The mayor of Belize’s largest city praised the Seventh-day Adventist Church for its work in the Central American country and underscored his appreciation for its large network of local schools.
Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley, flanked by a vice mayor, welcomed Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson and his wife, Nancy, at the airport upon their arrival Thursday for the start of a six-country tour of the church’s Inter-American Division.
Division president Israel Leito is accompanying Wilsons on the trip.
“The mayor expressed gratefulness for the many things the church was doing and especially our extensive educational system in Belize,” Wilson told the Adventist Review on Friday.
The Adventist Church has a strong educational presence in this small country of 341,000 people that borders Mexico and Guatemala to the west and faces the Caribbean Sea to the east. Wilson said 300 to 600 students are baptized every year in the educational system, which includes four kindergartens, 20 elementary schools, five academies, and a junior college.
Nearly one in eight people in Belize is a member of the Adventist Church, and an overwhelming 70 percent of those members are young people.
“People know who Seventh-day Adventist are,” Wilson said. “The Adventist Church in Belize has a wonderful, exciting evangelistic spirit. God is blessing the advancement of His work.”
In addition to the city leaders, Wilson was greeted at the airport by smartly dressed Pathfinders and a delegation of local church officials led by Dennis Slusher, president of the Belize Union of Churches. Accompanied by a police escort, the visitors drove to Belize’s capital, Belmopan, for an evening meeting of 2,000 church members.
Wilson urged the audience in a University of Belize auditorium to "shake Belize for Christ," echoing a call for action that he has used in other countries in recent weeks.
On Friday, Wilson flew to El Salvador, where he will worship on Sabbath. On Sunday he will witness the baptism of more than 2,000 people in Lake Nicaragua after that country’s first major evangelistic campaign. He also will visit Costa Rica and Panama before winding up the trip at a religious freedom conference in Colombia on March 21.
The Adventist Church has blossomed in Belize, a tourist haven and the only country in Central America where English is the official language, since it began work there in 1929. Its 40,898 members worship in 90 churches and 37 companies. The church also operates a local clinic.
"I am very excited about the dedicated membership and leadership in Belize,” Wilson said. “God is using His people in a marvelous way."