We get asked a lot of questions as we visit churches and share about our ministry. Here are just a few of them.
Aren't they all Christians in Belize? Why go there?
Honestly, though the Gospel has been preached here for centuries, Belize is definitely still a nation where Christian ministry has immediate potential to yield a considerable harvest. Despite the fact that this English-speaking country has for years been a hotspot for short-term missions teams from North America, failure to build long-term collaborative relationships with nationals has too often stifled the maturity of the churches served by those teams. And today, the number of those in Belize who are not only nonbelievers but entirely unchurched is increasing dramatically.
The church in Belize needs more thoroughly-trained leaders who are willing to serve inside and outside of the church in pioneering ways, to announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to embody his excessive and supernatural love for sinners. As SAMS missionaries, we are dedicated both to serving as leaders for Anglican churches and schools in Belize, and also to training up new leaders who will continue to grow and deepen the Body of Christ.
Culturally, Is Belize very Diverse?
Absolutely! Belize (formerly called British Honduras) is wedged in a tropical nook between Mexico and Guatemala on the Caribbean Sea, and was a British colony until 1981. Though geography places it within Central America, and though it has been heavily influenced by latino communities, Belizeans tend to identify much more strongly with the culture of the British West Indies, and the languages most commonly spoken are English and Kriol (an English-derived creole language).
That said, the country's variety in landscape (beaches and hills, cayes and barrier reefs, jungles and Mayan ruins) is mirrored by the incredible diversity of its people. Belize is small (roughly the size of Massachusetts) and lightly populated (no more than 350,000 people live in the whole country), yet the country is home to Kriols, Mestizos, Latinos, Mayans, Garinagu, East Indians, Chinese, German-speaking Mennonites, and North American expatriots.
By God's providence, the area assigned for our ministry is in the district of Cayo, centered around the conjoined towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, as well as the adjacent villages of Georgeville and Central Farm . This area is a nexus for all these diverse people groups, and we are thrilled to be ministering at one of the main crossroads of Belize!
Do you need to speak Spanish in Belize?
Not everywhere, but it helps. The official language in Belize is English, but many people (especially where we are ministering) use Spanish as their heart language, or even as their everyday language.
David is super fluent in Spanish. Mary Beth took a lot of Spanish language courses when she was studying in university, and she's looking forward to getting practice it more when we're back in Belize!
What exactly will be your ministry in Belize?
Good question! David has been called to serve as the Priest-in-Charge (Senior Pastor) of St. Andrew's and St. Hilda's churches and as chaplain for St. Andrew's, St. Barnabas', and St. Hilda's schools. In addition to providing pastoral ministry on a local level, he has been serving more broadly among the western churches and the nation-wide Anglican diocese. In particular, he has been raising up new ordained and lay ministers, and the goal is to continue this leadership development to the point where these local communities can disciple new believers, cultivate new ministries, plant new missions, and establish new schools.
On the other hand, Mary Beth is taking her first steps in this missionary endeavor! Though it's all a little new, she is excited to join David in his life and ministry in Belize. And not only do Mary Beth and David make a good team together, but she brings with her many gifts of music, compassion, and service for God to use in their churches and schools.
How did you two meet?
We met "by coincidence" (yeah, right!) at our sending parish, the Anglican Church of the Resurrection (San Marcos). We were both in serious times of growth: David transitioned from being a seminarian to being a priest, to being a missionary, while Mary Beth graduated from high school, started university, and then became the church accompanist.
Over the years we went from being pastor-and-parishioner to long-distance-friends, then to people-who-don't-like-each-other-very-much, then to more-than-friends-despite-the-distance, and now we're married. We thought the whole thing was kind of strange and unexpected, but apparently everyone else saw it coming.
Can we see some wedding pictures?
Of course! MKL Images has them up on their website!
Can we come as a mission team to work with you?
Umm, probably! We love to have mission teams come down and work with our people, but we're reluctant to have teams work instead of our people, or even worse, above our people. A great way for us to work together to plan truly collaborative relationships with you is for your short-term team involved with SAMS-USA.
How are things going for you health-wise?
We do have some health issues going on for both of us. David has been gluten-free now for seven years, due to his celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. Mary Beth on the other hand was finally given a diagnosis in December 2015 that helped explain why she has been experiencing severe pain over the last few years, such as constant migraine headaches and acute pain in her abdomen. As a result, she is on a strict six-month low-residue diet, on top of being gluten-free and dairy free.
God is blessing us, but if we can't eat things that everyone else can, now you know why!
How much of my donation gets to you?
At least 85% of every donation to us goes into our "ministry account" managed by our sending agency SAMS-USA. In addition to the society's overhead and staff salaries, the remaining 15% also contributes to the missionary care fund which helps pay for ongoing missionary training and professional development, missionary retreats and refreshment, and other benefits. They really take great care of us and the other missionaries!
That 85% of your gift then helps to fund, not only our salaries and benefits (medical insurance, retirement funds, etc.), but it also pays our practical ministry costs on the ground in Belize. We are so grateful for the sacrificial giving of our supporters: we could not do any of it without you!