Voluntary agency liaison officer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Richard Bradley in his address to the Central Seventh-day Adventist Church minced no words in speaking of the marvelous work the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is doing in the territory of the Virgin Islands.
“Your name is good with the Government of the Virgin Islands,” Richard said in an emotional speech to the congregation. “We (FEMA) are in the business of helping people regain themselves after a disaster. More than 7,000 people are pushing hard to move food, medical aid, and clothing to help the people of the Virgin Islands. We want you to be patient and pray for us as we do our best in helping those who are most needy.”
Richard is a member of the Windermere Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Florida Conference. He is now stationed on the island of St. Croix, working with FEMA. He plays a key role in helping to coordinate relief into the territory of the US Virgin Islands and to make sure that it ends up in the right place.
“As Seventh-day Adventists, you have an opportunity to form partnerships with us through ADRA to promote the good name of the church in helping people and at the same time to get the relief in the right place.”
Hurricane Maria, a category five hurricane devastated the U.S Virgin Islands leaving people dislocated and devastated. Many of the residents are still living in shelters or with friends and family. The church has taken time to reach out to the community by opening three centers of influence at the Peter’s Rest, Sunny Acres and Central Churches. Local coordinator of the program, Dr. Vincent A. David, estimates that for the last two weeks over 7000 meals were given out.
“The opportunity to reach out to the community is what the church is about,” exclaimed President of the Conference, Pastor Desmond James. “This is the time to give the gospel hands and feet.” In an effort to support the initiative, the president has allowed directors and staff to cease office activities and go out to help people.
As the week progressed, more and more people hear of the centers and welcome the opportunity to eat a healthy, hot meal. “You are doing a great work,” said Lori Ross of FEMA. “The word is getting around and we are happy that you are sharing in this awesome ministry.”
“I welcome this opportunity,” indicated Dr. Henry Peters, Community Services Director of the Conference. Dr. Peters shares responsibility with Education Director of the Conference, Ms. Gerene Joseph, of purchasing items for the centers of influence. “Each year we go to the community to ask them to participate in our opportunity to help people; this is our time to let them know what we do with the resources we collect.”
Volunteers arrive at the sites at 6:30 in the morning to share in the joy of ministry. “The atmosphere is engaging and encouraging,” said Pastor Hesketh Matthew, Stewardship Director of the Conference. By noon, scores of people converge at the centers to share in the midday meal. Many of them get the opportunity to share in moments of prayer and to receive counseling. “The people are in need of Jesus and many of them are still traumatized. I take time to pray with them and to remind them that Jesus cares,” said Elder Randall Charles.
“That’s the kind of ministry we should be offering,” said ADRA coordinator Wilmoth James, and that is the kind of relief the stricken islands need.