The World Convention is currently building a global reference for the nearly 180 countries and territories where we know there are Christian – Churches of Christ – Disciples of Christ congregations. Rather than wait for comprehensive, complete information we are putting up details that we readily have available. If you can correct or add to this information, please contact us with details at email@example.com Reference for further information will be in the form of web sites and mailing addresses.
On the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, south of Mexico with borders to the west and south shared with Guatemala and a coast line in the Gulf of Honduras is the nation of Belize. The area of this small nation, the last in the Americas to achieve independence, covers about 23,000 sq km (almost 9,000 sq miles) with a population of approximately 250,000 people. Many of these are the descendants of the Mayan Indians who originally inhabited the area. Some of the population along the coast is descendant from the Caribe Indians. African slaves were imported by the British in the early eighteenth century. There are also a number of people of European ancestry. Territory adjacent to what is now Belize was conquered by the Spanish in the sixteenth century but it was not until the seventeenth century that the first recorded Europeans settled in present-day Belize. These were British woodcutters drawn by the abundance of rare and beautiful hardwoods. As a result the British established it as a colony known as British Honduras and established a governor in residence. In 1821 Guatemala laid claim to it causing the issue of sovereignty to irritate relations between the two countries until Guatemala officially recognized Belize as an independent country in 1993, twelve years after Belize became independent in 1981. Today Belize is a Constitutional monarchy under Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II with two legislative houses known as the Senate and the National Assembly.
Employing more than a quarter of the population, agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. Citrus fruit processing became important after independence helping reduce the country’s dependence on bananas, timber (mahogany and rosewood) and sugar, though the latter still accounts for thirty percent of export earnings. Chicle, the gum used to make chewing gum, has also been an important export. Tourism is another important source of revenue as the world’s second largest coral reef lies offshore. In many ways Belize is still considered a developing or “two-third world” nation. Hurricanes are the major threat to Belize. The capital was moved from Belize City to Belmopan in 1961 after a hurricane destroyed Belize City.
The people of Belize are a religious people. There are at least nine major religious bodies in Belize with Roman Catholicism being the largest faith community; 62% of Belizeans are Catholic. Anglicans and Methodists are well represented among the 30% Protestant population. There are also a number of Rastafarians in Belize. Only about two percent of the population claims no religious affiliation.
The Stone-Campbell Movement was first introduced in British Honduras in 1967 when Luther Savage of the American a cappella Churches of Christ made a trip to the colony for the purpose of surveying the prospects for opening a new work. Returning the next year, Luther Savage made further inspections while Jerry Jenkins and Monroe Steffins arranged for Herald of Truth broadcasts to be aired. Savage moved to Belize City in 1969. Jerry Jenkins and Herman King held gospel meetings in Belize in 1970. A congregation was established by Bob Hurd in Corozal in 1971 and Burney Levitt served this congregation for four years, until 1975. Other early pioneers in this new field were Jerry Westmoreland, Gilbert Trip and Kent Marcum. Students from Oklahoma Christian College, under the direction of Ron Beaver, began in 1972 to conduct yearly campaigns. In 1973 the Church of Christ was officially incorporated in Belize. In the mid-1980s J.E. Cooper began work in Belmopan resulting in a congregation. In the late 1980s the Mayfair Church of Christ in Huntsville, Alabama initiated short weekly clinics held in Corozal, Punta Gorda, San Antonio and Toledo led by Lem Tipton and Eugene Tate. More than a dozen other American missionaries of the a cappella tradition have served in Belize with the support of congregations in Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas. In a 1990 survey of the congregations there were at least ten congregations with the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts having the highest concentration, three congregations in each District. There were at that time approximately 250 members in the ten congregations. Presently an online directory cites at least three known congregations of the Churches of Christ in Belize City, Belmopan, and Independence Village.
Americans of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ have been active in Belize since at least 1993 with the arrival of Brian and Suzanne Prichard and their ministry, Belizean Christian Mission. Their ministry was centered on the Orange Walk District. Jim and Maira Snapp also served in Belize in the 1990s. From reports by these missionary couples in the September 1997 issue of Horizons we can learn something of the extent of their work. Jim wrote that the majority of their work was in the Belize District, particularly in the Interior Villages and Belize City and included five areas of ministry: Bible Fun times (elementary age children); Youth Days for high schoolers at the Pineridge Camp; work at Double-Head Christian Assembly (a congregation meeting in Double-Head Cabbage); distribution of tracts, booklets and Bibles; and Christian perspective journalism primarily in the local paper, Amandala.
Current contact information for Belizean Christian Mission cannot be located in available directories. Jim Snapp has returned to local church ministry in the United States. Therefore it is uncertain if the American Christian Churches and Churches of Christ still maintain a work in Belize or if the work begun in the 1990s has been sustained or produced a self-propagating body.
Southeast Christian Church of Louisville, Kentucky includes Judy Kemp of World Outreach Ministries as one of their Global Mission Partners. Judy lives in a Mayan village where she focuses on ministry to children. She teaches preschool, which opens the doors to sharing the gospel with families. For more information see the Southeast Christian Church website: http://www.southeastchristian.org/missions_global.cfm.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
For further historical reference:
Churches of Christ Around the World, Lynn, Mac, 21st Century Christian Publications, Nashville, TN, 2003.
Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 1101 19th Avenue, South, Nashville, TN 37212-2112 (USA)
Telephone: (615) 327-1444
Website: http://www.discipleshistory.org (provides links to other historical sites and databases).
Online catalog: http://voyager.discipleshistory.org
For online directories of a cappella Churches of Christ see:
For a list of many Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (in the United States) missionaries/ministries see:
Mission Services Association
7545 Hodges Ferry Road, Knoxville, TN (USA) 37920
Telephone: 1 (800) 655-8524
Fax: 1 (865) 573-5950