Dr. Elie Henry, the President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-American Division, was among top church leaders and government officials who attended a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a new community center, for the Spanish community on St. Maarten.
In delivering the feature address to community members and friends, Dr. Henry drew illustrations from the experiences of the Biblical Joshua who, after crossing the Jordan River, used rocks to build an altar to God. As that desert Sanctuary sought to present the plan of salvation in a beautiful way, so this modern altar identifies Jehovah as the one true God, above any other pagan deity. He expressed thanks to God that, “In addition to [being] a meeting place, the future church of Maranatha . . . would serve the community, and in this way could better fulfil the three strategic guidelines set by the Division: Serve, Disciple and Evangelize.” He concluded that, “Likewise, today, the Adventist Church is setting up places for the character of God to be presented in a clear way to the sinner, through works of love and faith.”
The Maranatha Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Group is an offspring of the New Bethany SDA Church on St. Maarten, which was established in 2009, and has blossomed into a congregation of more than thirty. Both congregations serve the large Spanish community on St. Maarten. Pastor Marcos Salas, who leads the two congregations, is delighted that the Lord has brought the vision of the church to reality. In August of 2017, the members celebrated upon receiving the building permit from the appropriate government agency. Pastor Salas commented, “My blessing is to see the hand of God as we decided to move forward. He opened new paths that we did not see, in a village where the circumstances were hard.”
The brethren recounted the long path to where they are now – ready to construct a community center to meet the needs of the community. They moved three times while worshipping in rented quarters. They were constantly on guard against the inclement weather, while they worshipped under a tent. With the support and guidance of the North Caribbean Conference, the Seventh-day Adventist Foundation of St. Maarten, and with the help of members of the Seventh-day Adventist Churches, God has allowed them to build a community center to serve as a meeting place for the future church.
Remarks from the Honourable Sarah Wescott Williams, President of Parliament, highlighted the need for believers to celebrate a worship atmosphere that affords them the privilege to expand. She said, “For more than 27 years, I have had the opportunity to remind churches and communities of the freedom we enjoy to worship and share a religion. Never take that for granted. Remember how you started; be grateful for where you are today. I encourage you to be as strong as when you started the dream for the church.”
The Minister of Justice, Dr. Weaver, shared congratulatory remarks and urged the believers not to lose their vision, “Today there are more churches but the delinquency continues. This church must not be a building for you. Your objective must be to spread the Word. Don’t remain inside and talk about the outside. The community must benefit from your presence. Go out and reach the community and bring them in so we can pray and grow together.”
The North Caribbean Conference President, Pastor Desmond James, encouraged the members to be a lighthouse and to embrace every opportunity to serve God and grow. He said, “Though few I know you are closely knit together and we expect great things from you.” The North Caribbean Conference contributed $40,000 toward the construction of the center. Although Hurricanes Irma and Maria shook the foundations, the members fought difficult challenges together. We thank God that despite the devastation, the Maranatha SDA Group continues to play its part in fulfilling the Mission of the Lord.