As many of my family and friends in the US are recovering from the Thanksgiving Day celebration and preparing for Christmas, I’m reminded of the special time of gathering with family and friends on that designated holiday to give thanks for God’s bountiful provisions. Thanksgiving holiday is not celebrated in Belize, for the most part, but many American missionaries and visitors gather together for thanksgiving dinner with all of the trimmings. Not being in America this time of the year does help me to focus on the many things to truly be thankful for and to not limit my thankfulness and gratitude to God to just one specific day. We are admonish to always give thanks by scriptures simply because He is desiring of it. Like us, we appreciate it when we are thanked for some gesture of kindness we received from others and yet we often forget that God appreciates gratitude as well. He has done and is doing so much for us minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year. What a blessed people we truly are and may God receives the thanks, praise, worship and adoration He is so desiring of at this very moment!
In My Little Town:
The eight miles of Ambergris Caye where the town of San Pedro is located is never ceasing with activities, events and the day to day living for the unnumbered residents that calls this place home. November was no exceptions for activities and once again, I was privileged be asked to participate in the annual Youth Week, Garifuna Settlement Day, and Children’s Day. I’ve been asked to open each of these events with prayer and it seems as if I’ve become the official Invocator, an honor that blesses me each time I am asked. Being the director of Lighthouse Christian Radio, the community’s Christian Radio station seemed to afford me such an honor and encourages me greatly that God has granted us a ‘nitch’ in San Pedro Town. So thankful that we could ‘shine His Light’! (Picture: Clive Welsh praying at the 29th Anniversary Township Dinner.)
Youth Week is an event that the Ministry of Education has yearly when they focus on highlighting the youth in Belize with daily activities, motivational speakers and events. San Pedro Town recently received its own Youth Enhancement Officer who seeks to provide activities, resources and youth focus projects to help our youth. I recently interviewed the new officer and made ourselves available to assisting him in any ways that we could. Being new to the island and not knowing who he can call upon to assist him with organizing an Ecumenical Youth led Church Service to launch the week; I was glad to help by directing him to the various youth groups whose pastors are involved with the Evangelical Alliance of San Pedro. So thankful for formation of this group of churches! (Picture: Clive Welsh with the Education Officer, Youth Enhancement Officer of San Pedro and motivational Speaker.)
Garifuna Settlement Day, commemorating this people group arriving on the shores of Belize and become one of its many diverse ethnic group which makes up Belize. The Garifuna people settled in Belize in 1802 as they were seeking a homeland where they could be free after shipwrecked in St. Vincent. They brought to Belize a lot of rich culture, art and delicious food, vibrant music and played a great part in early days of San Pedro’s development; first teachers and policeman on the island. The celebration start on the eve of the holiday, November 18 with an opening ceremony in Central Park of which I opened in prayer, followed by speeches, cultural music and dances then the drum beating that went throughout the night. A reenactment of the boats being paddled to shore in the early morning of November 19, the actual holiday. I’m fascinated by the Garifuna culture and excited to know that there are many who listen to the teaching program in the Garifuna language which airs on Lighthouse Christian Radio on Saturday afternoons. So thankful that God desires to reach all of the many people groups that make up the country of Belize and I get to be a part of it! (Picture: Garifuna Music, a major part of their rich culture and celebration.)
Children’s Day, is another yearly event that is one of my favorite as the preschools and primary schools students parades through the streets with various costumes portraying Belize’s culture; peoples, customs, cultures, government, and children issues. This Children’s Day, responding to the Mayor’s request for the churches to assist in reaching the youth of San of the Evangelical Alliance of San Pedro participated in an afternoon Assembly at the San Pedro High School with over 500 students in attendance. The pastors each shared the important of God is all aspect of life and young people for various churches preformed dramas and skits to powerfully communicate the gospel. Watching and listening to their peers and other young people making bold stance for Christ and the boldness of each pastor who shared was indeed a first for San Pedro High School. My good friend, Louis Wade Jr, owner of the Nation’s only Christian Television station, ended the time with his fun, engaging and relevant style of communication to young Belizean in the Creole (Kriol) English language. So thankful that we can share the gospel and teach the Bible in the public schools of Belize and that the entire Student Body, teachers and staff heard about Jesus! (Pictures: Above left- Children parades through the streets depicting the various Belizean cultures & beauty! Right- Pastor Ian, one of the pastors in the Evangelical Alliance of San Pedro, sharing.)
Ugliness among Beauty:
The beauty of our coral reef along with the blue water and amazing sunsets are among some of the attractions that bring thousands to our region each year and along with that comes the sad and dark reality of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and unthinkable things that takes place in the dark. I have several good friends and missionaries in Belize who have been address the issue of sexual exploitation in Belize and the Child Development Foundation has been started to deal with such important issues. I was introduced to Emily Fitchpatrick who is founder of On Eagles Wings Ministries, based in North Carolina who stayed in our Guest Apartment while on a vision tour of San Pedro Town to see how they could assist with the growing problem on the island. With the many contact and my involvement in the community over the years I was able to host their visit and many open doors of opportunities presented themselves. I knew of the things that happened at night in this little town but my eyes were opened beyond what I desired as Emily shared with me some of the things she had observed in the short time they were there. More on this in future Updates but in short, we were able to talk to the High School counselor and vice principal who expressed a great need and Lord willing, Emily will be able to come back with a curriculum and present it in a class in the future. I also found out about the open prostitution that took place in the local bars and the network going on countrywide with these young girls being exploited. A most meaningful conversation was with the newly stationed Social Worker in San Pedro and Emily as she offered her service to assist him with the task before him in dealing with this serious issue. Please pray for the light of the gospel to penetrate in this very dark area and it’s affects on the young girls and boys in our community and country! (Picture: Emily Fitchpatrick sharing with SPHS Staff and offering assistance!)
There are so many people who have come to mind over this past month of November that I am so thankful for who have in one way or another been a part of my personal life and ministry in Belize over the years. The list is so long and extensive and truly would take up several Updates to share how significant their impute has made and the countless lives that have been touch through them. Thank you for believing God for me and for your trust, hope and faith in Him and on my behalf. Most of all, thank you for being such an important part of what God is doing in Belize to touch lives like: Irvin, Jonathan, Shirtless Henry, Jeff, Mito, Elmer, Yensi, Geo, Juan, Jose, Melissa, Kian, Joel, Elmer, Johnny, Rory, Ivan, Julie, Belinda, Mickey, and many, many more! Thank YOU! (Picture: Pray for the children of San Pedro Town!)
Have a blessed Christmas celebration filled with an overwhelming love for God than ever before as you grasp the greatness of His great gift to you through His Son, Jesus!
Your brother friend and brother Christ,
Upcoming December Update will feature the End of the World and how that relates to a few San Pedro residents. You won’t want to miss that one!