Dear Friends and Missional Partners:
I want to thank you for your partnership in my mission to Belize City this past month.
This was a life-changing experience for me, as part of a team with REACHING & TEACHING INTERNATIONAL MINISTRIES. We provided training and support to pastors and leaders in Belize. My role was as an instructor for a module on doctrine, personal spiritual growth and pastoral practice.
We had just arrived Sunday afternoon, February 18th, and our host, Pastor Rocke, quoted his missionary mentor saying: “As Pastors we should always be prepared to preach, pray or die.”
So I said, “I choose the first two: Preach and pray.”
“Good, “ he replied, “you go with me then to preach in a church on the other side of Belize City.”
Then he pointed to David, my partner, and said: “You will stay here and preach for the youth service!”
I practiced the second part of my choice – prayer – as the Rocke drove his Land Rover like we were in a demo derby. So, I decided he was serious about the third preparation – die. I thought we were going to wipe out old trucks, pedestrians and bicycles as we jockeyed for position in a confusing tangle of machines and people. Pastor Rocke simply grinned and said that the road was for cars – He also warned me about crossing the street on foot. I told him I appreciated that he was already growing my faith!
As I dropped onto my air mattress in the church for the night, I could still hear the inner-city buzz.
The next morning the national Pastors greeted us early as many of them had a bike or bus ride to get to the training. I learned that a pastor and his wife rode the bus over two hours each way, every day, AND as a bi-vocational pastor he’d given up all his vacation for two years to be able to take this training. It convicted me to bolster my own commitment and give everything I had – not just for the training time but for life. I thought of this pastor a few days later when my team leader, Rocky, leaped up on the altar at a Mayan temple we toured. “Prepare yourself! You are the sacrifice,” Romans 12:1-2, echoed in my heart as I thought of the Mayan practice of sacrificing the victors in their sports competitions. Are we “all in?”
I discovered that leaders in Belize like their preaching and teaching like their food – bold and fiery – so we hit it off quickly. One day, I was teaching when the year’s largest political celebration and parade came down the street right outside our open windows. I wasn’t about to stop or get shouted down, so I got louder and the students responded with loud “Amens” and clapping, so I got louder… At one point I stopped to ask if they thought we were bothering the parade. They just shouted “keep going!”
That day after the second 1 ½ hour session, I was soaked in sweat and totally pumped. I finished by telling them: “My mother was an orphan, and I know little of any of my grandparents, so I’d always wondered about my ancestry. Their tastes in food and preaching had answered a life-long question for me: I’m Creole!” They responded with laughter and pounding the table – then they started training my tongue for Creole. “Mawnin’ Waa de gwaan?!” Translated: “Good Morning. How are you doing – or what’s going on?
The next day, students in a school next door asked, “Who was the loud guy?” I offered to come speak to the students. A 12-year-old boy had been shot the previous night in the neighborhood – one of four violent deaths within a few blocks during that week. Two teachers combined classes and gave me a whole hour. I started with an allegory that set up the story of David and Goliath and then the gospel of “the God who is bigger than what’s the matter!” The students were interested and we had a good dialogue with questions and answers to follow it up.
I could fill a book with other opportunities and experiences, but for now I’ll just say: “I’d love to do more of this, if it could actually aid Belize leaders.” I’m assessing if that’s just my emotions speaking or God. I invite you to pray and give me feedback to help me sort it out. Mostly, I just want to say:
Thanks for sending me!
Mike Neely firstname.lastname@example.org (402)910-2490