June 19, 2019 | St. Croix, US Virgin Islands | Royston Philbert/IAD News Staff
Twenty-one months after the Ephesus Adventist Church on St. Maarten was destroyed by Category 5 Hurricane Irma, the church opened its doors to members and friends for a special celebration on June 2, 2019.
More than 300 members were seated in the newly refurbished church building for the rededication service, which was led by Pastor Desmond James, president of the North Caribbean Conference.
“We all know what happened here two years ago and rebuilding a church is like rebuilding a nation,” said James. “What’s more, for us it means that the church of God is taking a new step to continue the mission we have here on this island.” Pastor James thanked the pastor and volunteers for their hard work in rebuilding the church.
President of the Caribbean Union Conference Dr. Kern Tobias addressed the membership and encouraged the members to let the edifice bring praise to God, because what they accomplished came through Him.
“This rededication brings glory and honor to God for His goodness to us all. It is another occasion for praising God’s name,” said Tobias.
On September 4, 2017, Hurricane Irma caused widespread destruction on St. Maarten, and as members sifted through the rubble of what was once their church, they struggled with a sense of hopelessness, local church leaders recounted. After the storm, members worshiped at Philipsburg Adventist Church, located two miles away, which sustained minimal damage.
“We worshipped at Philipsburg Adventist Church for three months,” said Pastor Kumal Smith, who leads Ephesus SDA Church. “They received us with open arms and we enjoyed the joint fellowship. But, there is no place like home so we decided to pitch the tent right on the grounds of the Ephesus church property. “It was where we had started and so we were familiar with the challenges but we wanted to be together as a church.”
Smith further said that during the reconstruction phase, the church received a lot of volunteer help. “We are thankful to the members who used their gifts and talents freely for the rebuilding of the sanctuary,” said Smith. “Although they often cried out about feeling tired, they did not relax their efforts. I commend them highly.” He shared that individuals, who were paid for their daily labors, volunteered their time late into the night and on weekends, while the culinary experts of the church fed them, added Smith.
Shanka Serrant, the church’s head elder, and his team painstakingly guided the reconstruction process. Although the project experienced setbacks, the church, with its more than 500 members, can now celebrate the rededication of its sanctuary.
While the church met under a tent for 21 months, church worship services, meetings, and community health services and activities continued from the time the hurricane hit, Smith said.
Organized in 1993, the Ephesus Adventist Church was grew out of an evangelistic campaign held by the Evangelist Roosevelt Daniels. The church was dedicated on October 28, 2001, by Pastor John Josiah, a former president of the North Caribbean Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
“It’s been a blessing for me to see the Ephesus Church completed,” said Dr. Henry Peters, a former pastor of the congregation during its original construction. “It’s just amazing to see the commitment of the members and the legacy they are leaving for the next generation.”
To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church in St. Maarten and other islands comprising the North Caribbean Conference, visit northcaribbeanconference.org