We have settled into attending Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church here in Corozal. Pastor Juan Patt has answered God’s call to minister to the people of Corozal and Belize through this church. He is blessed with the gift of preaching, teaching, and music. He is fluent in English and Spanish. When he teaches or preaches he uses both languages.
Some of you might be wondering why he uses both languages if Belize is an English speaking country. That is a good question. There are many people in the country who speak only Spanish, Creole, Mayan, or another dialect. Where does English come in? Belize was British Honduras until 1982 and gained its freedom from English rule through a diplomatic process. However, to protect the fledgling country from the hostile Guatemalan government, English troops remained in Belize until 1994. Therefore, the “official” language is English. All business in governmental agencies and stores is conducted in English. This is one of the primary reasons retirees choose Belize, along with the tropical paradise of course!
To give you an idea of the need for Pastor Juan to use both languages; we went to a local hardware store the other day. It is owned by a Chinese family who speak English with customers but Chinese amongst themselves. We met their 15 month old who is starting to babble in Chinese. His mother told me they are speaking to him only in Chinese and he will learn English when he is old enough to go to school. It is a common occurrence amongst local families to speak their own dialect, be it Spanish-Mayan-Creole or a mixture, amongst themselves and to their children. The children then learn English when they start school.
On one hand this is wonderful, to be bi-lingual. On the other hand, the kids are not masters of their mother tongue, they are unable to read or write any language until they go to school. Obviously there is a huge impact on education. Many students in high school level classes, if their family can afford to send them, are unable to read or write fluently in any language. The school we have been volunteering for started a special reading program this year to help students master reading in English. Once we get completely moved into our new house and get the library running we will start working with kids on reading and I will post more information.
The church offers Sunday School for all adults and children. We have been studying the ten commandments which has been a great reminder I am unable to earn salvation. I cannot keep those commandments. Sure, I can “not kill.” However, I have not always honored my parents, been completely honest, or a bunch of other things. Being a Christian is not about being a good person. It is about being redeemed by Christ who sacrificed himself, He being God in the flesh, on the cross. He shed His blood, died, was buried, and rose again to conquer sin and death. By placing my faith, given by Him, in Him… I am saved from eternal damnation. Wow! I do not deserve such forgiveness!
Sunday School is also offered for kids from approximately two years old to around 10. They learn about the love of God for His people through Bible teaching, play, and coloring. The kids are always happy to share their project with their family at the end of Sunday School.
There is a social time between Sunday School and worship service. Water and cookies are served. This is a great time of getting to know people and learning about one another. Adult Sunday School is held in the sanctuary so the break also provides time to reset the room for the worship service. The congregation is made up of mostly Belizian attendees. We “gringos” are a minority but we have been warmly welcomed. All children attend the worship service with their families and everyone dotes on the kids.
Pastor Juan ties his Sunday School lesson to his sermon. Sunday School is interactive and if there is not enough participation Pastor is likely to call on someone! Pastor’s sermons are engaging and instructional. He obviously spends a substantial amount of time on lesson preparation. In addition to Sunday School and his sermon, Pastor also leads Friday evening small group. The group meets in homes and travels to a different home each week. We are looking forward to hosting in the near future!
Music is included in all services. Pastor Juan plays the guitar for all music. Various members lead the singing during Sunday School and worship. Pastor leads during the Friday home group. Yep, he’s a very busy man! He does have men who help him plan. They are generally behind the scenes and provide him support, guidance, and prayer coverage.