Spangled between the depths of the North Atlantic and Florida’s eastern coast, the Bahamas comprises more than 700 stunning subtropical islands and 2,400 cays, most uninhabited, and all fringed by spectacular coral and fathomless ocean trenches. Each year, millions visit the beautiful shores of Nassau, Freeport, Abaco, Exuma, Eleuthera, Bimini, Andros and other popular locations in the Bahamas to experience some of the clearest ocean waters, most beautiful beaches, duty-free shops, delicious native dishes, fishing and scuba diving excursions, and luxurious accommodations.
However, like all Eastern Caribbean islands, the Bahamas are vulnerable to hurricanes. Grand Bahama and Abaco are two of the popular islands that were affected by the damaging winds of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019.
It has been reported that the effects of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas were among the worst experienced for any natural disaster in the country. Hurricane Dorian struck the Abaco Islands as a category 5 hurricane on Sept. 1, and a day later hit Grand Bahama Island at the same category.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the hurricane stalled over Grand Bahama for another day, finally pulling away from the island on Sept. 3. Damage was estimated at over $3.4 billion, and there were at least 65 deaths in the country. Another 282 people were missing after the hurricane.
Compelled to help
Like many, I sat in my home and watched the violent storm. I began receiving text videos from relatives who live in the Bahamas showing people fleeing to higher ground. In these videos, people prayed for God to have mercy. I heard parents and children cry out for help. Homes were flooded and buildings collapsed. When I saw the bodies of the dead, I knew I had to do something to help my people in the Bahamas.
A $10,000 mission
After much prayer and talking with my wife and a trusted friend, I formulated a plan for the Central States Conference to raise $10,000 to help those in the Bahamas who were affected. We exceeded that goal, and for that I want to thank the pastors and members of the Central States Conference as well as those in the Mid-America Union.
My next plan was to deliver the $10,000 to the North Bahamas Conference located on the island of Freeport, Grand Bahama. I knew traveling to that island would be challenging due to the airport being destroyed. Nevertheless, we serve a God who always provides and opens doors.
Pastor Roger Wade (Mid-America Union Church Ministries director), Pastor Prince Lewis (Southeastern Conference youth director) and I came up with a plan to do a mission trip. We prayed, we organized, and we solicited volunteers to join us on a seven-day mission trip. On Sunday, Oct. 27, a total of 20 missionary volunteers set sail for Freeport, Grand Bahama, from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Incredible miracles and a long road ahead
We traveled to the NBC grounds where we helped at the Adventist Community Services Center. At this center, hundreds of people from the community came to receive hot meals, water, clothes, food and cleaning supplies. For the next two days, we volunteered at a disaster distribution center that provided 144 churches with supplies to distribute daily to the people in their community.
We wanted to do more for the people, so we packed over 200 boxes with food and household products and delivered them to those living in a local community. That evening we led out in a prayer and worship service at the Freeport Adventist Church. The church was filled with worshipers, many of whom survived the storm but had lost everything. It was incredible to hear the miraculous stories, the songs of rejoicing, the prayers of hope and the words of life.
Before leaving the service that evening, the Central States Conference Community Services Department was able to give the NBC president Eric D. Clarke the check for $10,000. In the weeks afterward, the conference received an additional $2,500.
The residents of the Bahamas would like to thank everyone who is praying for the recovery work, those who have donated supplies and those who have financially supported the relief efforts. The people living on the islands of Abaco and Freeport still have a long recovery road ahead. My prayer is we continue to do what we can to support our brothers and sisters on these islands.
If you would like to financially support the Bahamas mission, visit www.central-states.org, click the online giving tab and put your donations in “Bahamas Disaster Relief.”
Cashapp option: $CSC3301 (state that it is for the Bahamas Disaster Relief).
A big thank you to the following for making the mission to the Bahamas possible:
- Central States Conference
- Mid-America Union Church Ministries department for the funding
- Southeastern Conference Youth and Young Adult department for their funding and allowing Central States Conference to be a part of this amazing mission
- Central States Conference members, pastors and administration for raising $12,500 for the Bahamas
Claval Hunter is pastor of Tabernacle of Praise Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and director of Adventist Community Services and Disaster Response for Central States Conference.