The message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is making strides in the lives of young people on the little island of Saba, home to one church and 21 members. For over 40 years the church has been seeking to make inroads into the community and thrive in an exclusively Catholic environment. “Its not been easy,” said the First Elder. “God has been good to us and we are confident that He will give us the success we desire.”
One of the successes celebrated is that of 24 year-old Sheritsa Oleana who joined the fellowship of the church and continues to inspire hope in the future of the church. Sheritsa disclosed her story to NCC News:
“My name is Sheritsa Oleana. I am 24 years old. I grew up Catholic; always taught to go to church on Sundays and sit in the pew, and follow the usual service that always left me empty inside. I eventually decided to distance myself from the church altogether. Prayer was not something I practiced daily anymore. It became another foreign word to me. When I did pray, it was usually an empty prayer – spoken to Mary (the woman who mothered Jesus here on Earth); that was how I was taught to pray of course.
I grew up in a very abusive family as well. My mom was quiet and loving. But my dad abused us for years. We found ourselves in many near death situations during the years of my youth, and my empty prayers didn’t help much. My mom was always a praying lady though she herself endured hardship all her life. She was our rock; the one who set the best example a mother could. She turned to the Lord for everything in life. Even the worst of situations could not turn her against God. It upset me sometimes. Because I never could understand how she could praise God, though he had not removed us from the life threatening behaviors of my father.
As I left for college, I began to party. I partied hard, drank a lot, but I managed to still focus on my studies. Eventually though, the partying, boyfriends and alcohol got the best of me. I switched schools and did very well, but once again everything came tumbling down like an avalanche. The unexpected happened; I left college without finishing.”
The pain of not completing school angered Sheritsa and her loved ones. But deep inside she needed to find that missing link to success. She prayed and prayed and believed that though small, she must trust in the unknown. Her story continues:
“On June 30, 2013, I left the Netherlands where I was studying and headed bome back to Saba. With God’s leading, I started to work on July 1, 2013, the very next day. I have been working in that exact same company and worked my way up within the company for the past 5 years.
[In] September of 2013, I met Mervin Alexander. I had no idea he studied to be a pastor at first. We became friends, and our friendship grew. We became like brother and sister, and so we have remained throughout the years. He asked me multiple times to come to church, yet I never hesitated to argue why I would not go to his church or any other church. It was at that time I found out that he studied to be a pastor. He was a faithful Christian.
In November 2016, [the grandmother of] my close friend at the time asked me if there was a Seventh-day Adventist Church on the island, because she really wanted to go. I had not been to church in years. However, I felt very compelled to take her to church. As we went along together to church, I found myself seated before the man who was just about my best friend. I listened carefully to his flow of words, and the articulation of them, and the relevance and correlation to the Bible, and I was left speechless.
I just had to return. And so I did. I returned, every Sabbath, expect for the short time I was away on vacation. I grew more and more in love with the teachings of the Bible and the Bible verses that corresponded with each teaching. I participated a time or two, but eventually I wanted to become more involved within this little church community.
[In] February of 2017, I made the decision along with my mom to undergo baptism. The road of a faithful Christian has not been easy, but it is a road I would chose to walk over and over again, rather than to continue on the hopeless path I was on.
My journey has just begun, and I am beginning to understand how deceitful the Devil truly is. I have messed up along the way quite a bit, since my baptism, but I will never give up. I know God has great plans for me. I have already begun conducting Sabbath School’s lesson study. I really want to help people in other parts of the world to discover the wonderful truth of Salvation. God knows I am not ready yet. He is still working on me. However, as unprepared as I may be, whenever he calls me to go, I will follow his lead.”
Today Sheritsa leads out in the small group of believers, teaching the Sabbath School and [is] useful in the service of God. [The] First Elder of the church is proud of her accomplishment and growth in the Lord.
They are all confident that God will do something to grow the congregation on the little island of Saba. They are working for more people like her to help them find Jesus. The church is engaged in Bible studies and open air programs to tell of the Love of Jesus. The recent visit of the President of the Conference, Pastor Desmond James has inspired hope in their efforts. Pastor Virgil Sams serves as their pastor and resides on St. Eustatius with his family.