Trinidad and Tobago: Closed Borders, Renewed Connections
As the world was shutting down, in the Caribbean new things were beginning.
Bruce Fletcher and Francis Warner, two former leaders of IVCF in Trinidad and Tobago, were hatching a plan. Although the pandemic was just beginning and the Caribbean islands were closing their borders, Bruce and Francis saw a chance to remake some connections, reassembling those who were in IVCF alongside them.
If there’s one thing that should never be underestimated, it’s a WhatsApp group. Bruce and Francis quickly gathered 80 people, all IVCF students from the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies between 1977 and 1981. Many were not from Trinidad and Tobago—Bruce himself is from Jamaica—and many now live elsewhere. Now mostly-retired professionals, most had not been in touch for over forty years. Bruce and Francis were hoping that these alumni would use what God had given them over the years to benefit the current cohort of IVCF students. The results that came were unexpected and wonderful.
They began hosting events that would create conversation about the impact of the pandemic in the region, and some began to meet every Saturday night to support one another in prayer and intercede for current IVCF students. The impact of this has reached across the world already. Cherelle Thompson is a second-year Medical Sciences student, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She praises God that the group ‘undergirded my Olympic journey to Japan with their weekly prayers to heaven … Their petitions on my behalf were answered through relationships, resources and faith posture that I needed for every step of the journey’.
Group members have also supported IVCF practically. As many participants have felt called to give financially, the movements across the Caribbean have been sustained through the hardships of the pandemic. Group members have also offered to mentor young graduates. Bruce emphasises that as needs are identified across countries in the region, someone from the group is usually able to step in and help. There is an appetite to bring projects that are working in one place to the rest of the movements.
‘Gladness and gratitude’ are the words that Joel Chryskarsten, General Secretary of IS/IVCF Trinidad and Tobago, uses to describe ‘Our Legends’, which is how the group is fondly referred to. He says that the financial support of individuals in the group ‘was vital in helping ensure our financial stability throughout the fallout period of the pandemic.’
Where could this go in the future? There are almost 15,000 alumni of IVCF, which was founded in 1956. The ‘Legends’ have also been discussing with Regional Secretary Marc Pulvar how other Caribbean alumni could be better connected, even those now living around the world. They are excited about what this could lead to, in the Caribbean and beyond.
Please pray with us for IVCF Trinidad and Tobago, the Legends group, and the CARIFES region:
- Thank God that he provided for the Caribbean movements in the pandemic in this way. Thank God for the initiative and willing steps of faith of Bruce and Frank, and the servant-hearted spirit of all the alumni involved.
- Pray that the current IVCF students would continue to be blessed and helped by the care of alumni, and that this would have an eternal impact as they continue to study and move into their adult lives.
- Pray for the future development of alumni networks in the Caribbean and beyond, that God would use alumni to encourage, strengthen and bless student movements all over the world.