Antigua & Barbuda’s Most Fragile Natural Resource

“The children are Antigua & Barbuda’s most fragile natural resource” – This quote was shared to me by the Child Evangelism Fellowship national board chairman during my recent ministry trip. August 14-18, 2017, I (Sean) went to meet with the CEF national board and national staff there in Antigua. Fitzgerald Semper is the national director, and he has served as both board chairman and then national director when the Lord called him to serve full time with CEF.

 Fitzgerald Semper and me (Sean)

There has been a CEF ministry in Antigua & Barbuda for some time, but officially incorporated in late 2012.

They have ministry in a number of primary schools and preschools, and God has used the local chapter of CEF (nationally run) to help the local people reach over 1,800 children with the Gospel! These are children that are also being discipled in the Word of God.

August 28-29 they (CEF Antigua) will be holding CEF training here
at this church/school

Monday, August 14:

My plans began to change big time when my cell phone battery died that morning and I had to spend time (and money) I didn’t have getting a new battery installed before my flight. Because of weather delays, the flight to Charlotte was delayed over an hour and I missed my Miami flight by Only. Five. Minutes. I almost was placed on standby but thankfully was given a confirmed seat on the 10pm flight to Miami. Long story short, with the CLT weather I did not arrive at my Miami hotel until 4:30am. Only got 2 hours or so of sleep and it was off to catch my flight to Antigua.

Flew directly over St. Kitts! Saw so many familiar places from the air!

Tuesday, August 15:

Running on adrenaline, I had a thankfully uneventful flight to Antigua, where I met with Fitzgerald all afternoon, stopped by the CEF office and we said hello to Ianthe, the CEF office manager and teacher trainer. She is doing a great job!

Tuesday night we went to the church where we were to have a meeting with the national board. Unfortunately the key was in another vehicle, so ultimately the meeting did not begin until 8pm. It was a good, healthy discussion with the national board about the CEF ministry there in Antigua & Barbuda, developing a strategic plan of action and how to grow and develop a thriving national board and ministry.

Board development is a primary part of my missionary responsibilities, and these face-to-face times are vital as I interact with board members throughout the year.

Wednesday, August 16:

Wednesday I was able to spend the full day with Fitzgerald, as he had a number of errands to run. It was a privilege to see parts of Antigua I had never seen before, meet his mother, his mother-in-law, nephew and sisters. I have been friends with Fitzgerald for almost four years, but it was amazing to hear more about the history of Antigua & Barbuda, his upbringing, the culture and current state of the country. Fitzgerald has a deep heart for the children of Antigua & Barbuda, he said many times “I enjoy traveling to the USA and other places, but I love my country of Antigua and I love living in Antigua.”

He also stopped downtown at the local market where I picked up a bounty of local fruit that I missed!

A guinep!

Thursday, August 17:

Thursday we stopped by Fitzgerald’s church that he pastors (separate from him being a full-time national director for CEF)! I am thankful for local churches that reach the local community and faithfully teach the Gospel.

We also drove to his sister’s home, which is near where Fitzgerald grew up. I was able to see his stomping grounds and get a better appreciation for what local children experience there in Antigua.

The beautiful view from Fitzerald’s sister’s home of Antigua’s country area

Wax Apples/Plum Rose from their tree

My flight back to the USA was uneventful, but there was an hour & a half delay at JFK with the baggage that led to me arriving quite late to the hotel (past 11pm). Needless to say, I have been quite tired this week.

Friday, August 18.

Traveled back to Montgomery!

Was able to deliver these Teaching Children Effectively Level One
flannel figures for CEF Antigua to use as a backup when power outages occur
and the projector cannot be used.

Again, in partnership with The Gospel Coalition: International Outreach,
I was able to get a case of Tim Keller’s Galatians for You (an EXCELLENT book)
to give away to the leaders in Antigua!

A big thank you to Fitzgerald for being such a gracious and hospitable host, he opened up his home to let me stay there and I am grateful.

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Two VERY important things to understand:

  1. This was an incredibly needed trip because as an Area Director it is vital to have face-to-face time with each of the national workers we serve at least once a year. In addition, it is important to have face-to-face time with national boards because instead of emailing or calling strangers I am speaking to friends, to co-laborers.

So much of what I do on a daily basis from Montgomery, AL is done via Skype, email, phone call, WhatsApp and other technological methods. But these things are limited. With a visit, even if it is short like this one, I can spend over three hours with the national board, and over 27 hours of discussion and conversation time with the national staff (which is what I did August 15-17). Visits like this are vital and help me assess better the current state of the CEF ministry and how I can best serve these national workers along with the regional team.

  1. Spiritual warfare is extremely real and can be very much in your face at times. I experienced this heavily this week. This week I had the cell phone battery distraction Monday morning, the physical exhaustion from the many flight delays and severe lack of sleep on multiple days, I could not find my passport for almost five/ten minutes on Tuesday, our mortgage payment incorrectly posted twice to our bank account which caused me to spend over 30 minutes on the phone Wednesday (plus the emotional distress of what in the world we were going to do), the car back in Montgomery had the brakes go completely out, there was not a quorum of the national board because 3-4 members were sick, among other things. The enemy does not want the children of Antigua & Barbuda to be reached, and Satan will stop at nothing to distract, hinder or throw curve balls & roadblocks in your way. Everything is on the table for Satan. However, God is infinitely greater and infinitely more powerful! We saw His hand of providence & protection in countless ways this week.

This is why prayer is so important; please remember us as missionaries in your prayers!!! Also, pray for the local CEF staff of the countries we serve, and pray for the local volunteers who teach the children in Good News Clubs & 5-Day Clubs. Pray for their families. Pray for their health. Pray for favor in their travel and pray against the evil one that seeks to devour. Pray all of these things for us as well! Prayer is a vital way to partner in ministry with us as missionaries; so many battles in our ministry are deeply spiritual.

Pray for Fitzgerald, Ianthe, and the entire CEF Antigua & Barbuda family today!

Helping CEF Bahamas Reach Out After Hurricane Joaquin

I received an encouraging email from the CEF national workers in the Bahamas while we were traveling earlier this month! In that email they gave us a detailed report on the distribution of Do You Wonder Why? booklets to children affected by Hurricane Joaquin. Helping to secure cases of these booklets and getting them to these national workers ASAP was one of my first responsibilities in our updated position with CEF.

The aerial view of Long Island after Hurricane Joaquin ripped through the island causing major damage to homes, buildings and property.

The aerial view of Long Island after Hurricane Joaquin ripped through the island causing major damage to homes, buildings and property.

We serve as international missionaries to help national workers reach every child on their island with the Gospel. We were saddened when we heard that one of those national workers, a CEF Instructor of Teachers, was one of the people who lived on an island that was devastated—Acklins. Kate had a school there and she also serves on the CEF Bahamas national board.

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Lisa Moss (one of the CEF Bahamas new national workers and is about to go to the Children’s Ministries Institute this fall) sent me this about Kate and what was happening there:

10/5/15, 8:25:56 PM: Lisa Moss: Well the reports are coming in, the south eastern Islands were hit really hard. many persons who were able to travel to Nassau are telling their story and it is a painful one. listening to them i can’t even imagine what they are saying.  Kate, one of CEF’s  IOTs was in Acklins and she told her story and it was heart wrenching. she talked about how they had to go up into the attic of her home away from the water coming on the house.
10/5/15, 8:28:19 PM: Lisa  Moss:  she is also a committee member
10/5, 8:48 PM Lisa  Moss: Pictures of homes flattened, roofs blown off, furniture, clothes, kitchen appliance all in the road. looks like a war zone but we are thankful there was no loss of life.
: the family and just Bahamians in general are coming together to help where ever they can. donations are high.: there was one pastor told of how they were in the church which was a hurricane shelter and the roof blew off. they moved from one area to another until they had to leave the  church in search of safe shelter.they prayed and prayed

The aerial view of Long Island after Hurricane Joaquin ripped through the island causing major damage to homes, buildings and property.

In God’s sovereignty, this Hurricane provided an opportunity to show God’s love and share the Gospel to many children all throughout the Bahamas! We may not understand why it happened, but we do know that when these things happen, children wonder how in the world a loving God could possibly allow this to happen. CEF is there to share the truth with these kids!

Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation Leslie Miller views damage to a BEC power station in San Salvador. (Photo by Torrell Glinton)

Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation Leslie Miller views damage to a BEC power station in San Salvador. (Photo by Torrell Glinton)

Below is the unedited report from CEF Bahamas. YOU had a part in this by praying and supporting us financially! Thank you! 

The Bahamas is an archipelago of about 700 islands and 2,400 uninhabited islets and cays off the east coast of Florida. Only about 30 of the islands are inhabited. New Providence is the seat with where the capital, Nassau, is situated. Other islands include Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera, Andros, Cat Island, San Salvador, Acklins, Crooked Island, Ragged Island, Cat Island, Long Island, Bimini, Berry Islands, Harbour Island, Inagua, Mayaguana.

Bahamas

Hurricane Joaquin developed on September 27 in the Atlantic Ocean. The storm rapidly intensified as it moved toward the Bahamas.

Hurricane Joaquin strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane and remained at that intensity for several days as it lashed the Bahamas. 

Flooding from storm surge and torrential rainfall has been documented on Long Island and Acklins, among other central Bahamas locations. A Weather Underground personal weather station at Pitts Town, Crooked Island, reported winds up to 84 mph before it stopped reporting.

A total blackout was reported on the three hardest-hit islands of the central Bahamas. About 85 percent of the homes in one settlement on Crooked Island were reportedly destroyed.

Much of the damage was centered in the southeastern Bahamas, particularly Crooked Island, Acklins Island, Long Island and San Salvador. The storm ripped roofs from homes, flooded main roads and farms, spoiled wells for drinking water and forced the closure of small airports.

PM Christie said the government planned to ask the U.S., which flew teams out on Saturday, if they can once again assist, but this time with helicopters in order to access Acklins and Crooked islands where the airports were under water.

Flooding hampered government efforts to restore phone service and electricity. Flooding also has isolated residents.
Sean Miller CEF area director for the Northeast Caribbean forwarded 7 boxes of Do You Wonder Why? Booklets to be distributed to the children of the Bahamas.

Booklets were distributed in November 2015, to those islands that were hit hardest by the hurricane, schools and later New Providence.

CEF-Bahamas Board members were instrumental in the delivery of the booklets to schools and islands throughout the country.

Distribution List Report

Glory to God! Thank YOU for being a part of this!

Serving the Antiguan CEF Board and Staff!

March 4-6 I was able to travel to Antigua to serve the CEF workers and the national board as they held a board/staff retreat. This was my second visit to Antigua, the first being the 2013 Regional Leadership Conference.

The trip had the following goals:

  1. Help the board and the staff to develop a clear path forward in ministry, utilizing everyone’s gifts, talents and abilities in a meaningful way to reach the children.
  1. Serve the board and the staff as they continue to lay good foundations for the new CEF ministry (formally established in 2012).
  1. Encourage the staff and board in ministry and help answer any questions they have, as the board had recently gone through a new training.

By God’s grace, each of the goals were able to be achieved, and the CEF board/staff in Antigua were given new resources to use in their ministry tool kit!

This was a crucial trip for the success of CEF in Antigua and a huge thank you to a generous ministry partner who helped provide the means for me to be able to go on short notice.

It also was wonderful to be able to go back to the Eastern Caribbean where we lived for two years (next door in St. Kitts).

The culture and atmosphere is still very familiar to us, which was further encouraging to me as I had not been back in that part of the Caribbean since January 2014. It was like I never left!

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Ianthe James and Fitzgerald Semper, CEF staff

This is what we do as CEF missionaries; we serve people like Fitzgerald and Ianthe in the Caribbean as they reach their island’s kids. As I asked the board and staff at the beginning of our sessions together, what would Antigua look like in 5-10 years if every child heard the Gospel and had the opportunity to be discipled in the Word of God? The entire country would change for the better! There are 64 primary schools in Antigua, and over 100 preschools. If every single one of those primary schools and preschools had a local church adopting it, the result would be Gospel transformation of an entire nation for decades to come! With over 300 local people trained by CEF in Antigua, God has already prepared the way for this to happen!

Principals of schools are pleading for CEF Good News Clubs to be established at their school so that their children can be reached. Pray for churches to answer that Gospel call in their neighborhood!

Day Before (Thursday afternoon travel)

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I arrived at JFK Thursday. “Welcome to New York”—-where there is snow!

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Day 1 – Arrival and first session

Friday afternoon after a very long flight that was delayed due to deicing the plane (no surprise!), I arrived in Antigua!

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Beautiful sunset from the Moravian church multipurpose center.

The first session began with an exhortation by a pastor who is on the board about all of us being clay in the potter’s hands. We concluded that evening’s session by spending over an hour in both prayer and praise. As Oswald Chambers said: “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”

 

Day 2 – All day sessions and time at the CEF office

Saturday was a long but meaningful day of sessions, filled with sharing and discussion. It concluded by having the first national board elections, with different people now in various positions of CEF service.

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Board Chairperson Camelda Michael

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Camelda and I

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Breakfast discussions!

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I also spent some time in town at the CEF office with national director Fitzgerald Semper. Here are some pictures of their downtown office!

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Downtown St. John’s

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You can’t see it, but the cruise ship port is just a couple blocks away!

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Day 3 – Sharing the message at a local church and departure

Sunday I had the privilege of sharing God’s Word with the Cashew Hill Moravian Church, in whose multipurpose facility we had the board retreat.

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As soon as church was over, I was on my way back to the USA!

On a side note, I was able to give five local pastors their very own copy of an ESV Global Study Bible through our partnership with The Gospel Coalition-International Outreach. One pastor said to me: “I have been wanting one of these so bad!” Praise the Lord for His provision for these study Bibles that will aid local pastors in their sermon preparations.

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All in all, this trip was successful by God’s grace and I ask you to continue to pray for the CEF ministry in Antigua as the Lord shows them a fresh and clear vision for reaching the children of their nation!