As I’ve heard it said many times, God’s timing is always perfect. I found this true once again through an email from Nicole Jackson, the Youth and Retreat Center Coordinator at St. Thomas Reformed Church (STRC) in the US Virgin Islands. Their church has just completed building a retreat center and they are excited to begin hosting groups. Having received SERVE postcards in the past, she sent an email earlier this summer to explore the possibility of hosting a SERVE in St. Thomas,
Through several emails, Skype conversations, and prayer, we feel God has brought us together to partner through SERVE in 2018. Little did we know at the time of our initial conversations that two hurricanes would hit St. Thomas with such devastation. Below is a note from STRC following the hurricanes on September 25:
“St. Thomas Reformed Church has been coordinating on the ground relief efforts. Our church undercroft that had just been renovated flooded not once, but twice. Yet miraculously, all roofs remained intact and our sanctuary, offices and new retreat center remained usable and dry (relatively!). Our sanctuary is being used as a staging ground, storage area and distribution site for essential supplies that are extremely scarce on the island right now. We have partnered with the Salvation Army and My Brother’s Workshop (MBW) in a free feeding program. Originally, the goal of MBW was to serve at least 500 meals a day. One day last week, MBW staff and volunteers served 957! (You can check out more info about MBW by visiting their website at http://www.mybrothersworkshop.org/ or their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MyBrothersWorkshop
On the Sunday immediately following Hurricane Irma, our church gathered to worship – no power, no sound system, no printed bulletin, but many, many grateful hearts and hands ready to serve. Still with limited gas, impassable roads, horrible traffic, limited cell service and an island-wide curfew it took days to locate and check on all of the church’s families. Miraculously the church has regained power but for most of the island’s residents, it will be 9-12 months before they have electricity and running water. Supermarkets can only be open during certain hours resulting in outrageous lines. Coupled with the tremendous blow to our tourism-based economy, many on the island literally cannot access supplies and resources needed to survive including water, food, infant needs and basic hygiene items.”
Even with all the devastation from two hurricanes, STRC is committed and excited to host SERVE this coming June. An experienced SERVE host church will be sending their youth group in June to assist STRC in hosting their first SERVE experience, hopefully setting them up well to host many more groups in the future! As I observe and listen to all that STRC is doing under such adverse conditions, I’m confident they will have much to teach and share with Youth Unlimited and those who head down to the island for SERVE, just as each of our other SERVE sites do!
If your youth group is looking for a way to care for and support the work of a local church ministering in the wake of the hurricanes, you can learn more and partner with STRC as seen below:
Ways to Donate (any monetary donations to St. Thomas Reformed Church are tax deductible):
- Through STRC’s website (this will take you to a PayPal link. Add in Memo: Hurricane Relief) – http://www.stthomasreformedchurch.org/giving-relief-efforts/online-giving/?view=mobile
- Mail a check payable to St. Thomas Reformed Church – PO Box 301769, St. Thomas VI 00803. Please add in Memo: Hurricane Relief.
Also, STRC is humbled by the outpouring of support and offer of volunteer crews. If you have a desire to come to St. Thomas and work on this effort, please contact Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know many of you may not be on Facebook, but I encourage you to visit their page periodically (it is a public page, so you don’t even need a Facebook account to view it). On the page, you can follow their transformational journey, fully replete with highs and lows and just as many miracles. Here is the link for that: https://www.facebook.com/stthomasreformedchurch/