By Sharon van Arneman

To Register

Or Not

To Register

Part 4

March 26, 2021

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The more I think of the vast numbers of people who have yet to make the decision to register for the COVID-19 vaccine, the more I find myself thinking about the lesson in that familiar, old tale of the man stuck on his roof and praying to God to save him.

When a storm descends on a small town, and the downpour quickly turns into a flood; a man goes to his rooftop to avoid the rising water. Being a pious fellow, he begins praying to God to save him. A neighbour in a rowboat soon comes by, and seeing his comrade on the roof, he shouts out to him, “Jump in; I can save you!” To which the stranded man shouts back: “Thanks for offering to help, but it’s okay. I’m praying to God and He is going to save me.”

So the rowboat goes on.

By and by, one of the townsfolk comes up the street in a motorboat. “The fellow in the motorboat shouts to the man on the roof, “I’m coming to help you down! The flood is rising fast. If you come with me now, I can save you.” The man on the roof wastes no time replying: “No worries; I’m praying to God and He will take care of me. I know God will save me.”

So the motorboat goes on.

As the flood waters continue to rise, a helicopter comes by and hovers above the man stuck on the roof. Throwing him a rope ladder, the pilot calls down to him through a megaphone: “You are in danger. The flood is still rising. You will drown if you don’t let me help you. Grab the rope ladder and let me pull you to safety.” Exasperated, but full of confidence, the stranded man shouts back, “I don’t need your help. I have faith in God. I am praying to Him and He will save me.”

Reluctantly, the helicopter flies away.

Shortly thereafter, the waters rise over the man’s head and he drowns. At the Pearly Gates, the stupefied man says to God: “I had faith in You and trusted You to take care of me. Why did you let me drown?” God replies: “I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat and a helicopter. What more did you expect?”

With regard to registering for the COVID-19 vaccine, is it possible that you may have already missed your rowboat; your motorboat and your helicopter? Or perhaps you have already motioned your rowboat and your motorboat to move along without you, and it’s only now that they’re gone, you’ve wised up and are praying desperately that a helicopter will come your way? Or are you one of those, who, right after waving away your rowboat; woke up and smelled the coffee; and you’re now fervently hoping that there’s a motorboat in your story? Hopefully, you are one of those discerning souls who can readily recognize when the answer to your prayers come in the form of a rowboat. You have already registered and done all the necessary due diligence, and you are ready for your jab at the earliest opportunity.

To Register

Or Not To Register 

Part 3

Seeing that the Netherlands’ vaccine supply to the island is based on the number of registrations, I’m encouraged to hear that the number of people registering is steadily increasing. If you haven’t yet registered – and you’ve been keeping up with my articles on the subject – may I ask what more I can say that would get you to register for the vaccine? Would it help if I shared my own vaccination experience with you?

When I received the confirmation email furnishing the details for my Covid-19 vaccination appointment, it felt so surreal; it took a while to process the information. “This is really happening,” I thought. Wow! On the one hand, I was quietly overjoyed to be getting the vaccine; on the other hand, I had to confront my fear of needles. By the time Vaccination Morning arrived, I was all prayed up and I felt ready – and what a thoroughly positive experience getting vaccinated turned out to be! I had given myself a pep talk before leaving home that morning, but before I could even steel myself for my jab, it was already over – and I had only barely felt a prick in my left arm!

From the moment my husband and I had arrived at the CPS offices, we couldn’t help but be impressed with the friendly professionalism of the staff in general. The expertise of the nurses and other CPS personnel was par excellence; and what I felt by the time we left the Vineyard Building minutes later, was a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to have received my first shot. The rest of the morning sailed on beautifully with no side effects. The afternoon hours came and went, and by the time evening turned into night, I thought, “This truly was a breeze!” It was during the late night hours that I felt the first hint of any kind of side-effect – stiffness and soreness in my left arm, especially when I tried to lift it – kind of like the feeling you get the day after exercising a muscle you haven’t worked in a while.

Day #1 after Vaccination Day: I woke up with a runny nose and a bad headache. My left arm was still sore and I felt miserable like the way you feel when you have a fresh cold. The fluey symptoms persisted throughout the day, but as the day wore on, the soreness in my arm dissipated. Day #2 after Vaccination Day, I woke up with the soreness in my arm all but gone – just a little pain when I touched the actual spot that had been pricked. The flu-like symptoms were pretty much a repeat of the day before – minus the headache.

Day #3 after Vaccination Day was much like Day #2 – and all this time, my husband, who had received his jab together with me, had experienced no symptoms at all… well, except for some brief soreness in the injected arm. Anyway, thankfully on Day #4 after Vaccination Day, I woke up without that runny nose or that miserable fluey feeling – and every day since has been excellent. I’m back to feeling like my old self and I’m counting the days until I get my second shot!

To Register

Or Not To Register 

Part 2

When it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines, all of us are susceptible to disinformation. There’s just so much uncertainty and mistrust about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines that it’s not always easy to tell what is true and what is not. Among the many vaccine-related conspiracy theories that are circulating, especially on social media, is that the Covid-19 vaccines will alter our DNA. Another popular conspiracy theory, which I’m sure you’ve already heard about, is that the Covid-19 vaccines contain a microchip that is injected into people receiving the vaccines, so that they can be tracked. One thing I’m sure we all agree with, is that vaccine-related conspiracy theories are not going away anytime soon; so if you’re one of those people who still need convincing that registering for the Covid-19 vaccine is the way to go, then hopefully you’ll lay your fears to rest as you read on.

In my article last week, I already mentioned that one reason why I didn’t hesitate to register for my jab was that whole matter of building herd immunity, which is so essential to effectively stop the spread of the virus. But that’s not all; there are a lot more reasons why I look forward to getting vaccinated. Perhaps one of the most obvious is to enjoy a healthy life. It’s no secret that contracting the Covid-19 virus can mean the difference between life and death; because unless any of us actually gets the virus, we can never know for sure how it will affect us and those around us. Covid-19 can strike anyone – and even those of us, who are considered to be young- enough and healthy-enough, will do well to take the vaccine to help us stay protected. Not only will the vaccine help keep us from getting the virus, but it also gives us the best chance of returning to normalcy as far as life goes – and who doesn’t long for life to return to what it was before Covid-19 came along?!

Just think of what it would mean if enough people on our small island decided to take the vaccine! We could essentially reverse the negative impact the virus has had on the economy, tourism, health care, education, church gatherings, and just about every other aspect of our society. There’s also the issue of travel, which I absolutely love but have been forced to put on hold since the pandemic started, especially considering all the restrictions associated with it; as well as the hassle of having to go through mandatory quarantine and multiple testing in accordance with whatever is required by the countries of origin and destination of one’s travels. And on top of that, there’s the underlying probability of bringing new variants of the virus as one goes from country to country. But I’m thinking of how being vaccinated can put the fun back into travelling, and at the same time help quash the chances of carrying the virus from Point A to Point B. These are just a few of a number of reasons why I can’t wait to get my jab, but it is clear to me that anyone, who is serious about doing their own objective research, will find more than sufficient evidence in favor of registering for the Covid-19 vaccine.

To Register

Or Not To Register 

Part 1

To register or not to register to receive the COVID-19 vaccine – that is the question! This past Monday, February 22, many Sint Maarteners watched as Nurse Claudette Rijff of the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation was administered the first Covid-19 vaccine on the island, live on Facebook. Since then, the Prime Minister, along with several health care professionals and senior citizens, has also taken the jab. Still, so many Sint Maarteners across a broad spectrum of the population continue to express concerns about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines. For some, it’s because they hate needles almost as much as I do; some want to wait and see how the vaccine will work for others before they can make up their minds about it; and then there are those who are naturally distrustful of just about anything.

I believe the widespread uncertainty about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is probably largely due to the slew of conspiracy theories and misinformation that have been circulating – in some cases, even before the vaccine was officially approved for public use – especially because of how quickly the COVID-19 vaccines were developed! One has to agree, though, that it’s pretty cool that on Sint Maarten, every resident – documented and undocumented – can register to receive the vaccine; and my encouragement to anyone still hesitant about getting vaccinated is to do your own research; and try to be objective as you consider the scientific and medical data, and assess whether the benefits will outweigh the risks. Then you can feel comfortable about making an informed decision. That’s what I did.

What I discovered in my research is that there is overwhelming scientific and medical evidence in support of the COVID-19 vaccines. And while it is true that when compared to other vaccines, it appears that COVID-19 vaccines were developed in a relatively brief amount of time, safety testing has not been any less thorough, nor was the science rushed. In fact, the COVID-19 vaccines were tested in the same way as vaccines for other diseases. “The research that led to these vaccines has been going on for 15 years or more,” according to Timothy F. Murphy, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Medicine, director of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute and an infectious diseases physician scientist. “It started during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003 and 2004. This is the case for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and it is going to be the same with the other vaccines to come.”

As we all know, receiving the vaccine is completely voluntary and everyone must be persuaded in their own mind about it. That’s why when I made the personal decision to follow the science; it was an easy decision for me to take that step and register to receive the vaccine. Among the many reasons that settled it for me, was one which Sint Maarten’s own Nurse Claudette Rijff mentioned when receiving her vaccine: Getting vaccinated is something we do not just for ourselves, but for each other as well. Yes, getting vaccinated protects me; but it also protects my family and the people I do community with. So when we decide to get vaccinated, we become a part of building that herd immunity that is so essential to effectively stop the spread of the virus – and that is just one of the many reasons why I couldn’t hesitate to register for my jab.

It's A Family Affair!

Don't you see that children
are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand
a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.
~Psalm 127:3-5 (The Message)

When it comes to church work and Christian service, it has always been a family affair for the van Arnemans. Forever grateful to God for their Christian heritage, Pastor Erick and Sharon have always felt divinely mandated to pass this Christian heritage on to their children, who will then hopefully pass it on to succeeding generations.

Today, they are overjoyed to not only have their daughters (both of whom got saved as tiny tots) serving right alongside them in the ministry, but also their son-in-law,             Denfield Jamaul Hastings, as the new Assistant Pastor of Grace International Baptist Church.

Read Pastor Denfield's testimony below:

As a recently ordained pastor to the work of the gospel ministry, I am so psyched to be the new Assistant Pastor of Grace International Baptist Church and to serve alongside Pastor Erick, who also happens to be my father-in-law. I still can’t believe I am married to his daughter Joy-Ann. My wife has beauty and brains and although I knew she was way out of my league, I couldn’t help falling in love with her. The day she agreed to marry me was the happiest day of my life. 

Born on April 22, 1992, on the island of Antigua, I grew up in a Christian home where I was exposed to the gospel of Christ at an early age. At the tender age of eight, I became aware of my sinful state and repented by faith, acknowledging Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I later got baptized as a teenager and served in the youth ministry as assistant youth leader.

I felt called to preach in my late teens, but it wasn’t until 2010, when I attended a youth conference where I was challenged to live more visibly for Christ, that I started to truly respond to the call. At this youth conference, I delivered my first message. Over the next few years, the desire to not only preach, but to also shepherd and disciple others as a pastor, grew stronger within me, and confirmed the initial call I had felt on my life.

To further my formal training and preparation for the ministry, I completed a number of online courses and attended classes at a local institute in my homeland Antigua. Most of my practical ministerial experience was done at All Saints Baptist Church – the church I grew up in, and also where I served as the formal aide to the pastor. I’m always glad to take up every opportunity afforded me to preach God’s word whatever the setting, and I give God thanks for the opportunity to serve at Grace International Baptist Church.