The church did not expand into new areas in 1968 as much as in 1967. The reason for this lack of new works was the inability to maintain them. The young men who were already preaching were occupied with the various congregations previously established. Ralph was wise enough to realize that venturing into new areas would be taxing his resources beyond their limits. Instead, he emphasized building up the work in the established congregations. In spite of this, however, two new congregations were started that year. According to a report made by Ralph, Jimmy Bracken preached for one week at the northern village of Fancy and baptized eight persons. They began to worship as a congregation in that village on August 25th. There were 52 present at the first meeting for worship.
The other congregation was started in Victoria Village by Terry Thomas, under similar circumstances. Terry preached on the streets of his home village for several nights and baptized four persons. He then organized the people into a worshipping congregation, meeting in his mother's house at Victoria Village. At the first worship there were ten present. This congregation also began to worship on August 25th. By this time there was a total of ten congregations meeting on the island. There were two in Sandy Bay, one in New Sandy and another in the area known as Sion Hill or Old Sandy Bay.
On July 2, 1968, the final arrangements were made, and the Richard's dwelling house and surrounding land were bought at a cost of $15,000 U.S. dollars. A total of $5,500 cash was paid and the rest was to be paid in installments. Around that same time a new English Ford bus of fourteen passenger capacity was purchased with money raised in America. This was sorely needed to replace the old Volkswagen bus which had so faithfully run its course.
On August 4th, (although the church had not yet gained possession of the building, arrangements were made with Mr. Richards to allow the church to meet in one room on the first floor), an island-wide assembly was held in the Richard's building at Kingstown. According to statistics recorded by Ralph, there were twenty-one benches (each six feet long) in the room. The attendance ranged from 105 to 115 during the six meetings held during the course of the day. Members came from all the congregations. Emotions ran high that day. This was the first time that many of the Christians were meeting each other. Several of the young preachers spoke during the course of the day. Some members of the Brighton congregation sang as a group and encouraged the assembly with the song, "Farther Along."
However, amidst the joy of the occasion, the specter of sorrow hovered menacingly above the assembly. They all knew that in the matter of a few months, Ralph, whom they dearly loved, would be gone. He had done a good work and the very assembly was ample testimony to the effort he had expended for more than three years. There had been an attempt made as early as April 11, 1966 at a general assembly of the Christians and friends from all over the island. This was done at the Stoney Grounds primary school building. The majority in attendance were children and only a few members of the church. The assembly in 1968 was a great contrast being made up mainly of Christians and represented a group of people who were serious about the cause of Christ. Jimmy Bracken paid the travel expenses of many of the Sandy Bay members. In a way this assembly was a sort of farewell gathering for Ralph.
Later that month, on August 19th, Clayton Soleyn left to attend Alabama Christian College. Terry Thomas then began to preach at the Brighton congregation in addition to the Victoria Village church. He rode his little 50cc Honda motorbike (which he had purchased from Brian Altmiller) to and from these villages. A few days later, in that same month, Ruth Wharton and her two daughters, Rhonda and Reneé, departed for Montgomery, Alabama. Ralph was the only member of the family remaining in St. Vincent.
Bob returned with his family to the island on January 8, 1969. By this time Ralph was in his final preparations for leaving the island. However, the work was very much on his mind. He planned a final gathering of all the Christians, to be held on February 9th. His departure date was set for February 10, 1969.
In spite of all the necessary packing and numerous other details to which he had to attend, Brother Wharton was busy in the work itself up to the last. He continued the correspondence course and did his regular preaching. In his usual systematic and thorough ways, he hated the thought of leaving necessary work undone. He went about his task with a steady pace that would have been a tribute to many a younger man. The last person he baptized on the island of St. Vincent was a young man named Ashkelon Williams, who now faithfully preaches the gospel on that same island.
February 9, 1969 was an important day in the history of the church on the island. It marked the end of Ralph's personal work on St. Vincent (though not the end of the work he had established). It was also the third time that there was a general assembly of most of the Christians on the island. There was preaching, singing and praying. Ralph spoke twice that day. His topics were "The Church of Christ Stands for the Authority of Christ," and "The Church of Christ Stands for Loyalty to Jesus Christ.“ Bob Brown also spoke. The other two speakers on the program were Sam Soleyn and Terry Thomas. When the day ended many were spiritually uplifted. All were sad because they were all aware that Ralph would leave the next morning. They were somewhat comforted to know that someone had already come to replace him.
Ralph boarded the plane the following day with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat. In more than three and one half years, he had grown to love the island of St. Vincent and its people. He had gone to an island on which there was no active church, but there at the airport were many Christians waving him goodbye. Besides those there were dozens more scattered all over the little tropical island who though they could not see him at that moment were thinking of him. He had done a good job and many would be eternally grateful to him for having come their way.
The test of any work is whether or not it lasts. Today the church still meets on the island of St. Vincent and is destined by the grace of God to grow and last. Ralph inspired the young men whom he converted with the dream of evangelizing the whole Caribbean and some of those young men have come to believe in that dream. Almost every island in the Eastern Caribbean and other parts of the Caribbean have been in some way touched by the work that the Lord began through Brother Wharton on the island of St. Vincent.
The prophet Isaiah had long ago said, "Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare His praise in the islands," Isaiah 42:12. Today the islands of the Caribbean praise Him because someone declared His name among them. THE END