God created a beautiful place when He formed and planted the Caribbean where it is amongst the beautiful waters and scenery. But he also created precious souls that live there. While they have commercialized these qualities for income they themselves generally live very modestly. From my research, depending on the island, 20-80% live below the poverty line. And while some are able to live prosperous lives this does not make them any less lost or in need of the gospel. I believe that missionaries in expensive economies, while often questioned about their motives know the sacrifice and struggles of not discriminating the gospel to the poor. Expensive places are often written off as impossible and beyond God's scope of capability. Therefore, it doesn't require a weak-willed servant looking for relaxation, but a dedicated servant determined to see God's Word sown in every heart and every area. In these areas, the missionaries will face a mixture of both backgrounds. But with God's grace they strive to reach these precious souls that God has emboldened their hearts to fight for.
I was blessed to speak to ladies in 4 different countries about their life and ministry. Please remember that this is not a thorough depiction of life in all of the Caribbean but a birds eye into how these missionaries live and serve. We will be taking a look at St. Lucia (Mrs. Bartley), Becquia-St. Vincent & Grenadines (Mrs. McKenzie Balinger), Jamaica (Mrs. Titus) and the Dominican Republic (Mrs.Pape),
The islands vary in size, from 5,000 (Becquia) to 11 million (Dominican Republic). They all have a strong Catholic and Seventh Day Adventist following. St. Lucia has 11-20 missionaries serving there while Becquia only has two on their island. Jamaica has less than 10 missionaries. The Dominican comes in with a strong 50+ missionaries in their very populated country.
The people are all pretty laid back and hospitable. All of the countries besides their resort areas are completely third world. The Dominican tends to have a strongly matriarchal society due to most families not having a father figure. Multiple families and adultry is sadly just everyday life. Throughout the years of ministering where these ladies are they have found that conversions come at varying rates. Through their many outreaches; children's ministries, tract distribution, Bible studies, camps and the bus ministry they have found many are able to trust Christ after just a couple of weeks while others take time of sewing the seed.
Mrs. Bartley and her husband are able to teach Bible classes in the public school and also able to witness by teaching adult ladies how to read. Illiteracy is still a looming problem in third world countries. There is nothing that can describe interacting with someone who is unable to read and especially unable to read the Scriptures. What a great opportunity to enlighten their world humanly and spiritually.
Mrs. Titus has a ladies ministry called, Sew Very Loved. It teaches impoverished woman how to sew, crochet and make jewelry to give them an opportunity to rise out of their situation and also find the One with all the answers as they teach.
These areas don't come without their struggles. Each lady shared with me one of their biggest challenges. Mrs. Bartley said that they really struggle with the mentality of the Nationals of being good enough to go to heaven. It is a struggle to get to them to realize that being a good person and going to church is not enough to take you to heaven. And also it is a struggle living in the heat with heat indexes of 100+. Mrs. Ballinger, spoke of the struggle to find a consistent meeting place. Either it is overly expensive or owned by families that don't want to rent to others. In a small island it represents struggles to find a good spot without many options. The Lord has opened the door for a building right now. They are praying they will get to stay there.
Mrs. Titus said that it is a big challenge to get Christians to obey the Bible above culture and live as a Chirstian should. While God expects every Christian in every culture to obey his Word and all who attempt to will receive enabling grace and immeasurable blessings, many struggle with the strong peer pressure. It is hard to imagine when you live in western society that is very private and segmented the power of an entire community and family commentating on every decision you make. It takes a regular walk with the Lord and a jump of faith to overcome this pressure in their life. Mrs. Pape, talked about the struggle of third world living as you first come from the states. It is a HUGE adjustment! Going from the life of ease to slow pace, crazy driving and irregular electricity and water. The first few years are very challenging as you are purged from modern living and find a new normal, that entails a lot of work and patience.
Along with the struggles come Gods gift of encouragement that comes in many forms. For Mrs. Balinger it comes from listening to online messages and having God speak to her heart. Mrs. Titus said what a blessing it was when pastors would call and pray with them. It means a lot to them for one of the men that support them to take the time to personally call and pray with them for the struggles and joys they live through. Mrs. Pape also said it was a great blessing to have phone calls and emails reminding her she was loved and not forgotten.
Sometimes the simplest things mean the world to others.
The Lord has made each of these ladies and their ministries unique and wonderful. For instance the Bartley family was told when they were planning to go to the area they minister in to never go there. It was too wicked to be reached. They are now serving there faithfully and successfully. I love how God is in the business of the impossible.
The Balingers have a burden and desire to get a boat and minister to the many surrounding islands through outreach. With the Lords vision, a missionaries calling and the encouragement of supporters many wonderful things for missions can be accomplished around the world.
Thank you to all you wonderful ladies who took the time to share your heart with me!
Bartleys -St. Lucia
Balingers- Becquia, St Vincent & Grenadines
Titus' - Jamaica
Papes- Dominican Republic