Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
In Trinidad & Tobago, time slows down. I did not have Internet access. I did not have a working cell phone. I was no longer following a set schedule. Or at least we were on Trinidad time. It was easier to “be still” on this island on God’s earth.
Our home base was a quiet campground known as Victory Heights Bible Camp. It must have been part of the Lord’s plan as I attended Victory Heights Elementary School in Winchester, Kentucky. It was the perfect place for our mission team to meet, pray and fellowship. I would say sleep but the warm nights made sleeping difficult.
Our bus driver, Elvis, picked us up from the airport and drove the team wherever we needed to go. With the narrow streets of Trinidad, Elvis continually amazed how he could navigate our bus through traffic and difficult roads with ease. We were very thankful and appreciative of both his driving and friendly spirit.
Pastor M, his family, and the people of Talparo Pentecostal Church made us feel at home in their country. Their smiles. Their warm hearts. Their joy. Their good (and plentiful) food. Their sense of community. And their love of the Lord. It all shines through.
Construction is a little different in Trinidad. Most houses are not finished at one time. People save funds and build the structure one project at a time as money is available. The church building is the same. Save money to build the next project, and such was the state of Talparo Pentecostal Church. So I have to believe that Roland and Denise Baptiste, who grew up in Trinidad, were true blessings in leading us to this little church. Johnson Ferry Baptist Church donated the funds to help with a couple of crucial construction projects.
Both projects were related to water. Trinidad was entering the rainy season. The first project was more labor intensive for the team. We needed to dig a long ditch to help divert the water away from the church foundation which was being weakened by the rains. Our team started digging when a neighbor working construction stopped by to consult on how best to lay the pipe and divert the water. When his crew left for the day, this neighbor stayed to help us with the digging for several hours. He was not getting paid, yet it’s that sense of community, working together for the benefit of others, that permeates this community surrounding Talparo Church. We finished the project in 2 days, just before the heavy rains started. The only downside was an angry neighbor on the other side of the church who wanted us to take care of the water running from the church onto his property. We saved enough money on the trip to pay for gutters on the church roof to address his concerns as well.
The second and largest project was completing the installation of windows for the church. When tropical rains come, the church sanctuary and congregation would literally get rained on inside the building. A local contractor delivered the windows and we helped position some of them. Once all of the windows get installed, the rains will be kept at bay. The next step is to install netting at the roof line to keep all the native birds out. As worship started on Sunday, a heavy downpour showed us why the new windows were such a blessing as the Talparo church members sang and worshipped without worry of getting wet. The Lord is good!
The pastor’s right hand man, Carl, showed us what it means to serve. He has been serving the church since 1979, assisting 7 pastors at Talparo Church. While he has the gifts to be a pastor himself, Carl chooses to serve the pastor’s and the church’s needs by doing all of the little things behind the scenes. He took us on a long prayer walk through his neighborhood. The highlight was a visit to Phipps Road and the house of Milicent Baptiste, who has taught Sunday school at her home for over 40 years. On our way back to the church, we stopped by Carl’s home where he has lived all his life. Carl is well-known in this Trinidad community as a true servant of the Lord.
We conducted three training sessions for the church membership. The first session by Brother Lewis instructed us how to be a better witness for Christ and how to share our faith. The second session was conducted by our trip leader Ian Lundberg. Ian took us though a test and assessment of our spiritual gifts and how best to apply those gifts in Kingdom service. The third session was conducted by another trip leader, Roland Baptiste, who shared the concept of servant leadership. He said private faithfulness leads to public usefulness. God will honor those who honor Him, and you alone with God is all He needs. The congregation were extremely enthusiastic about the training and several pastors from sister and neighboring churches asked to use the materials to teach their congregations. So encouraging to watch God spread seeds!
The highlight of Saturday was hanging out with the pastor and several church members during the day as we prepared for a church rally in the town square. Here was a group from Atlanta worshipping with Talparo Pentecostal Church and dancing to the music of an inspirational steel drum band in the streets of Trinidad. It was truly a life-changing experience. We may live over 2,000 miles apart in the world, but that night we were all together as one in the love of Christ.
Sunday was filled with worship and the spirit of the Lord. Our mission team has traditionally served together for many years in downtown Atlanta at Eagle’s Nest Ministry. The highlight of those trips was Sunday morning worship with gospel singing and the preaching of Pastor Larry Arnold. As I looked around Talparo Church, I got that same feeling of love and worship that we had every year on our mission trips at Eagle’s Nest. Roland Baptiste provided the sermon in the tradition of Pastor Arnold. And with the new windows in place, the congregation sang and celebrated without worry. The only water inside was the Living Water of the Lord!
The trip back to the airport was a feeling of sadness yet celebration of a seed that the Lord had planted, the team had helped water, and the Holy Spirit will help grow in the people of Talparo Church. As Luke 6:38 states, "Give, and it will be given to you.” This small group of people from Johnson Ferry Baptist Church left feeling more blessed than we could imagine. God bless the people of Trinidad & Tobago and the members of Talparo Pentecostal Church. It’s a place and people that we will never forget.