By Mark Jantzi
This journey began for Rita and me on Tuesday afternoon the 16th when we drove down to stay at a motel near to the airport. We were in the beginning stages of a snowstorm that could leave the Capital District of New York with as much as 4-8” of new snow. When we checked in the next morning for the 6:00 AM flight it was still snowing, but we were told that everything was on time. Before we finally left at 9:30, the departure time had been delayed a third time. The problem was not so much in New York, where snow happens frequently in the winter, but in Atlanta, Georgia, where snow and ice are rather rare. So, Atlanta was backed up and could not accommodate any more outside planes. It seems the storm was covering most of the east coast, from south to north.
So, when we arrived in Atlanta at about 12:15 PM, we saw on the display board that the Belize flight had been delayed and was to leave at 12:30. When we reached the gate, ½ hour later, the departure was changed to 1:00 PM; but there was no one at the gate. In fact, it seems that half of the airport employees never made it to work that day. Even the lounge was closed. The Rowes never made it to Atlanta, partly on the basis of bad advice given them by the airline in Tulsa. Then we noticed that the departure to Belize was changed to 2:00 PM; so I went about trying to rebook our brethren from Oklahoma. Just as I finished, Rita told me that the plane was finally boarding. We boarded and made the 3-hour flight without any further issues to Belize City.
But when we finished gathering our luggage and passing through customs, we could not find brother Luis. And to make matters worse, I had somehow been given the wrong phone number. We landed at 4:05 CST and Luis picked us up almost 1 and ½ hours later. We were very happy to see him, just as the sun was setting. The drive to Belmopan was a very dark 90 minute drive. We were then settled into our Chinese Hotel, had some Chinese food to eat (I might mention that the Chinese have a very large economic presence here), and then went to bed for a good rest.
Luis spent most of the next day with me, where I gifted him (and his brother-in-law assistant) with much good CDs and literature. We had some very good discussions on kingdom issues and Luis said that he really wants to learn. That evening, Luis took us to the meeting at their “Fountain of Life” fellowship which meets next-door to their home. Luis and Elizabeth are in their late 30s and have 7 beautiful children ages 6-19. Luis works very hard to support his family as a handyman/landscaper, but has been temporarily hampered by a malfunctioning pickup truck (compounded by not being able to make money to pay for the repairs). In spite of what looks like a decent economy with much tourism spending, there is also much hand-to-mouth poverty here. The Belize dollar is tied to the US dollar at 50%, and we are finding things here to be very expensive.
We had a good meeting attended mainly by the two families who take the leadership of the group. Luis had asked me if I would speak on God’s Order for Leadership in the Church, which I did with Brother Li interpreting in Spanish. Rita was also given about ½ hour to teach the brethren some new songs. But they still found plenty of time to make “music” their traditional way.
On Friday, we had breakfast with these two “elders” and then we picked up Luis’s family and went to Belize City to pick up the last two visiting team members. Incidentally, Brother Li is the professional driver of this van and will be accompanying Luis and the other four of us to Punta Gorda. We arrived at the airport about 1:00 PM and left about ½ hour later with Br Bill and Sis Patty Rowe. We got them settled into the same hotel, had supper and settled in for the night.
Punta Gorda (PG to the locals) is the southernmost city of Belize, right on the Caribbean coast. On Saturday morning, January 21, the six of us set out in the old white van down to PG. We made a halfway stop at a service station, but the trip was about 4 hours long. Other newer vehicles went roaring past, but the diesel van was able to keep a sure and steady pace, coming into the mountain roads almost as soon as leaving Belmopan. The last half of the road flattened out considerably as we began to move closer to the coast. We arrived at our designated B&B (owned by the daughter of Val, one of the elders), just about sunset. Brother Val met us and immediately set us up a meeting with the church elders. At the meeting with about 5 or 6 elders (two of them, Val and Emilio, the main ministers), I shared with them my purpose of the visit and what my vision for the meetings would be. They decided that we could minister and teach the kingdom message at their church building every night of the week for the next 8 days (Sunday through Sunday) and have three meetings on Sunday. Daytime would not be a good time, as it would interfere with the work schedules of the people. So, after a good meal was served at the B&B, we settled in for the night.
And so, I began teaching the principles of the kingdom, using the pattern of the tabernacle as much as possible. Earlier, I had sent instructions (and I believe other brethren sent money) for them to purchase and assemble a large white board. It was a blessing to be able to use it for teaching the word. On Sunday afternoon, we drove with Brother Val in the mountains to Santa Elena (only a few miles from the Guatemala border), where there is a tiny village fellowship and I brought a word on sonship. Then we drove back to PG for the third and final meeting of that day.
Maybe I should mention something about the natural atmosphere here. The temperature comes to about 80 F during the day and the high 60s at night (somewhat of a contrast to the snow and cold that we left behind in Upstate New York); it is actually fairly comfortable, even to sleep at night without A/C. Since we are next to the ocean, there is usually a nice breeze. The weather forecast accurately predicted a shower every day; it can last for an hour and sometimes comes as a cloudburst, but it is fairly predictable. Also predictable is the competitive crowing of the neighborhood roosters, starting as early as 4:00 AM; and they try to beat out the barking dogs.
Monday was a quieter day for rest and study and then the evening weeknight meetings began at the local fellowship building. The crowd is smaller, but the key elders are here and very attentive. I am very blessed with the white board. On Tuesday morning, we drove “downtown” by the sea, had the team photo taken by a willing stranger and then shopped for our noontime snacks (not included in the B&B package deal). But hereafter, it seems that someone or other is inviting us for one of the meals (usually lunch). The weather was nice Wednesday and Rita and I were able to go for a nice walk. Wednesday night was a larger crowd at the meeting as it was the regular meeting night. Luis, the brother from Belmopan, “filmed” the teaching live on his phone (something to do with Facebook) and it was seen back at his home fellowship, and in addition was viewed by a pastor in San Salvador.
Wednesday night, during the night, there was a change in the weather. I could hear torrential downpours most of the night and it got somewhat cooler. By morning, the vacant “lots” around us were floating with water. Of course, there is no river to overflow and the ocean isn’t much more than a mile away. So, the rain continued most of Thursday, on and off and sometimes heavy. Thankfully, we had nowhere to go today. Thursday (the 25th), we had a fairly decent crowd and I continued the teaching on the sealing of the saints from Rev 7; then moved on to Ezekiel 9, then 8. It seems that we stumbled into the celebrating of Easter and then went on to Jeremiah 10:1-5 (the heathen Christmas tree). We had a very good and open discussion with the people, including the elders. Incidentally, Easter is an official four-day holiday celebrated here in Belize.
At the Friday evening meeting, my teaching reached the brazen laver and of course, that opened the door to the three baptisms. But before we got past water baptism, it began to raise many questions and there was a discussion of some who may need to be rebaptized, some who were formerly baptized for the wrong reason, and others who had been previously baptized in a denomination by pouring of water. On Saturday night, I concluded the baptism teaching by a thorough look at the meaning of being baptized into Christ. Apparently, the teaching was taken to heart; since on Sunday afternoon our van and another car drove up to San Antonio Falls where we held a baptism. The pastors of both churches went in the water below the falls and baptized three. Lastly the pastor of this local fellowship was himself baptized by immersion and I believe he intends to teach the true principles to the sheep. There was an end time teaching again at both the Sunday morning and evening meetings.
On Monday, we left Punta Gorda immediately after breakfast and we made good time driving north. At the halfway service station, we picked up a Mennonite man that needed a ride. It seems that there are now second and third generations of these people who have migrated here from Canada and the northern Midwest, most of whom are the very conservative type. This man’s group maintains the German language and farms only with horses, having no electricity or other motor driven machinery. I had a good talk with him until we arrived in Belmopan.
We checked in to our Chinese hotel for the night, but they could only accommodate us for one night. So, the next day, we found a room for our last night in Belize at another hotel. Monday night, Brother Luis blessed us by turning the meeting completely over to us, even asking Rita to lead some songs. I brought a word on the sons of light. The next day as we moved to our “new” lodging, it was wet and rainy for the entire day. In the afternoon, Elizabeth (Mrs. Luis) gave us an afternoon lunch at their meeting hall. Luis had already set up a projector that the Rowes had brought him and was using the computer that I had brought him; he wanted to learn how to project the songs that Rita had compiled in the computer onto a white surface. It seems they will be well blessed with these new things and hopefully will bring them into a new era of praise and worship. In the evening, I brought the final word on Babylon and coming out of her.
On Wednesday morning, immediately after breakfast, we left for the airport. Some of both of the main Belmopan families accompanied us in the old white van, driven by Brother Li. There was the final “sad and joyful” farewells at the airport and then we were all soon on our way back to the states. Our flights and those of the Rowes’ all went without any problems as we returned to our homes in the colder winter environments. We were so very aware of the prayers of the saints who were standing with us; and we believe that many of you are partakers of what God has done here and will be doing. God bless you and thank you each and every one.
Mark and Rita Jantzi