St. Kitts Fieldnotes Part 2: July 7-11

(cross posted on Peter Marina’s blog)

Interview with Bartholomew.

On Tuesday, July 8th, we were supposed to meet at 4PM but he was late. We met at the church, Christian Life Assemblies, located just outside of Basseterre city center.

We interviewed (taped of course) for about an hour or so about the Pentecostal movement in St. Kitts, PAWI, challenges of taking over a church congregation, the relationship between a church congregation and pastor, religious networking (especially with Bible School), the importance of PAWI in religious networking, the roots established at the PAWI approved Bible School in Trinidad, etcetera. Bartholomew is also going to his home country of Trinidad on July 9th (Wednesday, the day after this interview) to receive his Masters degree in International Studies from a Theology program in Jamaica (or Trinidad).

After the interview, I attended the “believers” class composed of younger people around the ages of about five- to thirteen-years old, some born again-already while others were waiting in preparation. After the hour long believer’s class where the pastor sat on a chair with pupils listening to him discuss some bible versus and the importance of becoming saved, was the “adult” bible study class. Bible study class begins with some songs and, at least on this occasion, a bible trivial quiz game jeopardy style. This lasted until about 9:30.

On my walk home, I decided a drink was in order. The only problem, as is the case with much of the English-speaking Caribbean countries, no place to really drink in a “normal” bar exists. I walked towards the bus station where dozens of shack bars lined the shoreline in the now dark, unlit bus station with locals looking to down cheap beer and rum concoctions, lime and tell stories. As with my recent trip to St. Lucia, this is not a place locals go. I walked up to one of the shack bars that seemed the most lively and ordered Stag beer for about a dollar. As usual, the locals stared but gave slight nods of approval along with curiosity. After some time, I began talking with the locals at the bar and soon enough, we warmed up to each other. The bartender suggested that I try their special white rum concoction. I initially turned down the offer until all the empty cups were placed on the wooden slab and rum came pouring into the glasses, all for free. I walked back to my nearby apartment a couple of hours later.

July 9th-Wednesday in St. Kitts
Also on Tuesday, Rasta Man Shiloh called my phone establishing a planned meeting for the next morning. I was running late on Wednesday prompting the rasta man to call again wondering where I was. I finally reached Shiloh after getting off the bus a town early in St. Paul’s after a woman told me this it was the Dieppe Bay. Once I finally arrived to Dieppe Bay Village, a man in a car immediately recognized me as the man inquiring about a ride to Stacia. I got in his car and we drove to his boat named Scallywags. The price was too high, way too high at about $400 USD. Shiloh apologized claiming the gas alone for his boat would cost about $300 USD. I later confirmed this with a few other sources. At one time, small boats moved people for cheap and fast to and from the islands. Those days are over since the Stacia government began regulating passage into the country. I was still determined to find a fisherman or owner of a small boat to take me from one island to another.

For now, I settled on taking the regular ferry service to the nearby island of Nevis which is about half the size of its sister island at 36 square miles. The boat landed in the capital Charlestown, a small quaint capital with some tourists, businesses, small restaurants and bakeries, supermarket, and small, quaint gingerbread-like houses. After “topping up” (the term used for adding money to increase phone time) my phone at a nearby Digicel and eating a sandwich from a local bakery, I jumped on the bus heading North as far as the bus would take me, which was Nisbit beach. It’s a lazy but beautiful beach and a nearby resort caters to tourists. While on the bus, I inquired about where to find a man with a small boat who gives rides to people to various islands. The bus driver mumbled something about a place somewhere in Oualie Beach. I made my way to Oualie Beach finding a bar next to a beach with small boats resting in the water and shoreline. While waiting to order a beer and make inquiries, I overheard a couple talk about heading back home to New York City. I quickly shouted “Hey, what part of New York you from?” To which they replied Brooklyn. I said, “Yo, I’m from Brooklyn, what part of Brooklyn you from?” They responded, “Bensonhurst” as I immediately followed with Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill. I told them I wanted a man with a boat to take me to nearby islands. The couple immediately pointed to just such a man and explained that he was a family member (the sister of the man’s wife). I approached the man inquiring about his services. Unfortunately, as was confirmed earlier, things are not what they used to be. Folks just don’t island hop anymore due to the increased cost of gas and tight government regulations. It turns out, however, that he was taking his sister and brother-in-law back to St. Kitts on his small motorboat. I asked him for a lift and jumped on the boat. A few minutes later I was at Reggae Beach where mostly white people lazed away the hours on beach chairs or played in the calm waters.
I walked to the nearest beach bar where more locals limed and ordered some beers while talking to the bartender who was married to a Rasta Man. We discussed the simplicity of St. Kitts and its quiet early day hours, her unpleasant time in the United States, my book, and some story about a neighbor who agreed to let her grandson pick mangos from their backyard if he was willing to risk getting bit by the guard dog. She was not done dealing with this neighbor.

After a few beers and more conversation, it dawned on me that I was at the southern most point of St. Kitts near Turtle beach miles away from the capital, with no bus service. Taxis charged a hefty price from this far out, especially for non-locals with few choices. I decided to walk, taking my chances on hitchhiking. After a few minutes, a couple from Ireland gave me a lift right back to Basseterre. In all, I traveled to Nevis from St. Kitts using formal (and informal) transportation while achieving my goal of my return trip to St. Kitts.

Earlier that day, I telephoned another religious leader on the island named Reverend Kenneth Francis. We agreed to meet the next day.

I Interviewed with Reverend Kenneth Francis on Thursday at 1PM at his church in Sandy Point Village in the northwestern part of the island. His church is called Abundant Life Assembly, which is also a PAWI church. We interviewed for about two hours on the following topics, among others:

  • His life and path to conversion and ministry and pastoralism
  • Loneliness of pastor
  • He is originally from Trinidad
  • How his church is on the brink (but has not yet received) supernatural manifestation
  • His budding gift of prophecy

[Side note: Nigel admitted he was raw but genuine. He likes to cook and eat. He especially likes to cook banana bread. He is a big fella but as genuine as they come. He opened up to me immediately.]

After the two-hour interview in his church office (small church), we visited a young boy of 17 years old who is paralyzed from the neck down and has been for a few years after a tragic accident in his village where he slipped off a pole and into the wrong end of a pool of water. Francis tries to pray with the boy for about an hour or so every Thursday. Since he was late today (because of our interview), he prayed with the boy for about twenty minutes. Although they talk about many things as any friendship, including Futbol, the main purpose of prayer and meeting every Thursday in general is for healing.

The prayer time was intense. The pastor placed both of his hands on the boy’s heart and prayed out loud. He laid his hands on his body. At times, the boy’s eyes remained closed; at other times, they suddenly became wide open as his body began to shake and tremble, making a jerking motion as if he was trying to force his healing. The pastor said numerous times that he believes – and has seen in a vision — that this boy will walk again. The pastor also reported that the mother makes the same prophecy.

The room was plain, small, no decorations, two beds, a small window, and regular sized fan. The boy had bedsores. He was, it seemed, fully in charge of his mental faculties, but his body looked not only paralyzed but also mangled.

[All of this from beginning to end is taped.]

Other notes on St. Kitts

As in other countries, religion is everywhere. One hears gospel hymns sung inside of school. Reverend Francis also serves as a prayer minister for the public school (officially); “God is Good” written on public busses (this was even on the cab that initially picked me up from the airport), gospel music players in the grocery stores (and airport like Antigua), Jesus music blares on the private taxis, religious slogans are all over public walls, and so on. This is typical in many of the Caribbean countries I have visited. I later told Nigel, “If there is a God, he is alive and well in the Caribbean.” In fact, all four of the sociological meanings of secularization seem not to apply in the Caribbean. This Caribbean, more than any place known in the world – besides what country folk say – is God’s country.

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