Stateside Pastors of Black Churches Begin Partnerships in Virgin Islands as Hurricane Season Approaches

Pastors leading U.S. Virgin Island churches still recovering from devastating 2017 hurricanes are receiving new stateside ministry partners as another hurricane season threatens.

Seven pastors leading the only Southern Baptist congregations on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas are networking with stateside leaders as guests of the 2018 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest Conference Center through July 21.

“It has been the worst year, and yet it has been the best year,” Reginald Joseph, pastor of Cruz Bay Baptist Church on St. John, said at a July 17 networking event. “The hurricane [Maria] has done a number on us, but God has blessed us.”

Dennis Mitchell, executive director of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of nearly 4,000 Southern Baptist churches, told Baptist Press the partnering initiative is led cooperatively by NAAF, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and LifeWay Christian Resources Black Church Partnerships.

“We made a commitment [after hurricanes Irma and Maria] that we would adopt all of those seven churches,” Mitchell said. “Part of that adoption process was to commit ourselves to doing everything we could do to mobilize other African American churches to come in and partner with those guys.

Felix Durand (center), pastor of Ebenezer Memorial Baptist Church on St. Thomas, networks with stateside pastors and ministry leaders interested in helping St. Thomas fully recover from the 2017 hurricane season. Lennox Zamore, pastor of Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church, watches from the podium.

“Ken Weathersby at the Executive Committee made a commitment to fund bringing the pastors and their wives over here, and then we [NAAF and LifeWay Black Church Partnerships] would provide some platforms and some venues to get them connected with potential partner churches,” Mitchell said. “It really was a collaboration.”

Weathersby, EC vice president for convention advancement, introduced the pastors on the opening night of the Ridgecrest conference July 16 and helped facilitate a ministry partner match-up after the July 17 evening worship service.

“These are some of the sharpest brothers on the island,” Weathersby said July 17, noting the pastors’ diligence and hard work. After the hurricanes, “they did not leave their posts.”

James Dixon, pastor of El-Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md., exhorted stateside pastors in facilitating the July 17 meeting. Dixon leads his congregation on about 10 mission trips a year, he said, including local, national and international outreach.

“A church not doing missions needs to go out of business,” Dixon told the 50 stateside pastors and ministry leaders who attended the event. “What’s the point? Because that’s what it’s all about…. I really love missions, and it excites me when I see things going forward to meet the needs of people.”

Needs among island pastors are varied, including construction repairs, church vans, song books, sign language instruction and essential repairs to rainwater collection systems.

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Source: Baptist Press