Florida Baptists take hope to U.S. Virgin Islands

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As the U.S. Virgin Islands bounce back from the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, Florida Baptist churches are working with local churches on the islands to share the hope of the Gospel.

Almost a year ago, in September 2017, the Virgin Islands were hit by two category 5 hurricanes less than two weeks apart from each other and each leaving behind destroyed homes and broken spirits. This summer Florida Baptist churches traveled to the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John with the task of bringing hope through vacation bible schools, worship workshops and evangelism training.

In a two and a half week period three teams have come to each of the islands for missions, reported Jeffery Singletary, Central Florida catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention.

New Philadelphia Worship Center in St. Petersburg, Hillside Community in Brooksville and Idlewild Baptist in Lutz sent their missionaries to share the hope of the Gospel with the families of the Virgin Islands.

“In St. Croix mission teams are working with a Boys and Girls club during the day and in the evening they are serving at revival services,” he said.

The Feeding of the 5000–as the revival-style worship services are called–has been taking place since Thanksgiving 2017 as a way of providing for physical and spiritual needs by serving hot meals and preaching the Gospel. During their time in St. Croix, Hillside Community put on puppet shows during the day for the boys and girls living in a housing project and in the evenings they preached revival-style worship services.

“Doors were open and people were welcoming and we had many opportunities to share the Gospel,” said Hillside’s pastor Joe Santerelli.

In St. Thomas, the missionaries worked in two locations. First, at Grace Baptist where they led VBS for the children and then in St. Paul Baptist where they led evangelism training and worship workshop for the adults. Meanwhile in St. John, Cruz Bay Baptist hosted VBS for community and church children.

The evangelism training, taught by Idlewild’s Ken Jordan, drew between 40 and 50 folks, according to Singletary. Not only did those who attend listen about practical ways of sharing the Gospel, they also went out into the community and put to practice what they learned.

The Worship Leadership Workshop, led by New Philadelphia, drew close to 80 people and focused on worship fundamentals and worship service design.

Salvation reports from St. Croix put decisions for Christ at more than 10 and St. Thomas reported at least 50.

“Over 80 decisions [have been made] for Christ,” through VBS and revival services, reported Singletary.

Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention called it a “[p]owerful move of God,” in a text message conversation reporting the good news coming out the islands.

By Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Convention, July 25, 2018

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