Victor Leslie, Lt. Colonel
Belize, a country that boasts miles of coastline, rain forests, ruggedly beautiful landscape and laid-back Caribbean lifestyle. Belize, a developing country that offers tropical beaches with blue water, ancient Mayan caves and myriad waterfalls, thick emerald jungles and a mind-boggling barrier reef, can capture your heart and slowly transform your life.
Unparalleled in natural beauty, Belize is more than a mere change of scenery. With its eastern seashore cuddling the Caribbean Sea and its western border resting in the Central American rainforest, this sanctuary of Mayan culture, religion and history is a place that provokes a change in the way you think about life.
My immersion in the local culture of Belize began in April, and I returned in August to sample another taste of a society intimately connected to the Mayan historical legacy but strongly influenced by generations of Christian missionaries. On the menu this time was the prophecy referred to on the famous Mayan calendar for millennia and publicly hyped in movie trailers, documentaries and Internet end-time schemes as the possible end of civilization and the promised return of Christ by December 21.
To my amazement, in a country where Mayan descendants still live, and religion is more than a noun, there were no signs of hysterical fear or fright about the fulfilment of this Mayan 2012 prediction. Instead, there is an air of confidence about the future. People are not anxious or afraid.
Belize, with all its mystical Mayan temples, is also a place of soul-stirring steadfast Christian faith. Amidst the colorful wooden buildings on stilts, a plethora of churches have left their own mark on the minds and lives of the people. The Mayans may make their predictions, but for the most part, the people’s assurance is in their dauntless Christian faith, founded on an understanding and acceptance of Scripture.
They are secure in the message found in 1 Thessalonians 5:2: You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars. He won’t call ahead and make an appointment.
They obey Matthew 24:6: See to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come, and are not openly disturbed by the ongoing catastrophic natural events that might make it appear as though “the end” were indeed near. They confidently accept that no one knows when the end of the age will come.
And yet, with this show of confidence there is also an air of anticipation. They know that Jesus said in Matthew 24:44: You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
And so, life is lived with the watchword: be ready! Be ready, like the servants in the parable of the talents, by being faithful in the things entrusted to us. Be ready, like the five wise virgins, not just with excitement, but with the tools needed to enter the kingdom of heaven. Be ready, by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting the prisoners (Matt. 25). Be ready, by living our days differently, using every moment as a time of rebirth, reflection and renewal.
If my time in Belize taught me anything, it is that faith in God is woven into the natural fiber of their society. Mayan dreams or not, believers are staying alert and ready, walking out into the daylight…dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation (1 Thess. 5:8).