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In St. Thomas, Andrew's University students remove hurricane debris at largest Adventist Church

Volunteers part of Andrews University's "We Care Ministries", which provides short-term mission trips to students.

In St. Thomas, Andrew's University students remove hurricane debris at largest Adventist Church

Students from Andrews Univeristy's We Care Ministries clear a section of the Philadelphia Adventist Church in St. Thomas on Dec. 14, 2017. The roof and walls of the church were destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria back in September 2017. [Photo credit: Wilmoth James/NCC]

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A group of students and leaders from Andrews University recently spent a day clearing out fallen walls, fallen branches and debris from the largest Seventh-day Adventist Church on St. Thomas, destroyed by Hurricane Irma last year.

The group of more than 50 stepped out of a cruise-mission trip in the Caribbean to tidy up the Philadelphia Adventist Church, nestled in the capital city of Charlotte Amalie. The church has been closed since the storm tore up the roof and walls in September.

The team of volunteers are part of Andrews University’s We Care Ministries, which provides short-term mission opportunities for students that are unable to go on extended mission trips, explained Rabel Y. Ortiz, the group’s director.  The mission cruise took the team to do missionary work on Grand Turks and Puerto Rico as well, organizers said.

“It was a timely visit,” said Glendon Cross, pastor of the Philadelphia Adventist Church. “We have been wanting to prepare a place where we can convene our own worship service, so the team of volunteers gave us much needed assistance.”

The more than 1,200 worshippers of the Philadelphia Church have been worshipping at the Shiloh Adventist Church nearby and have assisted the community with what they have in the aftermath of the storm devastation, explained Cross.

A total of 22 waste bins were generated thanks to the dedicated work of the group, he added.

Team organizers coordinated with local church leaders to send a team to every stop to ensure proper execution of the missionary work.

“The cruise exists as a catalyst for young adults to cultivate a transformative lifestyle of connecting with God and others in the context of Christian community,” said Ortiz.

It’s about helping students renew their spiritual journey by doing meaningful on-board presentations, discover meaningful community through group interactions and explore the joy of helping others during service projects, added Ortiz.

While on St. Thomas, the team also cleaned the home of Mr. Heyliger, a visually-impaired community member, who expressed his profuse thanks for how much the group accomplished in just a few hours.

It was a missionary cruise planned by and for the students, added Ortiz.

Other cruise passengers noticed the infectious missionary spirit of the team to the extent that three passengers joined them for service to the Puerto Rico and St. Thomas communities.

Warren Cowsgill, one of the We Care Ministries team leaders, who arrived at the ports two days in advance, said the cruise with a mission helps students and well wishers to learn life from a broader perspective.

“Going from place to place helps students to learn about life in a tangible way.” Cowsgill said.

Andrews University is a flagship university of the Adventist Church operating out of Berrien Springs Michigan, United States. Service is integral to the University’s mission to “Seek knowledge, Affirm faith, Change the world.” The University has been involved in missionary service since the 1960s. In 1963 the University sponsored three missionaries worldwide and as of 2017, there are 1,202 missionaries from Andrews University serving around the world. Groups such as We Care Ministries have provided hundreds of students with opportunities to serve internationally.