St. Maarten: Day 2

So our first full day on the island was a little better. Morning always gives a new perspective on things for me. We got off to a leisurely start, eating breakfast at the apartments and getting ready for church. I was eager to get my first real taste of island life. It turned out to be not just a taste, but a five-course meal.

We headed to New Testament Baptist Church for their morning worship service. My first impression was good because they had a/c. We had been told they probably wouldn't and it is HOT here. We walked into a sanctuary scattered with people, with a beautiful wood ceiling and stained glass windows. Just as we found a seat, the service started. Though it is labeled "Baptist," it was a little different than our church in Alabama...a little more exciting, shall we say? But the enthusiasm was first. People were filing in for almost an hour. I had heard that time is not so much a factor in the Caribbean, but later I came to think they were just smarter than me.

So, we sang, then we sang, then we sang some more. I actually enjoyed the worship time, but got a little weary after standing for an hour. Then there was a prayer time when people could go down to the altar. After a few seconds, it became apparent they wanted prayer for healing and were also anointed with oil. They are very expressive with their prayers as well (which isn't a bad thing), so that lasted several minutes.

Then, finally, a young man from the front row takes the pulpit. Now, in Alabama, we would have a 10 second prayer and the preacher would begin so as to get everyone out in time for lunch and avoid nasty emails in the coming week. In St. Maarten...not so much. He preluded his sermon with a praise/prayer kind of thing...which was great considering he emphasized wanting God to be glorified and speak through him rather than bringing glory to himself. At last, the sermon began in earnest. And, once again, not so much like home. Over an hour later, we had heard all about paradigms, SHIFT! (apparently if you yell that word enough, your paradigms will, in fact, shift), repentance (that part was good), and how we are all little gods. Don't even ask. I won't even mention the prosperity gospel thrown in here and there, except that I just did.

Really, some of it made me think. How many of my observations are based on my denomination and culture verses the truth of God's Word and Who He is? Haven't figured it all out yet, but it's good to think outside the box a little.

Well, after 2 hours and 45 minutes of church, I was about to pass out from hunger. So, imagine the look on my face (Chris tells me it was priceless), when the pastor finished the invitation, passed the offering plate, then announced, "Now we'll do baby dedication, and after that...baptism." I was ready to do some praying then. Paul and Lisa, who are with us, were seated a couple rows back from us. When I looked back at them, desperately, they nodded their heads toward the door...and I felt like praising Jesus again.

After making our great escape, we passed our afternoon on the French side of the island. (I won't be able to post pics until we get back.) While the Dutch side is very crowded...the houses, the stores, the streets, the parking...the French side has more countryside, quaint looking areas, and an old fort on top of a peak that overlooks the Caribbean. If you don't know, the island is very mountainous, so there are many hilly and curvy roads and houses built up the sides of the slopes. There were many expensive French restaurants on that side. We ate at a roadside bbq place where they were cooking the ribs and chicken, along with the sides in big pots, on a grill outside. The food has all been good, but they are not all about waiting on your table. They appear to take your order, deliver the food, and bring the check. So just settle in.

Then, at 7:30, we bravely ventured into another church service. This time, we went to the church plant of a missionary family, the Jeromes. They live on support, and struggle to make ends meet for their family and their ministry. They meet in a store-front location. There were about five adults there besides the four of us and the Jeromes. There were a few youth and children as well. It was totally different than the other church in every way. They sang hymns a capella, pausing at the end of each one to take suggestions from the audience. Once, two of the pastor's daughters whispered in the music leader's ear, then took the microphone and sang a little duet. When the pastor arrived, he picked up the electric guitar and was the accompaniment, except when he would pause in the middle of a song to try to get his computer to work. There was a greeting time when I received several traditional French know, the kissy on each cheek. I'm just guessing, but I don't think there was a staff meeting on Tuesday of last week to plan the order of service. And, one more difference - it lasted maybe an hour, hour and a half at the most. Thank you, Jesus.

It was very laid back, but when Brother Jerome spoke, you knew it was from his heart. He would speak in English (with a very thick Haitian accent), then follow that with French. What was so moving was his heart for missions. Here he is, a man who can barely afford to feed his family of six, talking to a handful of church members who do not (and maybe cannot) give enough to pay rent on this small, very basic, room where they meet, about giving to and going on mission. Brother Jerome just returned from earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where he went to check on family...but also to take supplies and minister to the people there. He has no money, but he felt lead to go. So, he planned and God provided. And he is going back in April. Astounding.

And this is where I say something controversial and harsh...all I could picture in my mind was our church building at home, complete with amazing technology and sound systems, indoor slides, very expensive murals on the walls, and surrounded by fancy cars...several per family in many cases. Disgusting. I've never pulled out my wallet to put money in an offering plate faster.

I realize I've just written the longest post of all time and I'm getting a headache sitting in the heat in a wicker chair typing on a miniature keyboard. (Don't ever say I never did anything for you.) And I haven't even said anything about today. So, I think I'll be done and try to recover and cool off before we head to our third restaurant of today for dinner with the Jeromes. Thanks for checking in!

Oh, and no answer yet, as far as we can tell.


  1. I'm so glad you're giving us a different perspective. Take care sweet friend.

  2. Wow! what a totally different world down there. Thanks for keeping us updated and we are praying for you and Chris.

  3. Okay now this just made me laugh several times! Continuing to pray for you two, not just for a word from God but also a new hunger for the things of God. Can't wait to see pictures and read your commentary on them. ;-D

  4. Mark and I went to a church service in Kazahkstan and it was very much like the first one your described. Am loving all the details you are giving us.

  5. HA HA HA! LOVE this! Keep the long posts coming. I could just imagine the look on your face during the 1st church service. Sooo exciting to hear what you are seeing.

  6. I'm so glad you are taking the time and effort to write from down there. Thanks. Really enjoying hearing about your experience and excited to see what God does with it.


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