Eleazar (on the right) as he signs the new covenant
A warm handshake and smiles all around afte the covenant is signed
On August 22 – 26, 2012, the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship held its Mid-Term Assembly at St. John’s on the island of Antigua. Despite tropical storm Isaac, it was very well attended by delegates from almost all the Caribbean islands. In this Assembly, American Baptist International Ministries (IM) and the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship (CBF) signed a covenant of partnership paving a way for our churches here in USA to partner with sister churches in the Caribbean. It is our hope and prayer that through this covenant, we will be closer than ever before to our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean and serve with them as the hands and arms of Jesus Christ. To God be the glory!
Dr. Russell Horace, Rev. Perkin Simpson, and I traveled to Antigua on August 22nd where we were greeted by the Rev. Charles and his wife Lynette Charles who were tasked to coordinate the transportation of the delegates. We drove to the conference site at the Grand Royal Antigua Beach Resort. On Wednesday morning we spent time in executive business meetings of CBF waiting for the evening for the official opening of the Mid-Term Assembly. That day unfortunately, the airport was closed in the afternoon due to tropical storm Isaac. This was a very important gathering. They had invited the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda to bring greetings to the delegates.
As the storm raged, CBF contacted the Office of the Prime Minister (like Canada, Australia, Jamaica, etc. the Queen of England is the head of State) to confirm if in fact he will be able to attend. He responded that he would come. At 7:30pm the time for our opening worship, the Prime Minister, the Honorable Winston Baldwin Spence arrived on time. During his address, he jokingly said that: “When the Lord is in the vessel, you can smile at the storm!” He said this sharing how he was delighted to be invited to this great gathering of people from the Caribbean.
In his address making reference to the biblical quote that “Man shall not live by bread alone,” Spencer declared “That while there should be the dominance of spirituality and developing relationships with Almighty God,” and he said the biblical reference “suggests to me that man does live by bread.” He said the church has a secondary role to ensure “mankind lives in the best possible situation as they prepare for the second coming of Christ. This is an extension of what Christ expects the church to do.” He warmly welcomed people of faith to join his people in spreading the Gospel and assisting the needy.
The following days: Thursday and Friday were dominated by Bible studies, workshops, business sessions and worship. We heard reports from Women’s ministries, Youth ministries, and Men’s ministries. These groups ask our churches here in US to join them in their efforts to evangelize their peoples and in serving their people especially the “least of these”. I was personally fascinated by the way women serve both congregations and the communities and how men respond to the disasters as all of them have constant encounters with tropical storms, hurricanes, and two years ago, Haiti was the victim of an earthquake. I had a special moment of discussion with both Mrs. Yvonne J. Pitter of Jamaica, President of the Caribbean Baptist Women’s Union and Rev. David Serrant of Dominica, President of the Caribbean Baptist Men. They both expressed the need to work with men and women in our churches here in the USA to mutually learn from and support each other.
The signing of the Covenant
August 25th 2012 will forever be
remembered as a day when American Baptist International Ministries entered into
a covenant of partnership with the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, a region of
the Baptist World Alliance. IM has a history and heritage in serving our Lord
Jesus Christ with people in Caribbean, including Bahamas, Haiti, and Dominican
Republic. IM missionaries have served alongside their brothers and sisters in
those countries for decades. What was new on August 25th, 2012 was
the covenant with all the CBF member bodies that are in the following countries
of the Caribbean:
English speaking: Antigua, Barbados (2 groups), Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands,
Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Trinidad (3 groups), St Lucia, St Vincent, Turks & Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands.
French & Creole speaking: Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St Martin (French)
Spanish speaking: Cuba (2 groups), Dominican Republic
Our just signed Covenant will include 22 nations with 25 individual conventions/unions including the Antigua Baptist Association, a small group of only four churches and 250 baptized members in the island of 90,000 inhabitants. It is worth noting that the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship has both big and small member bodies. One thing they have in common in my opinion, is the zeal to see that the Gospel is preached to all their communities. I have had a chance to build connection with the French Baptists in the island of Guadeloupe and while they appear to be a minority in CBF they are so excited with their contribution to the life and heritage they bring to the family.
Closing the Assembly
It was planned that our delegates visit the local churches. I got to preach at Faith Missionary Baptist Church in St. John’s. I had with me some other people who were participating in the Assembly. At 4:00pm, we all assembled in an open air where people of the community were invited. It was a wonderful experience.
This Assembly was truly a success! In spite of the tropical storm Isaac that delayed many delegates, especially those who were to fly via Miami, still the wonderful experience in worship and networking could not be overshadowed by the storm. The Covenant that IM has signed with CBF is crucial as we embark on this special mission to the Caribbean. We have now before us this Macedonian call and I pray that we will respond. Short and Long Term missionaries are needed, especially in the area of education and training in related areas of mission development, including evangelism, church growth, social work, and Christian unity.
Director, African American MissionAmerican Baptist International Ministries (IM)