By Frank and Wendy Parrish
with Keith Balser
As the plane descended into Belize City, the emerald blue water and the lush tropical landscape inspired visions of Paradise. But such misty notions quickly evaporated as we stepped onto the tarmac into a blast of sauna-like heat and thick humidity!
Our wilted spirits lifted as we walked toward our rented Land Cruiser, in which we’d make the 2-hour journey to San Ignancio. We climbed inside the vehicle, only to discover that almost everything in it was either broken or missing. The odometer read 178,000 miles, but had long ago stopped turning. We had two seatbelts for six people. The shocks were so worn, it was like riding on cast-iron tires. But we found reason for thanksgiving when the air-conditioner at least puffed out a bit of cool air!
None of these challenges, however, quelled our enthusiasm for what we knew God would do when we gathered in Jesus Name, to lift Him up and declare His Word! And in that, we were not disappointed.
Signals Of Grace
We were privileged to join with Triumph In Christ Ministries International on their strong Belize ministry team, which also included the pastor and worship team from The Sanctuary church in Santa Clarita, California.
The goal of “Signals Of Grace Leadership And Family Conference” was to provide sound leadership training and to lay the groundwork for a cohesive Christian movement in that remote part of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Church leaders from various faiths and denominations attended, a positive step for the division-prone church in the tiny New Hampshire-size nation. Such unusual unity was “historic” according to one pastor, and was certainly an answer to prayer.
This Was Different
Other groups had tried to conduct meetings in San Ignacio in recent years, but the local pastors would rarely participate – and sometimes very few of their congregants. They had been disappointed by outside organizations who would come with a preset agenda, having already decided what they would do and what the people needed.
What made the difference this time?
One of the key factors in the success of last Fall’s conference was that some of the team had traveled to Belize several months earlier, and met with the local pastors for prayer. They discussed with them their needs, as well as those of the people of their churches and city.
We also involved the local pastors in the planning and execution of the event, as well as in the interpreting and other responsibilities in the conference. This allowed them to take ownership of the conference, as well as learn how to organize this kind of event.
And, most importantly, there was “intense and immense” prayer that preceded and covered the conference. Intercession came from the ministry team, the World MAP Prayer Corps, the local pastors and congregations in San Ignacio, and other churches and prayer support groups.
A New Vision
To promote unity, the conference was held in a neutral meeting place rather than in a particular church. In addition, the Saturday meetings included morning sessions and a barbecue under a huge tent on an outlying property. These venues provided a comfortable place for pastors and their families to come together for genuine fellowship and to forge a unified commitment to evangelize and disciple their nation.
At one of the Saturday morning sessions, Frank taught on the importance of unity, exhorting the pastors to break down the walls of suspicion and fear that divided them. He encouraged them to recognize their need for each other, and the importance of mutual support. He showed them from the Word that this is not only acceptable, but it is key to releasing all that God intends for them and their city. They quickly and humbly responded to a call to repent of divisions and be unified.
The Saturday event also included teaching on the family, and provided special times for the almost 80 children present! It surprised the church leaders to see our team taking turns ministering to both the adults and to the children.
“We Want To Take Our Place!”
It is often considered “un-macho” for Latin American men to be actively involved in church. Most churches are made up of women and children. It was important to encourage and enfranchise the men in their leadership role and responsibility in the Church, and one evening of the conference was devoted to just that.
The response of the men was inspiring. As a matter of fact, we have rarely witnessed a group of men more responsive to the Word and the Spirit.
The teaching time by the brothers on the team was followed by a strong time of prayer and repentance. Men chose to be set free from all that had kept them from God’s highest purpose for them. The team prayed for and ministered to the men, and the men also prayed for each other. Frank concluded the time by leading the men in a strong proclamation of their freedom in Christ. They rose up and declared, “We want to take our place in the Kingdom of God, as His men, as men of God.” The praise to the Lord that followed affirmed their declaration, and just about took the roof off!
Behold Your Handmaidens
While the men gathered, the women also met for a time of teaching, encouragement and prayer. It was equally powerful and precious, as God affirmed to them their worth and value as women, wives, mothers, and ministers of the Gospel.
The Weight Of God’s Presence
The next evening was also tremendous. As the team gathered ahead of time for prayer, an incredible stillness entered the room. A powerful “weight” of God’s presence blanketed us, and some of us could hardly stand or speak. We were experiencing a manifestation of God’s overwhelming love for the people of Belize. Quiet, prophetic words began to come about the love of God, and a mist of His love raining down. There was such an indescribable peace as we yielded to the power of God’s love in our midst, and ministered to one another.
The team received the Holy Spirit’s direction to minister God’s love to the leaders and others that would attend that night. We were sensitized to the fact that everything we did in Christ’s name must be about God’s love for His people, and our extending His love to them.
The teaching included a powerful word about our “name”. What does God call us? He does not identify us by our past, our performance, our looks, what others might say, or what religious conformity demands. No, He calls us “Beloved”.
God’s love was poured out through the teaching and the worship, and the people broke before Him, weeping, being healed in their bodies, souls and spirits. The front of the meeting room was packed as people came forward for prayer and ministry.
At the closing session of the conference, following the teaching, the team prayed for all of the leaders present. We placed a colorful Belizian cloth around their shoulders, to symbolize a new “mantle” and anointing from God coming upon them for ministry to their nation. Many were overcome by God’s powerful presence and touch.
After they had been prayed for, they went out and laid hands on all the people attending the meeting, also asking for God to freshly anoint His people to reach the nation of Belize for Him.
The Leaders Respond
“An historic coming together”, “a major breakthrough”, “this must have been God”, and “something to build upon” were among the comments made by the leaders who were part of the Signals Of Grace conference in San Ignacio, Belize.
Pastor Eduardo of Cornerstone Church put it this way: “The Bible records Jesus weeping in Gethsemane, when the people did not recognize their day of visitation. The heart of God is broken when people do not receive or respond to His grace and presence. My prayer, and the prayer of the leaders in San Ignacio, is that we recognize and remember God has visited us in power. He desires full unity among us, and our personal surrender and commitment to Him. This will cause our city and nation to be eternally changed!”
Pointing The Way
A large roadsign is posted on the outskirts of the city, “To San Ignacio and Beyond”.
We were certainly allowed to go beyond the borders of “church as usual”, and to participate in a powerful work of grace among the people of San Ignacio.
And we, with you, must go even further “to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond” (2Cor 10:16). To carry the Gospel “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) – this is World MAP’s desire. The leaders of the church in Belize, and in many developing nations, need good, biblical training – AND the encouragement and assurance that they can make a difference and do all God is asking of them, by His grace and power.
We fulfill our part – in partnership with you – by providing training, equipping and encouragement to church leaders who will reach the lost in their nations with the Good News of salvation. Thank you for your prayer and support that allow the ministry of World MAP to extend to all the nations of the earth, for Jesus’ sake and glory. Amen!