17 Years of Ministry and Counting!
Jimmy, Pastoral Theology (’99), Master of Ministry (’07)
Marie, Elementary Education (‘98), Master of Education in Educational Leadership (’07)
Both Jimmy and Marie Westbrook were raised in Christian homes and were saved at a young age. It is not surprising that the Lord impressed upon them the desire to take His Word to others through missions. They faithfully followed their calling and have now been in full-time missions for 17 years!
Marie was introduced to TBC through her father, Larry Holland, himself an ’87 graduate of the college. Jimmy and Marie completed their bachelor’s degrees and enrolled in the first year of TBC’s graduate program, earning their master’s degrees in 2007.
It was just after college that the Westbrooks began visiting Trinidad and Tobago, getting acquainted with the area and the people.
In 2003 they moved to Trinidad to serve in full-time missions. Arouca Baptist Church was started in 2004, where Jimmy and Marie, together with their children, Jason and Kara, continue to serve the community. Much of their time focuses on children’s ministry, church services, and outreach programs. Children’s ministry in particular has always been a thriving aspect of the ministry in Arouca.
For years, small mission trip groups have visited the Westbrooks in Trinidad to help organize and staff VBS.
These groups consisted of family, friends, and connections through supporting churches. Jimmy explains how the children’s ministry has been key ministry in Arouca.
“Children’s ministry has always been the powerhouse to our ministry so to speak. Almost everyone in
our church can be traced back to VBS one way or another. For some reason children’s ministry is very well accepted and does really well in our area. We’ve had visiting groups help us with outreach and VBS the past several years. TBC grads Jason (’11) and Taylor (’17) Brown actually came down and helped with the last VBS we hosted.”
Recent challenges associated with COVID have been an obstacle to effective ministry everywhere and Trinidad is no exception.
Trinidad is currently experiencing its fourth lockdown since March 2020. Widespread business closures and the elimination of tourist travel has affected many people in the area. Most households feel the trickle-down effect of these changes. The Westbrooks are burdened for the children and families with whom they have limited contact during these times.
“Ministry in general and kids ministry in particular has really suffered as a result of all this. We ask you to please pray that when things open back up that we will be able to bounce back. It is this weird feeling like we’ve lost time that cannot be regained.”
Even though the past 18 months have been unique and challenging, Jimmy and Marie point out the positives:
Two things that proved to be enormous assets through this transition are Jimmy’s familiarity with technology and the benefit of an internet connection at the church.
“A lot of churches on the mission field don’t have that benefit of internet connection on church property, so we are very thankful. We tried several different methods of communicating and hosting online services and have figured out a routine that makes sense for our people.”
This typically looks like recorded preaching shared on social media, live video calls with small Bible study groups, and the occasional one-on-one visit when possible.
In addition to the disruption of day-to-day life and ministry work, processing legal paperwork has been complicated and delayed more than usual. With some laughter, Jimmy says he remembers hearing missionaries talk a lot about paperwork.
“I always thought it was odd that they mentioned it so much… but now I understand! We are always dealing with it!”
The Westbrooks have applied for residency
…and the process has been ongoing for four years now! They are hoping for papers to process soon and for ministry support to work out so they can take a short furlough.
“We haven’t been to the states in years and we really need to be able to come home and take a break. But juggling all the different facets of the lockdown, paperwork, travel restrictions, and finding temporary replacements feels overwhelming. We are praying all of it works out.”
The Westbrooks are making the most of their extra family time during lockdown.
10-year-old Jason has been able to continue Tae-Kwon-Do classes online together with his dad. In fact, Jimmy earned his black belt in December! Kara is 14 and misses her gymnastics class since she cannot continue that online, but she is very social and does her best to stay in touch with friends. Marie is helping the kids to get ahead in school while everything else is slow. Their goal is to be able to take a complete break to recharge when they visit the US.
Looking back over their 17 years on the field, Jimmy reflects on how missions has shaped him and his family – both in their view of missions and in their personal life.
“In college I had all these ideas and it looked so easy… I just knew I was going to set the world on fire! But I’ve learned that reaching people with the gospel and truly having an impact takes investing your whole life… I don’t think I truly grasped what that looked like before. Our whole lives are wrapped up in Trinidad – in a good way!”
One way that missions has impacted the Westbrooks on a personal level is that Trinidad is the only home the that the kids remember. For them, furlough is leaving home and all that is familiar. So, what will be a refreshing break for Jimmy and Marie will be an all-new culture, environment, and experience for Kara and Jason. Furlough can be both intimidating and exciting!
In the meantime they will remain faithful to their calling, using their creativity and available resources to continue the ministry and encourage believers in Arouca.
You can learn more about the ministry in Arouca and check out video updates at https://jimmywestbrook.tripod.com/website2/index.html