May 18, 2022 | St. Croix, US Virgin Islands | North Caribbean Conference Staff
For seven months, Sabbath school members from the St. Peter’s Rest Adventist Church in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, have been assisting the homeless in the town of Christiansted, in coordination with Lighthouse Mission, a non-profit organization on the island. Both organizations partner to supply meals two or three times each month.
Lighthouse Mission is a faith-based, community service center which is committed to enriching the lives of people by serving, encouraging, teaching and challenging children and adults, alike, to find meaning and purpose in life through faith. The Mission once provided a haven, with after-school activities, for children. That service has been discontinued, pending a refurbishment of the building, which was affected by hurricanes in recent years, mission leaders said.
When Pastor Earl Daniel, former pastor of the Peter’s Rest Adventist Church, requested approval from the church board for the partnership, the board agreed, unanimously. “You could sense the Holy Spirit in the room, in that board meeting. How could we not serve the community?”Five groups of church members organized through the Community Services provide the items and prepare the meals in the center every second and fourth Sunday of each month. They get to feed, connect, encourage, and hold worship services at the open pavilion in the yard of the center, church leaders said. Sometimes the Mission requests the Adventist group to assist a third Sunday. The center also serves as a food and clothing pantry.
Dr. Henry Peters, sabbath school director of the North Caribbean Conference, was pleased with the response of the local church. “The church must respond to the needs of people in the community, and we must be a good, cooperative citizen,” said Peters. Jesus has commissioned His people to care for each other, he added. “This initiative is a prime example of how Jesus ministered while He was on earth for Jesus ministered to people’s needs and loved them before He shared the Word with them.”
“We praise the Lord for the partnership we have with the community,” said Abraham Kennedy, pastor of the Southgate Baptist Church, and manager of the Lighthouse Mission. “It’s great to share the space, to make a difference in the community.” Kennedy has been at the curch for 13 years and said the center has been assisting those in need for 27 years. “This is a common ground for people to come around and share ministry.”Lillian Jeffers, Sabbath school leader at Peter’s Rest Adventist Church, used to volunteer at the Lighthouse Mission before the partnership began in August 2021. “For the past two years, I have personally volunteered at the Lighthouse when I lost my job in 2020,” she said. “It’s very gratifying to have my church come alongside this ministry.”
The group serves 20 to 30 meals every Sunday, she added. “The people who look forward to the hot meal, frequent the Christiansted town area, sleeping wherever they can lay their heads. When they come in the morning, you can see they are not rested.”
Youth ministries leaders at the Peter’s Rest Church recently gathered a group of young people who selected the center as a location to benefit during the Adventist world church’s Global Youth Day activities in March, 2022.“We desire to have the children exposed to real life situations,” said Mrs. Jeffers. “We encourage parents to bring their children along for the ministry opportunity. It is good to see happy faces on those who come to the center and receive help.”
Head elder of the Adventist congregation, Herman Ravariere, said partnerships with other community organizations are key to building relationships in the community. “If anyone of us walk down the street and see the people, they know us. These connections are wonderful. It tells people that, ‘Hey, the Adventists do care!’”
Adventists across several sister churches on St. Croix support the Community Services initiative and partnership with Lighthouse Mission every month.
Ending homelessness may not be possible, said Jeffers. “We know that’s not going to happen, but we’re going to take a big bite out of it.”Peter’s Rest Adventist Church suffered extensive damages when fire broke through the sanctuary in 2020. Nearly 300 members meet partly downstairs and under tent erected for overflow outside.