Some of the ashes of the US missionary who founded the Kingstown Baptist Church (KBC) and the Annual Prison Concert will be returned to St. Vincent and the Grenadines for a memorial service on Saturday, six years after his death.
The Reverend Donald Gene Overstreet aka Don Overstreet died in the United States on Dec. 8, 2017, about three weeks before his 70th birthday.
He was cremated and a memorial service was held on Dec. 17, 2017 in the United States, where most of his remains were laid to rest.
However, Overstreet’s children, in honouring their father’s wish, will travel to SVG for a special memorial service at KBC tomorrow (Saturday) at 4:30 p.m.
Overstreet planted the Kingstown Baptist Church, which was formed on May 1, 1977, and is now pastored by Cecil Richards.
Richards told iWitness News Overstreet’s family had planned to return to SVG soon after his death but this did not materialise and the COVID-19 pandemic further affected the plan.
He said this week is the first opportunity that Overstreet’s three children and their spouses have had to coordinate their schedule and travel to Kingstown for the memorial service.
“His remains were burdens in California. They save a small portion of it to bring back here for memorial purposes. The plan is for it to remain her,” Richards told iWitness News.
He said Overstreet’s family will have the final say about the final resting place of his remains in SVG.
Overstreet and his wife, Marti, first arrived in SVG on Dec. 31, 1976.
KBC says on its website that their arrival in SVG was “precipitated by a direct call to service as missionaries in the Caribbean and more specifically in SVG.
“In addition, he spent a significant portion of his time during his first few months in St. Vincent getting to know people and handing out Bibles,” the church further said.
Richards said on the website, “the vision of the Overstreets and Reverend Don Overstreet can be summed up using the phrase ‘the whole Gospel for the whole man’.
“Further, Reverend Don Overstreet’s selflessness allowed him to meet people at their point of need. He was a ‘people’s man’, a man who tried to assist wherever he could.”
He told iWitness News that Overstreet embodies the slogan “the whole Gospel for the whole man”.
“He didn’t come with the myopic notion of presenting only a redemption gospel,” Richards told iWitness News, adding that Overstreet believed in the gospel of Matthew 25, where Jesus spoke about being fed when he was hungry and giving drink when thirsty.
“He believed in that social aspect of the gospel,” Richards further said of Overstreet.
“He felt that the traditional role of ministering only to the spiritual man was short-sighted,” Richards further stated, adding that Overstreet demonstrated that presenting the whole gospel meant ministering to the “spiritual, social and physical aspect”.
He said the service will entail a historical recount of Overstreet’s role in starting the Baptist work in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The pastor said that during the service people whose lives Overstreet touched will share their memories and one of the late missionary’s children will challenge the church to continue the vision of reaching the world.
“We will also sing one of his favourite songs: ‘I Come To The Garden Alone’,” he said.
Overstreet was a missionary for more than 50 years, during which time he planted over 500 churches in the United States and around the world.
In 2009, he received the Lifetime Church Planter Achievement Award from the North American Mission Board.
During his early years of ministry, Overstreet spearheaded weekly visits to His Majesty’s Prison to share the Gospel of Christ with the inmates there.
“The Prison Ministry was another of the early fervent Ministries of the St. Vincent Baptist Church and in keeping with this vision, of meeting the needs of the whole man, the former missionary also conducted reading and Bible study classes with the inmates and by extension, the annual prison concert,” the KBC website further said.
Overstreet also played a significant role in the life of murderer, James “Beebs” Jarvis by leading him to Christ, before his execution in 1978.
“Jarvis, in his testimony entitled ‘How Sweet It is to Know Where I am Going’, recounted his conversion experience thus: ‘… The second thing that gives me the assurance that I was not condemned by God, was one night I was praying from my heart, I felt the ‘egos’ move in my head. I felt like someone was there with me. I felt nice, so joyous and a sweet indescribable feeling[s] rushed through me. I felt so nice I wanted to shout His “Jesus” name out hard, then my eyes were filled with tears,” the website stated.
Overstreet would also minister at the prison alongside Jarvis’ son, Junior Jarvis, who was sentenced in March 2023 to life imprisonment for a murder he committed on Feb. 14, 2017.
Overstreet and the younger Jarvis had appeared in an undated video, which was uploaded to YouTube on Jan. 23, 2011, in which Jarvis said he had always heard the story of how Overstreet had led his father to Christ before his execution.
“And it should have been an example for me, but, instead, I followed the wrong direction and went down the wrong path. For many of my years and I reached to the point where had I not made the decision to come to Christ, I would have followed in the same footsteps; my father’s last footsteps. But I am glad to say and, praise God, that I am following in his footsteps, but in a different way,” Jarvis said a decade before he would be jailed for life for murder.