Ashes to ashes: How St. Vincent church buildings in line with R …… | preserve hope information protection
Christians on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent set out for the first time since the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano more than a week ago through ash-covered streets and poor air conditions to go to church on Sunday.
Over the past week, ministerial heads have worked together to organize resources and supply those displaced by the disaster. Around 20,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in the northern areas closest to the explosions, which could last for weeks.
Many churches remain closed, and several church buildings in the area near the volcano – including a Baptist and Pentecostal shrine – were destroyed when their roofs collapsed under the weight of a foot or two of fallen ash. But in the “green zones” in the south, the church leaders were able to spend a few hours in service together.
Pastor Kelron Harry gathered with the Arnos Vale Church of the Nazarene, a ward of 190 people. Harry, the district chief of the Nazarenes, has spent every day since the outbreak alerting other denominational and ministerial leaders and helping with relief efforts.
They inform each other about the safety of their members, receive donations in the ports and coordinate the supply and care not only of the 3,000 people in emergency shelters, but also of the majority of the evacuees who live with friends and family. The churches also prepare and serve meals for the displaced.
Image: National Organization for Emergency Management St. Vincent and the Grenadines
This is the first volcanic eruption on St. Vincent in 42 years. Not knowing when the outbreak will be over, people are scared and worried. The island has already had problems with so many people working in restaurants and hotels that have been shut down frequently due to the coronavirus.
"We're trying to do what is necessary and bring hope," said Harry. "We want to do this by sharing the gospel, but we also hope that if we give them a hand of compassion, they will see it in us."
Local church leaders have partnered with local businesses and ministries on nearby islands, such as Is There Not A Cause (ITNAC), a Christian aid organization based in Trinidad and Tobago, to provide the palates with water along with supplies such as toiletries, batteries, lamps , and masks.
Despite the difficulty of seeing their home in crisis due to the volcano, pastors say they see God's grace for them through the body of Christ emerging to help.
“I see the goodness of people coming out. A lot of people who are looking, who are looking for hope will see it too,” Harry said. “Despite the volcano, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, God is still at work. "
One of the partners of the Ministry of Providence was OM Ships, which does Christian outreach through port visits. The ship Logos Hope spent three months in the capital and main port of St. Vincent, Kingstown, earlier this year. It was close enough to come back with help after the outbreak.
Last week the ship pumped 40,000 gallons of desalinated water for citizens whose supplies were contaminated with ash, and a fire truck made two runs to supply water to a local prison.
"We absolutely saw God's timing in our planned visit coming at a time when people were urgently needed," said Julie Knox, spokeswoman for OM Ships.
Image: Courtesy of OM Ships
The people of Logos Hope had the opportunity to meet and pray with the people of St. Vincent as they distributed hundreds of items of clothing, hygiene kits, gospel brochures, children's games and coloring books, as well as frozen foods and freshly baked bread. A small team of crew stayed behind to provide further assistance while the ship continued to Curaçao for maintenance.
"The ability to help people in need in this way has been a huge boost for the ship's volunteers, whose range has usually been restricted by the pandemic," Knox said. The ship will be back in Kingstown for an extended stay next month.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, about three-quarters of the population are Protestant, and the disaster will have long-term effects on the churches there. While congregations in danger zones were ready to go online after the virtual worship service during the pandemic, most do not have digital giving facilities.
Since many church buildings have been volunteered over the years, it won't be easy to replace those that were destroyed in a matter of days, Harry said.
The recent volcanic activity marks a fortune change for St. Vincent, which has historically been spared the hurricane disasters that struck other islands in the Caribbean. The country's indigenous name, Hairouna, describes it as the "Land of the Blessed". Harry worries that Christians have become complacent and need to call out to God.
“The whole nation is covered with ashes. When I look in the Bible, ashes speak for human mortality, and ashes also represent repentance, ”said Harry, who was preaching on these issues in his church on Sunday. The Lord says to us: pull your sack. Call me and I will save you. "We all have to take responsibility and repent together."
He also reminded his church and other Nazarene that their present circumstances do not change the reality of God's love and care for them.
"I understand that we live in a broken world and that nature is also affected," he said. “We will see volcanoes; We will see hurricanes. I also believe that God is a God who restores. "
Baptist Press reported on church efforts led by Pastor Cecil Richards at Kingstown Baptist Church, about 10 miles south of the volcano.
Richards was a child when the 1979 outbreak happened, the exact same week as this one. But many on the island do not remember such a disaster.
"We've faced a crisis before, but we got through," Richards told believers last Sunday during a virtual service. "And at this time when the confluence goes hand in hand with so many different things at the same time, especially with the coronavirus, the COVID consequences and the volcano, this is an accentuated crisis for us."