A NEW THRUST
About June 1965, more than five years after Winston J. Messiah, another missionary came to the island of St. Vincent. This man was W. Ralph Wharton. He came, accompanied by his wife, Ruther, and his three children, Randy, Rhonda and Reneé. Although Ralph was in his early fifties, his children were rather young. Randy, the oldest, was about eleven years old. Rhonda was about nine, and Reneé seven.
Upon their arrival in Kingstown, the Wharton’s found lodgings in the Blue Caribbean Hotel. This hotel, like the building in which the first congregations worshipped, is situated on Bay Street, but at the opposite end of the city. They decided that Kingstown would be the focal point of their work, and in accordance with this decision began their search for a house in the city. They found one that neatly fitted their needs.
The house is still to be found on Murray’s Road, across from the government’s Girls’ High School. It is a three bedroom house with a somewhat large living room. There are also two other rooms attached to the main building by a common roof, but separated by a space intended for a family car. Ralph used one of these for an office while the other was used for storage. As the work began and developed, the decision to live in Kingstown proved to be a good one. That house was the center from which much evangelism was done. Many decisions were made there concerning the work of preaching the gospel over the rest of the island. From there Ralph conducted his Bible correspondence course which touched the island at many points, and even reached out to many of the other Caribbean islands. It was also at this house that the Kingstown church worshiped for three years.
Having settled in on the island, Ralph began to think about the actual work of winning converts to Christ. Contact was made with Winston J. Messiah who was at that time working on the island of Barbados. He came to St. Vincent and together with Wharton (presumably at Wharton’s request), tried to find the converts which he had made five years earlier. The exact number of these previous converts contacted by the two men is unknown. However, they were able to persuade about three of them to begin to worship again. These three, along with the Wharton family, then formed a new beginning of the church of Christ on the island. They first began to worship each Sunday at the Peace Memorial Hall, but after a short while, the tiny congregation began to worship at the Wharton’s house. They met in the living room.
Before Wharton came to St. Vincent, he became acquainted with a magazine called Caribbean Challenge, published monthly at Kingston, Jamaica. This magazine carries in each issue a section reserved for those who desire to be “pen pals.” They are usually young people from the English speaking Caribbean islands, Guyana and some of the English speaking African countries. While still in America, Ralph wrote to some of these young people and offered them his Bible correspondence course which he had developed himself. Some responded positively to his offer, so that even before he arrived on the island, Wharton had already made a few contacts with whom he could begin his evangelizing.
After he arrived on the island, he continued the Bible correspondence course, but with much more vigor. He asked those enrolled to enroll their friends, and in a short while, letters were coming in from all over the island. Aster Barnwell, a young school teacher, who lived in the village of Lowmans, was the first of the correspondence course students to be baptized by Wharton. He was baptized sometime before the month of December 1965. There was at least one other convert around this period of time, a young lady, Muriel Williams, who lived in the town of Barrouallie, on the leeward or Caribbean side of the island. Aster lived about eighteen miles from Kingstown, and Muriel Williams about twelve. They were, therefore, separated from the tiny congregation which met on Murray’s Road. There was no congregation near either village with whom they could worship.