A Heavy Load

Taylor Gerlach, 18

She was a tiny girl with curious eyes that hinted at suspicion. She held the hands of two smaller children, a blond girl and a dark-skinned boy. A younger boy hid behind her. Splashing through the muddy puddles, she confidently instructed, reprimanded, and loved them.

In my high school cafeteria, I catch snippets of exasperated conversation—“too much homework,” “the test was hard,” “college applications.” High school and college are stressful. Teachers don’t seem to consider extracurricular activities, family issues, and friendship drama on top of academic responsibilities. Sometimes, the load seems more than I can carry. Yet, when I’m overwhelmed, I remember the enormous responsibility carried with courage and strength by my young Belizean friend.

Taylor with kids IMG_6119
I traveled with my church to Belize, where we built a house and a school classroom and helped with medical needs. Even more important to me were the relationships we formed with our Belizean brothers and sisters in Christ. Their testimony, humility, and love continue to inspire me.

Atalya FTROn a dirt road in Black Man Eddy Village, I met Atalya. At first, I noticed a small girl and her siblings, keeping their distance. Being the oldest, she held her siblings back and cautiously followed us, suspicious of our group as we visited many of the village residents. I glanced back at her, intrigued by the authority she seemed to have. I noticed how she cared for the others, comforting them and holding their hands. She also demonstrated her power, leading them down the street and calling them back when they wandered off. As her suspicion wore away, the four children began walking with our group. Soon enough, we were playing “I Spy” and climbing on a makeshift playground. As we walked along, I asked Atalya her age; she held up six fingers.

When I was six, I was happily playing dolls with my younger sister and learning to read. I had amazing teachers and technology as well as parents who supported me.

Housing IMG_5694Atalya’s short life has been filled with challenges beyond my comprehension. She is one of twelve children, most with different fathers, and may be dealing with abuse from her mother’s boyfriends. Atalya has the responsibility of looking after her younger siblings. She acts as their mother, and she is only six years old. Clearly, Atalya carries the weight of the world on her young shoulders. She gives me hope that I can live through any difficult situation with the same strength and courage, knowing that God is by my side.



What did my Belizean friends teach me about maintaining my sanity when the weight of the world crashes down on me?

  • Ask God to help carry your burdens. Atalya brought her siblings to church and to kids’ programs held at a missionary’s home. She trusted God to care for her and made God a priority.
  • Listen to an encouraging song. (I like “Glow in the Dark.”) At Mountain Hope Bible Church, we passionately belted out worship songs, regardless of our singing abilities.
  • Blow bubbles; act like a child. Some of my favorite moments in Belize were pick-up games I played with the little kids.
  • Go on a run or exercise. One of the Oasis Ministry team members had a makeshift bench press machine on his front porch. You don’t need a gym to exercise.
  • Hug a dog or cat. While I’m sure the cats weren’t thrilled, a two year old I hung out with loved squeezing cats and carrying them around.
  • Smile. Trust that God is in control.
Taylor Gerlach, 18 , is a devozine TAB member and high school junior who loves photography, CrossFit, and being outdoors. She has a passion for serving people in her Charlotte community as well as her brothers and sisters around the world.

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