The people of southern Belize are often looked down upon by the rest of the country. Those of Maya and K'ek'chi descent are even more so. They struggle to get adequate health care... prejudice abounds. Things are changing, but ever so slowly.
I could tell you story after story of battles I have fought trying to get necessary medical attention for my beloved Maya and K'ekchi friends and fellow heirs of the kingdom of God. It has wounded my heart to see them treated so.
Adding to these difficulties, misunderstandings even developed in the church. Perhaps because of the difficulties in traveling to the southern area, the difficulties of the Indians traveling north, the lack of funds to attend Bible Schools or training, and/or the communication problems, the Indian pastors had not been able to receive the same opportunities for education and advancement as those in the northern parts. Because of these difficulties and the fact that the larger population was in the northern part of the country, the leadership of the Church of the Nazarene was mainly from the north. These difficulties separated the two uniquely different cultures and it was difficult to gain an understanding of the people’s needs in the southern part. There were only 2 ordained pastors in the south and the plight of the Indian churches remained unnoticed.
Occasionally, people from the States would come and hold workshops for the people in the South, trying to do what they could to help, but it was sporadic, and the records were often lost, or they were told that it wouldn't be credited toward the course of studies. This went on over a period of more than twenty years (more than that if you count from the establishment of the first Church of the Nazarene in Toledo)...
The churches struggled, the pastors became discouraged, but they kept on. In January of 2002, following a hurricane in October of 2001, a series of seminars was begun by my uncle, Tom Pound to try to help the pastors finish the course of studies, with the goal of graduating and getting ordained. I was privileged to come and help with that first seminar, caught a glimpse of God's heart for this beautiful people, and came to stay in October of 2002. Since then I have had the privilege of doing the footwork for many seminars, coordinating services for local licenses, helping with lots of the logistics, but most precious to me is the times I have spent listening to the heart cry of the pastors, talking through their frustrations with them, encouraging them to press on. Sharing in their frustrations and tears. Feeling their pain. Sharing in the prejudice from others, since I was working among these people.
Thus... this Sunday, as I watched eleven people from down here, plus two Mayas living up north (two other non-Mayas graduated with them) march up the aisle wearing the caps and gowns of graduation, tears coursed down my cheeks. This was a great cause for celebration...my tears previous tears of sadness were replaced with tears of joy. What an accomplishment for these men and women! Years and years of study, wondering if it would ever be counted and result in graduation, were finally culminated in this joyous day. Many people had worked, hoped, and prayed for this day, and what a day it was!
Moments later, six of those men walked forward again, this time welcomed by a choir made up of the the ordained elders of Belize singing "Called unto Holiness." Now they were being ordained as elders. More tears. What a blessed time!
We are so excited for all of those that graduated and those who were ordained, those from down here in the South, as well as those from elsewhere. God's goodness and mercy is great! We rejoice in this step for the church here in Belize, and pray that continued changes will occur. I pray for those that were unable to graduate. Some stopped because of sickness, some for other reasons, but my heart cried for them on Sunday, they should have been among those graduating. But... we trust God's plans and purposes and pray that His will continues to be done.
This is Bro. Ramon, now Rev. Ramon Coc, a man I greatly admire, his wife, and I. He is 66 years old, and remained faithful through years of study to graduate and be ordained this past Sunday. Ever since I came to Belize, I have watched Bro. Ramon faithfully ride his bike ever Sunday and Wednesday over ten miles one way to go preach. He was saved as an older adult, and taught himself to read so he could read God's word.
He was given a motorcycle, but continues to peddle to preach. When asked why, Bro. Ramon said something to the effect of, "If I take the motorcycle, I have to buy gas to power it, but if I go on my bike, I just need to eat." What an amazing man of God he is! I pray God multiplies his ministry, as well as the ministry of the others who graduated or were ordained. I also pray God continues to work mightily for those who just as faithfully serve Him without graduation.