By Virginia Echols
The journey to AME Belize began on December 12, 1993, when Sister Virginia Echols moved to Belize, Central America. As a lifelong member of the AME Church from Vernon Chapel AME Church in Detroit; Elijah Turner AME Church in Monrovia, Liberia; and Oak Grove AME Church in Detroit, I immediately looked for an AME Church. Much to my surprise, there were none. My constant prayer and effort were to establish an AME Church mission in Belize.
This journey was intensified when on the first Sunday in June 2000, Sister Echols began to host a radio ministry on KREM radio (Moments of Inspiration, Belize City) a two-hour broadcast. The broadcast is based on the principles of the AME Church and has drawn a lot of interest from listeners.
It is under the leadership of Bishop Anne Henning Byfield that this prayer was fulfilled. On November 30, 2017, Bishop Henning Byfield arrived in Belize with a team to serve the people and initiate discussion on the possibility of an AME presence in Belize in the 16th Episcopal District. The team included the Rev. Carlos Perkins, pastor of St. Luke AME Church in St. Croix, Virgin Islands and Director of Missions for the 16th District; Mrs. Carla Perkins, Director of YPD for the 16th District; Mrs. Estelle Shockley, former president of the WMS Missouri Conference and Steward at Tri-Union AME Church; the Rev. William Gary, pastor of Wayman Chapel AME Church in Kokomo, Indiana; and the Rev. Kenneth C. Christmon, pastor of Turner Chapel AME Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The major partner in showing love to the AME Church team was KREM radio and Sister Echols. They opened their hearts and the team was interviewed on air on Friday, December 1 and Sunday, December 3. They were guests on Moments of Inspiration, which was streamed live on www.krembz.com as well as on Facebook. The Amandala newspaper provided all the advertisement for four weeks prior to the visit.
The Belizean community was truly blessed by their presence. On Thursday, there was a private dinner with leadership from KREM. On Friday, they were greeted at an ecumenical reception and answered questions about the AME Church. Leaders from major denominations were present. While in Belize they met with Mattie Roter of the Women’s Outreach Organization and visited the women in the Belize Central Prison. The women received underwear and words of hope from Bishop Henning Byfield, Sister Carla Perkins, and Sister Shockley. Pastors Perkins, Gary, and Christmon ministered to the male population via the prison radio station.
At the Dorothy Menzies Child Care Center (a home for abused, abandoned, and neglected children), they played games with the children, presented a Bible to each child, and lead them into the prayer of salvation. Five children committed their lives to Christ. The symbols of Kwanza were also distributed.
On Saturday night, the community at Merirh’s Ministry—under the leadership of Apostle Dr. Suzette Massiah—witnessed an awesome message from Pastor Perkins during a street ministry. Sunday morning, Bishop Henning Byfield delivered a powerful message and ministered to the people at Merirh. The service was inspiring. There was the combination of praise and worship music, dancing, AME hymns, and American gospel music.
On Sunday afternoon, the team worshiped at the Kingdom Covenant of Faith Ministries, under the leadership of Pastor Love Hammond. Pastor Perkins graced the church with an awesome word from the Lord. Many acts of healing, salvation, and prophetic utterance were received. The team departed December 5, 2017.
The African Methodist brand is growing in the 16th District and we hope in Belize as well. We are grateful for the possibility of a permanent mission. There is ongoing dialogue as prayers continue for clarification and confirmation. We give thanks above and beyond imagination.
As a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, former Peace Corps volunteer, sister in the Order of Eastern Star, PHA, and host of Moments of Inspiration, I thank the Lord for grace and favor! To God be the Glory.