Twenty-one months after the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church on the island of Sint Maarten was destroyed by the Category 5 hurricane named 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 North Caribbean Conference president Desmond James.
“We all know what happened here two years ago, and rebuilding a church is like rebuilding a nation,” James said. “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.” James thanked the pastor and volunteers for their hard work in rebuilding the church.
Caribbean Union Conference president Kern Tobias addressed the membership and encouraged the members to let the building bring praise to God because, he said, what they accomplished has come 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,” Tobias said.
On September 4, 2017, Hurricane Irma caused widespread destruction on Sint Maarten. As members later sifted through the rubble of what was once their church, they struggled with a sense of hopelessness, local church leaders recounted. After the storm, Ephesus 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 Seventh-day Adventist 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 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,” he added. “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 also volunteered their time late into the night and on weekends, while the culinary experts of the church fed them.
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 grew out of an evangelistic campaign held by the evangelist Roosevelt Daniels. The church was dedicated on October 28, 2001, by John Josiah, a former president of the North Caribbean Conference church region.
“It’s been a blessing for me to see the Ephesus church completed,” said Henry Peters, who was pastor of the congregation at the time of the building’s original construction. “It’s just amazing to see the commitment of the members and the legacy they are leaving for the next generation.”