John Sparrow was a commended missionary from the UK who laboured in Guyana between 1888 and 1899 before transferring to Bermuda in 1900. He visited the West Indian islands of Grenada, St. Vincent, and Trinidad in 1902. During this visit to Trinidad a Devonshire lady and her daughter who lived in the Belmont district of Port of Spain area were saved. Alexander Marshall from Prestwick visited the island in 1909; he noted that there was no Scriptural assembly. Shortly afterwards he was in Barbados, where he met John W McLachlan who was of Scottish parentage but commended from an English assembly, and suggested, "Why dont you go to Trinidad; its a wicked place?".
On 2nd February, 1910 John and Alice McLachlan, with their eldest son Hedley, arrived and obtained accommodation in the Belmont district of Port of Spain. Their other two sons arrived soon afterwards from Barbados. They met the ladies who had been saved in 1902, and who had been praying during those intervening years that the Lord would send someone to preach the gospel in the island. These ladies had a Sunday school in a small hall in Belmont. Soon afterwards, on 27th February, 1910, the first Breaking of Bread took place with five believers present. Belmont Gospel Hall was opened on 1st October, 1915.
However, it was not until 1923 that an assembly was established in the sister island of Tobago. Frank and Mabel Mansfield had arrived in Trinidad in 1922 and the following year settled in Scarborough. A few years later a Gospel Hall was opened there. From these small beginnings assembly work grew as other commended workers arrived from the USA, Canada, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, either to stay or just for short evangelistic and Bible teaching sessions. Presently there are 26 assemblies in Trinidad, and 5 in Tobago, and there are also a few places where halls have been built in which outreach is carried on.
Presently there are no commended missionaries from the countries mentioned living in Trinidad or Tobago; however, there are locally commended assembly workers. Edward Ralph Morris and his wife Joyce were commended from Guyana in 1964 where they worked for some years, then moved to Trinidad, and they now are in Tobago. They live next to the Gospel Hall in Scarborough, and, working with the elders in the Scarborough assembly, he has had tent meetings in several villages in the island. Believers engage in prison and hospital visitation and there is also camp work during the school holiday.
Cleophas and Gilma Caines were commended in 1981 from a Trinidad assembly. He has been involved along with others in the Assemblies Camps that started in Trinidad at the Victory Heights Camp in 1968 and also those in Tobago with the Carnbee assembly. From 1983 he has directed the Emmaus Correspondence Course work.
Learie and Lystra Telesford were commended 1993 from a Trinidad assembly. For many years, while still in secular employment, he visited other West Indian islands seeking to be a help to the believers, and this has continued. Both, like many other believers, have also been involved in teaching Scripture in the nations schools. The Government encourages religious instruction. Many young people have received a Bible for memorising portions of Scripture, and the "Seed Sowers" texts from Canada have been given to the children for doing this. While we were in Trinidad, we received 15,000 or so Authorised Version Bibles from the friends at Echoes of Service; these were shared with all our fellow-workers, and used in their varied service for the Lord.
There are also a number of brethren who are both gifted in teaching, leading Bible readings, and who are ardent in preaching the gospel. Over the years tents of various sizes have been used, from a small one of 10 feet square, up to the 1,000-seater tent. These have been used to great effect reaching into areas where there are no assemblies. Many have responded to invitations to attend these tent meetings, and, like the Corinthians, hearing believed, and were baptised and added to local assemblies. Only on a few occasions have acts of vandalism been experienced, such as when a tent side was slashed with a cutlass, or the ropes that held up the ridgepole been cut. On one occasion a tent was blown down in gale force winds but erected again to continue the meetings.
Other believers find hospital visitation another fruitful avenue of service, speaking to the sick, reading the Scriptures and praying with them. Some sisters use craft classes as a gospel outreach, and ladies learn to do knitting, cross-stitch, patchwork, upholstery and some other crafts. These ladies hear a gospel message and receive gospel literature, and some have come along to other meetings in the Gospel Hall. Sunday schools are held in all the Gospel Halls and even in other venues. The great problem is getting children to come on a regular basis, for parents no longer make their offspring attend - only if they want to go!
The Fairhaven Eventide Home in Port of Spain was opened on 3rd October, 1980. Over the intervening years many aged believers have been cared for by a dedicated staff. There is a committee of assembly brethren and sisters, Learie Telesford is the present Chairman, and the committee meets on a regular basis, to discuss the affairs of the home. It is run on "faith lines", and the Lord through His own people continues to supply the daily needs - He is still "Jehovah-Jireh", the One who sees and provides (Gen 22.14). The importing from the UK and the installation of a custom-built stair chair lift for the benefit of the upstairs residents who were finding the stairs too much for them is really appreciated.
For many years the radio broadcast programme "Green Pastures" has gone out on Saturday mornings over a local station. The late Aylwin Jones and Silvanus Grant were the main speakers, but now the work is continued with Delano Wiltshire and Ram Phakira. The general response to this effort over the radio has been encouraging.
During the Cricket World Cup that was played in several of the West Indian islands, many believers distributed tracts and a large banner was displayed outside the Ebenezer Gospel Hall in Port of Spain. These would have been read by those attending matches at the Oval Cricket Ground, obliquely opposite the Hall.
Enough stress cannot be laid on the personal witness and testimony of believers. This is possibly the greatest asset to the well-being of assemblies, for when this fails both the Lords name is defamed and the local assembly testimony is degraded.
As you pray for the continuing work and workers in these islands, do take time to pray for those who have retired from the work in Trinidad and Tobago: Walter and Marjory Barker, and Mrs. Grace Rothery in England, Dan and Audrey Ussher in Northern Ireland, and John and Margaret Wright, and Charles and Grace Geddes in Scotland.