Randy and I left chilly Ohio on January 4th for a three-month missions trip to the island of St. Vincent. Our son-in-law, Daniel, attended Bible college with John Fieck, a missionary here on the island. John visited us in Ohio and stayed in our home. After getting to know us and learning of our heart for missions and our vocational skills, he invited us down in the winter of 2009-2010. I had seen pictures of their home and I knew that his wife needed a sofa recovered and new curtains sewed. The school campus was also in dire need of maintenance. So Randy packed his tools and I packed my sewing machine and off we went.
The four-week trip was very successful and we fell in love with the students. While there, the school leaders realized that the students would greatly benefit from vocational education. So we prayed and asked the Lord if that is what He would have us do. Throughout the following year, 6 sewing machines were donated and over a hundred pounds of fabric. Our house sold in a down market for the price we wanted, and many other things just fell into place. We committed to spending 3 months here this year and as our business continues to grow and support us, we will be spending more and more time here. Our son David and the rest of our staff are doing a great job while we are away, and we could not do this without them.
The island of St. Vincent is 18 miles N to S and 11 miles E to W. St. Vincent has a population of about 90,000. It is a volcanic island that last erupted in 1979 which is the same year they gained their independence from Britain. The unemployment here is at 35%. This last year’s hurricane “Tomas” wiped out much of their banana crop. This has made it even harder on them. They actually have government housing called “no income housing.” The further north you go, the poverty become more severe. It is not unusual to see people living in entire villages of shacks and tents.
The Baptist Bible College of the Caribbean was founded in the 50’s by missionaries from the United States. It is located on the south windward side of the island situated on 5 beautiful acres that overlooks the Caribbean. The village is called Prospect. It had received funding from the churches in the states as the missionaries established churches throughout the Caribbean. The economy took a big hit when Free Trade Agreements came. They could no longer be competitive in the selling of sugar and bananas. The country went into a state of poverty,and the school was forced to close. About seven years ago the churches on the island wanted to reopen the school. They went to the US and visited some universities asking for help. Today the school has 4 full time professors from the US and 1 national who was educated in the US. These students will graduate with a bachelors degree in Biblical Studies. The school is not accredited at this time, but they are working on their accreditation.
There are 19 students this year. They all live on campus during the year. Their homes are all over the Caribbean (Haiti, Dominica, Barbados, St. Lucia, and here in St. Vincent). Many of the students are very poor.
The school’s tuition is only $2000 a year. Half of the students have their tuition covered by their home churches. The $2000 is to cover food, housing, and books. The professors are supported by churches in the U.S, and the local churches on the island fill any budget gap at the end of each month.
I am currently teaching a sewing class and Randy is teaching electricity and other trades to the students in college. There is a great need for these students to have vocational skills to support themselves while they serve their communities in the ministry. In this part of world, pastors not only don’t get paid but are also called upon to help supply the needs in their church communities.
Randy and I are the first to teach vocations and business concepts at the school. We count it a privilege to be working with such a great student body. Work has already begun on the sewing room. It should be completed in about 10 days. That has not kept me from beginning my class. I met with the students on Monday to share with them what we will be learning and the objectives of the class.
Randy is teaching the students electrical and plumbing skills. He holds a Master License in the State of Ohio for both electric and plumbing. These young men, once trained can work 3 days a week to support their families and devote the rest of their time to their ministries. The plans are to network these students to apprentice with qualified electricians and plumbers on the island after we leave. There is a shortage of skilled trades people and little if any opportunity for training.
We’ll follow up shortly with more news and photos. Please pray that God will do a great work in St. Vincent.