Child Evangelism Fellowship reports enthusiastic interest in Good News Clubs on the U.S. Virgin Islands. Good News Clubs are after-school Bible clubs for children. “Everywhere we go, parents and school superintendents want us to establish clubs in their neighborhoods.
All we lack are enough workers to lead the clubs and we are working hard to find them,” said Mr. John Hines, the CEF ministry development coordinator for the Caribbean region. The school superintendent in Saint Croix has approved Good News Clubs in the ten schools on the island. So far 47 people on the island have volunteered for training to lead clubs. This remarkable response is largely due to the work of John and Mary Hines who attribute their success to their home and means of travel: their sailboat, Morning Star.
“Prior to our arrival, CEF workers came from the mainland United States and could only stay in the region for a week at a time. They would have to raise funds for plane tickets,” said Mr. Hines. “By living on our boat, we are able to stay for six months at a time,” allowing them to do so much more, especially to build relationships. It also attracts the curious which gives the Hines the opportunity to tell them about CEF. The Morning Star is a 38-foot sailboat chosen by the Hines because it was the biggest sailboat they thought each of them could handle alone in rough seas. “You never know what can happen. You have to be resilient and resourceful,” said Mrs. Hines. Once in a terrible storm, Mr. Hines was thrown and broke two ribs leaving Mrs. Hines to pilot the boat. Another time, far from land, Mrs. Hines cut herself so badly she had to suture her own wound.
Mr. Hines, a retired corporate pilot who flew routes to the Caribbean, saw the grinding poverty there and all the beautiful children. When he retired in 2007 he wanted to do something to help those children. Familiar with CEF’s Good News Clubs which their own daughters had attended as children, the couple responded to a missionary friend’s challenge to go to the Caribbean as CEF volunteers to pioneer CEF work in the region. It was clear from the start that a sailboat would be very useful but neither Mr. Hines nor his wife had ever sailed on the open seas. It took them seven months to learn to sail on the ocean and outfit their boat, and an entire year just to get down the East Coast from the Corrotoman River, near Kilmamoch, Virginia as far as Saint Petersburg, Florida.
While the Hines have concentrated their efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands, particularly Saint Croix, they travel throughout the Caribbean and try to spread the word about CEF and the Good News Clubs wherever they go. “We try to do whatever we can for the Lord every day,” said Mr. Hines. “The reception is overwhelmingly positive. When we went to Nassau, the CEF National Director arranged for us to speak at several schools. The attitude of the schools in the Bahamas to the gospel message is far different from what you find in the United States. The children are actively encouraged by the teachers to accept Christ. The school day starts with the Lord’s prayer. We were invited in and allowed to run a club meeting. On Grand Exhuma, we were told we could start a club in every school on the island.” On Staniel Cay, a tiny island with a population of about 90 people, the Hines knocked on the door of the one room school house and asked if they could have a club for the 17 children. One little boy committed his life to Christ during the club. The Hines were told he was the only unsaved child on the island.
There are challenges that go with living on a boat full time in the Caribbean. Besides the safety threats of storms and whales, there is no internet access on the boat. The Hines carry a bag of cell phones, one for each of the many phone systems encountered in the region. With no air conditioner and the rigors of sea life clothes get pretty rumpled, making them less than presentable when they arrive at churches and schools. But these are small matters when the Hines reflect on their CEF ministry. “It’s important to remember that all those dots on the map of the Caribbean are islands that have people: People from all over the world,” explained Mr. Hines. Many want their children to hear the gospel and be discipled. “Many have never heard it at all. We are like any CEF worker who loves God and his children. That is why we are here.”