Fresh Beginnings in Belize

Story and photos by Johanna Heidorn

When one thinks of the Lutheran Church of Belize, they can’t help but think of the many ways God’s hand has blessed the ministry there. The country is bursting with opportunity!

Five points of ministry are already in place and the mission team in Belize is looking strategically ahead to lay the groundwork for expansion — establishing a Lutheran Church in each of the six districts of Belize.  With current work happening in the districts of Orange Walk, Cayo, and Stann Creek, they look to extend arms to include the district of Belize, Toledo, and Corozal which would bring the total number of mission sites to eleven.   

Rev. Herb and Markie Burch travel throughout Belize to spread the Gospel

As LCMS missionaries spread the Gospel, plant Lutheran churches and show mercy in pockets within Belize, small groups of people are coming together from all over to hear God’s Word. 

Valley of Peace | District of Cayo 

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and Little Lambs Nursery School 

Just outside of Belmopan, in the small village of Valley of Peace, missionaries recognized the need for a church and school that could serve the community and be a safe haven for children and their families to hear the Word of God.  

Seeing potential in an unoccupied property with a few abandoned buildings located among sugar cane fields and tropical trees, a donor purchased the land and missionaries went to work cultivating relationships in the community and laying the foundation for what is now Good Shepherd (Buen Pastor) Lutheran Church and Little Lambs Lutheran School. During the past year the buildings received cosmetic updates and renovations. Also, up and running is the playground, a growing garden, and a small house on the property, which is home to a family from the community.

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and Little Lambs Nursery School 

Little Lambs Lutheran School is now fully prepared to welcome students for its inaugural year. While the school is able to accept 30 students per year, only 12 are currently permitted to enroll due to COVID-19 government limitations. Little Lambs Lutheran School will teach students about Jesus and help them learn English, as oftentimes the parents of the children only speak Maya or Spanish. Learning English is essential for preparing the students for public school where they will have to speak the language. 

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church just had its first confirmands. The first individuals our missionaries connected with in Belize have now begun catechism classes and are learning more about the church and what it means to be Lutheran Christians. This family has invited their neighbors to participate in the classes with them and hear the Word of God. Along with catechism classes, the missionaries offer a program that provides homework help and ESL within Valley of Peace and in Maya Mopan. Each week they host sports activities on the campus as well as Bible studies on Saturdays, which are attended by over 20 children. Recently, a group of 30 also gathered together for VBS. With God’s grace, what was once only a vision, has now taken root. 

The Village of Seine Bight | District of Stann Creek 

Christ Lutheran Church 

The Placencia Peninsula is famous for its resorts and white sand beaches; a frequented location for tourists and beach goers. The small village of Seine Bight, nestled within the peninsula, is home to Christ Lutheran Church. 

Dedication of the new church building in Seine Bight in October of 2019

Adjacent to the church is St. Alphonsus School, home to a nutrition program whose funding is made possible by the Belize Mission Society, an LCMS recognized service organization.   

As COVID-19 began to spread, the school, as well as the nutrition program, were shut down due to government mandates.  Feeding over 75 children twice a day, the need for the nutrition program to continue was great. Christ Lutheran Church implemented several building modifications and additions to the lower level to ensure the program would continue and the children of St. Alphonsus would continue to be fed.  Instead of receiving their meal at school, children now come to the church next door. The redesign included a kitchen with outfacing seating to allow for COVID-friendly dining and accessibility. 

St. Alphonsus School (left) is adjacent to the church

This new opportunity allows our pastors and missionaries to connect with the children who might otherwise have simply walked past the church on their way to school. 

Riversdale | District of Stann Creek  

The small coastal town of Riversdale is a place our missionaries visit each week to meet people in the community, cultivate relationships, and host activities for children in order to share the Gospel. 

With just a few individuals previously gathering around one table for activities, the construction of several more tables was welcomed in order to accommodate the growing group, which meets oceanside. There are now over 15 children who come to play games, sing songs, study the Bible, and get help with their homework along the beach. Missionaries have realized that homework help has been invaluable and working in the area of education has been a good avenue to form relationships within the community. The group recently memorized the Ten Commandments and are beginning to learn the Apostles Creed. In addition to weekly activities, the team hosted VBS for 16 children and their families to learn about Jesus. 

Pastor Benjamin Flores (right) and his wife, Karina, visit with locals in Riversdale

Orange Walk | District of Orange Walk  

Without a church building to gather in, Pastor Roldan Rios has opened his home for Spanish ministry and worship in Orange Walk. However, as the group continues to grow, the team in Belize is hoping to find a future home for the 20-plus new Lutherans congregating each week. Along with worship services, a successful eyeglass clinic for the people of the congregation and surrounding area was held by “MOST Ministries”, and a recent VBS saw 20 children full of energy and excited to hear about Jesus. 

A group of over twenty people regularly gather for worship
in the home of Pastor Roldan Ríos

San Román al Rio HondoDistrict of Orange Walk  

On the border of Mexico and Belize, in the heart of the small village of San Roman, is a new Lutheran church with a bilingual ministry, yet to be given a name. Despite having no running water or electricity, almost all of the children in the village turn out when the pastors and missionaries organize an event. At a recent VBS, over 40 children came to sing, play games, and hear about their Savior Jesus. 

The two congregations in the district of Orange Walk recently joined together for a service in which the members celebrated five baptisms. We praise God for these new Lutherans and pray that they grow in their faith as they continue to receive instruction and learn more about the Bible, the catechism and liturgy. 

Exuberant group in San Román with LCMS Missionaries Rev. Herb and Markie Burch

Across the Border into Chetumal, Mexico 

A small enclave of Lutherans gathers for worship in a pastor’s home and garage in Chetumal, Mexico. The Lutheran Synod of Mexico claims this as a mission congregation. However, the synodical leadership’s travel budget does not permit frequent visits to the congregation. The Lutheran Synod of Mexico requested the Belize team to provide visitation and instruction as the small mission studies the scriptures, the Small Catechism, and the confessions. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and closure of the international border between Belize and Mexico, team members made visits to the congregation every two weeks. They look forward to the reopening of the frontier and renewed fellowship with this budding congregation.  

A small group worships in a pastor’s home and garage in Chetumal, Mexico

 Camp Concordia | District of Cayo  

Painting the vision of the future ministries in Belize is the newly dubbed Camp Concordia, located outside Belmopan along the Belize River. The camp property has fully functioning buildings situated on a beautiful orchard away from the noise of the city. 

Camp Concordia will serve the great number of English and Spanish speaking people in Belize and other countries in the Latin American and Caribbean Region such as the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Trinidad and Tobago. With a great deal of hard work, the facilities are transforming to host future workshops, short term teams, retreats, and even pre-seminary and diaconal programs. The hope is that this site will become a central hub of Lutheran learning and education for Belize and Central America.   

Camp Concordia

Expanding Personnel  

Belize is fortunate to be experiencing growth not only in its ministries, but in mission personnel. Current missionaries on the field include Pastor Herb and Markie Burch. Pastor Burch also serves as Area Facilitator for Belize, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Honduras.  

Bolivian Pastor Benjamin Flores Romero, who graduated from Seminario Concordia El Reformador in the Dominican Republic, served as a vicar in Belize for the last few years. He was ordained in Bolivia this past November and will continue serving in Belize along with his wife, Karina, as alliance missionaries sent by the Bolivian Lutheran Church. Currently, the couple are working on their permanent residency applications in Belize. 

The team is also fortunate to have long term residents Pastor Roldan and Ruth Rios, who not only work in Belize, but also across the border in Mexico. They also spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ through their little 250-watt radio station in Orange Walk Town.  

From the left: Markie Burch and Rev. Herb Burch, Rev. Benjamin Flores and his wife, Karina, Ruth Ríos and Pastor Roldán Ríos

New missionaries soon joining the team include Justin and Jordan Logston, who will serve as GEO missionaries; and Rev. Micah and Robin Wildauer and their four children, serving as career missionaries in Latin America following their service in Africa. Both families are currently undergoing field orientation in the Dominican Republic before heading to their highly anticipated posts in Belize. 

Grace in the Midst of Adversity  

Along with other countries in Central America, Hurricanes Eta and Lota adversely affected Belize as they passed through the country, leaving much of the country underwater. We thank the Lord for His protection as the missions suffered no significant loss or damage. Clean-up efforts and repairs continue as the water itself recedes.  

COVID-19 has taken its toll on Belize and, along with the rest of the world, challenges due to the pandemic still exist. As ministry continues and grows, we all look forward to the opportunity to worship without restrictions.  

God is merciful, full of grace, and abounding in love. We give thanks for His workers and ask for your prayers as the missionaries in Belize continue to shine the light of Christ, one person at a time. 

Praying in San Román

Jana Inglehart

Jana Inglehart serves the Lord through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) as the Regional Communication Specialist for the Latin America and Caribbean region, based in the Dominican Republic.