Faith communities are better than just a church program on Sunday; like concerts and conferences where a person attends and leaves. Real church is about communities of people sharing and living together. Community begins with classes, continues with dinners, goes further as we care for one another, and creates memories when we go to serve on projects that help others.
Faith communities sometimes reach beyond international borders, such was the dream of Roger and Anne Anderson, who had a desire to reach out to churches in the Caribbean almost 20 years ago. They had a dream of high school students along with parents and other adults (50% youth, 50% adults) reaching out to churches in need and making an impact both among people of the Caribbean and among participants in their churches who prayed, prepared, and led ministry on these trips.
The idea was to work with churches for three years in partnerships: first to get to know the people of the community; and by the second and third years to really respond to needs which were found. And beyond the three year partnerships to stay in touch with friendships which developed to advance the cause of the faith, the churches and the people.
Partnership projects began by praying and leading each participant to prepare simple Vacation Bible School curriculum to be led on the trip. Youth would prepare and pull supplies for each class and adults would mentor the youth to help them grow. Once on the island as youth led classes, and plans did not turn out exactly right; adults and youth would tweak the preparation to make the next day’s class go better and learn in the process.
Other projects would grow out from the initial Bible school according to needs in each location. These projects include sports camps, revival services, and building projects. At the end, after each week long class, new friendships were forged and needs had been met.
Recently the devastation from hurricane Erika has brought back memories to four teams which served on the island of Dominica. Peninsula Baptist Church has served at three churches on the Island of Dominica during a one year, then a three year partnership. These churches include Mahaut Revival Baptist Church (Mahaut), Deliverance Baptist Church (Roseau), and Olivet Baptist Church (Portsmouth). Anne Anderson wrote: “It breaks my heart. The island has been greatly devastated. Pray for them. Our friends the Luke’s in St. John are from this Island and have many friends and relatives there.”
After a three year partnership on Dominica, Pastor Luke moved from Olivet Baptist Church to Calvary Baptist Church on St. John, a church with a dream of not only holding church services, but also of reaching out to the island and the region through retreats and camps for youth. Because of the dream, and the ways Calvary Baptist Church is reaching beyond their community to the entire Caribbean region, Peninsula Baptist Church has continued this partnership for seven years, and will continue working with Pastor Luke to lead Vacation Bible Schools, lead sports camps, and to develop a Christian conference center to help others make a difference among the people.
In the aftermath of a hurricane the partnership forged over ten years ago will make a difference. With friendship in place with Pastor Luke who is in communication with family friends and churches in Dominica, a church in North Carolina will reach out to a church in Dominica through a church in St. John with necessary assistance. This will not be reaching out in the dark, because we will be using the pathways (or bridges) friendships have forged making us aware of the real needs of the people so we can meet them head on. Barrels of food and other supplies will be shared, as church partners share with us the needs of the community as they see to recover and then rebuild following the destruction. This is possible because of continued relationships which grow ever stronger as we walk together living out our faith.