Catering for Christ Without Shrimp and Rum in Jamaica

“We were told that we would not survive because most catering events happen on Friday night and Saturday,” says Stephanie Roberts, pictured with her husband, Junior, on the campus of Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Jamaica. Image by Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission


August 7, 2017 | Mandeville, Jamaica | Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission

Junior Roberts, 28, and his 27-year-old wife, Stephanie, ran into trouble when they were baptized and changed the business model for their catering company in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston.

They stopped serving lobster and liquor, and turned down lucrative contracts on Friday nights and Saturdays.

But the married couple said they have never been happier — and their business is now flourishing.

Our catering company is better off now than before,” Junior said. “We didn’t have a moral compass before. Now we know the kind of clientele that we are looking for, and our income is more stable.”

Stephanie said their faith has taken their personal lives to a new level.

“I feel that I have a more holistic life,” she said. “I feel more whole. I know that God has been working a transformation in me. I often think, ‘Where would I be at this point if hadn’t made that decision to serve God?’”

Adventist Mission sat down with Junior and Stephanie to hear their story after a revival meeting at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Jamaica.

Q: How did you meet?

Junior: We both worked at a major meat and alcohol company in Jamaica. I was a chef, and I created recipes using shrimp, lobster, and other seafood.

Stephanie: I worked as assistant manager in the wine and spirits department. I personally loved wine.

Q: How did you learn about the Seventh-day Adventist Church?

Junior: Three years ago, an Adventist friend invited me to small group Bible studies in his home. I found the Bible studies interesting, and I invited Steph to join me. But she wasn’t interested.

Stephanie: I was busy and didn’t want to make the time. But when I started attending the Bible studies with Junior a year later, I was stunned with what we read. I asked, “This is in the Bible?” I saw that the Sabbath was mentioned often, and I realized that Saturday was the right day of worship.

One day, I sensed the Holy Spirit saying to me, “It’s time,” and I decided to give my life to God. Even though I ate pork and shrimp, and loved wine, it wasn’t hard for me to let them go. I thought, “I have to be accountable now that I know what is right.” I don’t think wine is more important than salvation.

Junior: Steph and I also wanted to make sure that our relationship was right with God. We were married in September 2015 and got baptized together one month later.

Q: What happened to your catering business?

Stephanie: We were told that we would not survive because most catering events happen on Friday night and Saturday. The best clients also tend to order exquisite seafood and alcohol. We actually took a big cut in income when we got baptized.

Junior: Right after getting baptized, a client told us that he wanted a seafood wedding worth 1 million Jamaican dollars, or U.S.$7,700. He named all the types of seafood that he wanted, and said the reception would be held on January 2. I looked at the calendar and saw that January 2 fell on a Saturday. We had to walk away.

One of the first regular contracts that we lost was with an affluent businesswoman. We catered her evening meals several times a week so she wouldn’t have to cook for her family of four. But after we were baptized, we told her that we would no longer serve her favorite dishes with lobster and pork.

On our last visit, this woman defrosted a precooked ham and said, “This is not a ham you have to cook. Could you just slice it for me?”

I think it was a test. I left the ham on the counter and opened the Bible on my cellphone to teach her what the Bible says about touching the carcass of an unclean animal. But she didn’t want to hear it when she returned to the kitchen. She cut me off and said, “Your choices are impeding my lifestyle.”

Stephanie: God worked things out in a funny way. Eighteen months later, this woman asked us to return for a family party on a Friday afternoon. She told us that we would not be asked to compromise our values with food. She also was mindful about the Sabbath. When sunset drew near and we prepared to tell her that we needed to leave, she said, “I know. Your hour has come. You may go.”

Surprisingly, she also told us that she had started to go to church on Sundays. We are praying that she will accept the Sabbath.

Q: How do you survive in the catering industry?

Stephanie: For a couple of months, we had to survive on almost nothing. Our income went way below the average wage for a while, but a surprising thing happened. Relatives and friends began to bring us food. They had received packages of food from others and wanted to share. We never asked anyone for food, and we were never hungry. We had so much food in the house that we were able to give some away!

Junior: We try to establish long-term relationships and have more office parties and small dinners than large parties. We have one client who is an Adventist and have found new clients who accept our beliefs. There is no stress or burden about setting aside the Sabbath. We work Sunday through Thursday and slow down on Friday so we can transition into the Sabbath.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Junior: I would like to encourage Seventh-day Adventists to speak more openly about their faith. I only recently realized that two of my high school classmates were Adventists. They went home early on Fridays and never said why. I wouldn’t have had to wait 10 years to learn about the Sabbath if they had shared their faith. So, I encourage people to speak out more. If we would just share more, more people would know Jesus.

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Categories From the Field, RSS English | Tags: | Posted on August 10, 2017