The Apostolic Faith work in the West Indies began with the literature that gained entrance there around 1920. The initial leaders of the West Indies Apostolic Faith work, Clifford Austin and his wife, lived in Havana, Cuba. In 1928, they began making tours to neighboring islands, visiting groups of believers and holding evangelistic services.
In the winter of 1956-57, the Portland headquarters sent a group of four missionaries to the islands: Forrest and Sally Damron, and Melvin and Lorena Frost. They spent several months there, visiting fifty-two different locations on fifteen islands of the West Indies and British Guiana, South America. Within a period of 106 days, they held 114 meetings. The people were overjoyed to have personal contact with representatives from the headquarters. It was thrilling to the missionaries to observe the high standard of Christian living among those who had previously been guided only through the Gospel literature and correspondence. Since that time, ministers and workers representing headquarters have made periodic trips, holding meetings in thatch-roofed buildings, in homes, in churches, in schoolhouses, and under improvised shelters.
The history of the work on the island of St. Vincent dates back to 1925, and was pioneered by Theophilus Scott and his wife. In 1928, their first church was built of sticks and mud, and had a thatched roof. People throughout the island began responding to the Gospel message, and groups were established in other locations. Their efforts were not without opposition. Mr. Scott preached the true Gospel of Christ and upheld the doctrine of holiness, and as a result he suffered some persecution. Other religious groups were also opposed by the government and were forbidden to have public meetings. During this time, Mr. Scott identified himself as an affiliate of the Apostolic Faith Church with headquarters in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. As evidence, he showed a copy of an Apostolic Faith publication, the magazine now called Higher Way, which he carried with him. Once this distinction was made, he was granted liberty to continue his public ministry. Over the years, the work there has grown.
In the early 1950s, Forrest Damron and a team of workers were on a missionary trip to the West Indies. While flying over St. Lucia, the plane developed engine trouble and was forced to land at an airport on that island. While waiting to continue their trip, the team distributed Gospel literature. It was through that contact that the work began on the island.
The work in the Dominican Republic is the largest in the islands. Seventy-five years ago, a lady in that Spanish-speaking country found an English tract in the dirt beside the road and shared it with a friend. What they read rang true in their hearts. They wrote to the Apostolic Faith Church, asking for more instruction and guidance. The organization contacted a missionary who was in Haiti, and he went to the Dominican Republic to meet these ladies. It was then that they prayed through to salvation. From this humble beginning, the Apostolic Faith Church work in the Dominican Republic has grown, and today there are more than sixty churches in that country.
In February of 2005, the Dominican Republic work celebrated their seventy-fifth anniversary with a celebration at the La Romana headquarters church. The event was attended by a delegation from headquarters including Dwight Baltzell and Dick Taylor, both of whom have made many trips to the islands. A stadium seating 4,000 had been rented, and by the time the service began, almost all the seats were filled. After special music and a short video on the history of the Apostolic Faith Church, three pastors spoke. Those present were encouraged as they rehearsed the amazing results that came as a result of one person letting faith take hold in her heart.
The work on the island of St. Thomas originated through the efforts of Algernon Blyden, a man who had been saved as a young man when the Lord dealt with his heart. He was not connected to any church, and the Bible became his “lamp.” Often he would read until the early hours of the morning by lamplight. After receiving sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he began leading others to God and holding services in his home. The group grew, and their meeting place became too small. Various churches asked him to become their leader, but after examining their doctrines and finding that they were not according to the Word of God, he refused, desiring a pure doctrine. In 1958, he came in contact with the Apostolic Faith and the Spirit witnessed to his heart that this was the group he should affiliate with. The Lord prospered, and currently there are three Apostolic Faith churches on the island of St. Thomas.
One of the newest Apostolic Faith churches in the Caribbean is in Haiti. This country has suffered much hardship, both economically and spiritually. For a number of years, there has been little or no church activity in that region, but through the efforts and financial assistance of workers from a sister congregation on St. Maarten, a church was built. It was dedicated in February of 2003. Groups are meeting in several other locations, and property has been purchased for two additional branch church locations, so there is good potential for an expanding work in that area.
Souls in the islands are continuing to pray their way through to a knowledge of salvation and many are receiving the fullness of God’s blessings. Today, there are over one hundred Apostolic Faith churches scattered throughout the greater Caribbean area on eleven islands, with five appointed district superintendents in charge of the various islands. The congregations speak six different languages—English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Hindi, and Patois—and have six different monetary systems.
In 1996, work began at the headquarters office on translating a four-year Sunday school curriculum into the Spanish language. This has proved to be of great value to the Spanish-speaking churches in the Caribbean. After the first quarter of usage, the Sunday schools in the Dominican Republic experienced a twenty-five percent gain in their enrollment.