Abraham Schrock, a Seventh-day Adventist construction company owner from Ohio, United States, smiles on his last day helping build the framing at Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist Church in St. Croix, on Apr. 11, 2024. Schrock traveled recently to the island for free as soon as he found out the Adventist Church was still undergoing rebuilding efforts after a fire in 2020 damaged the structure. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

When Abraham Schrock heard of the fire at Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist Church he travelled to help in rebuilding it.

April 16, 2024 | Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

The layoff of eight workers at his construction company in Ohio, United States, hit Abraham Schrock hard. “It threw me on my face and humbled me,” said Schrock. “So I had to come to the Lord and to the conclusion to scale back on my life, on my personal wants and seek purpose.”

Purpose became just as clear as when he became a Seventh-day Adventist six years ago after leaving the Amish Community he grew up. “I wanted to do something to help others.” He reached out to an old friend who has connections in St. Croix—a place he and his family loved to visit on vacation– to see if anyone or if a church needed help.

Employees of Abraham Schrock’s construction company Joseph Baps (left) ad Henry Weaver (right) team up with local construction workers to prepare a wooden frame to set up at the front side of Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist Church, on April 11, 2024, hours before they were to fly back to the United States. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Joining the rebuilding efforts

When Schrock was told that Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist on the island had gone through a fire several years ago and still needed to be restored, he knew he could put his building skills to good use.  He contacted the head elder of the church, Herman Ravariere, in January.

Ravariere has been overseeing the reconstruction of the church building as a general contractor and welcomed Schrock and friends to the ongoing rebuilding efforts with several of his construction workers.

Head Elder of Peter’s Rest Adventist Church Herman Ravariere, who oversees the reconstruction of the church, points to all the framing and the walls that went up with the help of Abraham Schrock and his team who worked together with Ravariere’s construction workers at the church reently. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Plans were set to help put in the new ceiling when Schrock would arrive with three others.  Schrock packed up his tools and his family travelled to help at Peter’s Rest Adventist Church.

“The day we showed up, for some reason the engineering for the air conditioning had changed so we could not work on the ceiling,” said Schrock. They looked around and noticed there was much to be done.  “We framed the ceilings, framed under the balcony, the porch needed framing, the flooring up there, put walls up, and built sets of stairs as well,” he said.

Front of Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist Church that which is still under restoration since the burned inside the church in 2020. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

The congregation has been meeting under a large tent since the fire in 2020.

Being part of evangelistic efforts

It so happened that Schrock and his family and friends arrived days before the island-wide Impact 24 Your Journey to Joy led by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in St. Croix with combined efforts with the church’s General Conference Department, Inter-American Division, Caribbean Union, and North Caribbean Conference, which began on Mar. 30, 2024.

Small wooden structure was built by Abraham Schrock and his team behind the stage of the tent where church members have been gathering since the fire in 2020.[Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Schrock and the team also built a small structure behind the large tent where members worship every week and where the two-week evangelistic series was held.

Peter’s Rest Adventist Church’s Pastor Earl Esdaile said the small structure was used every evening by the guest evangelist and platform participants and will also be put to use as a good space in which the pastor can minister to church members during the week.

Esdaile is thankful for the commitment of Schrock and his friends.

Earl Esdaile, pastor of the Peter’s Rest Adventist Church in St. Croix, smiles as he talks about the plans to grow the church membership and community impact plans in the coming months and year. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Schrock and his family thoroughly enjoyed the evangelistic series and witnessed four baptisms on Apr. 6, 2024. “It’s a blessing to see people’s hearts convicted to let go of sin, let go of self and surrender to the Lord,” said Schrock. “It’s wonderful how the Lord works.”

Restoring the church continues

There is still a lot of work to do to finish the church, Schrock said. His plan is to return to help in whatever is needed. Whenever his new friend Elder Ravariere calls him back for more work on the church, Schrock will be ready, he said. “This was the best vacation I have ever had here working everyday for the mission of this church,” said Schrock. “He put us up in a home and we were able to be part of this reconstruction.” Schrock shared that he wants to be in missionary construction as the Lord leads.  “It’s all about supporting the work of the mission,” he said.

Abraham Schrock, wife and their young children at a visit to the beach in St. Croix recently. [Photo: Courtesy of Abraham Schrock]

The church continues its rebuilding efforts every week and into the months ahead, church leaders said. “We are hoping to finish the main parts of the sanctuary in December and possibly inaugurate the church by summer,” said Pastor Esdaile.

Thanks to the insurance funds that came, funds from the conference and the dedication of church members, the church will soon be restored, said Esdaile. “Our members have sacrificed so much, contributing with their offerings to help finish the church,” he said.

Members and visitors gather during the last day of the island-wide “Impact 24 Your Journey to Joy” evangelistic series  on Apr. 13, 2024, at Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist Church temporary location, in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Seeing the church restored and filled with the 500-to-600-seater main sanctuary space, a balcony, and the large media room in the back, as well as a conference room, and library will be a blessing to the community, said Esdaile. The only space unaffected by the fire is being used as Sabbath School classrooms and restrooms on the ground floor.

More room to grow

Born and raised in St. Croix, Esdaile said the church has plenty of room to grow. The current membership is nearly 200 and the recent evangelistic series has propelled the commitment of active members and local and foreign bible workers to keep spreading the gospel to reach deeper into their community.

Side view of Peter’S Rest Adventist Church while it is being restored. The ground floor was unaffected by te fire and it is used as children’s Sabbath school rooms as well as functional restrooms. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Pastor Esdaile is looking to retain the services of Maxo Dorlis, one of ten bible workers working with the district, who has been reaching out to the Haitian community and knocking on more than 200 homes, giving bible studies since February. Among the 14 persons who were baptized during the evangelistic series was Jerisner Saint Louis, who became the first member of the Haitian community to be baptized on the island. Saint Louis and dozens more have been studying the bible and will need to have a space in which to worship in their own language, added Esdaile. “We want to continue to minister to them and the rest of their families and friends.”

It’s about being more visible and available, said Esdaile. “Our goal is to have the church open every day, not just on Sabbath morning or Wednesdays, but have the doors open to minister to the community as a center of influence with health trainings, counseling, and more activities for the children and youth,” added Esdaile said. “As a pastor, my goal is for God to use Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist Church as a transforming agent in this community, impacting lives holistically for time and eternity.”

Pastor Esdaile, who also oversees the Christiansted Adventist Church as part of his district, said the board of Peter’s Rest church have their sights set on building another structure to function as a community center once the church is completed.

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