January 10, 2019 | St. Catherine, Jamaica | Damian Chambers/JAMU/IAD News Staff

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica is still mourning the loss of four of its young members after they drowned at sea last week.

Chavar Lewis, 31, and Duran Bryan, 30, of the church’s north region and, Joseph Anderson, 26, and Karanjah Gayle, 26, of the central region died at sea in two separate incidents one day apart.

According to police reports, Chavar and Duran of the St. Ann’s Bay Adventist Church died on Dec. 30, 2018, at the Silver Sands Beach in Duncans, Trelawny after both got into difficulty at sea. They were attending a birthday celebration for a member of their congregation. The bodies were recovered soon after.

Great friends Duran Bryan [left], 30, and Chavar Lewis, 31, drowned on Dec. 31 after rough seas swept them away at Silver Sands Beach in Duncas, Trelawny, Jamaica. They were attending at a birthday celebration of a fellow member of the St. Ann’s Bay Adventist Church. Photo from Facebook

News of their deaths plunged thousands into mourning, as both young men were stalwart members of the St. Ann’s Bay congregation and the St. Ann Adventist Youth Federation, in North Jamaica Conference (NJC), serving in the areas of pathfinder and music, among several other ministries.

While the church in Jamaica grappled with their loss, news came in that two other young men, Karanjah and Joseph, went missing while swimming at the Frenchman’s Bay Beach in Treasure Beach, in St. Elizabeth, on Dec. 31, 2018.

Both Karanja and Joseph were members of the Beverley Seventh-day Adventist Church in Manchester and students of Northern Caribbean University. Joseph was also a member of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF). Karanja was studying communication while Joseph was studying computer information science.

According to police, Joseph’s body was recovered at sea a day after the incident, while Karanjah’s body was spotted by the Jamaica Coast Guard meters away from where Joseph’s body was recovered. However, divers were unable to recover Karanjah’s body due to “threats posed by sharks.”

Church leaders offer hope

“We are severely touched by the traumatic experience of the past few days,” said Pastor Everett Brown, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica. “Our sincere condolences and prayers go out to the families of these four young men. We pray that the Holy Spirit will provide comfort and hope to them in this great time of sorrow.”

Members of the Beverly Adventist Church in Manchester, Jamaica, pray together after the drowning deaths of Karanjah Gayle, 26, and Joseph Anderson, 26, on Jan. 5. Both were students at the church’s Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville. A team of psychologist also led counseling sessions at both the Beverly Adventist Church and the St. Ann’s Bay Adventist Church. Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Union

Chavar was the son of Pastor Mobrey Lewis, Sabbath school and personal ministries director of the North Jamaica Conference. According to Brown, Pastor Lewis expressed that during this time of grief and sorrow, the support that he and his family have received from members of the church has strengthened them to deal with the situation. “He [Lewis] said that this outpouring of love from the members has reinforced in his mind the value and presence of love that exists within the church,” said Brown.

NCU Presdient Lincoln Edwards expressed condolences to the bereaved families and faculty members who interacted with the deceased students. Edwards led the staff in observing a minute of silence to mourn the tragic deaths of Karanja and Joseph before classes resumed Jan. 7.

Grief counseling intervention

A special grief counseling intervention was convened at the St. Ann’s Bay Adventist Church for Chavar and Duran, on Jan. 5, with the keynote address by Dr. Gary Buddoo-Fletcher, Chief Chaplain of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

Since the passing of Karanjah and Joseph, representatives of NCU, including the chaplaincy unit, have been offering grief counseling and emotional support to the relatives and church families. A team from NCU consisting of two along with some students who were close to the young men visited Beverly Adventist Church in Manchester and provided support on Jan. 5.

Special devotional services took place Jan. 9 during a tribute on university campus as well as a program organized by the Jamaica Defence Force in Mandeville in honor of Joseph and Karanjah.

Funeral Services for Chavar Lewis and Duran Lloyd will be held on Feb. 17. Chavar is survived by a wife and two young children, and Duran is survived by his wife and infant son.

Arrangements for Karanja Gayle’s and Joseph Anderson’s funerals are underway.

For additional news information, visit jmunion.org

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