In Robert Lewis Stevenson’s book “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” he tells a fascinating story about a brilliant man who feels that evil tendencies in him are holding him back from the good he could accomplish. So he invents a potion that separates his good side from his evil side. The problem is that the evil side, Edward Hyde, is so evil that what he says and does shocks and horrifies the good side, Dr. Jekyll. The essence of the evil is a complete and utter self-focus. Hyde will do and say anything to get what he wants and will not let anything or anyone stand in his way. Jekyll feels such shame for what he does as Hyde that he vows never again to take the potion. He sets out on a fanatical mission to redeem his shame with good deeds and his brilliant accomplishments are substantial. One day he is reflecting on all the good he has done when suddenly he begins to turn into Mr. Hyde without the potion. He is so full of pride, self-righteousness, superiority that he becomes Hyde, not in spite of his goodness, but because of it. Keeping all the rules and being self-righteous, he discovers, lead to the same evil as breaking all the rules! It is the beginning of the end for Stevenson’s character.
This is exactly the lesson Paul is trying to teach the Galatians in the passage above. That it is possible to avoid Jesus as Saviour as much by keeping all the Biblical rules as by breaking them. It is the same lesson Jesus tried to teach the Pharisees and the same problem many “Christian” organizations struggle with in Grenada. There is so much time focused on what I need to do as a Christian, my confession, my choice, my walk with God, and shame because I have not lived as God would have me and I can do better, that God’s grace and my complete dependence on it is very hard to find. As one visitor once told me, “Yours is the only non-Arminian church in Grenada!” (Arminius is an old theologian who said that the reason people are saved is because they made a choice to follow Jesus in their life and if they are damned it is because they rejected him.) I doubt we are the only non-Arminian church in Grenada, but in my limited experience there are not many.
At the risk of my own self focused pride, I would have to say that this is the most important among many reasons why Grace Lutheran is different than many other churches in Grenada. Unfortunately most people think all Christian churches are the same or they just see external differences like your music is different or your service is more or less reverent or “Spirit filled” than ours or the people are really friendly. Sometimes they notice that your church lets people dance or drink or go to movies. Perhaps the lesson is that there is, as Jekyll learned, no perfect human, or in our case, no perfect church. We all desperately need God’s grace and that is why we come. Jesus gives me the holiness and righteousness that I cannot achieve in this life myself.
This may seem like a very strange way to start a blog that will report so many amazing blessings that God has given us at Grace Lutheran in Grenada. But as impressive as all these blessings are… they are nothing compared to what Jesus has already given us: undeserved love, forgiveness and acceptance into His eternal family. All the rest is frosting on the rum cake. Still, I like frosting, so let me tell you what else God has done for us at Grace.
This month marked the historic completion of our first permanent church and school building. On September 23rd we dedicated every aspect of the building to the glory of God and asked for His blessing and protection. There were three aspects to our celebration. The first was the morning dedication worship service. We began in procession at the front entrance of the property and proceeded to bless the school door, offices, classrooms, and kitchen. Then we went to the Purple Heart church door to bless entry, instruments, altar, font, and lectern. President Guse of the South Atlantic District honoured us with a message from God’s Word about the blessings we find in God’s house. Our readers were Shemron Ross and Marinus Coutain. Another highlight was our colourful gospel choir.
After worship we enjoyed a time of fellowship and open house as our people proudly showed off their areas of service to guests. The ladies in the kitchen under the leadership of Alice Braithwaite and Chef Desmond Lewis in particular shined. The afternoon program featured children from both our Sunday School and parochial School with skits and song. Our government’s Permanent Secretary of Education was a guest of honour and shared wisdom and well wishes in her speech. Also speaking were Dei Sylvester, Pastor David Kehl, and other special guests included Pastor Jason Richards of Antigua, and Staff Minister Erik Landwere of St. Lucia. Another highlight of the afternoon program was the youth skit specially written for the occasion entitled, “The Lion’s Hair”. Altogether our celebration lasted a good six hours and near 300 people came and went in the course of the day for the various programs. Of special note were the many neighborhood visitors that we had gone out of our way to invite. Also there were over a dozen guests from the US to help us celebrate many of them longtime supporters of our ministry. It was a joy to thank God for their support. Thanks also to our members for inviting their friends and being such delightful hosts.
That was just one very big day. To be honest, there are so many other blessings we are struggling in keeping up with them all. I never dreamed it would be such a challenge working with a large ministry staff. We now have 20 people on our staff and it continues to grow. Our latest additions are Tuck Shop cook Andris Belgrave and aftercare swim instructor Deb Eastwood. We are starting small with a hot lunch program but we hope to expand in the future into a full blown café if God allows us. We continue to add to our aftercare program and many students who are not in our school are starting to take advantage of this program. For some time now our music program has thrived, but now one of our teachers, Adanna Moore, teaches martial arts and we have an arrangement with the Chinese embassy up the road to use their pool for swim instruction. This has led to some intriguing connections with the Chinese community. We have had Chinese visitors coming to church and Sunday School and others inquiring about our school. We believe these connections as do all of our aftercare programs have a lot of potential for growth of our ministry. The aftercare programs have also been a great way to incorporate volunteers in our ministry both inside and outside of our church.
There were other changes in staff this month. Our office manager, Tamika Gilbert received a full scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in business and went back to school at SGU. It will be a challenge to replace her. So much ministry is going through our office right now that it is impossible to keep on top of everything. As we adapt to all the changes that are going on in the lives of our staff, please pray for us. Already we can see big improvements in the lives of our school children and we thank God for using us. By the way, talking about blessings, last month we made a special appeal for a gift to cover Jean’s tuition. We have received gifts for half her tuition, your generosity continues to allow us to do great things for our Father. If you are moved to cover the rest of Jean’s tuition we would love to introduce you.
Our construction company, Quinn, continues to do impressive work on our site and on our building which makes running a school at times very challenging, but we are thankful for what they are doing. We are still working out bugs in our sound and video equipment, especially for worship. We are working out bugs with things like keys and soap dispensers and little issues every new building has. In general we are so blessed and have noticed an increase in both visitors and old members coming back to our services. We have a good group of anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen who are almost finished with Bible Basics class and want to become members. For the first time we have enough men to fill reader positions, ushers, and still man our worship band. We are thankful to Dei, Andre Worme, and Kelvin LaTouche for forming a solid group of mature ushers.
As you can see work has begun on Phase 2 of our building program, the Café, playground, and perhaps a medical clinic. While we have much of the funding for this project we are still looking for both funding and planning for the phase 2 programs and facility. If you are interested in and have experience or training in helping us with planning and implementing a café or a medical clinic ministry consider the possibility that God may want you to serve here. If you know someone we should ask, please contact us. Nurse Pat Schlosser, who was here for dedication, was able to get an important meeting with the Grenada Governments Chief Medical officer and visited a number of island clinics to evaluate what direction we might best go in our planning. The Chief Medical officer was very positive about the possibilities for our clinic and promised assistance with counsel, permits, shipping concessions, and staff recommendations.
In closing let me tell you a story about Gordon. Gordon is not real, but his story is not uncommon in Grenadian churches. Gordon is a young man with a colourful past. He got in with the wrong crowd and the wrong girls and he made several bad choices. Years later Gordon meets a new girl who has a strong dedication to a local holiness church. He decides that he is going to turn his life around, make some real changes. He goes to church faithfully with this new girl, starts a family, and starts making Godly choices in his life. He even begins to get very involved with the church’s ministry becoming a deacon and working with the youth. His faith grows and his work is blessed. However, in Grenada everyone knows everyone and it is only a matter of time until his past catches up to him. In response to news of Gordon’s past the pastor preaches a scathing sermon against the very sins Gordon committed. Gordon is ostracized and forced to sit in the back row of church during worship. He is removed from his deacon status and his family is humiliated. Members treat him differently and talk behind his back. In time Gordon quits going and begins a search for another church where he can continue to grow in faith and serve God in a context of love and grace rather than slander and shame. This is what happens too often in an Arminian church that puts complete emphasis on what I do or don’t do for God, rather than what God does for me. A number of Gordon’s have already found us. Pray that God lead more to us.
"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Galatians 3:1-3