Planning and Promoting the Program
In five years we completed and dedicated very nearly a hundred new Seventh-day Adventist church buildings in the British West Indies Union. And when I say churches I mean neat, substantial, well-built, representative buildings—not bamboo huts with palm-thatched roofs. We did this with comparatively little help from outside our own field. The buildings, when completed, cost in the neighborhood of $250,000, and of this amount we received less than $40,000 from the Inter-American Division and the General Conference. When I left the British West Indies Union early this year we had sixty-seven more such church buildings under contruction. Under God we were able to do this in islands where our people are poor in the material things of this life but rich in faith.
Perhaps some of the methods we used may be of value to other mission administrators confronted with similar building problems. When we started our building program five years ago we discovered buildings that had been in the process of construction many years. I read the date August 7, 1914, on the cornerstone of one unfinished building. It had been laid thirty years before! Finding proj ects that had been moving along slowly for ten years was not uncommon.
These conditions were not due to lack of interest or vision on the part of previous administrators. The work had grown so rapidly in this beautiful island field that the brethren had not been able to keep up with God's opening providences.
Our intensive building program began in earnest late in 1945. A year later sixteen new churches were dedicated in a single day on the island of Jamaica alone. During 1946, 1947, and 1948 we averaged dedicating between twenty and twenty-five buildings every year. An equal number of other projects were usually begun.
Our program has been built upon carefully worked-out plans and the eager cooperation of mission workers and church members. Here are some details of the program. If they are worth anything to your field, well and good. There are no patents on any of them. They have been tried with good success not only in Jamaica but also in other West Indian islands, British and French, and in Catholic and Protestant countries alike.
First, our union committee approved plans that envisioned the close cooperation of the union, the local mission, and the churches concerned. We selected unfinished projects and offered help to those who desired it under a "Church Completion Program." Under this plan the union gave approximately a sixth of the amount needed to prepare the church for dedication. The local mission gave a further third of the amount, and the individual church was asked to bear at least half the cost in cash and materials, in addition to free labor donated by members. The union's share of the funds was approved only when the building was fully ready for dedication.
To keep the program constantly before the churches, neat, ingenious charts were prepared by the union. These charts consisted of an outline of a church building printed in blocks, with a number of doors and windows. The amount of money required to finish the project was computed; and the blocks, windows, and doors were given proportionate values. These were "sold" to the members, and then names or initials were placed on the corresponding part of the chart. They "paid" for their "purchases" by personal pledges, or by funds raised in various ways, to be described later. As members brought in their money their blocks or windows or doors were colored appropriate colors, indicating the progress made in the fund-raising program.
Also on the chart is a place to mark the full goal at which the church was aiming as well as the proposed date of dedication. This provides a definite date toward which the members can work, so it is not a case of running along ad infinitum, without a time goal as well as one for funds, The chart also includes two or three appropriate Bible texts and Spirit of prophecy references bearing on the subject. This chart, hung in a prominent place in the church, keeps the program constantly before the members, and from time to time the church elder or pastor calls the attention of his congregation to the progress made.
Raising Needed Funds Locally
Less than 20 percent of the funds used in completing nearly a hundred new chapels and launching sixty-seven more that were under construction January I, 1949, in the British West Indies Union came from outside the union. The local congregations carried the greater percentage of the balance—the union and the local mission helping as they were able from Ingathering comeback and special appropriations.
In this case necessity was indeed the "mother of invention." If we were to provide adequate and representative church homes for our members, we realized that we would have to find ways and means of raising funds within our field, without cutting down our Sabbath school offerings or interfering with our Ingathering campaign. The Lord helped us to shoulder these increased responsibilities, and at the same time show healthy gains in tithes, mission offerings, and Ingathering.
Here, in addition to the stone-laying and window-opening services previously described, are some of the methods we have successfully employed in raising funds for chapel building. Different methods will be suited to different localities, of course. But the methods described here have met with varying degrees of success in some English, Spanish, French, and Dutch countries, as well as in both Catholic and Protestant countries.
In this part of the world field, as in many other mission countries, our members are not wealthy. They are loyal souls with hearts of gold, but their "treasures" are being laid up in heaven. They have little of this world's goods. Consequently, one of our best sources of income has been in "kind" rather than in cash.
We launched a large church dedication fund, encouraging our members to dedicate breadfruit trees, banana and plantain roots, chickens, cows, goats, avocado pear trees, fish traps, vegetables, and whatnot to the program of building better churches. I could write a small book on the interesting promotion and the results of this plan. As with the Sabbath school Investment plan (which, incidentally, has not suffered in our union while we have been building churches), the Lord blessed our believers abundantly, and large and small sums are still flowing into church buildings throughout the British West Indies and the Caribbean Union as the result of this program.
Free labor has been another great source of help for our building projects. Certain weekly or fortnightly "labor days" are arranged for, and on those days church members gather to give free time and labor. Carpenters, masons, and less-skilled workers can all be effectively organized by a pastor or church elder whose heart is in the work.
Personal pledges and solicitation, where authorized by the mission committee, will be a real help. Sales of candy, cakes, and clothes, sponsored by the Dorcas Societies, bring in many hundreds of dollars. Down our way our people love concerts and programs. They are born to sing and recite, and their programs are well received and generously donated to by the public.
Our publishing department secretaries are glad to encourage the sale of our books and periodicals by the members of churches, who turn in the profits to the church building funds. And, of course, we always want to give a big boost to the Ingathering campaign, for here is a large source of self-help that will assist our chapel-building program as well as other projects.
We have sold postage stamps and many other things in order to achieve our goal of having church homes of which our members can be justly proud. The program carried on in the British West Indies Union has now spread to the colonies and islands of the Caribbean Union, with an equally enthusiastic reception and success.
(Next month Elder Pierson describes the "stone-laying" and "door-and-window opening" services used in the West Indies in connection with the church building program.— EDITOR. )