Oscar Bloise February 2, 1930 - March 15, 2016
Tribute to a Faithful Servant of Christ
(by a very close friend)
March 15, 2016 marked the end of an earthly journey that began with the birth of Oscar George Bloise on February 2, 1930. At the age of 23 Oscar had come to faith in Christ through the witness of a tourist who was visiting the Caribbean Island of Jamaica. His life changed dramatically, and as he grew in his love for the Lord, he soon felt a growing desire to spend his life in the ministry of sharing the good news of the Gospel. So, in the kind providence of a God of whom he knew relatively little at the time, Oscar traveled to the United States to study for the Christian Ministry. It was the summer of 1956.
To help cover the cost of his studies, he spent some weeks working as a painter during that first summer in New York City, where he had Jamaican contacts. When the school year began, Oscar relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There he moved into the old, 8 story, masonry building that housed the administrative offices, bookstore, classrooms, library, dining facilities, dormitory rooms, maintenance shop and a recreational floor of Philadelphia Bible Institute. It was located at 18th and Arch Streets in downtown Philadelphia.
To navigate from the basement to the 8th floor, there were two ancient elevators that required an operator to manually align the elevator car at each floor level, then open the inner and outer doors for passengers to embark or disembark. Oscar was one of the elevator operators. Additionally, the floors in the classrooms and wide hallways required daily cleaning, and Oscar was a member of the housecleaning crew.
In January 1957 Leon Blosser entered PBI and, like Oscar, worked in order to help pay for the cost of room, board and schooling. Soon both Bloise and Blosser became close friends, sitting next to one another in class, working as elevator operators, cleaning classrooms, and studying together in the dorm. As the spring semester progressed, it became clear to Oscar that he could not earn enough money as a painter in New York City to meet the cost of his school bills for his second year.
Meanwhile Blosser, who was a member of Grace Chapel in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (later renamed Grace Baptist Church), had a summer job waiting for him. Ernest Reisinger, a prime mover in the founding of Grace Chapel in 1951, promised Blosser a summer job working for Reisinger Brothers Construction Company. Leon wrote to Ernie on Oscar’s behalf, and Ernie promptly promised Oscar work for the summer. All that remained was to work out Oscar’s room and board for the summer. Blosser thought that would be a simple matter; Oscar could live with him and his folks. However, this was 1957.
The northern states had won the American Civil War 92 years earlier, but whatever the war’s causes had been (states’ rights, slavery, or a combination of both), prejudice was still alive and well in the northern states as well as in the southern states. On the main street sidewalk in Carlisle and in the train station in nearby Harrisburg, the state capital, men with black skin still shined white men’s shoes, and neighborhoods were still homogenous (i.e. either black or white). So, Leon’s suggestion that Oscar join the Blosser household for the summer was met with gentle throat clearing followed by a discussion about how to ‘care for a Christian brother’s needs without offending the neighbors!’
In the end, ever-humble Oscar took a room on the top floor of the old YMCA. Very early every morning Leon’s mother packed lunch boxes for both Oscar and Leon, but Oscar was expected to be at the Blosser table for evening meals and Sunday dinner (i.e. noon). It took no more than a week for Oscar to be accepted into the family without reservation.
Whatever ridicule Oscar faced at work from rough and tumble construction workers lasted only a few days, too. After they observed his work ethic, daily output and Christian deportment word spread quickly, and supervisors were delighted to have ‘that new black fellow’ on their crew.
Meanwhile, Oscar won the hearts of the members of the Carlisle church congregation, too. He returned to Carlisle each summer throughout his time of studies in Philadelphia, and each summer he worked for Reisinger Bros. Those to whom he felt particularly close he often addressed as doctor, and always referred to himself as the black sheep; as he aged, it became the old black sheep. In 1958 Philadelphia Bible Institute added a year and was renamed Philadelphia College of Bible. Oscar remained an extra year and earned his Bachelors of Science in Bible before returning to Jamaica. Well before this time, church families in Carlisle counted it an honor to have him reside in their homes.
After graduation in June of 1958, Oscar returned to Jamaica where he was involved in pastoral work in Morant Bay and in Spanish Town. While Oscar had been studying in the United States, his future wife, Dolly (whom he had not yet met), was studying nursing in Jamaica. They met in 1960 while Oscar was ministering in Morant Bay. Oscar and Dolly were married in 1962.
Since both Oscar and Dolly were carriers of a disease called sickle cell anemia, their two children inherited the illness. A son, Orville, was born in 1964 and a daughter, Dee Ann, in 1971. On a number of occasions, the entire family came to the states to attend a family conference and be refreshed spiritually.
The family conference held by Grace Baptist Church of Carlisle, Pennsylvania proved to be very influential in Oscar’s life. It was there that his circle of acquaintances broadened among folks from many different churches. It was also there that Oscar came to a clearer understanding of the theology of the Reformation. Oscar mentioned to me numerous times that it was at a pastors’ conference in the late 1960’s that “his eyes were opened to the doctrines of grace.” He had great respect for Pastor Albert Martin and Pastor Walter Chantry, from whom he learned much by listening to their preaching, both in person and by means of their recorded sermons.
By 1971, as Oscar’s theology moved from dispensational and Arminian to covenantal and Calvinistic, he relocated to Kingston, Jamaica and began to tirelessly visit door to door with a view to seeing a church formed where the great truths rediscovered during the Protestant Reformation could be revived in Jamaica and clearly taught. Therefore, in 1971, with support and encouragement from the church in Carlisle, Oscar began to gather a group in Kingston. His first meeting was with four adults and four children. Eventually there were 45 members and an average Lord’s Day morning attendance of 70, with 50 in Sunday school.
Oscar obtained a property at 33 Red Hills Road in Kingston. Initially Grace Reformed Baptist Church met in a simple block structure erected alongside an existing house on the property. In 1981, they constructed an attractive building designed for public worship, and eventually GRBC became one of 15 churches that comprise the Fellowship of Independent Baptist Churches in Jamaica.
Oscar had a nucleus of faithful and dedicated folks in the church. He worked diligently to build up the congregation through visitation, solid preaching and even providing transportation for some with a VW bus that he had acquired. A faithful member who now preaches in Oscar’s place, Boise Williams, lived on the property in the early days of the church. Others came from more than walking distance.
GRBC is at the edge of an area known as Gully Bank. As the name indicates, this area consists of storm gullies, drains and culverts where castaways from society live in a crime-ridden subculture. Oscar always had a concern for the young folks who lived in the squalor of Gully Bank and some of them attended game nights and young people’s meetings that he organized in the church facility.
In 1998 Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania organized their first group of twenty-one people who traveled to Kingston in order to add a second floor to the original meeting hall that now stood behind the church proper. They also conducted a Vacation Bible School that Kelly Knowlden from the Hazleton church would continue to organize each summer for the next 14 years. For 7 of those years he was joined by my son-in-law, Dan Stuber , and members of his family in conducting VBS. In the early years more than 100 young people attended VBS. Each year many who attended, came from Gully Bank.
Over the years there were two attempts to find pastoral assistance for Oscar. Even the best of men have feet of clay, and problems arose that cut short both attempts. On two occasions Kelly Knowlden, for whom Oscar had high regard, went to Kingston to mediate and give counsel. Previously elders from the Carlisle church had visited to encourage Oscar in the work. In 2014, Oscar retired from the ministry in GRBC. He then provided pulpit supply for Faith Missionary Baptist Church in a rough and tumble section of Kingston, and another church in May Pen (55km west of Kingston), where the pastor had recently died. Ainsley Francis , one of the deacons from GRBC drove Oscar to May Pen and back when he went there to preach.
Oscar labored faithfully under difficult circumstances, and he survived on a meager salary, but he never complained. He once wrote, “Ministry in Jamaica is made difficult by ... deep poverty and high rates of unemployment (that) plague the nation. If young people are well trained, they often leave their homeland for work in … prosperous nations. …. Many young couples live together outside of marriage and … avoid all attendance at worship. The transportation of drugs from South America to North America through Jamaica has also had a bad effect upon Jamaican life.” Nevertheless, Oscar soldiered on until the end of 2015 when he became physically unable to continue.
He had been deeply affected by the suffering Dolly endured, especially near the end of her earthly journey. Therefore, Oscar determined not to allow any kind of surgery, radiation or chemical treatment in the event that he would ever be diagnosed with cancer. In the end, however, it made little difference. At the time of his diagnosis in January 2016, his oncologist informed him that the disease was so pervasive and advanced that he had only weeks to live. As it turned out, he had none of the intense pain he had seen his dear wife endure. However, his robust strength faded quickly into physical weakness until early in the morning of March 15, 2016 when he entered into the presence of his Savior whom he had so faithfully served for the last 63 of his 86 years on this earth.
Submitted by Leon Blosser