KEY WEST, Florida — At the southernmost tip of the continental United States is an Assemblies of God congregation with a vision for raising up leaders in Caribbean nations and spreading revival from a place many consider the end of the road.
Key West, Florida, is a beach-bound village at the extreme end of a bridge-connected archipelago dividing the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Closer to Cuba than to Miami, and replete with colorful history and characters, Key West is home to a lone AG church, Glad Tidings Tabernacle, led by pastor Jonathan C. Carey and his wife, Shena. For 11 years, Jonathan, a native Bahamian now a U.S. citizen, has pursued a calling to raise up leaders and bring churches together throughout the Caribbean islands.
“The Lord has helped us unite Caribbean leaders and bring them to the same table for discussion,” says Carey, 62. “We create opportunities, connect men and women of God who are doing fantastic things. God helps us to bring cross-pollination among Caribbean leaders.”
Glad Tidings sits on United Street in the heart of Key West, next to a busy Dairy Queen and across the street from City Hall. On a recent afternoon, the street buzzes with mopeds and foot traffic as groups of resplendent, feral chickens strut from one clump of bushes to another scavenging for food. The temperature is, as always, perfect, as vacationers mingle with local shop owners and residents.
Before coming here, the Careys served as home missionaries in the Bahamas, while Jonathan also pastored Calvary Temple in Freeport, Grand Bahama. He also served as operational director for Teen Challenge of Florida, part of the team that started Teen Challenge in the Bahamas.
While pastoring two AG churches on Grand Bahama Island, and serving as vice principal of a kindergarten through 12th grade Christian school with 800 kids, Carey says he sensed the Lord asking him a pointed question: Have you caught much fish since you began fishing?
Carey says he responded that he really hadn’t.
Then cast your net on the other side, he says the Lord impressed on his heart.
Carey didn’t know what that meant, but he says God indicated the answer: Florida.
Carey discerned that Key West would become for him the gateway to the Caribbean. From there he could connect and train pastors in the 15 separate island cultures including the Bahamas, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, Caiman Islands, Jamaica, and Trinidad.
Today, the congregation of 120 adults, who hail from many ethnic backgrounds, is a missions-sending and revival-spreading church. They invest finances and manpower to train AG children’s workers in Cuba, in support of Castillo del Rey programs. They built a medical clinic in the Dominican Republic for a village of 4,000 people. Carey travels often to Haiti to teach leadership principles to pastors with Mission of Hope for Haiti, a partner ministry of Convoy of Hope. Carey also serves as a regional representative for the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and the John Maxwell EQUIP ministry.
“I wear a number of hats,” he says. “Many Caribbean nations want to stand side by side and do ministry together. We are coming to a place where we understand we are not just receivers, but senders to each other.”
Russ R. DeBord, AG sectional and regional executive presbyter, says Carey’s voice is an important one throughout the Caribbean Islands.
“He is a high-capacity leader who is gifted with an innate ability to influence and organize others toward best practices to achieve positive results,” DeBord says.
Foundational to Carey’s efforts is connecting people to the local church.
“Ministry should flow from and through the local church, because true fellowship takes place there,” he says. “Within the local church, you can raise up leaders who have a Great Commission mindset to make disciples.”
The people of Glad Tidings also have a vision for revival. When he became pastor of the church, he noticed many residents referring to Key West as the end of the road. He sees it more like Antioch of the New Testament, a locale from which revival spreads.
“It gave the local church this mentality that this is where people come when they are burnt out or their lives are over,” Carey says. “The Holy Spirit spoke to me that mile marker zero is not the end, but the beginning of the road. The flame of revival will start here and go up the shore rather than down the shore.”