A MEETING @ TROUMACA
Wharton also had a number of students who lived in the village of Troumaca, on the leeward side. He thought that the village might prove fruitful to a series of gospel meetings so accordingly he prepared to conduct a series of meetings in that village. He chose the Christmas holidays of 1965 when all of his correspondence course students would be free from school activities and could give their attention to the meetings. Wharton and his eleven year old son, Randy, went to Troumaca about the second week in December. They rented a house for two weeks and secured the Troumaca school building as the place for his nightly meetings.
Wharton’s approach in conducting his meeting each night attracted a large crowd. However, the majority of those who attended were young people (teenagers and children). He used filmstrips with accompanying phonograph records to teach the lessons. At the end of each lesson he would exhort the hearers to become Christians. He would then conclude by singing an "invitation song." Wharton must have been disappointed by the results of the meetings. When they ended none of the correspondence course pupils were converted. There was only one convert for the whole effort, a fourteen year old lad from the neighboring village of Rose Bank. However, this young man was destined to become one of the leaders of the church on the island shortly after his conversion. It was the second or third night of Wharton’s series of meetings. There was a crowd of over one hundred people. The filmstrip lesson was over and the crowd was somewhat restive. The preacher exhorted the audience, and the invitation to become Christians was extended in song. The song ended and standing beside the preacher was a young man who desired to become a Christian. This young man was Sam Soleyn, the only convert of that series of meetings.
Sam went home that night and announced to the rest of his family that he was going to be baptized the next day. He was met by vehement opposition from his mother and most of the family who were members of the Anglican Church. However, his grandfather and one of his brothers supported him in his decision. His grandfather had become a member of the Evangelical Church of the West Indies about three years before. The brother who supported him had begun to search for religious truth. His mother, however, was thoroughly opposed to his decision.
"You can’t do such a thing!" she told Sam. "You can’t be led astray by a false prophet."
With many other words she tried to persuade him to change his mind, but the young man was firm in his conviction. Sam later said that his decision to become a Christian was not made on that particular night, but was reached some time previously. He said that he had told himself that he would become a Christian when the first opportunity presented itself. The reason for Sam’s independent decision awaits further investigation.
Wharton had told Sam that he would come to Rose Bank the next day to baptize him. However, one doubts seriously whether there would have been any baptizing had Sam’s mother stayed at home that day. His mother had made her plans to go to town the following day to do her Christmas shopping, and did accordingly. His father was away in England at that time. This meant that when Wharton arrived in Rose Bank to baptize Sam, there was no parental figure in Sam’s household to oppose him.
The next day Wharton and his son came to Rose Bank. He drove the little Volkswagen bus which was to play a great part in the development of the church on the Windward and Leeward sides of the island. He parked the bus in the front yard under the breadfruit tree. Sam was waiting for him and went out accompanied by his grandfather, two little sisters and a brother to meet the missionary. The beach was only about three or four hundred yards away so the little group decided to walk there for the baptizing.
By some means the news was spread around the village that something strange was about to happen. The little group became a curious procession as it wound its way along the grass-lined village road toward the beach. Had it been a Sunday and had the group been dressed in white, singing and ringing a bell, it would have been less strange, for this the Spiritual Baptists did occasionally. But it was a week day. There was going to be a baptizing, and the candidate was not dressed in white. The baptizer was an unknown white man dressed in ordinary clothes. This was enough to draw a crowd.
The people of Rose Bank were somewhat religious. Three main religious groups claimed the majority of the people: the Anglican Church, the Spiritual Baptists (commonly called the Shakers), and the Catholic Church. The Anglicans were in the majority and though most of them were only nominal members, they prided themselves on being Anglicans. About five or more years previous to the incident here recorded, a number of the people had broken with the Anglican Church. Because of their action, they were ridiculed, and were the unfortunate objects of many hurtful taunts. They had left the Anglican Church and had become members of an evangelical group.
As soon as the group arrived on the beach, a crowd of curious onlookers gathered. Among the crowd was a woman who had broken with the Anglican Church and had become a member of the Evangelical Church of the West Indies. She had been immersed as a prerequisite to entering that fellowship. She, therefore, agreed wholeheartedly with Sam’s action and stood in the crowd giving encouraging words. Apart from that woman, no one else in the crowd indicated that they favoured the proceedings. However, they were not vocally antagonistic.
The village of Rose Bank usually has more sunny days than rainy days each year. But the day of the baptizing was not a sunny day. There was an overcast of rain clouds when the little group (consisting of the missionary, Sam and others) began its way to the beach. But when it arrived on the beach and the crowd had gathered, a light rain began to fall. As the crowd stood on the beach, one could look out across the wide expanse of the water of the Caribbean Sea, as it reflected the grey clouds which hovered ominously above. On the horizon, however, there was a large bright cloud which added a little light to the atmosphere.
The preacher began to pray and as he did so, there was silence from the mumbling crowd.
"O happy day that fixed my choice…" the song came forth clearly.
The preacher and Sam made their way to the water and waded into it until they were about waist deep. The preacher raised his hand and said something. Then he baptized Sam.
"'Tis done, the great transaction’s done…" He sang as they came up out of the water.
Some in the crowd laughed, others gazed wonderingly. However, to Sam it was a new and determined beginning. He was then a Christian, having been "buried with his Lord in baptism and risen to walk in the newness of life." His sins had been washed away in the blood of Jesus Christ. The little group made its way back to Sam’s house and the missionary went back to Troumaca. Sam went to visit him later that day. Wharton completed his series of meetings and returned to Kingstown. There were no other conversions during the meetings. Sam spent the remaining two or three weeks of the Christmas holidays in Rose Bank and was probably glad when they were over. Early in January he and his older brother (Clayton) returned to Kingstown where they were both attending the Government High School (Boy’s Grammar School).
As soon as Sam and his brother were settled back in Kingstown, Sam began to visit the Wharton’s regularly and to attend all the meetings of the Kingstown congregation. By then, the Kingstown congregation was made up of the Wharton family, the Creese family, Netta Tucker, and Sam. The children of both families attended the church meetings, but were not baptized. This meant that the Kingstown church had six members. The congregation gathered for worship in the Wharton’s living room. The living room chairs together with the dining room chairs were sufficient to seat everyone who attended the church gatherings.