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Island church celebrates new building with spirit of unity – in many languages

SAN PEDRO, Belize — By the end of the worship service, Andrew Nunez was encouraged, inspired and hoarse.

Andrew “Tex” Nunez

Nunez, better known by his nickname, “Tex,” spoke almost constantly during the April 9 service at the newly constructed San Pedro Church of Christ on the island of Ambergris Caye.

When he wasn’t offering a prayer for the Lord’s Supper, Nunez was translating words of thanks from church leader Dionisio Amaya for visitors from the United States. Later he slid into one of the freshly painted wooden pews to translate as one of the visitors, Don Smith, preached the Sunday sermon.

The tiny church of about 10-12 members speaks no less than four languages, said Nunez, who works as a bank security guard on this tropical island, home to about 2,000 full-time residents and as many as 3,000 tourists.

In addition to English and Spanish, the islanders converse in Garifuna, a Caribbean language with African roots, and a number of indigenous tongues that date back to the Mayan civilization, Nunez said.

Gregorio Choc speaks one of the Mayan languages and English. He moved to the island from the mainland Belizean city of San Antonio, where he was baptized in a river after studying the Bible.

“I know that this church has cleaned my life,” he said. “No kind of church is like the Church of Christ.”

A group of U.S. workers visited the island in April, conducting eye screenings, giving away reading glasses and studying the Bible with the islanders. Windle and Barbara Kee led the group.

Smith and Tennessee church members Bobby and Betty Bush have worked with the small congregation for several years. Smith said he spent five years scraping together donations from more than 560 contributors for the building.

Bobby Bush studies the Bible with inmates at a prison in Belize.

San Pedro church member Simeon Montereo was in charge of construction and helps to lead the congregation, though he’s currently in the New Orleans area rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

As many as 18 people used to squeeze into Amaya’s home for worship, Smith said. Now the church has plenty of room to sing songs of praise in English and Spanish.

“It is unity that has built this church,” Amaya said as Nunez translated. “We thank our brothers and sisters who helped us bring this building to where it is now.”

Two-year-old Brianna Amaya takes a lunch break along with a mission team during a day of eye screenings and Bible studies at the San Pedro, Belize, church. The Central American tourist town inspired the 1980s hit song “La Isla Bonita.” The small church in San Pedro used to meet in the home of Brianna’s grandfather, Dionisio Amaya. It took about five years to raise funds and construct the new building, which cost about $65,000, said Don Smith, a church member from Blanket, Texas, and longtime supporter of the work in San Pedro.

Filed under: International

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