The Mennonites living in Chihuahua, Mexico, were worried. It was the early 1950s, and the members of their community were no longer guaranteed exemption from the draft. As pacifists, they could not allow their young men to become combatants. It was time to start seeking a new home.
In 1957, a group of the German/Dutch Mennonite leaders traveled south to the Colony of British Honduras (now known as Belize). They met with the premier, George Cadle Price, along with the U.S. advisor, Emory King, and requested land for living and farming. They promised to strengthen the agricultural industry that was very much needed by the colony as it contemplated plans for nationhood.
In return, the Mennonites appealed to the colony for a guarantee of religious freedom and the assurance that their young men would never have to serve in the army.
The colony was a God-fearing land. So with one glance at the list of conditions, the premier quickly marked off each item on the list. The next year, the first group of Mennonites made their journey down to their new home in British Honduras.
“I Was Curious”
Justina Schmitt is a direct descendant of those Mennonites. With her husband, Ben, and their two young boys, they live among beautiful rolling hills in a community known for its hard work and dedication to its Christian heritage.
While visiting the country recently, I had the opportunity to visit with the family in Blue Creek. I heard the details of their story during a lunch hosted by Windell and Addy Borland, of Faith FM, a network of AWR stations carrying the Advent message to many parts of Belize.
Justina had been listening to Faith FM for about 14 years. Like so many other listeners, she had found the station while browsing the radio dial. At the time, she spoke only German and knew very little English. So she was interested in learning more English by listening to the programs.
“I was curious to know what other programs were on Faith FM, so I kept listening,” Justina says. One of her favorites was the program Bible Answers.
One day, she called the station. Addy answered the phone, and from that moment they became good friends. After many conversations, Addy and Windell visited Justina in her home and spent a wonderful Sabbath with Justina’s immediate and extended family.
As the truths of the Bible sank in, Justina knew she had to make a choice. But the fact of living in such a close-knit community for so many years made it much harder.
The words and promise by Jesus in John 8:32 – “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” – were becoming more and more heavy on her heart. One day, she finally made her decision for Jesus.
But how was it going to happen? When and where could she get baptized? There was no Seventh-day Adventist church in her vicinity. Although Ben was not pleased with Justina’s decision, he said he wouldn’t stand in her way.
Not Giving Up
A pastor from the nearest town, Pastor Montalvo, visited Justina every other week and also took her to his church. Justina learned of a two-week series of meetings the church was planning and really wanted to attend.
“But that’s a 45-minute drive to the first village and then a bus ride to the next village, where the meetings are being held,” she thought. Justina prayed to God for help, but at times she felt doubtful. How would God answer her prayers?
She was not about to give up, however. She called Faith FM and spoke with Addy to find courage and increased trust in the Lord. They both reminisced about how God had led her to visit Faith FM in Cayo, a village many miles away from Blue Creek.
Justina didn’t have to wait too long for an answer to her prayers. The first Monday of the meetings, it rained so hard that no one was able to travel. The next meeting day, the weather cleared up nicely, but there was still no travel solution in sight.
Her brother, Peter, happened to stop by for a visit. He said, “I am going to San Felipe. Do you want to come with me?” Justina was ecstatic. San Felipe was exactly where she needed to catch the bus to the meetings.
While they drove, Justina told Peter about the meetings she was planning to attend. Without further questions, Peter immediately said, “I would like to come with you.” So instead of stopping in San Felipe, that evening both Justina and Peter went straight to the meetings.
It turns out that Peter had been reading his Bible during lunch time at work and also was convicted about the Sabbath. “How much clearer can it be?” he said.
They both attended all of the remaining meetings. Justina saw clearly how God had not only answered her prayers but also had provided moral support through her brother. She knew that this time she would answer the call for baptism.
On Sabbath morning, September 8, Justina stood up and walked to the front of the church. Moments later, Peter followed. Although Justina was excited to see her brother take this bold step with her, she confessed, “Oh, how I wish it was Ben!”
Justina immediately called Addy to break the great news and invite her to her baptism. Over the next few days, Justina had second thoughts about her decision, but Addy and the radio staff prayed earnestly for her. Immediately, Justina began to experience a wonderful peace that cannot be humanly explained. By late in the week, she was firm in her commitment.
The next Sabbath, both Justina and Peter were baptized. They are now the first and only members of the church in the Blue Creek Mennonite community. Justina prays that one day soon, her beloved Ben will also join them in their newfound faith.
A Critical Time
After this story was written, we learned that Justina’s younger sister, who also listens faithfully to the radio, asked to be baptized too. But she lives with her parents, and her father is not happy. He has banned the mentioning of the name of the Adventist Church in the house and threatened to move the whole family to another Mennonite community in Mexico.
The next few days and weeks are critical. Please pray for this brave young lady, that God will shore up her faith in a mighty way.
God uses many avenues to reach thirsty souls with the water of life. Through the radio waves, His message reaches into homes and hearts that otherwise might never hear. He promises that His words will not return void; how true that is. It took 14 years for this seed to take root, but it blossomed into a wonderful experience of faith and family.
by Dowell Chow
Retired AWR President
As told by Addy and Windell Borland
Faith FM Belize