cal family, when going to their store in the village to buy some snacks. I wasn’t in the store for fifteen minutes when I had already heard Mr. Jacob, the father of the family, tell me his entire life story.  When it came time to leave the village, Lilia gave me a cloth with roses knitted on it (because I was known as Mr. Rosie to all the children) and a piece of paper with a bible verse on it:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”   -Proverbs 3:5-6.

This verse, for a year, kept popping up everywhere I looked. Returning for a second time this past December, I developed even more relationships with the joyous, loving people of San Jose and furthered my relationship with Mr. Jacob and his family; he greeted me like he somehow knew I was coming back. 

The Hungry Caterpillar and the ‘Pem Pem’ (Butterfly)

Putting on the camp again for the children, I got to teach Mr. Jacob’s younger daughter Zefara this time. One day in class, I read them the hungry caterpillar. I cut out little circles for each of them to decorate and strung them together as a community building exercise to create one big, beautiful caterpillar. 

One boy named Armen even volunteered to talk about God’s view of community, and he responded, “Love others how you would love yourself."  Amazing and heartwarming to see such Truth being spoken at such a young age. Guess that is why God tells us to believe like children. 

The following day, I made the caterpillar “transform” and turn into beautiful butterflies for them to decorate for arts and crafts. Zefara then taught me the Mopan (Mayan language) word for butterfly which is “pem pem." After, we went out to fly all of their freshly decorated butterflies and had a blast.

The next morning, it was time for us to leave. All the relationships I had developed. All the children. All the sweet, sweet people of the San Jose Village were disappearing in the rear view mirror yet again. But! Just as we were passing Mr. Jacob’s store one last time, he was waiting for us on the balcony. Almost just like last year, except this time at 5:00 in the morning, they gave me a departing gift. Another little piece of paper with a bible verse hand written by Zefara:

“Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity:
I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide” - Psalm 26:1.

With this note came a piece of cloth with some flowers knitted on it, and none other than a butterfly as the centerpiece of the design which I instantly associated with Zefara. 

After saying a quick goodbye, we drove onward on the long, dirt road. At this point, I was feeling so sick to my stomach. My heart was being torn back to the village even though we were driving away. With tears rolling down my face in the back seat of the Dodge Ram, I prayed, “Lord, please don’t let me forget all the sights, sounds, and love from San Jose. Please Lord. Do something to remind me all the time of these people. I don’t want to forget. Please help me try to stay in touch with these people somehow. Please allow me to see them again one day if you permit. I ask these things in your Son’s name. Amen.” I finally understood how this prayer would be answered when we returned home.

Back in the States, I began to see this image over and over again everywhere I went. I ate dinner at my Granny’s house about three weeks ago and saw it there. Every Sunday at church since I have returned from Belize, there has been a butterfly on the front of the program with the word “Transformation." I saw it on one girl’s necklace that came into town to visit me from back home. I even saw one laying on the concrete by the Civic Center near the River Walk. A real one!!! Think you can guess what it is? It was a “pem pem." Or, as we say it, a butterfly

I tried to figure out why I kept seeing butterfly after butterfly for two weeks straight, and then it finally hit me. I believe this is God’s way of answering my prayer, “Please Lord. Do something to remind me all the time of these people." Now, whenever I see a butterfly, I immediately think of the selfless love of the San Jose people and little Zefara.


Spencer Rosenbohm is a senior, majoring in physics.  He is also a member of the Loyola University Baseball Team.

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