GTP activated efforts in the Caribbean with a trip to Belize. We began with a discernment retreat over three days on which we considered three questions: What has God done in the Caribbean in the past? How is God working in the present? Where is God leading in the future? It was a rich time together which resulted in a list of faithful activities to pursue in 2022.
Then, we did program work in 2 areas. First, we hosted a JOE (Journey of Empowerment) retreat with 22 influential workers to train them to multiply faithful stewards across Belize. Second, we provided onsite teaching on the topic of “Strengthening Churches and Ministries for Sustainability,” which equipped 24 participants to help ministries follow standards.
So, how would we sum up this trip? When the Apostle Paul and his traveling companions visited some cities, they got attention of the local people which often accelerated ministry. We experienced a similar response. This field report celebrates regional progress for which we are giving thanks to God in three areas: curiosity, receptivity, and unity.
By curiosity, we mean that everywhere we turned, people had questions. They asked them to John in advance of our visit and to all of us upon arrival: Who is GTP? What are you doing in Belize? When the Methodist Bishop, Moses Benguche, heard John’s answers, he arranged a national platform for us. We were guests on The Morning Show on 10 February 2022.
This was no small invitation! The Morning Show is the #1 channel for spreading information in the country, which has a population of 400,000 people. But that was only part of it. When key workers checked in to attend JOE, they too expressed curiosity. After meeting us, one person invited us to speak on Christian radio not once but twice.
The first time, on 11 February 2022, our radio spot promoted our onsite teaching event. The second time, on 13 February 2022, the radio host (and JOE participant) invited us to discuss “why JOE is a better way to invest in discipling the nation.” Wow! Praise God that as people are getting to know GTP here, they see the value of what we offer and want to share it with others.
While people in many nations demonstrate receptivity to GTP programs, the response of Belizeans was unique in at least three ways. Firstly, top influencers spent time with us. If this is what it will be like in Belize, we can’t wait to visit the other Caribbean countries. The caliber of the people at the JOE training and the teaching event included key Christian workers.
Secondly, emerging servants participated with us. We noticed this both at JOE and the teaching event. For transformation to spread in countries, it often requires bottom up movements led by the Holy Spirit through key workers from the next generation. About half of each of our sessions included people like this.
Thirdly, God has raised up a country representative for Belize, Pastor Ronald Geban, who has connections with both groups. He also plans to replicate JOE starting this week! So, when we take these three points together, God has given us a solid contingent of people with whom to collaborate to grow stewards and hopefully, in time, form a peer accountability group in Belize.
Anytime you launch efforts in a region, you pray for good chemistry between team members. We enjoyed that and more with the four of us and with Pastor Ronald. We also witnessed unity between the JOE participants and the onsite teaching event attendees. This is not insignificant. We envision that they will work together. We will assist and encourage from a distance.
We also experienced unity as we discussed the Discerning Direction Document (3D) for the Caribbean. We have much work to do and everyone understands their respective roles. So far, our online program efforts in English and Spanish have empowered Christian workers in 8 countries: Belize, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, and Barbados.
As the Caribbean region includes 29 countries and many languages, we now have a plan for next steps to expand our reach with faithful, focused efforts. We are optimistic because this region has more churches per square mile than any other region in the world. We aim to provide those churches with tools to build trust and grow local giving.
While the scenery is gorgeous in the Caribbean, the people are even more beautiful. And, while there’s much work to done, the curiosity, receptivity, and unity that we tasted gives us hope. We have next steps mapped which include technology and travel coupled with translation work as this region serves many language groups. We also anticipate great things for Belize.
Pray for Pastor Geban and the other JOE participants to replicate JOE. Pray also for those who attended the onsite teaching event, “Strengthening Churches and Ministries for Sustainability,” to apply what they learned. Give thanks with us for their curiosity, receptivity, and unity. Finally, pray that God will guide our steps and provide fruit that lasts from this first visit to the region.