The Anglican Church in Belize Enthusiastically Received Alpha Training
The mission had been prayed over and planned for almost two years by the Christ Church, Savannah, Global Missions Team. We were going to do a Global Alpha Training (GAT) - to equip the attendees to run Alpha courses in Belize. There had been two previous visits to Belize. The first visit explored the possibilities. In the second a “Taste of Alpha” was presented by a team of three to discern the level of support for Alpha from the Bishop and his clergy. As we walked across the airport tarmac in Belize City, swimming through air that gave even us Savannahians a new appreciate of heat and humidity, we carried not only faith, hope and great expectations but also many unanswered questions.
We knew that we had enthusiastic support from Bishop Philip Wright, a man with a vision for renewal but what about the other clergy? We had asked the clergy to recruit lay leaders with hearts for evangelism, discipleship and the works of the Holy Spirit, but who would come? We knew that the Lord had assembled just the right mission team, but how would we do in this culture? We knew that we were meeting in an un-air conditioned room, how hot would it be, would there be good circulation, would people be able to hear us, would people stay awake? Would the Spanish speaking portion of the church be left out?
Over the next three days the Lord answered each question. Bishop Wright demonstrated strong leadership and total commitment to the renewal of the Anglican Church in his Diocese of Belize. He said that he knew that such renewal could only come from the Holy Spirit but he was convicted that Alpha was a tool that could be used by the Spirit. The clergy in attendance displayed leadership, enthusiasm and creativity in how they envisioned using Alpha in their parishes.
The lay leaders who attended brought great expectations and excitement at the prospect of Alpha in Belize. They came from every corner of the country, a potential foundation to start Alpha courses throughout their land. The group also represented a true cross-section of the cultures and profession of Belize. Their desires ranged from wanting to awaken pew-snoozers, to continuing the Christian education of youth after confirmation, to evangelizing the un-churched, to prison ministry. The lay and clergy attendees were ready to open the work of the Holy Spirit to anyone and everyone. Could we, through the Lord, provide for their expectations? Would Alpha be embraced?
Our meeting hall at the Diocesan headquarters was a great space. The roof had just been replaced. In fact, up until a day or so before the GAT was scheduled, it was not certain that the space would be ready for us. It was ready, freshly painted, endowed with great cross-ventilation, ceiling fans, and a number of floor fans. After our first evening, it was apparent that we needed amplification for the teachings to be heard over the whirl and click-click-click of the fans and the murmur of translation. The Diocesan staff found someone to bring in a speaker system early the next morning. So, with our new amplified voices, we launched into a 13 hour day of worship, teachings and small group discussions. Even though our team and the Belizeans were dripping with perspiration, we all stayed awake, attentive and energized for the full day.
The day concluded with the team offering prayer ministry to many of the participants after teachings on the work of the Holy Spirit. At 9 o’clock that night we thanked the Lord for the many prayers answered.
On the final morning we were pleased that all the attendees had returned for more training. Each segment began with spirited worship and the saints of Belize sang out with joy and beautiful harmony. The final teachings focused on the practical aspects of starting an Alpha course. We learned that these people were very serious about launching Alpha in their country. They worked together in parish and regional teams to make detailed plans for introducing Alpha. After lunch we moved to The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist for a Commissioning of Alpha leaders, led by Bishop Wright. We all were aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit filling the group with energy and a new commitment to evangelism.
We cannot leave this report without including a big thank you and praise for the helps of SAMS missionaries, the Rev. Juan and Maria Marentes. There are a small number of Spanish speaking congregations in the western part of Belize and we had tried to find a way to include them in the Alpha training. As our planning came together, it became obvious that we would not have the time or resources to run a second conference with Spanish translation. We also knew that we did not have time to allow sequential translation for the Spanish minority. We did procure a few sets of Spanish language Alpha books before heading to Belize. As we began the teachings we were aware of someone speaking in quiet tones in the audience. We soon realized that Maria was sitting at a table with the Spanish speakers and was doing simultaneous translation for them. We soon adjusted to the quiet Spanish ech of our English teachings and praise the Lord for Maria’s gift. Except for a few short breaks when Juan relieved her, she translated continuously throughout the entire conference. Seven of us could not wear her down!
Please join us in praying for Alpha and revival in Belize. Pray for Bishop Philip Wright, all the clergy and the lay leaders who attended the GAT. Please pray for a renewal of Christ’s church in this beautiful and graceful Caribbean country.