This journey began for me with a 6 AM flight from Albany, NY, which did not actually leave until almost an hour later due to some mechanical issue. On the other hand, Brother Bill Rowe, my traveling companion who was also supposed to leave Tulsa, OK, also found his flight delayed by over 5 hours due to a mechanical issue with the plane. There was to have been a 55 minute window in Atlanta, GA for each of us to catch the flight to Belize, which he certainly could not catch. So we were able to obtain the favor of the airline to give us vouchers for meals and a room for the night in a fine nearby hotel. I believe that we can already see some clues that the enemy feels threatened about this visit.
So the next morning, Tuesday, January 14, we did indeed make our successful flight from Atlanta to Belize City, Belize, about a 3 hour flight. Belize happens to be in the same time zone as Central Standard Time in the US. As we came in for the landing approach, I could see that this part of the country is very flat with many small trees and much standing water, as if they had been having a very wet season. They tell me that their rainy season is coming to an end and for the next 3 or 4 months it will become very hot and humid. When the airplane door opened at about 1 PM, I could smell the warm tropical air of the 82 degree atmosphere. We went through passport control without having to purchase any visa. Our next stop was across the lot from the front of the terminal where we managed to rent an all-wheel drive wagon, with already many miles on the odometer. Since Bill had been here many times before over the past 30+ years, he had agreed to be the driver and guide for this visit. So, before we began our actual journey towards the south, he drove into the central part of Belize City, where he had certain old business that needed to be attended to.
Then in the mid afternoon, we began the journey on the main highway that would first take us about 50 miles west to Belmopan, the new capital city of Belize. It was our plan to spend the night here and then take the main highway south the next morning. So, while we were here and it was still daylight, Bill decided to try to find someone he and his wife, Patti, had known for over 30 years. So we began driving about on the mud and water laden dirt roads in the “suburbs” of the city, coming to one impassible dead end swamp after another and asking the local residents if they knew where this family lived. Finally, a little boy on a bicycle thought he knew who we were after and suggested that he was known as “the churchman”. Sure enough, his lead turned out to be the right one and we were able to find Luis and Elizabeth Tiul (as in Teal). This was a very happy reunion for Bill, as he had not been in contact with these people for the past 5 years. I gave the family some of the literature and media that I had brought with me and then Luis announced that he had started a “church” next door and would I be interested in speaking at the meeting that was already planned for tonight? Yes, we would return at about 7 PM.
Next Bill and I went and checked in at the Chinese operated Yim Saan Hotel on the other side of the city, which was also hard for Bill to find. In the meanwhile it was now dark, we had not eaten, and it was approaching 7 PM. After searching again, we found Brother Tiul and the meeting house. The meeting appeared to begin about 7:30 with much high decibel “music” fed mainly by 3 keyboards and large amplifiers, which was eventually joined by someone leading the singing; this continued until about 9 PM, when I was asked to share the word. I preached less than an hour talking mainly about the kingdom of God versus the other kingdoms, including that of religion. While I spoke, the brother had my word translated into Spanish, as not every hearer was perfect in English. After I finished, Brother Luis asked me if we would come back again, to share the word Monday night, when we are on our way back home. It seems that they (including Brother Tiul), are so hungry for the real truth and basically in need of someone who is willing to make it available for them. I might add that they are a needy people on the natural level as well. They are a diligent and hard working people, but the economy does not provide for much jobs and earning opportunities. After we left, they continued with more music and singing. And yes, we do plan to return next Monday night. When we returned to our hotel, it was quite late, so we ate supper at the Green Frog Restaurant and then went to bed for a good rest in our shared room.
The next morning after breakfast, we began the final 150 mile (3 hour) leg down the Southern Highway to the Caribbean/Atlantic coastal city of Punta Gorda, which is not far from the border of Guatemala. Belize, being in Central America, is also bordered on the north by Mexico and on the west by Guatemala. Until 1981, when they gained independence from Great Britain, Belize was known as British Honduras. There are three indigenous cultures of people here: 1) the blacks who were brought here as slaves from Africa (not actually indigenous), 2) the Hispanic people whose mother tongue is Spanish and 3) the native Indian tribes including the Maya and Quetchi. Now of course, we should add a fourth, the Americans who seem to have almost completely displaced any British influence. However, the Belize dollar which has the picture of Queen Elizabeth is tied to and valued at exactly two for every American dollar.
So very soon after we leave Belmopan, we come into a mountain range of jagged, saw-tooth ridges, through which we will be driving for nearly half of the way. The first half of the highway from here through the mountains seems to have been rebuilt over the last 5 years; the remaining is an older paved highway which now needs improvement. As soon as we come to Punta Gorda, we come immediately to the beautiful coast, from which one can see for many miles across the blue Caribbean. As soon as we find Valentino (Val), where he works as a security guard, we are taken to the guest house of Felix and Anneliese (his daughter) where we will be staying for the next week in our guest rooms on the second floor. Felix works as a plain-clothes detective for the local district police department and she works full time. At this house in the “suburbs” we will be given breakfast and the evening meal.
After checking in, we drive back downtown where we meet Emilio, Val’s brother-in-law. The two men share a co-eldership of a local fellowship and it is at this gathering that I will be speaking tonight. These folks have recently come out from the Nazarene denomination, so they are now truly independent and apparently truly functioning in eldership. After about an hour of singing more traditional hymns to the tune of a lively keyboard and a few other traditional things of church order, I am invited to speak to a crowd of maybe 30 or more people. Val’s brother, Francisco, is in the meeting and I will be speaking at the meeting in his house tomorrow night. I speak for a little over an hour about the lack of oil in the vessel, man’s soul and the expected consequences at the coming of midnight. I am told by the elders that it was a challenging word and they want to hear more tomorrow night.
I wake up every morning to the crowing of roosters. They actually crow at almost every hour of the night, one answering another in the neighborhood; I could say the same thing about the many dogs that are kept in the region. My screened windows stay open and the ceiling fan is going most of the time; A/C is not available at this house but it seems quite tolerable at this time of year. I could hear much heavy rain in the middle of the night, so today is going to be another normal day of trying to dodge mud and water holes wherever we walk or drive, except on the paved main roads and streets. We went down to the local Grace Restaurant and Hotel for lunch. This hotel does have a variety of rooms available, including those with A/C and there is also a large meeting room attached, which could easily accommodate 100 people.
This evening we attend a home meeting at the house of Francisco. We are staying at Val’s daughter’s home, which adjoins at the back yards of this house, her uncle. The meeting consisted of about 20+ people, almost all of which are part of the extended family of the three men, two whom function actively as elders in the local fellowship. A little description of the enclosed photo of the elders and their wives is as follows: from left to right are Francisco and his wife Louisa. Center is his brother Valentino (Val) and his wife Florencia, and on the right are Emilio and his wife Candelaria, who is a sister to the other two men. On the other photo of the two men, Emilio is on the keyboard on the right and Val is seated on the left. The portable keyboard was much more subdued and the songs were mostly those choruses we learned from the Full Gospel meetings in the 70’s. Again, I was given much liberty and with a few questions to expound the word. I spoke mainly on coming to a spiritual understanding and the end time events that will bring a dividing between the church systems. A fellowship meal was held for the entire group after the meeting. I used this occasion to pass out most of my media and books (including the Pattern) to be certain that the three elders each have a complete set.
The next day is Friday, January 20. There is a cable television in the living room of this house which is connected to CNN. So before we left the house, we were able to watch the actual inauguration of Mr. Trump to the office of President of the USA. I suppose we could say that his coming to Washington would meet the definition of the Greek word parousia. And having watched all of this fanfare, Rita said that she can’t wait to see the ultimate parousia of Jesus Christ (see the word “coming” in Matthew 24: 3, 27, 37 and 39).
After this Val, Bill and I decide to visit a brother, Santiago Choco, about 30 miles west of here in the village of Santa Ana, which is on a pretty well paved highway. We found him in his traditional dirt floor cabin (his family actually lives in a nearby house) with members of his extended family. In the one photo some of the women are making corn tacos by hand. In the other photo, of Br. Santiago, a tiny sleeping baby is hanging in a little sling suspended from one of the bamboo rafters. He is a former Nazarene minister who ministers in the area Baptist or Pentecostal churches, wherever he has opportunity. We had fellowship with him, including a traditional caldo and corn tortilla meal; then I left him some books.
On our return to Punta Gorda, Val took us to the home of a sick sister of the local church whose health has been deteriorating. She was lying listlessly in a hammock just inside the door. Her husband said she had just been in the hospital but has not been improving. So we all prayed for her and committed her by faith to the Lord.
We left about 5 PM for the evening meeting in Santa Ellena, a mission outreach of the local fellowship. Val and his wife accompanied Bill and I, and Br Emilio came with his family in his car. This village is on the new southern highway, only a few miles from the Guatemalan border where it ends about 50 feet short of the border. They have appointed a brother, Benito Conti (formerly a Nazarene pastor), as a resident shepherd/elder for this little flock and have been traveling one evening a week to minister here. Val explained to us on the way home that because of the perils of this night highway, they are considering having the two elders split their time here for a Sunday morning meeting. The meeting went well, with Br Emilio interpreting in the Mayo language.
The drive home after the meeting became quite an adventure. We were following Emilio’s car, both of us with headlights on high beam. About 5 miles down the road, Emilio’s car suddenly swerved and as we also swerved I saw what looked like a crumpled human lying under a fallen bicycle. We all stopped and as I ran back with my flashlight, I expected to find a broken corpse under the bicycle; but to my surprise the man (about 20) began to rise up and stand. I determined that he was not hurt and he had not been run over; but he was drunk and the chain was off the sprocket of the bicycle, so he could no longer ride it. It was a very dark, moonless night and the man had no light; he could easily have been hit, but he simply fell. So we carried the man with his bike in the hatch of our car about 5 miles to the next village, which was his destination. The brethren insisted that we had saved his life, so we also prayed and committed his soul to Jesus Christ. In another 10 miles, we encountered a herd of a dozen or more Brahman type of cattle in the middle of the road, being herded to the other side of the highway by the farmers using only flashlights to warn us (Why are they doing this in the very darkest of night?). Well, we made it safely back home to a good night of rest.
So on Saturday, we had a free morning, but the afternoon was for an unusual meeting. The other married daughter of Br Val and her husband had asked to have their new home dedicated to the Lord. In their house, they also have a pure water bottling mini-factory, called Blue Spring, using the latest technology. They seem to be prospering. So I used the occasion to ask the owner to also dedicate his life to the Lord, which he did by confession of his mouth. This gathering was again an extended family.
After the house dedication, we went to the meeting of the local fellowship. There was a smaller group gathered but the elders were present and I spoke on God’s order for leadership in the church.
Sunday morning, January 22 comes to us with an early start, rising at 6 AM for breakfast and then leaving the house at 7 AM. Bill and I are traveling with Val and his wife to the mountain village of San Jose, where both of them were born and brought up. The first part of the travel was on the same highway we had traveled on Friday night, a well paved highway. But, when we turned off on the side road to San Jose, it became a real driving challenge for Bill; it took us one hour to travel the 9 miles to the village; the problem being ruts, mud and projecting rocks. We arrived at the Nazarene church a little before 9 AM and were greeted by the young pastor, William, who was taking the position from Bernaldino, his retiring father, who also happened to be another blood brother of Val and Francisco. It was a good and well attended meeting. Br William translated into Maya for me as I gave the message I would call “Hide Yourself”. After the meeting we walked across a creek (stepping on the stones) and up the hill to the home of the elder and their aged parents, where we were served the traditional caldo and corn tortillas. The ride home went a little faster because we now knew what to expect on the road.
On Sunday evening, we held the last meeting with the fellowship here in Punta Gorda. It was well attended; the 24’ x 36’ building was completely full. I brought a word on “Baptisms”. After the meeting, there was some fellowship with snacks and Pepsi. There were many hugs, goodbyes and questions about a possible return visit.
On Monday morning, January 23, Bill and I left Punta Gorda at about 9 AM for the three hour drive through the mountains north to Belmopan. We arrived about noon, where we had lunch at the Green Frog and checked into our Chinese hotel. Then we drove out to the back streets, where the roads are actually drying out now, to the home of Br Luis. He is at his table in a little add on room with an open side and a metal roof, seated at the table that once was a 4 foot diameter spool for wire or pipe of some utility. He has his bible out and is attempting to study the word. His KJV bible is quite worn. He has no concordance, as do none of the other elders or ministers here. He tells me that he was challenged by the word that I brought last week and really wants to know more about God’s order for the church leadership. I told him that I will try to send him more material and suggested that he really needs to read “The Pattern” first, as I point out some of the sections to him. The Rowe’s are helping him to get a post office box so that they can communicate with him (he was lost for five years).
We held our evening meeting with the faithful of the fellowship, where I spoke on what we can expect with the coming of “midnight”. The next morning he walked over to join us for breakfast. He made it clear to us that he is open to the message and desires to know more. Bill talked a little to him (as he did the other brethren) about their need to change their style of music. What they really need is a real live example of what real worship music is. All they have ever seen and heard is the amplified “rock” stuff that the other churches have taught them.
Tuesday then is our final day of travel. We found a car wash in Belmopan (the car rental agency requires it) and then began the one hour drive to the airport, where we turned in the car and then checked in for the flight home. I also looked into some domestic alternate air companies that fly from Belize City to Punta Gorda. In Atlanta, Bill and I were separated in the passport/customs/security and each went to our respective departure gates; I made mine with only minutes to spare before boarding. My flight to Albany went without incident as we landed flawlessly in a snowstorm. Rita had brought the car to pick me up at the airport and I drove home slowly (with white knuckles and a firm grip on the steering wheel) in a very wet heavy snow, arriving about 10:30 PM.
Let me say again, thanks to the many who prayed for us. I was so well aware that the Lord was upholding us and protecting us from the many possible perils. And even now, from the feedback that Sister Patti is getting from Belize, our visit was well received and there is a desire that we should come again. I believe that this is a good door that the Lord has opened for us to bring our message to a people who are now ready, the seed having been planted over many years by the Rowes. I pray God’s blessing for each one who reads this.