About 10 miles below the erupting La Soufriere volcano on the small island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Kingstown Baptist Church Pastor Cecil Richards thanked God for rain that fell briefly as he led a virtual worship April 11.
As the volcano spewed its reportedly biggest explosive eruption since the initial fiery overflow April 9, Richards remained committed to serving the community with a three-phased response centered on the gospel.
“This is a time of high stress and uncertainty. It’s just, it’s bubbling over to be honest with you,” he told Baptist Press April 12. “If you’ve dealt with people jammed together or thrown out of their home. All the facilities are not adequate. … Understandably this is really not a good situation.”
On Sunday, he reassured worshipers of God’s power and faithfulness, preaching from Judges 6.
“We have faced crisis before, but we have come through,” Richards told worshipers. “And in this period with the confluence coming together with so many different things at once, particularly the coronavirus, and the COVID aftermath and the volcano, this is an accentuated crisis for us.”
In its three-phased response, the church is gathering supplies and has been preparing 170 meals daily for evacuees since the weekend and planned to prepare 250 on its path to 300 daily meals. Next, the church will arrange to donate clothing, linens and drinking water. Counseling, childcare and evangelism are next, followed by housing.
“Currently our immediate response is to feed some of the evacuees. That’s a very real need,” Richards said. “Long term, we’ve got to think of the transition back home, and that’s going to be major because homes are going to need a lot of help. That’s going to be a major, major response in the long term, to get people back to their homes.
“Our angle will be to meet these needs and minister the gospel.”
He’s working with local government officials and the International Mission Board (IMB), and has heard from churches and residents in several states and countries, he said.
“We are getting partners to come on board,” Richards said. “We are pleased that we have had conversations with IMB about what we are doing. We are very pleased that they were able to listen to us. … We expect that our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters across the waters will come to our aid in our time of need.”
Richards told worshippers he had received an “outpouring of support” from friends globally, including the U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico, England and Canada.
“But it is those who are in this this morning (who) know what it’s like,” he said Sunday, “and no words that I use here today can fully grasp and communicate the upheaval for our people.”
Authorities in the country of about 110,000 people evacuated about 16,000 residents Thursday, but others might have remained behind, the Associated Press (AP) reported. No injuries had been reported as of Monday evening.
“It’s destroying everything in its path,” AP quoted Erouscilla Joseph, director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Center. “Anybody who would have not heeded the evacuation, they need to get out immediately.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.)