Combined choir consisting of members of different age groups from Seventh-day Adventist congregations in St. Croix, sing on Oct. 30, 2021, at the very spot where the tent evangelism campaign saw 226 new believers baptized  on Oct. 30, 1971. The historic six-week evangelism campaign grew the church on the island, starting the Central Adventist Church and two additional churches years later. [Photo: North Caribbean Conference]

November 17, 2021 | St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands | Annette Walwyn Michael/North Caribbean Conference and IAD News Staff

Seventh-day Adventists from Central Adventist Church in St. Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands, gathered recently to commemorate the culmination of an historic evangelistic campaign held in a large tent 50 years ago, on Oct. 30, 1971. The success of that campaign, which resulted in 226 baptisms, surprised even the organizers at the time.

The Virgin Islands were considered difficult terrain for evangelism, but the leaders pressed on in faith,” said Pastor Thomas Rose, who currently leads Central Adventist Church and who spoke at the commemoration. The celebration was held on Sabbath, Oct. 30, 2021, on the very spot where the big tent stood, just five miles from where Central is now located.

Attending the recent celebration were New Jacob (left) and Steve Roberts (right) who stand and were part of the group who were baptized on October 30,1971. Sitting is Charles Richards (left) was baptized in a later baptism and Ivan Sargeant (seated right) assisted in the preparation for the tent evangelism campaign.[Photo: North Caribbean Conference]

Others who were there in 1971 also gathered at the commemoration.

Dr. Lloyd Henry, a member of the planning committee, spoke of the excitement as the tent went up on Sep. 12, 1971, and onlookers stopped by to lend a hand. “It was a thrill to see a busload of guests arrive at the meetings,” said Henry. “Something big was about to happen.”

Mary Kent, one of the original ushers, described the journey her life took, bringing her back to recommitting her life to Jesus.

Dr. Lloyd Henry, a member of the planning committee for the evangelism campaign helped build the church. Seated behind him is Pastor Claudette Andrews who was baptized in the first baptism Oct. 30, 1971. [Photo: North Caribbean Conference]

Pastor Reginal Michael, now a retiree, shared some of his early memories of preparing the field for the campaign and talked about the challenge of locating the right spot. He spoke of the excitement of learning evangelistic methods from Evangelist Kem Wiggins. Pastor Michael, who was one of eight pastors at the evangelism meetings, kept two of the original bumper stickers that were distributed to advertise the campaign. The bumper stickers read “Follow Me to the Big Green Tent.”

Among those baptized were Claudette Andrews, Dorliss Marshall, Ophelia Walters and hundreds of others that were part of the new membership who became dedicated leaders after their baptism.

Reginald Michael, first pastor of the Central Adventist Church shares memories of the evangelistic campaign in 1971. [Photo: North Caribbean Conference]

For Claudette Andrews, the recent celebration commemorates her own baptism. Pastor Andrews, a retired commissioned minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, became an evangelist and lead hundreds of men and women to Christ throughout the Caribbean for nearly 50 years.

Steve Roberts, who was also baptized on Oct. 30, 1971, has been preaching on the local television station in St. Croix for over 14 years. Elder New Jacob, who was also baptized on that day went to become an international evangelist taking the Word of God to distant lands, organizers said.

Alvira Brooks and Ophelia Walter, who became members after attending the tent meetings in 1971, are both still active members. They helped grow the St. Croix Seventh-day Adventist School, whose enrollment almost doubled as children of the new believers joined.

Evangelist Kembleton Wiggins preaching at the tent campaign in 1971. [Photo: North Caribbean Conference]

A year after the historic baptism, the membership of the congregation had reached over 300, and the church was officially organized. After that, a plot of land was purchased, plans were drawn, and construction of the church building began.

By the time the Central Church was dedicated in 1977, the membership doubled, and the Hope and Bethel Adventist Churches grew out of the church. The Central Adventist Church in St. Croix remains one of the largest churches in the North Caribbean Conference territory.

The recent celebration included poetry, youth presentations, and a praise team which sang “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart”, the theme song of the 1971 evangelism meetings.

The Central Adventist Church in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, was built in 1977 and grew out of the large tent evangelism campaign which resulted in 226 baptisms on Oct. 30, 1971. [Photo: North Caribbean Conference]

As Pastor Andrews spoke to the gathering, she said that celebrations would continue in the coming months at the Central Adventist Church, to continue to praise God for the blessings that came out of the Oct. 30, 1971, baptisms and what followed decades later.

The Central Adventist Church, which has a membership of 1,000, is one of six English-speaking churches and two Spanish-speaking churches in St. Croix.

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