Many Christians would not want to be caught dead in a bar. But a group of Jamaican Adventists spent four weeks in a bar — not drinking, smoking, or dancing but praising the Lord.
The Duncans Adventist Church organized an evangelistic series in the Logwood Walk Community rum bar after a long search for a suitable venue for the meetings in rural northwest Jamaica.
Twelve people were baptized at the conclusion of the monthlong meetings.
“You have heard about tent crusades, you have heard about church crusades, but this is the first time that some of you are hearing about a rum bar crusade,” Tavaughn Thomas, the district pastor who led the meetings, said during his final Sabbath sermon.
Thomas said he had hoped to hold the meetings in the nearby town of Spice Hill but those plans had not worked out.
“God had other plans for us, and we are here in the Logwood Community because there are many wounded birds right here who need Jesus now,” he said.
The Duncans Adventist Church, which has a membership of 236, adheres to all Seventh-day Adventist beliefs, including the denomination’s opposition to alcohol. Church elder Randall Duncan said it simply wasn’t easy finding a suitable place to hold a good-sized meeting.
“I came into the community searching for a place, and we found this bar,” he said.
The bar was temporarily closed as its owner applied for a new liquor license.
Duncan tracked down the owner, got him to open the bar for an inspection, and reached an agreement to lease the premises in early January.
“This was three weeks before the start of the crusade,” he said.
But then the bar owner vanished. Duncan couldn’t find him anywhere and had no phone number to reach him. As is customary in the area, the two sides had not exchanged contact information in agreeing on the lease.
The church decided to press ahead with its advertising campaign, which listed the address of the bar as the meeting place. Just a day before the evangelistic series was to open, Duncan’s wife stumbled across the owner’s phone number on a newly placed sign in the bar’s window.
The rest is history. A crowd packed the bar nightly for Thomas’ evanglistic series, “The Real Truth Gospel Campaign,” and latecomers found it was standing room only during the final Sabbath sermonon Feb. 28.
“I know that some of you are here not to see a preacher,” Thomas said during the sermon. “You are here not to see what is going on in the rum bar, a place that once served liquor, brandy, Smirnoff Ice and cigarettes, a place where people used to play pool, curse with bad words. You are not here to see the transformation of this place.
“You are here to see Jesus!” he said to shouts of “amen” and “hallelujah” from the listeners.
As he spoke, a man stepped into the room with a bottle of beer in one hand. He approached Thomas and fist-bumped him in apparent approval of the message.
Taking it all in was Roy Sergeant, 73. He said the location of the evangelistic series didn’t bother him, and he was just happy to get baptized after three surgeries and a terrible car accident.
“I just come to the conclusion to give my life to Jesus because He saved me all these years and I praise Him,” Sergeant said.
This was not the first time that the Duncans church has conducted a campaign in an unusual place. Several years ago two evangelistic series were held in a dance hall.
“That's how serious we are about soul winning,” Thomas said.