By Ruben Amador and Warren E. Berkley
Preaching in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean in the middle of July doesn’t sound like bad work, if you can get it. But Ruben Amador and Warren Berkley took the assignment, and didn’t get a tan, party on a yacht, or rent scuba equipment. We certainly admired the beauty of the island, but our main task was to preach and teach.
The churches at West Bay and Georgetown are under the influence of institutional, sponsoring churches, but the local brethren invited us to visit and speak. In a week-end meeting, a series was presented under the theme Fellow-ship with God: Where to Start. The primary point of the sermons was, whatever we undertake (as individuals or local churches) we must always begin with what the Word of God says and resolve to stay within the boundaries of divine instruction. This was presented at both West Bay and Georgetown the week-end of July 12 & 13.
The members of the church, for the most part, had no strenuous objection to the teaching, and even when applications were made to the work of the local church, there was agreement. Some were indifferent to our efforts, others acknowledged that we aroused their interests, and some of the brethren in the church were especially interested. On Monday night we studied privately with the local preacher, and when he brought up some of the typical objections to our use of Philippians 4:15, we answered by emphasizing that only one church “shared” with Paul “concerning giving and receiving,” thus ruling out the Philippian church as a sponsoring church. As the discussion continued, the brother brought up numerous questions and we concluded there is a genuine desire on his part to study further. Correspondence will be initiated with this man, and future trips may occur to stay in touch with those who want to study further.
Those who may be contemplating work in the Caribbean might be interested in some of the observations we made in our trip. While some of these points may only apply to the Caymans, it is likely some of these things will apply in other parts of the Caribbean too.
1. There is a slow-paced, “laid back” lifestyle there. Many of the natives seem to have the “don’t worry, be happy” approach to life. While we do not encourage worry, there are some things people need to be urgent and serious about, especially as concerns God and eternity. When you preach in the Caribbean, you may encounter an attitude that seems to be irritated with your urgency and fervor. In the British West Indies (Cayman Islands), we found some Christians so relaxed they were indifferent about our insistent appeals to make all things according to the pattern.
2. If you have opportunities in churches under institutional control, be prepared to find a very dependent congregation. The sponsoring church arrangement is not only an unscriptural human innovation, it is a system encumbered with all sorts of other negatives. Churches in the States may send young people to these resort places to conduct campaigns and camps (and swim, play soccer, scuba dive, etc.). After years of accepting this, the native members soon expect it, depend upon it and refrain from any personal evangelism themselves. You may also find congregations in the Caribbean unable to breathe, being under the tight thumb of their sponsoring church. (We know of a case where the sponsoring church in America holds the title papers for a church building!) Consequently, there is little appreciation of autonomy. All the information we have is, this is the rule and not the exception.
3. On Grand Cayman (and this may not apply on other islands), congregations are multi-racial. In the churches we visited, for example, there were native Caymanians, British, Jamaicans, Americans and Hispanics. In some cases there are tensions and symptoms of prejudice you may observe. This is one of those cases where the tensions and problems in society have impact in churches.
4. When dealing with opportunities within institutional controlled churches, some of your best work may occur with individual private conversations and Bible studies. We preached the truth publicly as clearly as we could, and made some very plain statements about following New Testament instruction. But we are persuaded the most good we did was in private conversations and studies. We would suggest, if you have these kind of opportunities start with the local preacher. Then, invite him to go with you into homes when you have a family with interest in further study.
There may be some real opportunities in instititutional churches in foreign fields. We cannot, of course, generalize from this trip to Grand Cayman. But it is likely that what we found in Cayman is typical of other Caribbean congregations, and maybe in other places too. If you know a member of one of these churches, and they can get a invitation for you to speak, or some capable preacher you know, follow through and work that opportunity fully.
(For further information about our trip to Grand Cayman, call Ruben Amador, 713/956-0879 or Warren Berkley, 210/687-6176. A good man located in the Caribbean is Tol Burke, 809/773-7163.)
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 18, p. 12
September 16, 1993