Aerial view of the start of the demolition of the Road Town Seventh-day Adventist Church in Tortola, on Feb. 7, 2021. The church was destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, and until this year church members were able to raise additional funds to start rebuilding the church soon. [Photo: Jamoi Watson]
British Virgin Islands | NCC Staff and Inter-American Division News

Three years after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the Caribbean island of Tortola, church members at Road Town Seventh-day Adventist Church gathered recently to witness the demolition of their church building, which was severely damaged by the storm. It was their church home for 40 years.

“The second floor of the church was destroyed,” said Sylvester Williams, who leads the congregation. “The integrity of the remaining structure was compromised and, as a result, plans to expand were aborted and rebuilding plans evolved.”

Since the powerful storms struck the island, the congregation of 183 has been meeting on the campus of British Virgin Islands Adventist School, which also sustained damage but was repaired.

“There was destruction all around,” said Wade Tobin, a church elder and principal of the school. “There were no trees around. You could see from one end of the city to the other; it seemed so transparent and the church took a beating.”

Adventism has deep roots in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) community, said church leaders. Of the nine Adventist congregations in the BVI, Road Town Adventist Church is the oldest. In the early 1900s, the congregation worshipped in a structure located at Sea Cow’s Bay, which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1916. In the 1930s, the property was acquired in Road Town and the congregation moved to its current site.

“As it outgrew its humble beginnings of a wooden framework, the building was refurbished but the membership growth outpaced the amenities,” added Williams. He said that for sentimental reasons, the consensus of the members was that the Adventist presence should remain in Road Town. On July 6, 2011, two small adjoining parcels of land were transferred to the church from the Government of the British Virgin Islands, for the sum of $1 US dollar.

“The acquisition of these properties added some well-needed square footage to the new edifice which offered more seating capacity, more child-friendly areas, easy access for those that are differently-abled, accommodations for community humanitarian services, and additional restrooms with two showers,” Williams said.

For a time, the church also served as a community hurricane shelter and was once the home of the Adventist school for many years.

“God is going to help you build back better no matter the cost and, moving forward, the church is going to need all the help it can get,” said Pastor Williams when addressing his congregation. He appealed to anyone who has a skill set that would be useful to the rebuilding effort.

Since Hurricane Irma in 2017, church members have been raising funds to assist in the rebuilding of the church, said Pastor Williams. The old church building had the capacity for 150 people and the new two-story design is planned to house 250 persons in the sanctuary, he added.

“I have no doubt that the community will be right there with open arms to make sure that the church is rebuilt,” he said. “The new building will bring honor to God, enhance the image of the church, deliver ministry to the British Virgin Islands and be celebrated by the community.”

Local church leaders plan on the groundbreaking of the new construction at the end of March.

This article was originally published on the website of Adventist Record

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