A. W. Rigby and the Beginnings of the Turks Island Mission
by Lance Colkmire
A. W. Rigby

From May 11, 1981

 

T

urks Islands. More than six hundred miles southeast of Florida. Dots at the south­eastern end of the Bahamas.

These coral and limestone is­lands lie beyond the Windward Passage, which divides Cuba and Haiti. Though located five hundred miles northeast of Jamaica, the Turks have been a dependency of that republic since 1848.

Grand Turk, the biggest of the islands, is only seven miles long. Its population is less than 7,000.

Despite the Turks’ obscuri­ty, the Church of God has been established there for nearly six­ty years. In 1922, two Miam­ians, Evangelist Martha E. Frith and her husband, moved to Grand Turk. For the next ten years she conducted services in her home and in a rented hall in the community of Blue Hill. In 1932 her mission was set in order and grouped with the Bahama Islands’ churches (Charles W. Conn, Where the Saints Have Trod).

That same year A. W. Rigby joined the church and began to preach. In 1934 he was li­censed as an evangelist and appointed overseer of the Turks Islands.

Rigby recently recalled, “Z. R. Thomas [Jamaica’s over­seer ) was the first to write me from Jamaica. He appointed me district overseer over Turks Islands. The first money sent to me was five dollars, from the Missions Board in Tennessee. [My salary) later increased to ten dollars. After I was ordained they sent me twenty­five dollars.”

After his appointment Rigby went to Kew Island, with Evan­gelist Frith remaining on Grand Turk. She wrote of that work’s hardships in a 1936 Evangel article:

“We had a church building here but the hurricane de­stroyed it, and for three years we have had no crops. The children of God are suffering a great deal. We had forty-three members filled with the Holy Ghost, but all have turned back except twelve, and they are de­termined to endure the hard­ships.”

Rigby established several preaching stations on the is­lands, but they apparently never became organized missions or churches (Conn). In 1940, the Reverend J. B. Camp was named overseer of Jamaica; Rigby was appointed his aide­de-camp to the Turks.

Rigby labored faithfully in the position until “Bishop [David L.) Lemons became the over­seer in 1944, ” Rigby said. “He sent a family to the harvest field of Grand Turk Island …. After I saw that their salary could not hold them . . . I agreed to give them my salary and I took the other island, Bottle Creek. . My farm work supported my wife and one daughter.”

The family that the Rigbys aided was the W. F. Everings, the first Jamaican missionaries sent to the Turks Islands (Conn).

The Rigbys later moved northwestward. “My wife and I came to the Bahamas. We worked in a kindergarten until the school went down.” Sister Rigby died during this time.

Afterward he moved to Grand Bahama, where the aging min­ister is now “helping the work in the Hanna Hill Church of God.” One way Rigby is help­ing is by furnishing his pas­tor, the Reverend John Lewis, with an Evangel subscription.

However, A. W. Rigby most fondly remembers (and is most fondly remembered by) persons living farther south, converts he won while helping to estab­lish the Church of God in the Turks Islands.

From May 11, 1981

Lance Colkmire is editor of the Evangel Magazine.