A little girl smiles brightly at Jose. She’s on the thinner side and the collar of her t-shirt is a little dirty. Jose hands her a green shoe box, and it looks like she’s about to burst with happiness.
“Gracias!” she tells him, walking away and finding a spot on the ground to sit. Jose watches her open the box and take out a Barbie doll. The girl gasps and kisses the doll, then hugs it tightly. Dozens of children talk and giggle around her, comparing their new presents. For many of these kids, Operation Christmas Child is the only time they receive new toys.
Jose gave a gospel presentation before he passed out the presents, and he hopes many children will come back for the twelve-week bible lessons.
Jose Ramos was born in El Salvador, but his family emigrated to Belize when he was five years old to be closer to family. His story isn’t different from many Belizeans. Belize is a multi-cultural country made of immigrants. Compared to a lot of Central American countries, Belize has lower crime and higher job opportunity.
When Jose was twelve years old, he received Christ as his Savior after hearing a gospel presentation by his pastor at church. Today, he’s pastoring a Baptist church in Belize City and recently planted a second campus in north Belize City. He’s the coordinator for Belize’s Operation Christmas Child (OCC), a ministry that gives children in need all around the world Christmas presents after sharing the gospel. OCC uses this as an outreach event to invite children back for twelve weeks of bible lessons, which Jose leads and teaches others how to lead as well.
His Church Plant
Jose’s church meets under a tent. It’s a Spanish-speaking church with members from all over Central America – Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, etc. Belize’s official language is English, but a majority of the country also speak Spanish. Jose would like to offer an English service one day for English speaking visitors. Because the members of the church often go back to their country of origin, Jose’s church numbers aren’t static.
Currently, Jose’s second campus only has a children’s ministry. He was able to start it using OCC as an outreach event. “It’s easier to get kids to come to church than adults. You tell a kid once, and he’ll keep coming every Sunday. Adults are harder,” he explains. That being said, his desire is to start an adult service next month. He’s currently creating a team for that church plant.
Operation Christmas Child
In Belize, OCC takes place in an underprivileged, swampy area. The event always starts off with an eight-minute gospel presentation. Those distributing the presents are trained to do this, starting with creation to the resurrection of Christ. In the last OCC event in Belize, one hundred boxes were given and five children were saved! After that, the children receive shoe boxes for their age group filled with Christmas presents. Gifts include toys, footballs, books, school materials, and letters from different churches. The shoe boxes are packed by Christians, ministries, and churches from all over the world.
After the outreach event, the children are always invited to come back for bible lessons. In these lessons, the kids learn more about creation, the birth of Christ, His crucifixion, and sharing the gospel. The last time Jose led these lessons, sixteen children became Christians! Kids aged four to fifteen attended these lessons.
Life in Belize
There are many wonderful aspects of Belize. It’s a melting pot of Creole, Africans, Chinese, Indians, and more. God is planted in people in their early childhood as elementary schools pray before their lessons and teach the bible in class. The country is famous for its beaches and high tourism rates. But Belize is not without its problems. Coronavirus hit a lot of Belizeans hard as many are in the tourism industry. 40% of the population is Catholic. There are areas that are underdeveloped where kids are unable to attend school because they can’t afford the school fees.
“Operation Christmas Child is the best opportunity,” Jose firmly states. Pray that OCC continues to provide evangelistic opportunities. Pray for Jose’s church and church plant, especially their transpiration needs as lots of people don’t have a ride to church. Many of his members come from Evangelical backgrounds but pray that Jose can witness to those who think they are Christians but are trusting in the Catholic Church for their salvation. Lastly, Jose asks for prayer regarding provision from the Lord and for the health and strength of his marriage. If you’d like to support indigenous missionaries like Jose, you can do so here.