On December 3, 2020, Pastor Will Woods celebrated his 51st year as pastor at Altona Baptist Church on St. Croix. Last week, our Converge MidAmerica team caught up with Pastor Woods as he reminisced on the history of Converge churches on the island. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Q: Pastor Woods, how long have you been involved with Converge MidAmerica?
A: Well now, that goes back to 1973/74 when I first met Clif. I was living on St. Croix and was working as the pastor at Altona Baptist Church when Pastor Clifford Bubar arrived. He was a missionary from Maine who was sent out by the Baptist General Conference* (BGC) to plant churches on the island.
He and I got to know each other over the years, and he encouraged me to consider becoming part of BGC as my church was growing. By 1975, Altona Baptist Church had grown to the point that we needed to consider expanding but, at the time, we didn’t have the financial means to fund an expansion ourselves. We joined the BGC in 1976, along with the other Baptist churches on the island and, through BGC, we received a loan that enabled us to buy a new property and build a new church.
Over the years, through the presence of BGC, we were able to set up four Baptist churches on the island – one for each side of the island – north, south, east, and west.
*The Baptist General Conference later changed names to Converge.
Q: Aside from financial support during your church’s expansion, what other support and resources did you receive from Converge?
A: The financial support was a big deal because it enabled us to reach more people. Our church grew because of the new facilities. Over the years, Converge has also supported us by sending speakers with training and teaching for church strengthening. Local pastors in the Converge networks have also had increased collaboration to coordinate our ministries and evangelism on the island. And one other highlight has been when other Converge churches have sent mission teams to St. Croix. We’ve had teams from churches as far away as Michigan and California. Whether they were helping with Vacation Bible School or working on repairs, these trips have been a great support to our church and a great way to build fellowship.
Q: What words of encouragement would you share with new church planters?
A: I have two things I would say to new church planters. The first is be sure of your calling (*Pastor Woods laughs*) and the second is this – be faithful to God.
Q: How has COVID affected the churches on St. Croix?
A: Like churches across the globe, distancing and masking has been a challenge for our churches. Currently, we still have around 30-35% of our congregation not able to attend in-person. But we have maintained our fellowship, and we are especially grateful for our connection with the Converge MidAmerica team as we think about coming out of COVID even stronger than before.
Q: Give us a window into what you see down the road for the churches on St. Croix.
A: I think that with the support of Converge MidAmerica we are looking forward to strengthening our current churches. The expertise and training from Converge is going to build up our members and we are looking for opportunities to expand to plant more churches on nearby Caribbean islands.
Q: Any closing words to our Converge family?
A: Please continue to pray for us and all the pastors on St. Croix as we work together with MidAmerica…and make a trip to the Virgin Islands to hear from us and share and to see what we are doing!