The Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church in the North Caribbean Conference (NCC) is now coming to grips with the reality that the entire Conference has been affected by hurricanes. From September 6-7, 2017, Hurricane Irma swept through nine of the ten islands of the Conference leaving a trail of destruction, and one island, St. Croix, unaffected. It was from St. Croix that church leaders began a massive response to the affected islands of the Conference supplying emergency relief to members and communities.
Then from September 19-20, 2017, Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane, brought winds of more than 175 miles per hour that devastated St. Croix in the American territory of the Virgin Islands. It disabled communication, damaged six of the eight churches, and left the secondary division of the Seventh-day Adventist school without its roof.
“We have never had it like this before,” said the President of the North Caribbean Conference, Pastor Desmond James, at a meeting held with staff at the St. Croix office in mid-October, “The entire Conference is dislodged and the membership is hurting from the onslaught of the hurricanes. Slowly we are beginning to redouble our efforts and facilitate a program with the help of our membership and higher institutions to get back up again and carry the mission that the Lord has commissioned us.”
The President of the SDA Church in the Caribbean Union Conference, Kern Tobias, communicated his care: “The Caribbean Union Conference will not let the North Caribbean Conference down at this time in their experience. We know the devastation is great but the sister fields in the Caribbean Union will unite their efforts and before long the North Caribbean Conference will begin to see and experience the support of their brothers and sisters around the Caribbean Union. The Inter-American Division (IAD) has already put together a special committee to help coordinate relief to the various islands.”
Since information on the extent of the damages varied, the administration undertook the bold move to visit all the islands of the Conference to express support and assess the damages. The administration was joined by Pastor Alexander Isaacs, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Director of the Caribbean Union. Before leaving, President James said, “We plan to meet with our members. We know that many of them are in need of our support. We are uncertain how it will work out but we are going God.”
Evidently, the task before them was great but with a commitment to God and His people, God worked it out. James reported, “It was difficult at times. The boat stuck in the ocean with us and we had to be rescued. We almost got locked up but it was worth it. The members expressed how much they appreciated the visit. The devastation is humongous.”
After visiting all the islands, the administration reported that St. Eustatius is the least affected while Tortola is the worst affected, “There is no more church left of the Road Town Church.” The President also said, “The damage is great but the people are resilient. The services were filled with amazing stories that can change the lives of those who hear them. They are worth being catalogued so that generations yet unborn will be able to see what God brought them through. It’s a rough one but the road to recovery, though long, must begin now.” The president applauded the efforts of ADRA and Pastor Alexander Isaacs, “Through the we have begun initiatives in all the islands.”
Pastor Isaacs shared, “We intervened in three islands of the NCC (St. Maarten, Anguilla and Tortola). On St. Maarten, ADRA is investing $175,000.00 into hot meals for the community that would continue for the rest of the year. On Anguilla, ADRA distributed 500 hampers to the community.” Pastor Isaacs expressed that ADRA leveraged the greatest response in Tortola: “We 500 hampers on the island initially. The hampers were enough to feed a family of five for three weeks. Together with other social partners like UNICEF, ADRA is investing a further $285,000.00 into the island of Tortola. That is apart from the $35,000.00 that was initially spent.”
ADRA Coordinator of the North Caribbean Conference, Wilmoth James, is determined to bring relief to the members and community. “People are hurting and we have to help them,” he said.
“We are a resilient people. We have the greatest opportunity as long as we unite our efforts with God and team our way to His success. We believe in our family of the World Church and the IAD. This gives us to move forward in spite of the ravages,” said Pastor Desmond James.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the North Caribbean Conference has more than 15,000 members worshipping in 34 congregations around the 10-island Conference. The church operates seven schools on five islands of the conference.
If you would like to donate to the hurricane relief efforts in the North Caribbean Conference, you can send information to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org