To mark the first anniversary of people’s perseverance in the wake of Hurricane Irma, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) hosted a national commemorative service. United as hurricane survivors, the mixed audience of resilient residents, high-profile politicians, prominent business executives and sage spiritual leaders reflected on the nation’s rebuilding efforts.
remier,Dr. D. Orlando Smith, and the Governor, Mr. Augustus Jaspert greet each other at the service. Photo by BVI Government service.
Expressions of thankfulness were delivered by the Premier, Dr. D. Orlando Smith, and the Governor, Mr. Augustus Jaspert. Governor Jaspert urged leaders and residents not to become complacent in the restoration efforts. Several speakers celebrated the progress the territory has had over the last year and representatives from the communities of faith highlighted the mercy and goodness of God in the lives of residents.
The Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church was among the denominations invited to bring remarks of hope and Pastor Howard Simon invited attendees to take a personal inventory, “That’s why we are here. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on where God brought us from and contemplate on what is to come. We cannot live in the past but in the hope of the Coming of Christ.” As he built his address around Biblical lepers in Luke 17: 11 – 19, Pastor Simon elaborated, “Irma made the BVI ugly and leprous. Our hillsides looked as if they were burnt with fire and our beaches, buildings and homes were broken, battered or blown away. Though Irma was such a terrible storm and many would declare that it was worse than leprosy, there is something [beyond] both leprosy and Irma.” Finally, Pastor Simon lifted their attention from the landscape of hurt and pain, “Hurricane Irma stole everything from us but a day is coming when Jesus returns for His children, when there will be no more hurricanes, no more sickness and no more sin, because the former things would have been passed away.”
Premier, Dr. D. Orlando Smith delivered expressions of thankfulness. Photo by BVI Government service.
The Category 5 hurricane struck the British Virgin Islands during the daylight hours of Wednesday, September 6, 2017. It caused widespread destruction and killed four people. The hurricane caused extensive damage to property and infrastructure in the territory, and caused statistically significant levels of depopulation. The Road Town SDA Church was totally destroyed. Additionally, storm surges washed through the Carrot Bay SDA Church leaving it unfit for worship. One attendee, Mr. Nigel Henry, commented on the devastation, “It was hellish as scores of church members lost everything.”
BVI Governor, Mr. Augustus Jaspert addressing the gathering. Photo by BVI Government Service.
Pastor Simon reminded attendees that the SDA Church in the BVI, through the Community Services Department, and international SDA entities, such as the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA), were among the first responders in the aftermath of the hurricane. The Church provided immediate relief in the form of hot meals and gifts of food and personal items. ADRA offered extended support to the educational system of the British Virgin Islands.
The SDA Church has eight congregations in the British Virgin Islands (on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and Anegada). They are supervised by the North Caribbean Conference of Seventh-day Adventists which also operates the British Virgin Islands SDA School, an accredited institution with a primary and a secondary division.