by Rhonda Vaughan (nee' Wharton)
In 1964, Ralph Wharton, a preacher in Bogalusa, Louisiana, became interested in the island of St. Vincent as a mission project, and after exploring the island and raising the necessary support, he moved his young family to the island in August of 1965. I was nine years old at the time.
When we arrived in St. Vincent, there were a few Christians, who had been converted by a radio preacher from the States, Winston J. Massiah, but they were not assembling anywhere. The first meeting of the church took place in the city hall building, and consisted of our family of five and a few of the locals. After a few weeks, when we had had time to receive our belongings, build our furniture, and acquire a house, the church began meeting in our home located on the main street running through town.
Because Daddy had advertised a Bible correspondence course and had enrolled a number of students from throughout the island, he began making trips to the villages where these students lived, teaching them, baptizing them, and holding street meetings to teach others.With the converts from the correspondence course lessons and from the preaching being done by Daddy and the local boys, and because travel to and from Kingstown was too difficult to make it possible for everyone to come to our home for worship, Daddy began driving to where the young Christians were.
A typical Sunday consisted of worship in our home at 7:00 AM; at 8:05 sharp, Daddy would leave for the town of Troumaca on the northwest side of the island, and would pick up passengers along the way. At 10:00 AM Daddy would conduct the worship service in Troumaca, and drive back to Kingstown for lunch, arriving between 12:30 and 1:00. At 2:00, Daddy would leave for Lowmans on the eastern side of the island, picking up passengers along the way, and at 3:00 PM the worship service there would begin. He would then return to Kingstown, dropping off his passengers, arriving about 5 PM. After supper, and a short rest, he would conduct the evening service in our home at 7 PM.
The roads on St. Vincent were very narrow, winding, and steep, and maneuvering a Volkwagen van around some of those curves was quite treacherous.
As the young men he converted developed their knowledge and understanding of the scriptures and their abilities to preach, they were able to take some of the preaching responsibilities from Daddy, and on the days that Daddy was ill and unable to drive the route, Mother would take over the driving.
My sister and I never went on this Sunday route with Daddy, but during the week when Daddy would go to the villages to teach or to look for meeting places where he could hold worship services, we would go with him. Along the way, we would see the farms on the steep hillsides, the ragged huts among the concrete block houses that dotted the landscape, and the children in their rags, and often even going naked.These were all images that burned into our minds.
After three years of work on St. Vincent, Daddy had either directly through his own efforts, or indirectly through the efforts of the young preachers he had taught, establish 10 congregations. Because the church in Kingstown had outgrown our living room, Daddy spearheaded the purchase of a large house in the center of the city and overlooking the city from a hilltop.
Mother brought us children back to the States in August of 1968, and Daddy returned in February 1969 after introducing the new missionary to the work there and holding services in the new building.
For over 40 years I have wanted to return to the Caribbean to do mission work. I remembered with great fondness the people we left behind and with sadness the poverty of so much of the population. One little girl who had walked past our house regularly was bald from pulling out and eating her own hair. After telling my husband about the poverty that we saw there, he offered to send me to see what the situation is there now. Is there still poverty? Do children still go hungry? Is there a need for a soup kitchen or some other program? What can we do?
The first thing my sister and I did when we arrived on Sunday night, August 16, 2009, was to visit the church Daddy left behind. It is still active and strong and growing. We also found a Baptist Bible College of the Caribbean, headed by Pastor Desmond Fessal. He said there are still hungry children on the island; many go to school with no breakfast and have no lunch to take; lunch is provided by the schools, but for many children their school lunches are the only hot meals they ever get, and for some of those, it is the only true meal they get at all. Pastor Cecil Richards of the Kingstown Baptist Church told us that because of adult illiteracy, lack of job training, and an insufficient number of jobs available many parents are unable to adequately provide for their children.
As a result of our trip, CAFC, Inc., (Christian Aid for the Caribbean) has been formed to feed the hungry children on the island of St. Vincent in particular, but as we become aware of the needs on other islands, we would like to be prepared to meet those needs as well.
We ask for your prayers that the Lord will guide all those involved in this work that has now begun, that we may have wisdom in administering the funds that are donated so that as many children may be fed as possible.