In God’s infinite wisdom He has appointed leaders in the church to further His purposes. In Acts 14, we read of the Apostle Paul’s terrible trial of persecution in Lystra. Paul was a former Pharisee – a Jewish religious leader – who had been converted after a marvelous encounter with the Lord Jesus (Acts 9:1-19). He then went on to be an Apostle and one of the greatest preachers of the early church. After having preached the Word in Lystra, some of his own countrymen “came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead” (Acts 14:19). Paul was willing to put his life on the line for Jesus. His desire was that God be exalted and that many would come to faith in the Lord Jesus and obtain reconciliation with God, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.
Amazingly we read that Paul didn’t die and that he even went back into the city before leaving to preach in other places. But what else was Paul doing during these missionary journeys besides simply preaching the gospel message? Interestingly, this very chapter gives us insight into that question: “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:21-23).
Along with ecotourism, sugar cane is one of the most important industries in Belize. In recent years the sugar cane harvest has suffered from a 5 year drought. Praise God that this past year the rains have increased dramatically, providing needed moisture for the soil and giving hope to local farmers. Many of our church members in the Presbyterian Church in Belize are either sugar cane farmers or somehow connected to the industry. For example, there is a network of distribution, processing and sales both locally and abroad. Please be praying for the sugar cane farmers and that God will bless them abundantly.
What follows are two brief videos showing sugar cane fields during the day and night. Many burn their fields at night in order to make it easier and safer to harvest. This clears surrounding shrubbery and drives off harmful critters such as poisonous snakes.
Cornerstone Presbyterian High School (CPHS) in Belize is continuing quality education despite the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. Take a look at their most recent newsletter and please pray that they will continue to be a light for Jesus Christ in the community.
In this post, we are giving a photo collage of what online learning looks like at Presbyterian Day School, Cristo Rey, Belize. I hope you enjoy these pictures! We are looking for prayer and financial partners to be a part of the PDS team. You have heard of child sponsorship programs–well PDS is looking for a team to sponsor the teachers’ salaries. The desire is to keep the cost of education within the reach of all village families who are motivated to see their children receive an academically sound, Christ-centered education. But that means that tuition is not high enough to cover the teachers salaries. Would you consider prayer and/or giving?
Please let me know if you would like to be part of a data base to receive regular updates on the school. We would love to see individuals and even schools adopting a teacher!
Does God answer prayer? Absolutely, yes, as both the Bible and our experience tells us. We know from history that serious prayer often or possibly always precedes great revivals. In the Old Testament Daniel was even led to pray and fast as he saw the date approaching for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy–God had promised to bring the people of Israel back to their land after 70 years, and even this promised event was carried out on the prayers of faithful Daniel.
We are longing to see a great work of the Holy Spirit in our ministry and to that end, we believe that prayer is the vital ingredient. Ray and I first committed to praying together each morning back in 2011, when we came to the end of ourselves in the ministry. We saw experientially that we can accomplish nothing apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t until 2018 that we actually developed a system for our intercessory prayer. Although we prayed with passion each morning, the reality was that some important matters slipped our minds, and other prayers became repetitive. Not only that, many answers to prayer that we received went unnoticed because we had forgotten what we had prayed for and in the process we lost the opportunity to thank God and strengthen our faith.
So we began using a system, and as we’ve used it these past two years, we would not want to go back. Our prayers are more focused and deeper and we love getting to write down the answers to many of them. I am going to describe what we do in this blog post, in hopes that it might inspire you, our reader, in your own prayer life.
We hear a lot about child sponsorship as a steppingstone for a child to get out of poverty. We are hoping to get sponsors here as well, but instead of sponsoring a child, we are looking to sponsor the school.
What if I told you there was an outreach project that would meet the twin goals of economic development and the growth of the church and it’s only catch was that it’s work would be slow and steady over the course of decades? What if I told you the Presbyterian denomination has been involved in such an outreach for the past 44 years? When Tom and Helen Lacey came here in the early 1970s, they set about planting churches, continuing the work that began with a Mexican evangelist, to begin a new Presbyterian denomination in northern Belize.
They could see that healthy churches need elders, pastor, deacons, and church members who are knowledgeable of the Bible, strong in character, and economically stable. And we can be thankful that they had great wisdom and foresight.
Each of these schools has their own story. Each one is impacting their community for Christ. Today, however, I would like to focus on the very first school that the Laceys began, Presbyterian Day School (PDS). I hope in future blog posts to highlight some of the other schools as well. PDS is special, and not just because it was the first, nor simply because three of our children attend the school. It has the unique distinction of being the only Presbyterian school not to receive government funding. What this means practically is that while they have freedom in what they teach, they also struggle with funding. Each of their teachers see their work first as a ministry, to the point at which they make a salary just over half that of the other teachers in the country. In short, the school needs financial help.
In 1980, just 4 years after the Laceys began PDS, missionary Dorothy Mayer left her teaching job in South Dakota to come help teach. She is still here, helping to teach and do administration. One of her former students, Isaias Botes, has since taken over from her as principal. He in turn is principal over a few teachers that he taught as a teacher at PDS. I think it would be safe to say that Presbyterian Day School has exceeded the dreams and expectations that the Laceys originally held for it. The school has been a backbone in the two villages it serves, Cristo Rey and Patchakan. The Presbyterian churches in these villages have grown and been strengthened by bringing in families from the community. The impact of PDS has gone far beyond just these two villages.
Many of the teachers from all the various Presbyterian schools themselves attended PDS; three of the principals in the Presbyterian schools are PDS graduates as is the general manager of the Presbyterian schools. Several of the pastors and elders in the Presbyterian churches started out there as well. In addition, the list of graduates includes doctors, nurses and government officials that are serving all over the country. Although the villages have been historically poor and undeveloped, PDS has played an important role in the economic development of the area.
PDS continues to have an important role in these two villages in northern Belize. These precious little ones that start at PDS as four-year olds are the future of the church and the community. We hear a lot about child sponsorship as a steppingstone for a child to get out of poverty. We are hoping to get sponsors here as well, but instead of sponsoring a child, we are looking to sponsor the school. That way, the cost of tuition stays affordable for all the children in the community.
We would love to see individuals commit to monthly giving. We would also love to see some Christian schools develop a “sister school” sort of partnership as well. This is because we know that Christian schools in the U.S. and the families that support them are also passionate about Christian education. Could you begin by praying that the Presbyterian Day School of Cristo Rey, Belize, would become fully funded?
And second, would you consider if God might be calling you to help out with the need, either by giving monthly or one time? And lastly, would you consider sharing this need with others that you know who have a passion for economic development or Christian education? Thank you.
A little over a dozen of us gathered in the front yard of one of the church members on a Wednesday night to bring our praise, thanksgiving and supplication together before our mighty God. We had the chance to hear the prayers of young and old alike. We had the opportunity to agree together. As some of the older members prayed, you could hear their many years of walking with God instructing the younger ones among us what it is like to walk with God intimately. It is hard to think of a greater blessing than uniting with God’s people and praying for the salvation of souls and for the needs of the saints. This memory is from a church meeting we had this past summer, in between shut downs. The cases have started rising again here in Belize, and so the church prayer meetings have been temporarily put on hold.
Like many of you, I do not like to hear about Covid 19 rearing its ugly head again. I am sad for the families who are or will be facing serious illness, knowing it may be hitting close to home at any time. As a Christian it also grieves my heart when the meetings of the church have to be altered or in some cases cancelled, making it hard to have the kind of fellowship with God and with one another that is so vital to our walk with God. And yet, Covid 19 did in no way take our all powerful God by surprise. He is sovereign over all things. As Hannah prays in I Samuel 2:6-8:
“The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. 7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. 8 He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory.”
It is wise to focus on doing our part to curb the virus. I am thankful for our governments and international health communities taking their God-given role seriously, trying to figure out how to protect lives and economies from the threat of Covid. But it is the fool indeed that doesn’t acknowledge the God who is control of this virus, seeking to repent and turn from our blindness, from our arrogance in believing that we were in control of our lives in 2020. I heard someone this week compare the Covid crisis in the churches to the exile that the Jews experienced in the Old Testament. God punished His people for their idolatry by sending the Assyrians and Babylonians to take them into captivity, away from the promised Land. Likewise we as Christians have had our God given means of grace, in the worship service, the Lord’s supper, the church prayer meeting, significantly altered. God’s people in the Old Testament never again worshiped idols. What will our response be to this trial that God has allowed? Will we turn in repentance? Will we seek His face with all our heart? Or will we fritter away hours of our time on social media, getting angry at whoever disagrees with our position on face masks?
When we first faced shut down, my husband and I committed to spending some of our extra time making sure our morning prayer time got a solid block of time. But some mornings we discovered that we had dug into that time by talking about the latest controversy we had seen on Facebook the night before. Some mornings we didn’t end up praying at all. In the moment, it seemed like we really needed to talk it over. But as we saw a pattern emerging, we realized that for us, we needed to take a step back from so much social media. In fact, we were getting side tracked from God’s mission. There is a real spiritual battle and we as Chrstians are in the middle. Satan would love us to be a distracted church.
All manner of trials, including this pandemic, provide a merciful opportunity for human beings to hit the pause button and consider our spiritual state. We will all stand before a holy God to face judgement one day. The pandemic reminds us that that day may come sooner than we imagined. Are we ready? Those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ can face that day by the covering of His blood. Are we living like we have been redeemed, excited at God’s grace that has been poured out upon us? Or are we living just like the world, trying to distract ourselves with banal pleasures? Make no mistake, it takes work to keep our focus on eternal things, as the world, the flesh and the devil are conspiring against it.
As I close, I want to loop back to the story of the prayer meeting that I started with. We may or may not have the opportunity to attend the church prayer meeting during this pandemic. But one thing that is certain–we all have the opportunity to pray. Intercessory prayer is hard work, and make no mistake, it takes faith and it takes discipline. But it is also one of the most powerful ways to make an impact in the kingdom. We arrived here in Belize in February ready to get to work. The setbacks from Covid have at times been frustrating. But the reality is, we can still pray. We know the pandemic is in God’s hands, and we also know that faithfulness to God requires that we develop a strong prayer life. So, on the one hand Covid is a genuine setback, but on the other hand, it has the potential to be the beginnings of a great revival that God can use to extend His kingdom to all parts of the world. It is easy to grow weary during this difficult time, as I can attest. But let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
There has been a lot of controversy in our church circles during the past few years about the role of women in the Church. We hear it said that women’s gifts have not been valued, and that we need to usher in a new era where the church finally frees women to do valuable and worthwhile ministry. When I first started hearing the rumbling of these complaints I’ll admit I was confused, since in most the churches I have been in, women were already playing such a vital role, particularly in the hidden roles of service, helps and working with children – roles that Jesus assures us are among the most important in His kingdom.
When Michele and I arrived in Belize we learned about the amazing work of God throughout the years here. As newcomers to this ministry, we have jumped into an ever flowing stream of gospel work for Christ’s glory where the past, present and anticipation of the future join together.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Tom and Helen Lacey were the first MTW missionaries to Belize and God used them tremendously for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Beginning in the early 1970’s, they were instrumental in helping start Presbyterian churches, Presbyterian schools and a Presbyterian medical clinic. As we visit these churches and the school where our children now study, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and of the hard work and dedication of the Laceys.