Preaching in the Virgin Islands

By Tol Burk

The 20th of September marks one year that we have been here and so much has happened that it seems like it must be several years, not just one. It was the 23rd of last September that 12 of us met in Alford Benjamin’s living room for worship services. Then we met in the Methodist building for the months of October and November, with the Sunny Isles church from December through March, in our living room three weeks in April, then to the Boy Scout building, where we continue to meet. During that time we have lost one family, had one man to place membership and two to be restored, of which one is very weak again. Our attendance now is running 20-25 on Sunday morning, 15-20 on Sunday night, 8-10 on Monday night for prayer and singing, and 15 on Thursday night. Our contribution now is averaging $175 a week. During September the number of Bible classes we have had each week has picked up somewhat – five a week, with 10-12 people. Of those we have studied with this year we continue to study with most of them, several have stopped studying because they are “too busy” and several have stopped because they are or were off island. I have had to make adjustments to the way I teach in home Bible classes because of “culture” as well as the fact that most people here know very little of the Bible, coupled with the fact that even when they read the Bible they don’t always understand what they read. I find myself explaining almost every Scripture and doing much more “lecturing” rather than asking questions. We are still finding there are many people who will at least begin a Bible study, which leaves us with many open doors. Please continue to pray for us as we work together.

In looking at the congregation here I believe we have all matured and are growing closer together. The turmoil and uncertainty surrounding our merging with the Sunny Isles church had a greater effect on some of us than it did on others and thus it has taken some longer to “recover” from it than others. I believe we are all “recovered” now. Our Thursday night Bible study for the last two weeks has borne this out. Last week we had a visitor who wanted to discuss the “Jesus only” doctrine, so it was decided we would discuss that. Well, our visitor wasn’t listening too much, but we all listened to him and were challenged to examine our ideas. Even the young people were involved and posing “arguments.” We were definitely all together in our “opposition” to his doctrine. This past Thursday we studied church cooperation and had a very profitable study in which all participated. And let me say just here that the brethren are not anxious about time when it comes to worship or Bible study. The only time we limit ourselves to an hour is Sunday morning Bible study. Our worship will usually last an hour and a half three prayers, a Scripture reading, Lord’s supper which usually occupies 40 minutes, then the lesson of 35-45 minutes, and a closing. They may not come just on time, but they are not in a great hurry to leave either. We start our Bible study at 7:30 and I try to start winding up at 8:20 or so, but we seldom close before 8:45 or 9 p.m. But who would complain when brethren want to study God’s word? We have laughed about what people here call “Cruzan time.” Cruzan time is like Mexico time for those of you who are familiar with it – the worship service is set for 9 a.m., but no one arrives until 9:05 with most arriving anywhere from 10-30 minutes late. This has been a problem in the church, but the last several months have seen a number of the brethren making real effort to improve. We are making progress, both in personal development and in taking part in the worship service. We began in June to have different men make a talk on Wednesday night and all the men have taken part and done well, including one or two who had never done so before. All of the men lead singing and that has improved by leaps and bounds. Is this congregation perfect? By no means, so we continue on toward perfection, forgetting those things that are behind. There is, however, a general desire to improve here that is missing in some congregations.

As for the members of the Sunny Isle church we are still studying with one of them, her husband (a non-Christian) as well as the husband of another member. Most of them are still cordial when you meet them, but they don’t really see why we left. There are even several who agree that it is wrong to eat in the building, use the building for other “good causes,” or support institutions but either don’t have enough conviction to stand up or don’t see it as important.. Unfortunately not a few of them are converted to the “church of Christ” (particularly, the Sunny Isles church), not Christ. Tradition and numbers mean more than truth. We continue to pray for them and are still seeking opportunities to study with them, but there are few takers at this time.

Well, brethren the first year is behInd us and I trust that in this next year we will begin to see the fruits of our labors. I am 36 years old today. It was one year ago that we essentially began all over as concerns physical goods. In that year we have managed to reacquire furniture, some tools, etc. but let me tell you it’s been frustrating at times. Since we have been married we have not lived in an apartment but have been in one for nine months now. That in itself has been quite an adjustment. Having your firm fiancial support has been a great encouragement and has made it so much easier. Please continue to pray for all of us, as we labor in the Lord’s vineyard here. At this point my plans are still for me to be in the States from January 11 to February 10. With the Lord’s help I’m planning to be with each church that supports me, at least for a short time. Brethren, we appreciate your continued support and concern. Write us when you can. May our heavenly Father continue to bless you with all things that you have need of.

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 23, pp. 722-723
December 5, 1991