By Kenneth D. Sils
During the second week of December in 1997, Clinton Douglas of South Bend, Indiana and I had the blessed opportunity to preach the gospel on the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean Sea. Brother Douglas has preached the gospel in Jamaica a few times and asked me if I would like to get involved in the work of our Lord with him on the island. Never before have I ventured out of America to preach, so after much thought and prayer, I was ready to embark on this most excellent adventure.
On Monday, December 8, we landed in Montego Bay where Errol Lawson, the preacher working with the Cave church of Christ, picked us up and away we went to our preaching destination that evening. Since it takes about an hour and a half to drive 30 miles through the hill country of Jamaica, we had plenty of time to talk about our agenda for the week and to help settle the “culture shock” I experienced at the airport. The plan for the week was for us to preach two gospel meetings: one with the Cave church of Christ on Monday through Thursday on the south side of the island and the other was with the church of Christ at Montego Bay on the northwest side of the Island.
There are many churches of Christ on the island of Jamaica, yet I was made aware of only three congregations that were standing against the institutional practices that have plagued our Lord’s body over the past 50 years. There are two congregations on the southwest side of the island. The church of Christ at Savanna-La-Mar where J.S. Lawson preaches and the Cave church of Christ at Cave where Errol Lawton, J.S.Lawton’s son, preaches. Many preachers from America have been involved in planting the seed of Jesus in these areas, especially in the Cave area, and our Lord has blessed their efforts with an increase of souls. Brother Andy Alexander eloquently wrote about this work in the Guardian of Truth last March and described the evangelism which took place at Cave in 1996. Two years ago, their meeting house consisted of only a foundation with two-by-fours that had a canvas overlapping them. Now, the walls are up and their building is very nice compared to Jamaican standards. Two years ago, this congregation averaged 20-25, but now in two years, their membership is in the mid-forties and still moving up.
Each night of the meeting at Cave, the building was filled with members and visitors alike. One couple that is burned in my memory had just obeyed the gospel three weeks earlier and was so happy that they had found Jesus and knew they could now go to heaven. They were in their eighties! Clinton and I preached each evening and spoke on the basics, including the work of the church and the dangers of using the institutions of men in an attempt to do the work of a congregation. Although we didn’t have any baptisms at Cave, we did have some very promising personal Bible studies with people in that area. A few told us they were going to get baptized if they could get to church on Sunday; yet, it rained on Sunday which makes it difficult for people to come out on the Jamaica roadways.
Over the weekend in Jamaica, we preached a meeting with the church which meets in Montego Bay where Jerry Angelo has been preaching for eight years. The church in Montego Bay meets at the YMCA in town and is about 30 in number. On Saturday, the church decided to meet at Jerry’s house and have a marathon Bible study. One of the young members brought a friend named Keyn and he pounded Clinton and me with questions for almost two hours. There is a lot of denominational doctrine on the island and most of the Jamaicans I met know about Jesus, yet are filled with the doctrines of men, much like people in this country. However, Jamaicans appear eager to listen to other views, especially if you are from America. On Sunday, Clinton spoke at Savanna-La-Mar in the morning and I spoke at Cave. On Sunday evening, both Clinton and I spoke at Montego Bay where we had a very good crowd, nearing 50! Upon returning, I had several snapshots developed and placed on overhead transparencies to explain the work in detail to the congregation I am working with in South Bend. If you are interested in viewing this presentation about the work in Jamaica, I will do what I can to secure a VCR copy.
The church of Christ appears to be thriving in Jamaica. Although the number of members are small, about 100 for three individual congregations, the heart of the people are zealous and dedicated in serving the Lord. Brother J.S.D. Lawton and his son, Errol are hard working servants of the Lord worthy of our support and prayers. Without their efforts, both congregations on the south side of Jamaica would be greatly hindered. The same can be said for the work of brother Angelo among the congregation in Montego Bay. All three of these men spend a great deal of their personal resources to help members get to worship and provide spiritual leadership and teaching of the doctrine of Christ to make Jamaicans children of our King.
The Christians in Jamaica are very much encouraged when their brothers and sisters in America express an interest in their spiritual well-being. In many ways, the church has the same fight of faith that we have in America and they take up this challenge with courage, love and dedication to Christ. Jesus encouraged his apostles to take the gospel of Christ to every creature (Mark 16:15). It was a joy to my heart to see the most precious faith of Christ residing in the hearts of men and women far away from our land and culture. Pray for them and let’s remember to be busy following in the footsteps of Jesus here at home by, “seeking and saving the lost” (Luke 19:10).”