Tent where members of Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist Church has been meeting every week since their church building was damaged by a fire in 2020 in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. [Photo: Caribbean Union Conference]

In 2020, Peter’s Rest church members lost their building to a fire. They continue to reach out.

April 9, 2024 | Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands | Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review

May 5, 2020, was a discouraging day for members and leaders of the Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist Church in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

That fateful day, amid lockdowns and other complications brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Adventist members and neighbors watched helplessly as their state-of-the-art church building was consumed by fire. The building, located at a strategic site in the Peter’s Rest neighborhood, was considered a landmark by many on the island.

Hundreds of attendees, including church leaders, members, and guests, attended the opening service of the Impact 24 series under the tent at the Peter’s Rest Adventist church in St. Croix on March 30. [Photo: Caribbean Union Conference]

On that May 5, several units from the Virgin Islands Fire Service responded and worked tirelessly to contain the fire, which spread rapidly through the structure. Footage from inside the gutted building revealed that the fire had destroyed the entire upper level of the church, including pews, platform furniture, and communication equipment that had been recently acquired to offer virtual ministry. Sections of the massive roof collapsed, taking with it the solar panels the church had recently installed.

“I was broken when I saw the church,” then local church pastor Earl Daniel had said even as he celebrated that no lives had been lost in the fire.

In 2020, the Peter’s Rest Adventist church building in St. Croix was heavily damaged by a fire. The church is being rebuilt “stronger and better,” regional leaders said. [Photo: Caribbean Union Conference]

The building, constructed in 1985, housed the main sanctuary, a media room, a mother’s room, a fellowship hall used for children’s Sabbath School classes, a kitchen, and an office. On that challenging occasion, Daniel had urged many of the members to continue to have faith in the God of hope.

“Ask Him to take care of all of us, and we will see Peter’s Rest church restored to a more magnificent edifice. Keep that in mind, and let us do all we can to rise to the occasion, and let us work together for a finished work,” he said in 2020.

Retired North Caribbean Conference president Silton N. Browne welcomes members and guests to the evangelistic meeting at Peter’s Rest Adventist church on April 1. [Photo: Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review]

Re-adapting and Moving On

Almost four years after the disaster, the Peter’s Rest congregation continues working to make the dream of having “a more magnificent edifice” come true. While the children’s divisions can meet in the fellowship hall on the lower floor, the rest of the three-story building is still under construction and cannot be accessed or used. Meanwhile, in the years since the fire, church members have been meeting in a tent next to the massive church building.

“We have been working to build a better church building than before,” North Caribbean Conference president Desmond James said. “According to our plans, we should be dedicating the new facilities, God willing, sometime in 2025.”

A woman reacts to a moment of praise and prayer at Peter’s Rest Adventist church in St. Croix, April 1. [Photo: Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review]

A Venue for Impact 24

When a group from the General Conference Treasury joined forces with the Inter-American Division, the Caribbean Union Conference, and North Caribbean Conference and other partners to roll out an evangelistic series on the island in 2024, Peter’s Rest was selected as one of the four venues for the initiative in St. Croix. The Impact 24 meetings, taking place March 30 through April 13 under the theme “Your Journey to Joy,” have inspired local churches for mission and include sessions of prayer, a free health clinic sponsored by Loma Linda University Health, and a community outreach project.

Despite having a church “without walls,” Peter’s Rest church members and leaders planned every activity carefully. And April 1 was no exception as a well-trained group of ushers, deacons, and assistants welcomed members and guests for another night of meetings, led by Ramone Griffith, youth and young adult ministries director of the Allegheny East Conference in the U.S., the guest speaker for the series.

The praise team leads the congregational singing under the tent at Peter’s Rest, St. Croix, on April 1. [Photo: Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review]

Prayer and Connection amid Chaos

On April 1, in a smaller tent near the main tent, a small group of church members spent time in prayer during the entire evangelistic meeting. Those “prayer warriors” are there every evening, asking God to bless the efforts despite their logistical challenges.

Under the main tent, the April 1 meeting focused on family connections and relationships. Griffith emphasized how “Your Journey to Health” meetings will focus consecutively on praying for God’s healing of relationships, praying for physical healing, praying for financial prosperity, and praying for spiritual blessings. “No matter what you may be experiencing right now, let me remind you that God is faithful,” he said.

Ramone Griffith, youth and young adult director of the Allegheny East Conference in the U.S., is the guest speaker for the evangelism series at the Peter’s Rest Adventist church in St. Croix. [Photo: Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review]

Griffith acknowledged that sometimes, our lives face ongoing challenges. “But even amid chaos, we can say, ‘I choose joy, I choose peace, I choose God,’ ” he said.

He also advised listeners not to give other people too much power over them. “Some people are like clouds — as soon as they are gone it’s a beautiful day,” Griffith quipped. “So just live your life and make the choice to be in control and praise the Lord.… Because it’s more productive to praise God than to complain and murmur.… So, pick your head up and straighten up your back and walk tall, because God is not through with you yet.”

Royston Philbert contributed to this story.

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