Written by Leslie Strader
Jasper Journal Editorial Board Member
Whether it’s programming in a plant or testing in the field, as Veritas’ Instrument and Electrical Manager, Jim Newberg is invaluable to the team at Jasper Ventures.
But he’s made an even bigger impact 2,000 miles away hiking on a mountainside in the middle of nowhere. With a 40-pound bag of rice and beans on his back and the love of Jesus in his heart, since 2012, Jim has faithfully carried the Gospel’s message of life and hope to the people of Belize.
Over the last seven years, Jim has made four trips to Belize, a country of just over 400,000 people in Central America. From villages by the Belize River to a trash dump on the outskirts of town, Jim goes where the need is. He’ll tell you these experiences changed his life, and he’s taken his family along for the journey.
A Father’s Privilege
After seeing the impact Belize mission trips made on members of his church – Calvary Baptist in Gladewater – in 2012, Jim signed up to serve as a sponsor for the youth group’s trip and “fell in love with the country and the people.” On his third trip in July 2019, he took two of his five children – his son, Caden, 17 and his stepson Carter, 16 – and Caden’s best friend, Austin.
On these trips, Jim said, the days are long and the work is hard, but no one complains. Each morning after devotions, they fill backpacks with 40-50 pounds of rice and beans – enough to feed dozens of families a day – and drive to a nearby village.
Some of the group stays behind and plays soccer with the local kids and families. The rest grab a food pack and “hit every house in the village.” Then, they hike for miles over the mountains, finding huts in the middle of nowhere, many with dirt floors and some with no walls. The team prays with the families and gives them food, toiletries, and a Bible.
Jim said he tells each one, “This is not a religious thing; it’s a Jesus thing. We’re just here to love on you.”
Jim said he was proud and humbled to do this trip with his boys. And the boys responded to the experience beyond what their dad had even hoped.
“It was probably the most humbling experience of their lives,” Jim said. “They came away really affected by how much we waste and don’t need, how much we take for granted and how spoiled we are. It really impacted their view of life. And they all got closer to God. They had the best day of their life and the worst day of their life on the mission field.
“They didn’t come back perfect, but they came back with a love and passion for the people and the country. And they want to go back.”
They also came home with a memory they will always treasure. Caden and Austin had been to youth camp just three weeks before the trip to Belize. At camp, Caden rededicated his life to the Lord, and Austin received Jesus Christ as his Savior for the first time. Jim had the privilege of baptizing both young men in the river there.
“My younger kids have accepted Christ, too, but now they all want to wait until they can be baptized in Belize!” he said with a smile.
Continuing the Impact
On October 16, Jim and his wife of 14 years, Kelly, returned from Jim’s fourth trip to Belize and Kelly’s first trip out of the country. Jim said his wife was, “amazed at how kind and humble the people were. Even though they had very little, they still wanted to give you something. She was humbled by the experience and cannot wait to go back and visit all the people we saw.”
In July, Jim and his team discovered a group of men living in a landfill. They gave the men clothes, shoes, and a tent and led one of the men to Christ. On the October trip, Jim and Kelly re-visited the landfill, bringing more clothes, shoes, hammocks, and food along with the Gospel message once again.
“They kept talking about how God had blessed them with our presence (because) they had run out of food just days before,” Jim said. “We talked about their salvation. They did not choose to accept Christ, as they wanted to purge their lives of sin (themselves). We explained that with God and only through God will that sin be purged.
“We received a video call from Louis (one of the men living in the landfill) just two days later. He was at his sister’s, proudly wearing the clothes and cooking the food we brought. He was so grateful. He wants to stay in contact regularly and asked me to mentor him in his walk with God.”
Jim said the support he’s received over the last two years from Jasper Ventures has overwhelmed him.
“It’s completely odd coming from the corporate world to be in a Christian-owned company and have arrangements that allow you to do God’s work,” Jim said. “We work hard, but they allow me to take time off and not only that, they pray for you when you’re gone. That’s unheard of and a real blessing. Jon Jasper’s heart is in the right place. You feel more like family than like an employee.”
Jim said he doesn’t see an end to his relationship with Belize. He’s learned a lot over the last seven years and wants to continue to make an impact for the Lord there and encourage others to do the same, wherever God calls them.
“Out-of-the-country mission work is not for everyone, but that should not stop anyone from doing mission work,” he said. “Mission work can be done in our own backyard with simple things, like carrying things in your vehicles so when you encounter someone in need, you can provide and also provide prayer.”
“We are meant to plant the seed; God does all the hard work.”
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