Worthy Christian News » Christian » Former Belize Native Returns to His Country With a Mission to Reach Young People
By Michael Ireland
BELIZE, CENTRAL AMERICA (February 18, 2001) -- As young people growing up in Belize, Central America, Clive Welsh and his friends believed that America was "paved with streets of gold."
Welsh and his friends knew that one day they would make it to America. Now that he has lived in the United States for more than 34 years he has a message for the young people of Belize with whom he ministers through My Refuge Radio Ministries.
"Their dream is to go to America. The first thing I tell them is that America is not all that you think it is. They get American television, and unfortunately a lot of influences from American television have come into Belize, but I always tell them that unless your heart is right America can be a place of destruction. And a lot of them have found that to be so. A lot of them that have come to America have gotten into so much trouble with gangs and drugs that they end up getting deported," said Welsh during an interview at the recent National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Dallas, Texas.
"So I always tell them America is a great place to get a good spiritual background, a good spiritual foundation, and to take the good that God has allowed America to have to grow but if you're heart is not ready, it can be destructive," he said.
Welsh has found both the good and the bad in America.
He came to America from Belize in 1967, at the age of five. He was one of six children left to his mother when his father died. Clive was three at the time of his father's death.
"My mother couldn't survive in Belize. She moved to the United States and began working here and supporting us by sending us money and support while living here. She gradually sent for us after a period of time and moved to California in 1967," said Welsh.
"Upon leaving Belize, I never wanted to go back. It was very poverty-stricken -- I had some of the hardest times of my life growing up there, especially after my father died and with my mother being a single parent with six kids and with the conditions in Belize, it was very poor.
"As a young person, I moved to Los Angeles in 1967 and at that time there was a lot of racial upheaval going on and here I came from a country where it was so mixed, and there was a British influence, but such a mixture of people that for someone to call you Black it was almost speaking of your character not the color of your skin, meaning that your character was dark, that you're not up on the level and that you've got a lot to hide, and no being a good person."
Welsh said he overcame this problem through believing the Gospel. "I always say the Spirit doesn't have a color, and we're Born Again by the Spirit of God so we take on His character. So that was the thing that really helped me get beyond that, and not to believe the lie that there is a difference. In Christ we are new creatures and we can't hold onto those old things from the world. We see no man according to the flesh."
Welsh did go back to Belize -- in 1994, after being away for 27 years. "Upon arriving in Belize I got involved the second day of my first visit there with a home for delinquent boys. Having a heart for young people I just jumped in immediately and began to teach Bible studies. I would bring donations of clothes and things like that for them," he said.
"Beginning in 1997, a good friend of mine who is an administrator of a Christian school asked me what I thought about a group of high school seniors doing a missions trip in Belize. I thought it was a great idea and so I helped facilitate their trip, and that's how I began taking short-term teams for mission exposure in Belize."
Welsh got hooked up with Richard Smith of My Refuge Radio Ministries in Belize and facilitated their ministry by bringing in teams to do practical work in the radio station, such as building projects, and in the communities doing Vacation Bible Schools for orphanages. He also got involved in prison ministry there.
"A lot of the guys who were at one time in the home for delinquent boys grew up and got into trouble with law and ended up in prison. So that's how prison ministries got dropped in my lap," said Welsh.
Welsh said the main focus of his ministry is to the young people of Belize. He carries out a lot of counseling and discipling and, "just making myself available to minister individually."
He also sees the need for young people in America to be exposed to mission work, especially in a country like Belize because it is one of the only English-speaking countries in South America.
"It's just a great place to be introduced to missions, and while being introduced, having a powerful effect of the Gospel to the young people of Belize," Welsh said.
Welsh said that Belize is the number one country with the highest percentage of people with HIV and AIDS in all of Central America. The country has a population of 250,000.
"With that alarming percentage the average is one person a week is dying of AIDS-related illness in the 15 - 34 year-old age range. That's a real concern of mine, for the young people of Belize to see the hope that there is in Jesus and to be taught biblical principles is something they really haven't grabbed a hold of," said Welsh.
"There are a lot of missionaries and churches in Belize, but there's few that deal with the issues at hand just biblically showing God's purpose for a young person, his design for marriage, his design for sex, it's really not there in Belize. A lot of people will tell you they are Christians, but there's no disciples in Belize. With that, the whole family structure is broken down. There are so many guys that I minister to who are fatherless, and with that, the cycle just continues with guys having kids at a very young age and then disappearing -- young girls are raising two or three kids.
"There are no fathers, no godly examples, no family structure as God has set it up to be. A lot of the young men that I deal with you can see the pain -- there is such a lot of bitterness and anger. In sharing with them it always comes out that they don't have a future, they don't have a model to emulate or an example to follow. In a sense, I became a father to a lot of these fatherless young men."
Welsh said Christians in America can help the young people of Belize trough prayerful support, "and I think it would be good to visit Belize, but with a purpose -- there are so many missionaries in Belize but it's hit and miss, nothing that's lasting. From my observation, to get hooked in with a ministry that can come alongside, a ministry that's doing something and not reinvent the wheel. That's why I have linked up with Richard Smith of My Refuge Radio Ministries. I'm praying about someday myself being more long-term in Belize, setting up a base, because I have these visions of setting up a Bible College, a trade school -- you name it -- I'm just bursting with ideas and visions for the country of Belize."
Welsh is currently working on sending several teams into Belize, including one at Easter from Pleasant, California, including 30 people for whom he will act as facilitator.