When members of Bronx Baptist Church in New York heard about the La Soufrière volcano that erupted and devastated the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, members generously sprang into action. But that’s just in the church’s nature, Frank Williams, pastor of Bronx Baptist, said. The church collected around $3,000 for Send Relief’s 2021 St. Vincent Volcano Response project.
Williams is the newly elected president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention and also serves as pastor of Wake Eden Community Baptist Church in New York.
Bronx Baptist chose to give through Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board, because the organization shares the church’s heart to “help the community and share the gospel,” Williams said.
“I know that our network [through Send Relief] and infrastructure is so solid and so Kingdom-oriented, I felt that since we were going to be raising money, that sending it through Send Relief will come alongside all the other churches in our denomination,” Williams said.
“We knew that this would be the best place to pool our resources together,” he shared. “We are fully comfortable that it’s going to go to what it’s intended for which is to help those folks that are in [St. Vincent and the Grenadines].”
‘Relentless in their responsibilities’
This gift is just another way Bronx Baptist has been reaching out to help those in need, even as they’ve been hit hard by COVID-19 this past year.
Each member of Williams’ immediate family — his wife and two children — battled COVID, with his wife’s case being particularly difficult. He conducted his first COVID-related funeral in April 2020 — the funeral of a dear friend and deacon. Since then, the church has lost two others to the pandemic.
But adversity hasn’t stopped their desire to give and to serve.
“Members remained faithful — faithful in their giving, faithful in their virtual attendance. Our volunteer core was just relentless in their responsibilities,” Williams shared. During the height of COVID shutdowns, the church served over 4,000 meals to the community.
“There was always that sense of giving that happened throughout the pandemic. So when St. Vincent and the Grenadines were hit hard by this volcanic eruption, I think that same spirit just spilled over into this,” Williams said.
Some members of the congregation have family and connections on the island, since Bronx Baptist’s congregation consists largely of immigrants from countries such as Jamaica, Saint Kitts, Antiqua, St. Vincent, other parts of the Caribbean and West Indies, Africa, and the Dominican Republic.
The idea originated within the congregation. The only direction Williams gave was to increase the amount to be collected and to send the donation to Send Relief.
“As a pastor, you know people are strapped, and you know things are happening that you may not even know about on their end. You know that the members are still giving faithfully, and your finance team is working hard. You’re reluctant to ask for anything more,” he said. “But I didn’t have to. They spoke what was in my heart. That was the spirit that was being cultivated throughout the pandemic.”
Ray Davis, church strategists team leader for the International Mission Board who pointed Williams to Send Relief, commended Bronx Baptist’s sacrificial giving.
“Bronx Baptist Church was reeling from the impact of COVID last year; less than a year later they gave sacrificially through Send Relief to St. Lucians’ impacted by the recent volcanic eruption,” he said.
“I’m reminded of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 when they gave themselves first to the Lord, and then they gave generously out of their poverty to Paul’s work,” Davis noted. “Williams and his members were in need and yet they gave to others.”
How the funds are being used
La Soufrière started emitting gas, ash and steam in February 2021. By April 8, an evacuation was ordered for those in the “red zone,” the volcano’s immediate area. Eruptions lasted until April 20, but heavy rains in May caused further volcanic complications in the area.
Send Relief has been providing food to the victims who have been displaced in shelters. Part 2 of this project includes food baskets for families returning to their homes in the red zone. Send Relief has been partnering with Kingstown Baptist Church in St. Vincent for relief projects. Bronx Baptist has connections to Kingstown Baptist as well.
“Gifts like this one from Bronx Baptist enable Send Relief to come alongside partners like Kingstown Baptist Church in St. Vincent as they lead out in responding to crisis and meeting needs in the name of Jesus,” said Jason Cox, Send Relief vice president of international ministry.
“It’s been inspiring to see the local church at the center of disaster response in St. Vincent, gaining favor with authorities and the local community that is opening many doors for gospel witness.”