Since late 2021, Sabbath school members from the Peter’s Rest Seventh-day Adventist Church in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, have been assisting the homeless with meals in the town of Christiansted, in coordination with Lighthouse Mission, a nonprofit organization on the island. The two organizations are partners in supplying meals two or three times each month.
Lighthouse Mission is a faith-based community service center committed to enriching the lives of people by serving, encouraging, teaching, and challenging children and adults alike, to find meaning and purpose in life through faith. In the past, the mission provided a haven for children, with after-school activities. That service has been discontinued pending a refurbishment of the building, which was affected by hurricanes in recent years, mission leaders said.
When Earl Daniel, former pastor of the Peter’s Rest church, requested approval from the church board for the partnership, the board agreed unanimously. “You could sense the Holy Spirit in the room, in that board meeting. How could we not serve the community?” he said.
Five groups of church members organized through a Community Services initiative provide the items and prepare the meals in the center every second and fourth Sunday of each month. They get to connect with and encourage guests and hold worship services at the open pavilion in the yard of the center, church leaders said. Sometimes, the mission requests the Adventist group to assist a third Sunday in the month. The center also serves as a food and clothing distribution site.
Henry Peters, Sabbath school director in the North Caribbean Conference (NCC) of the Adventist Church, said he was pleased with the response of the local church. “The church must respond to the needs of people in the community, and we must be good, cooperative citizens,” Peters said. Jesus has commissioned His people to care for each other, he added. “This initiative is a prime example of how Jesus ministered while He was on earth, for Jesus ministered to peoples’ needs and loved them before He shared the Word with them.”
“We praise the Lord for the partnership we have with the community,” Abraham Kennedy, pastor of the Southgate Baptist Church and manager of the Lighthouse Mission, said. “It’s great to share the space, to make a difference in the community.” Kennedy has been at the church for 13 years and said the center has been assisting those in need for 27 years. “This is a common ground for people to come around and share.”
Lillian Jeffers, Sabbath school leader at Peter’s Rest Adventist church, was already volunteering at the Lighthouse Mission before the partnership began in August 2021. “For the past two years, I have personally volunteered at the Lighthouse when I lost my job in 2020,” she said. “It’s very gratifying to have my church come alongside this ministry.”
The group serves 20 to 30 meals every Sunday, she added. “The people who look forward to the hot meal frequent the Christiansted town area, sleeping wherever they can lay their heads. When they come in the morning, you can see they are not rested.”
Youth ministries leaders at the Peter’s Rest church recently gathered a group of young people who selected the center as a location they wanted to benefit during the Adventist Church’s Global Youth Day activities in March 2022.
“We desire to have the children exposed to real-life situations,” Jeffers said. “We encourage parents to bring their children along for the ministry opportunity. It is good to see happy faces on those who come to the center and receive help.”
Herman Ravariere, head elder of the Adventist congregation, said partnerships with other community organizations are key to building relationships in the community. “If any one of us walks down the street and sees the people, they know us. These connections are wonderful. It tells people that, ‘Hey, the Adventists do care!’ ”
Adventists in several sister churches in St. Croix support the Community Services initiative and partnership with Lighthouse Mission every month.
Ending homelessness may not be possible, Jeffers said. “We know that’s not going to happen, but we’re going to take a big bite out of it.”
Peter’s Rest Adventist church suffered extensive damage when fire broke out in the sanctuary in 2020. Now the 300 members meet downstairs and under a tent erected for overflow outside.