History of Elim Open Bible Church
The Building of the Sanctuary
This is how the Bible describes the phenomenon we call Faith. Ironically, it also describes the mind state that existed years before the physical building known ‘now’ as Elim Open Bible begun to manifest in the reality. It is essential to keep in mind the word now, as it wasn’t always known by the aforementioned name. In fact, many veteran members will never forget the name ‘the little dirt church’ while others still hold fast to the memories of meetings in Brother Roman’s home. Whichever memory you cling to, Elim in its purest form is the collective vision and effort of individuals who refused to give up and were led by God at the very helm of their heart.
The journey began with a Bible school student, Mrs. Hyacinth Blackburn. She was a member of the Glad Tidings Open Bible Church and the pastor’s wife. Mrs. Blackburn was the coordinator of the church’s Missions Department, when she followed the promptings laid on her heart by God to begin an outreach ministry. After much deliberation, and in partnership with some members of the local youth department, Mrs. Blackburn and her team traveled to Naggo’s head on bicycles or in the back of a truck on Sunday evenings to distribute tracks and witness to members of the community.
For their efforts, Mrs. Blackburn and her team claimed four (4) souls for the kingdom of God, a small number, but four was enough for the Lord to start this great work. And so Elim began with four members. With the crucial progress made, Bro. Roman, a founding member of the church, offered up his home as a temporary meeting place for services. This began the 4-year journey to solidifying the foundation for the Elim Open Bible Church. As membership grew, it became obvious that Bro. Roman’s home was no longer adequate and so a plot of land was leased and a temporary structure of concrete blocks was erected without steel. The platform was tiled; however the flooring was dirt, thus getting the nickname, “the little dirt church.”
In 1971, a second-year Bible school student, Bro. Errol Wright, assisted by his wife and other workers from Glad Tidings, was assigned to the pastorate. During his tenure at Elim, Pastor Wright along with other members conducted crusades at Independence City. Their works gave birth to the Miracle Open Bible Church and also heralded their departure from Elim. His departure - officially on July 31, 1973 - marked the end of the 1st four-year journey of Elim and then ushered in the second leg, which began on August 1, 1973. The position of leadership was not left vacant for too long, as the treasurer of Glad Tidings, and recent graduate of Bible school Sis. Carol Watson contemplated the call. With structural work needed on the building and on other crucial components such as the floor, and roof, and with only $4.29 in the church’s bank account; it looked to be a very hard road ahead.
Despite the number of problems that were present, with her unending faith in God, Pastor Watson began her journey with Elim. The new goal for the church’s growth became the acquisition of property, and the construction of a building. Six months later, this goal was on its way to becoming a reality. In February 1974, a piece of property was identified and with the help of a friend, a deposit was made. The land was now the property of the church, and to celebrate, the first tent crusade was held on the grounds of the newly acquired property. It was here persons such as Sis. Angella Williams and her sister Hope came to Christ, both of whom are still with the Lord today.
At this time, newly converted young believers were very dedicated to the Lord and were active in their attendance to church services such as prayer meetings and Bible studies. Through the young people, and by the power of God working in and through the church, their parents also came to faith in Christ. It was during this time that members such as Sis. Carmen Johnson and the Parchment family came into the fold.
As the church began to grow, it was evident the church needed funds to stay afloat. Seen as a blessing, the Board of Directors of Open Bible Standard Churches of Jamaica (OBSCJ) made Elim a national project. This gave Pastor Watson the permission to visit other Open Bible Churches to solicit funds for the project. This process would take Pastor Watson to as far as Montego Bay by train most Saturdays and then on Sundays, to nearby churches. The members at Elim had a mind to work and with concerted efforts they worked at various projects. One long standing venture, spanning a total of 11 years, was the weekly fish fry held in Braeton at the Houston’s gate. Bro. Sylvester Brown and Bro. Gladstone McKoy provided the fish, and the ladies prepared the festivals, soup and chicken. Legend has it that Bro. Brown could roast fish like no other. Everyone worked hand in hand, ensuring everything possible was done to make the efforts a success.
After being approved by the St. Catherine Parish Council, it was estimated that the building would cost, at the time $190,000 and at the end of all the efforts and projects, Pastor Watson only had a total of $5,500 in the church’s building account. The odds stacked against her did not deter her or her faith and in July 1977, just 4 years after accepting the responsibility as pastor, construction began. They purchased 6 tons of steel for $2,400, and the remaining $3,100 was used for purchasing cement, sand, and stone and to pay the workmen. This brought the building off the ground, but the work soon ceased.
Other monetary endeavors included the operation of a grocery shop by Sis. Evelyn Campbell. Interestingly, the shop operated in a time when food was scarce, but the Elim Food Shop sold as freely as the Lord provided. Pastor Watson and her husband would travel high and low, wherever goods were obtainable. Often times, these escapades brought them to remote areas in the country, while other times they were seen chasing the chicken back truck; doing anything necessary to get the Lord’s work done. The Elim Food Shop was truly a profitable endeavor in a time of need, however, it unfortunately had to be closed down when Sis. Campbell became ill and was unable to carry on the work.
The church embarked on other projects such as the yearly New Year’s Fair which was held on the grounds of the Marlin Avenue Basic School. It was hard work, but it was filled with the excitement of community members having fun on the merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, and donkey ride. The fairs were well supported by the members of the Braeton community. Then there were market sales of used and new clothing, donated by store owners and individuals in the Bahamas. Sis. Angella Williams and Sis. Evelyn Pink volunteered to head this project, even working late on Christmas Eve night. Everyone contributed in so many ways; as best as was possible.
After the end of all monetary raising efforts, and after 10 long years of construction, from 1977 to 1987, the church sanctuary was finally ready, and was dedicated in July 1987. Years of hard work and determination led to this point, and God came down and tabernacled in the sanctuary, as they praised and offered worship; enjoying the fruits of their labour.
The Works of the Church
While the church was on a mission to get as much funds as possible, they never forgot about its primary mission of winning souls for the kingdom of God. As such, upon request, the Rev Dr. Frank Summers, then pastor of the Kingston Church of the Open Bible, made his tent available to Elim. With this, a tent crusade was held on the play field in Braeton Phase 1 for over a month, and in the process, saving many lives such as Sis Roslyn Johnson, who has gone to be with the Lord, and many others who have since migrated.
In the summer of 1994, Elim held another crusade in the Southboro Community for another month. It was during this crusade Pastor Watson made her mark as a woman sent from God to better the community and lead its members to Christ. It was also at this very crusade our very own Brictoni Williams walked to the altar and gave his life to the Lord. Today, he is Reverend Brictoni Williams and is in charge of Missions and Evangelism. This is indeed a true testament to the work God has done through Rev. Watson.
In 1995, the “Tent Woman” was back at it again with another crusade in Southboro; the original duration was 2 weeks, however, the Lord did such a move, that it flowed over into another week back on the church grounds. Persons were saved, back-sliders “re-married”, and young people moved by the spirit of God. One person in particular, Sis Janet Brown, received such a baptism from God that her very facial features changed. She worked for the Lord feverishly and touched many lives until her “home going”.
An outreach Sunday school ministry was started by Sis. Jacqueline Watson, who received permission from Sis Miriam Lewis, to conduct Sunday school classes at her home in the Newland community. The ministry flourished, with other Sunday schools opening in communities in Naggo’s Head such as in Cassinor Drive, Foster Lane and others. The idea of capturing the hearts of children and young people did not stop there, as on January 3, 1995, the Elim Day Care was officially opened under the leadership of Mrs. Beverly Thompson, and Mrs. Deletia Nembhard who both provided quality care for the babies. The centre flourished, and the United Way of Jamaica assisted tremendously, as they provided the salaries for the care-givers for one year.
By September of 1995, Elim opened its doors again to a Preschool led by Mrs. Jessica Cox. But the Lord had bigger plans, and the school further expanded from Preschool to basic school; solidifying its position in the community.
By faith, Elim Church started fundraising again in the hopes of getting a new building for the school. The Lord again honored their efforts and the United Way of Jamaica again made a generous contribution to the project, and the newly named Elim Early Childhood Development Center had its new facility which was dedicated in 2004. Not long after the settling of the new facility, it became evident that the growth of the school would outgrow the facility. Therefore with the necessary approvals, there were now plans for further expansion.
The year 1996 was however a difficult time for Elim as Bro Samuel Watson, husband of Pastor Watson went home to be with his Lord. On top of her lost, Pastor Watson who had been ailing for some time now, underwent major surgery. Though unsure about the future of the church, the members of the Elim family stuck together, and God remained faithful and sustained them as they continued their journey. Business as usual continued; preaching and teaching and saving of lives, all in the hopes of keeping the ship afloat, and it did. In this period, a young man by the name of Courtney Walters was immersed and is now a Minister, serving the Lord as a preacher and teacher within the Elim family.
The Development of Leadership
The focus was now on the development of the Leadership within the church. Therefore, in order to get members prepared for the idea of leadership within different departments throughout the journey, training through seminars was conducted at different levels and bible studies were introduced. This was done all with the hope of producing a new generation of leaders. The College of Theological & Interdisciplinary Studies (CTIS) formerly The Jamaica Open Bible Institute (JOBI), affectionately called “Bible School,” was also instrumental in the training and development process with several persons passing through its gates. Many of which have spread to different parts of the world, doing the work they love, and were trained to do.
After 34 years of ground breaking, revolutionary and wall breaking ministry within and through the Elim Open Bible Church, Pastor Carol Watson decided it was time to step down from her position as leader. Her years of work were neither in vain, or will be forgotten, but her stepping down raised the question; who would fill such awesome shoes? Pastor Watson however, needed not to look far, as a member of her own family wore her size. This young and enthusiastic worker for the Lord came up through the ranks. Starting in the dirt church as a child, she moved to Sunday school student and later Sunday school teacher. She worked tirelessly through fish fries, rallies, fairs, BBQs and everything in between. She rose to youth president and became the youngest deaconess and then moved to becoming the youth minister; she loved working for the Lord and the church and it showed. But then again the Lord had other plans for her, and in January 2009 Rev Valarie Blake rose to the occasion and was installed as pastor. She was ready to lead the church into new and unchartered territory; a task done with such vigor and energy as the matriarch before her.
The Journey Continues
Elim has produced many workers for the kingdom of God over its 50 years of existence; their years of faithful service will never be forgotten. Some are with us to this day and continues to impact the church through their leadership and other involvement. There are those who started the journey from Sunday school and have moved up the ranks.
To mention a few:
Sis Rose-Marie Nelson-Brooks
- Sunday School student, Sunday School teacher, Deaconess, church secretary, preacher and teacher of the Word.
Deacon Ronald Fuller
- Sunday School student, Youth President, Men of Vision President, then Board member and Preacher.
Minister Owen Wilson
- Sunday student, Sunday School teacher, Youth President, Board member and licensed minister.
There were others such as Minister Gary Isaacs who joined and later became a licensed minister. Others who came from Elim and are ministering elsewhere such Rev Dexter Johnson started out as Sunday school student, Youth President and is currently the Pastor of the St. John’s Road Church of God and the National Director for the Jamaica Youth for Christ.
Evangelist Bonnito Sappleton, who went home to be with the Lord in 2018, started out as a Sunday School student and would have moved to becoming an International Evangelist, can also be named among those produced by Elim.
The church is governed by a board consisting of ten members led by Rev. Valerie Blake, namely, Rev. Brictoni Williams, Minister Courtney Walters, Minister Owen Wilson, Deacons Marvin Walters and Glen Gassop, Deaconesses Christine Brown, Donna Powell-Wilson, Juanita Harvey, Hermine Tyrell and Pansy McLeod. The board is assisted by a team of members operating in the offices of deacons and deaconesses. They assist with the visiting of members, helping and supporting the sick and any other work needed within the church.
Elim boasts a number of ministries, such as:
The Ushers, headed by Deaconess Hermine Tyrell, is considered the doorkeepers of the Sanctuary. They meet, greet, seat, and serve all who come through the doors of Elim.
The Prayer ministry is the “engine” for the church and is led by Minister Courtney Walters. It would have under one umbrella the Men’s and Women’s Intercessory Groups and more recently the Children’s Prayer and Intercessory Group.
Health and Wellness encourages good physical health practices by providing information to promote not only physical but mental health and is under the leadership of Deaconess Pansy McLeod.
Missions & Evangelism, the ministry that requires every member to carry out its mandate to “go ye therefore and make disciples…” is led by Rev. Brictoni Williams. A component of this ministry, assisted by Bro. Owen Braham, is the food distribution programme that provides non-perishables, toiletries and other items to the church and other community recipients.
Men of Vision (MOV) led by Bro Gavin Williams, encourages fellowship and camaraderie among the men of the church.
Woman of Worth (WOW) is the group for our ladies and also caters to the young girls who are referred to as Visionettes. Deaconess Donna Powell-Wilson leads the WOW with Sis. Marva Wilson leading the Visionettes.
The Music Ministry, under the direction of Deacon Kevan Williams, provides the music during worship services and other special programs. This ministry consists of the musicians, choirs and their directors as well as the sound technicians.
Marriage Enrichment Ministry led by Minister Owen & Deaconess Yvette Wilson, provides the forum for the married couples at the church to be encouraged and supported on their journey.
The Singles Ministry provides christian fellowship and support to single persons through spiritual enrichment and is led by Sis Hermin Tyrell.
The Overcomers are the young adults of Elim with Sis. Nateessia Braham as President. The primary focus of the ministry is connecting young adults to Christ.
The Sunday School ministry ensures there is an avenue for the Word of God to be to be taught and also encourages godly living. At Elim, there is a Sunday school class for all ages. This is headed by Sis. Deidra Virgo, as the Superintendent.
The Lord, through the family at Elim, has touched many lives within the community and its environs and has declared Elim planted and grounded right where it is. Without a doubt, God is still looking for members to work the good works, and to continue the expansion and reach of the church. Those who have gone before us have paved the way, and set the foundation and it is now time for a new set of players to take the stage and lead the march into a new revolution.
We are now being called to arise and continue to build; hence the journey continues…