An account of the work in St. Lucia with an emphasis on present assembly activity.
In previous articles written in Truth and Tidings, we sought to give the history of assembly development since its beginning in the early 1920’s. In this present writing we will give added information about the island’s development, its peoples, and current assembly activity.
The island is part of the Windward Islands, located about two hundred miles north of the northeast shoulder of South America and between the French island of Martinique and British St. Vincent. The island’s population is about 160,000 and the capital city is Castries. The island is 239 square miles in area.
St. Lucia, topographically is rugged, characterized by a central spine of wooded mountains, numerous short rivers that intersect conical peaks, and gentler rolling grassland towards the north and flat areas at the southern tip. There are many roads that twist and turn along narrow ridges connecting villages on top of these high hills. The island’s valleys have a fertile soil that supports a strong agricultural economy that employs forty-three percent of the labor force.
The original inhabitants of the island were the Arawak Indians who were eventually driven out by the fierce Carib Indian. The French arrived in the mid-seventeenth century, followed by the British, and a multitude of battles ensued. The island changed hands some fourteen times from 1650-1803. In 1814, the island was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris. In 1838, it was annexed to the government of the Windward Islands. It became an associated state in 1967, and on February 22, 1979, a fully independent Member of the Commonwealth.
The island economy is linked with banana farming, with exports to Britain. Local farmers also supply the general population with various produce via the local markets and grocery outlets. Tourism continues to grow rapidly, as do other industries such as assembling of electronic components. It is encouraging to see the growth of industrial plazas that house assembly lines and the producing of clothing and other goods. Contemporary problems are unemployment, poverty, and overcrowded school systems and drugs.
The island people are ninety percent African, six percent mixed, three percent Indian, and one percent Caucasian. Three languages are spoken: English, French, and Patois. Ninety percent are Roman Catholic, seven percent Protestant, and three percent other religions. The history of these island people has been tumultuous, but they have survived the horrors of slavery along with much exploitation. In general, I have found them helpful, friendly, and open to the preaching of the gospel.
Many islands of the Caribbean have assemblies that have been slowly depleted due to people immigrating, seeking work a-broad in the UK or North America. Those believers left to carry on testimony are small in number, but big in heart, and can relate to the problems of migrating.
Gospel work and the establishing of assemblies on most English speaking Caribbean islands had proved fruitful since the early part of the last century, but St. Lucia along with Dominica have proven difficult. This was mainly due to the powerful hold that the R. C. church had on the island’s people. Consequently, the only assembly in St. Lucia, located in Castries, never grew, as both believers and early workers endured their share of persecution.
In about 1955, a new generation of St. Lucians wanted to know what the Bible had to say and were open to the gospel. The work amongst the assemblies grew from six believers in 1977 to six assemblies in 2000. Numbers in each assembly are not large numerically with about eighteen in each fellowship, with the exception of a gathering in the island’s south that has forty in the fellowship. We thank God for the progress that has been made and for all who have had the heart to carry the gospel to the villages of St. Lucia.
Since 1977, five new assemblies have been planted on the island and two national brethren have been commended. These assemblies are located in Ciceron, Forestiere, Soufreiere, La Gare and Micoud. Like most assemblies, including those from Paul’s day, each gathering has its own challenges and problems to overcome (Phil 2:12). There is a good portion of the NT epistles written to correct difficulties amongst the saints. Yet, we thank God for what He has done in not only saving precious souls, but in preserving the majority amidst an atmosphere that abounds in immorality.
There have been demanding building projects on the island with the construction of new Gospel Halls at Forestiere and Soufriere. At Ciceron, there have been extensive renovations on the hall. We have enjoyed help and support from brethren in the UK, Canada, and the US in each project. Yet, our St. Lucian believers have worked many days, including Saturdays and holidays to help in each building. There has been a crisis in the banana industry in recent years, but this has not deterred St. Lucian brethren in giving their time to the work.
This summer, brother Sam Maze had fruitful tent meetings in a new area called Babonneau. Recently, I had ministry meetings and then gospel meetings at La Gare. Presently, brother Jack Gould is in ministry at Soufriere. Brother Albert Hull had excellent ministry meetings on Principles for Christian Living at Forestiere.
Ben and Ruth Prins from Sarnia have been exercised to help in gospel work on the island. It is their desire to help at Ciceron for one year. Ruth is kept busy teaching their three children with correspondence courses. Ben’s energy is already evident with the construction of a new wall to surround the hall property and with his activities in the open air meetings each night.
The work amongst the assemblies grew from six believers in 1977 to six assemblies in 2000.