The survey trip to Saint Lucia is now complete. I will try to condense the 10 day trip into a few paragraphs rather than the novella it could be.
I left Tallahassee on September 24th at 10:00 AM and drove to Port Saint Lucie, Florida where I reunited with members of the First Christian Church of Stuart and the Westport Christian Church. I was lucky enough to walk into an Italian Pot-Luck being hosted by the Westport church and enjoyed both fellowship and an outstanding meal. It was a blessing to reunite with former FCC brethren and my Westport brethren. I was also blessed to lodge with Ed & Ricki Haines that evening. The next morning I was honored with preaching at Westport. I stayed another night with the Haines and then the last night with Bob & Shirley Brown of Jensen Beach. Thanks to both the Haines & the Browns for giving me a place to lodge on my journeys and being both my friends and partners in this mission.
On the morning of September 27th, at 3:45 AM I left Jensen Beach, Florida for Fort Lauderdale - Hollywood International Airport. There, I found my missionary/minister friend and my partner for the survey trip, Craig Harbin. We secured our boarding passes and processed through security and before long, we were at 35,000 feet heading for Barbados. Once we arrived in Barbados, we were greeted by a warm tropical breeze and the thick tropical humidity.
Our flight to Barbados was on Jetblue... our connecting flight to Saint Lucia was Liat. I mention it because, "as far as the East is from the West" are those two airlines. Liat is a small Caribbean airline flying to the islands of the Lesser Antilles and they are on Caribbean time, (it will happen when it happens mon).
After a three hour layover, we boarded a turboprop plane and departed for Saint Vincent. We were supposed to fly from Saint Vincent to Saint Lucia, but after 30 minutes of waiting on the tarmac without air conditioning on the plane, we departed and returned to Barbados... seriously! Then after a couple more hours, we boarded a different Liat turboprop plane and departed to Saint Lucia on a direct flight. Finally, after traveling from 3:45 AM, I arrived in Saint Lucia at 6:30 PM. (It's not over yet).
After passing through customs, we rented a car from the only open car rental in the small Saint Lucian airport, Guys Car Rental. We loaded our luggage into the car and headed for Rodney Bay where we had a reservation for our first night on the island. My phone did not work in Saint Lucia, so my GPS/Google maps function was useless. We were given a small generalized map of the island and pointed north by the rental car agent and we were off... off our rockers to think we could so easily find our destination. After a near miss in a round-about, (they drive on the wrong side of the road), we unknowingly departed from the main North-South road and ended up in a poverty stricken mountainous region of the island.
When we finally found again the main North-South road, the roads were clogged with drivers lining up for gas at the local stations, (Tropical Storm Matthew was due in the next day). After an hour and a half of driving, we located the hotel, showered, and raced to catch the restaurant before it closed at 9:00 PM.
TROPICAL STORM MATTHEW
The next day we awoke feeling rested and needing coffee. We decided to visit the open air mall down the road to locate some real island coffee. We discovered that the island was shutting down and most of the shops were not opening as they were preparing for Tropical Storm Matthew. We did, however, manage to secure our coffee.
Little did we know that Matthew would eventually become a major storm that would rock the Caribbean as well as Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas, and eventually, the United States. Fortunately, we met Matthew when he was just a baby... mind you, an angry baby. After our first full day in Saint Lucia, we went to dinner at a nearby hotel, (hotels and resorts did not close their restaurants), and before the night was over, we witnessed Matthew's temper from our seats in an open dining room as he filled the main dining room with 6 inches of water. Needless to say, with the exception of visiting the local marina, we did not accomplish much on our first day... thanks to a devil storm named Matthew.
The day after Matthew passed through on his journey to America, we traveled from Rodney Bay and the Gros Islet area to the capital of Saint Lucia, Castries. We located the Department of Labor but did not make contact due to the fact the office was closed because of the storm. We then located the local Restoration church and attempted to make contact with the local minister, but were unsuccessful. The occupants of the homes surrounding the church building did not even know the minister's name or were not willing to divulge the information.
We then traveled to Soufriere, the city next to the scenic Pitons of Saint Lucia. The road to Soufriere from Castries was extremely mountainous, (as a matter of fact, the whole island of Saint Lucia is more mountainous than I realized). There were many downed trees, mud and rock slides, and road edge collapses on the mountain road due to the storm.
The city of Soufriere was extremely poor and we were approached by numerous con men and beggars, along with a suspected male prostitute. Though the scenery is beautiful, being so difficult to reach, Soufriere was ruled out as an initial location for a church/school.
We stayed in Soufriere that night and returned to Rodney Bay the next day.
As we passed through Castries in route to Rodney Bay, I visited the Department of Labor and was referred to the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs. I was not able to meet with the Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs but was well informed and provided all the laws/legalities of setting up a church/school in Saint Lucia.
WISE & BARBADOS CHURCHES
The Windward Islands School of Evangelism (WISE), was started on Saint Lucia back in 1979. It then relocated to Saint Vincent and has recently relocated to Barbados. Craig Harbin, my traveling friend and former missionary to Jamaica, discovered the school online and made contact with the Director of the school prior to our trip. We left Saint Lucia on Friday afternoon and traveled to Barbados for the school's open house and to meet Brice Wurdeman, the director of the school.
We arrived at WISE Saturday afternoon and Brice gave us a tour of the campus, then we were able to help clean up some storm related debris and prepare for the open house that evening. Before the evening was over, I was able to meet with Brice and discuss the mission to Saint Lucia and WISE. He was extremely helpful and insightful regarding both my mission plans, WISE, and the local culture and churches. I look forward to a deeper friendship with him.
There are 7 Restoration churches on Barbados... SEVEN! Craig and I were blessed beyond measure when we were able to attend the semi-annual gathering of all seven churches, which they call, "Koinonia," (the Greek word for "Fellowship). The worship started at 10:00 AM in an open air auditorium and ran to 1:00 PM... It was a genuine, soulful uplifting experience and I thank God for the opportunity to gather with my Bajan brethren. The Restoration church is alive and well in Barbados. I look forward to establishing a long-lasting relationship with the churches of Barbados.
CULTURE & CULTURE SHOCK
The culture in Saint Lucia is a rich one but it is plagued with economic poverty like many other island nations. There is a high crime rate due to drugs and poverty. There's no lack of con men/women, prostitution, thieves, drug dealers and addicts.
The gorgeous scenic pictures you see on the web and in tourist brochures do not convey the harder side of life experienced by most of the local peoples. Couple the poverty of the island with the crime rate, and it can be overwhelming to someone who is not used to such circumstances. I was initially unsettled knowing that I was obviously an off-islander and a likely target of the cons, beggars, and possible thieves.
Mind you, most of the people in Saint Lucia are good and decent people who wish you no harm. Even the ones who would readily relieve you of your funds and goods, don't really want to hurt you... they just want your money and valuables.
Police presence is minimal at best and possibly irrelevant. On one occasion, early in the trip, we stopped at a public beach located directly behind the police station in Rodney Bay and we were immediately approached by a drug dealer who called himself, "Frosty the Snowman." Obviously, the police are not a big concern to the local drug dealers.
Needless to say, Saint Lucia is in desperate need of Christ.
THANKS & PRAYERS
I want to thank my friend, Craig Harbin, for teaming up with me on this survey trip. Being well traveled and a former missionary, He was an invaluable partner on this trip. He is a devoted follower of Christ and I am lucky and honored to call him my brother.
I want to thank the churches and individuals who have partnered with this mission in prayers and monies. You are a blessing not only to me, but to those who will go with me, and those who will hear The Word, believe, and obey the Gospel of Christ. You have not just partnered with me to preach and teach the Gospel of Christ, you have partnered with God, His Son, and His Spirit! What an amazing grace He has shared with us... the ability and opportunity to share His amazing grace with others!
I ask for your continued prayers regarding the course of this mission. Pray that God will continue to lead me and that HIS WILL be done.
Please remember to pray for friends and family as Hurricane Matthew approaches the east coast of Florida.
God bless each and every one of you!
Here are some pics...