Friday, April 25, 2014

The church in Belize

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints is very young in the country of Belize.  Missionary work began May 5, 1980.  The first 10 missionaries arrived the next day.  The first meeting of the newly organized branch was held on May 11, 1980.  The first person to be baptized into the church in Belize was the older brother of our District President.  He was baptized on June 1, 1980 in the Cayo district of Belize.  The Cayo district is the western area including the towns of San Ignacio, Santa Elena, Succotz, and Benque Viejo where the border crossing to Guatemala is located.  The first meetinghouses  were built in Belize in 1987 and were located in the northern city of Orange Walk and the western city of San Ignacio.  At that time there were about 1,000 members in seven branches in the country.

There has been great growth since then here in Belize.  Currently we have 60 young missionaries, both elders and sisters, as well as 5 senior couples.  The work is blossoming in Belize.  We currently have 10 meetinghouses and some are due for expansion in the near future.  However, there are no stakes or wards in Belize.  It is still the Belize District, recently changed from the Honduras Mission to the El Salvador San Salvador West/Belize Mission.  

Since the church has only been established here for a little over 30 years, the members are predominantly first generation with some second generation members for leadership.  There are children coming up and missionaries who have already served or are preparing to leave soon but they are few in number.  Nevertheless, the number of baptisms are growing.  Here in Belize City 14 baptisms occurred in April.  What is desparately needed here is priesthood leadership.  Many more women than men join the church (which I suspect is pretty common world-wide) but in order for Belize to establish a stake, we need enough priesthood to lead it.  The going in that regard is slow.



           When we dedicated the new building in San Pedro on Abergis Caye, there were 2 baptisms
           on that occasion as well.  They were baptised in the sea since there is no baptismal font in      
           in the building.  The building is only a couple blocks from the beach.

                                        This is the new building in San Pedro.

             Some of the Elders sang a special song for the dedication.  I accompanied them.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks toward that goal is the general attitude toward marriage.  Most people just don't see the need.  Many have stable relationships with several children but are not married.  The missionaries not only teach the gospel but end up frequently as marriage brokers.  Investigators are converted to the gospel but they need to be legally married before they can be baptized.  It's interesting.  We have had quite a few marriages throughout the country lately which is definitey helping.  There are good, faithful, wonderful members here but we need more.


                         This is a couple that were married and baptised in Belize City.

Preparations for a wedding in Orange Walk.  There is no cultural hall in this building so they use the chapel.

Another problem that we face is the lack of transportation.  The missionaries are rather limited in the areas where they can teach because we have to take into consideration if they are going to have to walk to the church, which could be several miles, or if they might have some form of transportation, be it bike, motorcycle, car or bus.  The buses don't run at convenient times for church attendance, however.  For the most part, whole families walk to church.  Belize City is cut in half by the Belize River.  The Belize City meetinghouse, the largest in the country, is located on the south side of the river so anybody living on the north side of the river has a very long trek.  Even with all these obstacles, we have approximately 135 active members in the English speaking Belize City Branch and around 50 active members in the Spanish speaking Cinderella Branch here in Belize City.    

                                    Looking across the Belize River from the north.

Elder Tague and I are focusing  on reactivation.  There are far more members on the rolls than actually attend church.  We are getting to know as many as we can in order to fellowship them and help them with any questions or problems that they may have that might be keeping them from coming to church. So far, we have had some success.  We are really getting to know and love these people.  There is tremendous poverty here but the people seem to be content and cheerful in their circumstances.  Of course, there are some quite wealthy people, as well, but the chasm between the rich and poor is gigantic with very little middle-class.  We feel very priviledged to be able to be here and get to know these people.  We are learning so much from them as well as learning things about ourselves that we never realized before. All I can say is the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.  As we spread the "Good News", we are all blessed.

                                             The Belize City Branch after church.