Debbie says, “As much as I wanted him to come home, I knew how much this meant to him and prayed earnestly that God would somehow use this experience for His glory.” Photo credit: Daniel Mendez
On June 5, 2019, Debbie Young dropped her husband Ray Young at the airport to go to Belize for what was supposed to be a month to explore ministry opportunities. They previously sent all their video equipment to Belize in hopes of establishing a ministry there. As Ray is Belizean, he has a special place in his heart for this country.
When he had arrived in Belize, his efforts to establish a relationship with the Adventist church were delayed as the church leaders were out of the country. Not one to "sit and wait", he explored other avenues that could generate income and be a blessing to the community. There were a few encounters that Ray believes were God-ordained and helped pave the way for the successful launch of a video ministry.
One such encounter was with a young man, Kegan Lord. Keegan shared Ray's passion for video production and had the technical skills that were a great match with Ray's production and program development skills. They created a video streaming company, Y&L Streaming. Aside from the large company that controlled the cable/television market, this type of business really didn't exist, so the market was wide open. For a time, they got their name out there by streaming funerals, which believe it or not was popular, as well as streaming church services and some sporting events.
They eventually made a providential connection with the owner of the second largest cable network in that part of Belize. A Christian man, he was impressed with Ray and Kegan's work and was working hard to "give them a piece of the pie" to produce a Belize-type ESPN. Sports, especially baseball and volleyball, are big in Belize. “We didn't know where this was headed,” says Ray, “but it seemed doors kept opening so we just kept praying.”
Another connection they made was with a Sunday-keeping church, the pastor of which quickly saw the potential for a virtual congregation. Having developed a positive relationship with the leadership team, Ray was able to share with one of the leaders some Adventist literature, which was well-received. “We are praying for God to use that relationship for His glory.”
It's been a circuitous journey, but along the way, God gave Ray signs that He was guiding. One of the funerals that was streamed was for that of a young man who was the victim of a gang conflict. Unfortunately, there are a lot of these. Ray said Pastor Nembhard, a prominent Belizean Adventist pastor, gave a thought-provoking eulogy, essentially a Bible study on state of the dead. Ray's video crew, non- Christian millennials, couldn't stop talking about what they heard. It underscored things Ray had been telling them. “They greatly respect Ray - they call him "Pops", says Debbie, “and although Ray's words are few, they hold great sway.”
Ray had moved from his brother's house where he was blessed to stay for quite some time, to another small flat in Belize City, but it was small; no appliances and just a small fridge. It was becoming a challenge. Quite "by accident" a very large floor-level apartment came available in Ladyville, close by the airport and about 20 minutes outside Belize City. The place was huge and very reasonably priced. Ray jumped on it. Out of the city, the environment was peaceful. “And get this,” says Debbie. “When Ray told the landlord he was from Ypsilanti, the landlord said he knew where that was! He had been at the University of Michigan and knew the area well.” Another random meeting?
About that time, he made connection with the Mission president, Pastor Gillette, and pitched his idea about a channel that could provide 24-hour programming, some locally produced as well as streaming 3ABN's Dare to Dream Network. This was met with great excitement and commitment. Before too long, an agreement was signed and a plan in place to launch the Central Belize Mission's Belize Adventist Television Network. They had been streaming church services and programs and had sights set high on a variety of programming, including Spanish-speaking for the region.
But they needed a studio. Remember that Ray's apartment was huge?! Literally, half of the apartment was painted as a green screen (what studios use to create scenes/ background) and set-up as a studio. Ray is the station manager and has a staff that includes a producer, writers/reporters, camera operators, etc. The Mission agreed to provide some subsidy to care for the utilities as well as the salaries for Ray and the main staff!
Ray admits he had many sleepless nights whether he should go back home to Michigan or stay. “As I look back, we can see God's hand in all the twists and turns,” says Ray. “It was tough because it has been over a year in the making.”
Debbie says, “As much as I wanted him to come home, I knew how much this meant to him and prayed earnestly that God would somehow use this experience for His glory.”
What does this mean for their future? “Only God knows,” says Ray. “There are options, and we just want to be sure we follow God's lead. Suffice it to say, we'd appreciate your prayers on our behalf, for the work the team is doing, that many will be learn of Jesus and His soon-return.”
Debbie Young, along with her husband, direct Quiet Moment Ministries. Ray returned to the U.S. last summer but is now back in Belize. This past weekend, June 25-27, the Belize Adventist Television Network celebrated their one year anniversary. Randy Skeete is the speaker and will be there the remainder of the week for a week of prayer.