Welcome to the Church of the Open Bible, San Fernando, the first congregation to be established in the Open Bible family on the island of Trinidad, West Indies. With a total of well over eighty churches in the Open Bible family here now on the island, this first church has come to be known as the First Church of the Open Bible.
Below is a brief summary of the passage of this first congregation from its founding years to the present:
Our Norwegian-born founders, Kaare Wilhelmsen, and his wife Jean Wilhelmsen, former missionaries to India, arrived in Trinidad in the last quarter of 1953. Liberally, from that time, they began to sow here the first seeds of the gospel, their efforts giving birth to this first congregation and later to the organization today known as the Open Bible Standard Churches of Trinidad and Tobago Incorporated.
With great faith and an unswerving passion for souls, they preached and sang under an open sky, ministering to the crowds that gathered. This they did from the improvised “platform” which was the tray of a borrowed truck parked in an open lot of land on Coffee Street in the heart of San Fernando, the industrial capital of the island.
Prayer, deliverance, miracles and rapid growth marked the early experience of this congregation. The Wilhelmsens then led their early followers to the rented Eastern Unity Friendly Society hall situated on LeGendre Street, just a stone’s throw away from their first meeting place. The founding of this first congregation can be marked from the fifteenth day of April 1954 when the first sermon was preached there from a crude pulpit in that same rented hall where two simple wooden benches served as its first altars.
In March 1955, the congregation moved into the Samaroo building at the corner of Sutton and Irving Streets, celebrating our first anniversary with a candlelight ceremony. God confirmed the faith of His people by leading our founders to acquire an old sugar estate property at a prime location at Ruth Avenue, Les Efforts West. Here, the congregation occupied first a shed or annex seating two hundred, but that shed was soon inadequate, so the congregation moved into a tent seating about six hundred. That tent was located just across the street from the estate house which housed the early missionaries and became the headquarters of the organization.
Later, in October 1958,
a ground-breaking ceremony took place at Ruth Avenue marking the start of an edifice that would become a permanent home for the first church. The cornerstone was laid on April 19, 1959 by the then Missions Director of OBSC (USA), Rev. O. Ralph Isbill, and the building itself was eventually dedicated to the Lord on January 3, 1960.
On February 9, 1956, Rev. Donald R. Bryan arrived with his wife Ruth and their infant son Donnie. With immediate effect Rev. Bryan became pastor of the first church, succeeding our founders also as General Director, a position which he held until his departure in 1969. He also served in various other leadership capacities throughout the organization. Rev. Bryan pastored the first church for seven years during which time his ministry was marked by many miracles. He was succeeded in the pastorate by a series of missionary pastors appointed to the field by the Open Bible Standard Missions in Des Moines, Iowa.
The final missionary pastor to serve in the first church was Rev. Weldon E. Davis, who, accompanied by his wife Rosetta and two young sons, served in this pastorate from 1965 to 1968. God mightily used Rev. Davis in this ministry to cancel demonic fetters in the life of a young girl of Hindu background. That girl, who later became their daughter, went on to graduate from Bible School, and is today an anointed woman of great faith, the wife of our present Senior Pastor and the mother of three.
In 1967, a young national, Carlyle K. Chankersingh, became the first Associate Pastor of the church. One year later, in May of 1968, he was appointed the first national pastor, serving faithfully in that role until his departure in October 1983. Under his watchful and fruitful shepherding, many became mature in their faith and went on to become pastors and leaders. Reverend Chankersingh is remembered by us as being a dynamic leader to this first congregation, a visionary and a man of great faith.
He was succeeded by Rev. Cecil U. Quamina, a former schoolteacher and youth pastor, who became the senior pastor of this church in 1984 at a time when crisis had resulted in more pews than people. He deserves very high commendation for his strong faith and the courage he displayed in leading the people of God at such a crucial time.
A spiritually sensitive and discerning man, Rev. Quamina’s first demonstrated act as our pastor will always be remembered. Challenging the remnant to ‘build an altar unto the Lord’ as the patriarchs of old did, he continues unashamedly to credit and pay tribute instead to a faithful group of ladies (prayer warriors), who believed in him and also in the redemptive process of God. With the altar and training remaining consistent trademarks of his ministry, Pastor Quamina’s vision and anointed leadership continues to energize this congregation towards a positive and sustained pattern of growth. Pastor Quamina is especially gifted in the areas of team building and church growth principles. Under his leadership the church has grown from 8 in number to approximately 1800.
2000 – Rebuilding work / Maranatha opens / The Present Church
In January 2000 in the midst of great celebration the congregation gave thanks to God for a new and renewed edifice following many months of rebuilding and additions to our facilities. This period also marked the official end to our mourning. Several former missionaries were present for this occasion.
Against many odds, it was Pastor Quamina’s dream that gave birth to the Maranatha Book and Gift Centre, which presents an aura of excellence that today marks this place of worship and bears testimony to the level of commitment and restoration of so great a people of God.
Also situated at the church address is The Caribbean Life Resources Centre which offers a professional, business & organizational Development program as well as a professional counseling program which bears testimony to Pastor Quamina’s spiritual foresight and great faith.
Serving beside him in the ministry, is his beautiful wife Deborah, daughter of Rev. and Mrs. Weldon E. Davis.
Finally, the signature Scripture verse of the First Church of the Open Bible, San Fernando, is Isaiah 60:18 …
“Thou shalt call thy walls salvation and thy gates praise.“