In St. Thomas, Adventists Find Comfort in Worshiping Together After Hurricanes

Church members from across St. Thomas gathered at the Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church in St. Thomas to worship together and share testimony of their survival of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, on Saturday, Sep. 24, 2017. Image by North Caribbean Conference.

October 5, 2017 | St. Croix, Virgin Islands | NCC Staff / IAD Staff

After Hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled St. Thomas and St. John in the Virgin Islands last month, taking off roofs, damaging buildings and downing electric poles, dozens of Seventh-day Adventists gathered on Sabbath, Sep. 24, to praise God, find comfort in worshiping together and share their testimonies through the storms.

Church members at the Shiloh Adventist Church in St. Thomas during Sabbath service on Sep. 24, 2017. Image by North Caribbean Conference

The Category 5 storm peaked at 185 miles per hour on Sep. 6, and remained at the strength for 37 hours, killing three and displacing hundreds, authorities reported. Many Seventh-day Adventist were also displaced.

Church members spoke of their experience at the crowded Shiloh Adventist Church in St. Thomas.

“My entire roof is gone, so I’m staying with my sister,” said Corene Thomas, a church member who began sharing her experience. “If I start crying now, I wouldn’t stop.”

“The wind was howling, the roof was squeaking and all of a sudden when we looked up, all were seeing were the stars in the sky,” said Mary Henley, another church member, as she recounted her Irma experience. “My daughter, my husband and I had to seek shelter in the cupboards and closets.”

For Naomi Penn the experience will be unforgettable too. “My entire roof is gone. I lost everything,” said Penn.

“My mother and I had to hide in the bathroom cabinets after the hurricane blew off our storm shutters and we heard the glad windows and doors breaking,” shared 13-year-old Chinedu. “We rode out the storm singing and praying.”

Many other members shared similar narratives as they relived Hurricane Irma experiences, said Corliss Smithen, communication director at the Shiloh Adventist Church. “Despite the major structural damage to their homes, their displacement and having lost most, and in some cases all of their earthly possessions, Adventists on St. Thomas were not despondent, dismayed, depressed or dejected,” said Smithen. It was all about praising God for preserving their lives, he added.

Pastor Desmond James, president of the North Caribbean Conference during his visit to St. Thomas last month. Image by North Caribbean Conference

Church leaders from the North Caribbean Conference met days after Irma struck in St. Thomas to meet with their constituency.

“We came here as quickly as we could because we want you to know that we are here for you,” said Pastor Desmond James, president of the church in the North Caribbean Conference. The North Caribbean Conference oversees the work in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands–including Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda, United States Virgin Islands–St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas, and the islands of Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten.

“We scheduled this meeting with you to carve out a path to the recovery process,” said James. Church members were urged to identify their needs and those in the community around them.

The main needs at this time are tarps, water and hot meals, local church leaders said.

The initial response last month helped 100 families in St. Thomas with food and water, followed by two additional deliveries of relief supplies church leaders said.

Pastor Al Powell, youth ministries director for the church in Inter-America, visited St. Thomas and St. Croix this week to bring spiritual encouragement and greetings from top Inter-American Division leaders.

“They are in desperate need of tarps, generators and chain saws to clear trees and debris,” said Powell. Assessment on church member needs is also going on at this time, he added.

The Philadelphia Adventist Church in St. Thomas was damaged by Hurricane Irma earlier in September. Image by Al Powell

“Despite their challenges, church members are cheerful, hopeful, and ready to move forward,” Powell said.

The Inter-American Division shipped a container with seven palettes of water and food and generators this week to St. Croix to be distributed to the affected church membership across the North Caribbean Conference.

The Shiloh Adventist Church has opened their doors to the members of the Philadelphia Adventist Church which was destroyed during the storm. The St. Thomas and St. John’s Adventist schools resumed classes at the Shiloh Adventist multi-purpose center on Oct. 2.

Plans are underway to provide hot meals to communities in St. Thomas in the coming days.

There are 4,000 church members worshiping in 8 congregations in St. Thomas and St. John’s.

Corliss Smithen contributed to this report.

If you would like to assist church members affected by the recent natural disaster in the North Caribbean Conference, CLICK HERE

To assist communities affected by the natural disasters across Inter-America, email for additional information.

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Categories From the Field, RSS English | Tags: | Posted on October 6, 2017