The story of the Presbyterian Church of Belize (PCB) spans the last seven decades. In broad strokes, it is the story of determined outreach, the acceptance of the Good News, church conflict, defeated fatigue and rejuvenation. The Presbyterian story in Belize began way back in the 1850’s when Scottish settlers came to British Honduras with a dream to build a church in Belize City. In the 1950's, the Presbyterian Church in Mexico also came with a dream - to create a missionary outreach to the Mayan people in northern British Honduras. Together the Presbyterian Church put down its first roots in what is known as Belize today. In January of 1958, the Presbyterian church of Mexico through the Presbytery of Mayab authorized a venture that would give rise to the Mayan Presbyterian churches in the northern districts of Belize. The man chosen for this task was Don Manuel Beltran - already 65 years of age. He was a man with no formal education. He taught himself to read and write after coming to Christ. Many of the Bible passages he knew by heart. The secret of Don Manuel’s success was his firm conviction that there was no barrier that could not be breached by prayer. Don Manuel had a great missionary heart! In those early years he would cross the Rio Hondo, the border with Mexico by boat, near Patchakan, because there was no bridge. It was around this time that God opened the door for contacts with the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Belize City.
The session of St. Andrew’s gave their full support to this ministry, and at least one man, the clerk of the session, Mr. J. Wilson McMillan, became personally involved in the work. Mr. “Mac” was a member of the colonial government, and as a result it was possible for him to arrange for Don Manuel to obtain a permanent visa, authorizing him to live and work in the colony, even though Belize had officially closed its doors to further missionary work a year earlier. He maintained his residence in Chetumal, a city on the Mexican side, and would cross the border to continue his ministry work. In his first year of working in Belize, Don Manuel visited over thirty villages – mostly on foot. The next two decades of the 60’s and 70’s saw seedlings grow into saplings and beyond. The Good News had found a nurturing place in people’s hearts. It was time to build places of worship. The believers of Cristo Rey were organized into a church in May of 1970 with three elders and two deacons. A small Mayan style building was constructed for worship. It wasn’t until October, 1970 that a missionary couple from the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), Tom and Helen Lacey, moved to the area to assist in the spreading of the gospel and the development of church plants. By this time the work in the Orange Walk District was growing and Rev. David Legters of Merida, who was coordinating this work (under the Mayab Presbytery of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico), saw the need for someone to bring organization and to preserve the work begun by Don Manuel. In 1975, another church begun in the village of Patchakan with help from Trinity (PCA) Church in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.A.
With the continued financial support of Presbyterian churches in the USA, the 1980’s and 90’s were an exciting time of church expansion. Congregations grew and they reached out to their neighboring villages and in Belize City. Planting missionary outposts soon became church buildings and dedicated congregants. The harvest field was golden and ripe. It seemed that the rich blessings of God’s favor flowed full. By 1987, the phenomenal growth of church plantings gave rise to the creation of the Presbyterian Church in Belize (PCB). Don Manuel had gathered another group of believers in the village of San Jose. In those years, Tom Lacey went to preach in the afternoons while Helen Lacey worked to establish Sunday schools in the various villages where churches were being established. Near the village of San Jose and San Pablo, there were another group of believers.
Joined by representatives of the Presbyterian Church of Mexico, 17 Presbyterian churches or churches plants spread across the country. It was also during this time, that a dream to create schools alongside the churches started to blossom. In the mid-70s, Tom and Helen Lacey opened the first Presbyterian Day School (PDS) in the village of Cristo Rey - the oldest of the Presbyterian schools.
It also served children from Patchakan. The intent was to teach a different world and life view, acknowledging the God of the Bible as the Creator and Maker of all things. In the period between 1984 and1987 two leaders, Rafael Ku and Moises Chan, received scholarships to attend Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Jackson Mississippi (U.S.A).
As the Presbyterian work continued to grow, the need of forming a Presbytery in Belize arose. The churches in the northern part of the country had been members of the Presbyterio del Caribe of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico for seventeen years. Those ties were broken in 1986, as work progressed towards a national church. The established churches at the time included Betel, SantaTrinidad, St. Andrews, San Pablo, and San Narciso. On June 7, 1987 the Presbyterian Church in Belize was formed.