Story by Megan K. Mertz
Photos by Erik M. Lunsford
Planting a church in the Caribbean
One day last summer, the Rev. Duane Meissner showed up in the small village of Seine Bight, Belize, and started introducing himself to people. He came back the next day and the day after that.
“At first, everyone just assumed that I was a tourist,” he said. “But very few tourists come back to Seine Bight a second time. So by the second week, they realized I was someone a little different.”
Meissner is a man on a mission. As The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s first missionary to Belize, he has been tasked with planting the first Lutheran churches in the Central American country. His ministry builds on the work of the Belize Mission Society, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization that has been sending mission teams to the village since 2003.
Since arriving in the country in June, Meissner has developed a list of people he visits regularly, such as a woman whose teenage son is suffering from a severe but undiagnosed medical condition, a double amputee who is confined to her rickety home, and an older woman who lives alone. Sometimes he provides a devotion or prays with the individual, while other times they just sit and chat.
Meissner’s work is already starting to take root in the village. In October, he began leading two different Bible studies: a weekly gathering to study the Book of John and a daily women’s group that is studying the Book of Matthew.
Soon, he hopes to purchase a building where his fledging congregation can meet. In addition to providing shelter from the sun and the rain, this next step would establish a permanent presence in the community.
“I am the son of a biologist, so this is really the ideal setting for someone who has learned to love God’s creation — to love plants and animals and bugs and birds,” Meissner said.
But most importantly, he continued, “I love being in villages where I may well be sharing the Gospel with people for the very first time. It’s a very exciting mission field.”
Megan K. Mertz (email@example.com) is a staff writer and managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World with LCMS Communications.
Erik M. Lunsford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing photojournalist for LCMS Communications.
Posted January 11, 2017