Just over three years after breaking ground on the site for its new edifice, Bahamas Harvest Church (BHC) Senior Pastor Mario Moxey said by the fourth quarter of 2023 the building should be completed.
During a Boxing Day service, during which Moxey informed the membership about why they are constructing a $25 million facility, he informed them that they started site preparation this year, and that by first quarter 2022, their financing should be complete for the edifice to be constructed.
The new BHC edifice is expected to feature a convention center, amphitheater, water baptistry, outdoor playground, prayer garden sanctuary, café, as well as dedicated nursery/preschool, Kids Electric (grades one to six-aged) and Crossover spaces (grades seven through 12 aged). The lion’s share of the space in the new edifice is devoted to family life, according to Moxey.
BHC’s initial campus opened in 1995, but Moxey said the journey to where they are today started long before that, and that it did with a vision.
“My passion has always been to reap the end time harvest in The Bahamas and beyond. When I was at Holy Trinity Anglican Church where I grew up, I started something called Jesus in the Park. When I got Jesus in the Park started there were two passions of mine that came together – my passion for worship and evangelism. I began to think, what would it look like if I brought both of those things together – the worshipping of God and the evangelism. Jesus says, ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me’, and so I figured with God on the park we could lift Jesus up, and he would do the drawing.”
For Moxey, the focus of Jesus in the Park was not what was actually happening on the stage, but what was actually happening on the field. He had trained people go out while worship took place, to share their faith one-on-one with people there. He says that is where the real work took place.
Moxey eventually left to attend Bible college. His now wife Erica Moxey eventually followed him there and they were married. While there, he says Erica made a vow to him that when they returned home, she would be prepared to go to work to support their family while he went into ministry. She did just that.
In 1995, BHC launched in the Seagrapes Shopping Center in a 1,200 square feet space. Five years later they raised $12,000 to pay a deposit for a steel building. Three months after he was informed the building was fabricated and the balance was due for payment. Moxey recalls saying “fine” knowing that he needed to find property to put the building on.
“We didn’t have property, but we had a building ready – and we didn’t have any money, so we went to a [financial institution] and they facilitated a loan of $250,000. We were able to pay for the building, buy a piece of property, the property where we have our East Campus, and erect our building.”
In 2002 the East Campus was complete at 9,600 square feet. In 2007, five years later they decided to renovate because the membership grew. They moved to a 15,000-square-feet facility. The financial institution facilitated them again with another loan for $350,000 to get that done.
As the church membership grew, Moxey found himself moving from one worship experience on a Sunday to two experiences a day in 2008 four experiences, which he increased to three experiences on a Sunday in 2009, then adding a fourth worship experience on 2010.
“We were growing, however, with the four worship experiences, I was longwinded then as I am today and that didn’t work too well because our services started to run late because of me. I oftentimes say we weren’t able to manage it, but in actuality, I wasn’t able to handle it, because I went too long. And it was terrible – so awful the last experience for the day was running like an hour behind, so we had one congregation waiting in the foyer, while one congregation was in session, and after the service, we would open the exit doors and everyone inside would file out the exits, then the center door would open and the new congregation would come in. It was a horrible experience. We were ‘cattling’ people like they were herds of cattle.”
Something had to give. Moxey says it was the fourth worship experience. They cut back to three, but that it did not solve the problem which was that they still needed space.
In 2012, the fourth worship experience was returned to the lineup, but on a Saturday night and with a timeframe attached – three years. At the same time, he was envisioning a second campus in the east and another in the west, for a multi-site approach to church.
“And this was someone who was against multiple services. I did not believe in multiple services. Go figure what God would do,” said Moxey.
In 2012 as he was preparing for their advance to 2013, he said the Lord laid on his heart to contact an architect who specializes in churches.
In 2013, Moxey again terminated the Saturday night worship experience, and he says not because it wasn’t successful, or that they weren’t growing, but because two years into it, he looked at his staff and knew it was taking a toll on them. They had to be there Saturday night, and again on Sunday morning. “I looked into their eyes and saw that it was too much and I decided to terminate the Saturday night service – but that still didn’t solve our problem. We still needed capacity.”
In 2014, Moxey says they negotiated the use of the Galleria Cinemas, and on Sunday mornings had use of three theaters. They also had a unit in the RND Plaza where they kept the nursery students.
PURCHASING NEW PROPERTY
During that time frame they were able to celebrate paying off their debt to the financial institution. But it was short lived. In 2015 they purchased seven acres of property on Bethel Avenue on which to build their new facility. The financial institution again facilitated a $2 million loan to purchase the property.
The pastor shared with members the results of three questions they posed on a congregational feasibility study related to the building project which showed that 82 percent of the congregation said they would prefer for them to build one large sanctuary that can accommodate both the east and west campuses which would allow for everyone to worship together under one roof; nine percent said two sanctuaries of the same size – one in the east and one in the west, with Moxey continuing to commute to both campuses every Sunday.
“Obviously, I had to revamp my mind and get my mind around the whole idea of one location.” When Moxey initially decided on the multi-campus approach, the idea was for people that live in the west to worship at the West Campus, and people living in the east to worship at the East Campus.
Moxey also shared the results of polling in reference to the location of the new facility: 78 percent said it really didn’t matter where BHC is located that they would attend; 32 percent said they would be willing to drive to the location; and 21 percent said they were not willing to drive, but would because they love their church; and one percent said they would no longer attend BHC.
Members were also polled on the size of the new worship facility and how many adults it should be able to accommodate for a worship experience – 35 percent surveyed said 2,500 seats and be able to accommodate a growth of 1,000 more attendees; 25 percent said 2,000 seats and be able to accommodate a growth of 500 more attendees; 21 percent said 1,500 seats (equivalent to all three of our current worship experiences); and 19 percent said 1,000 adults (equivalent to two worship experiences.)
Besides the adult space, Moxey said as a church based on a principle of family, with age-appropriate environments, they had to determine what that translates into in children’s spaces. “The square footage per person exponentially increases the younger they are, and so that’s the case in all the age appropriate environments from nursery to Kids Electric to Crossover. They need more space than the adults, so if we’re going to build a sanctuary that accommodates 2,500 adults, we must also build a sanctuary that is going to accommodate roughly 1,800 students. Obviously, no matter what size, the facility is going to be much larger for our Family Life students and children than it is for adults.”
Moxey said when they calculated the cost on that, the price tag was too high.
“Our congregation wanted more – we had to do with less.”
They compromised on a sanctuary that can accommodate 1,500 adults.
Moxey says from 2015 they have been working on their new facility, but in the interim have also done other projects which included a $200,000 out-of-pocket renovation to the movie theater space after Galleria moved out in 2017.
They broke ground in 2018 and their unforeseen “gift” was being told they needed to raise their building 13 feet in the air because it has to be two feet from the crown in the road.
“It was like the bottom fell out. What were we going to do? The building footprint is 40,000 square feet, so are we going to raise 40,000 square feet 13 feet in the air and fill it with fill, or are we going to do something with that space?”
Moxey said they saw it as an opportunity to create a convention center that can become an income generator.
As they went about continuing to make the vision of the new edifice a reality, including sourcing trips to China, they would encounter other roadblocks. As the problems arose, Moxey said at one point he felt like “everything was coming undone.”
As they got back on course, the monstrous Hurricane Dorian hit The Bahamas. Moxey said the storm “took the wind out of our country” with the loss of lives.
“As a country, we were devastated. Unbeknownst to us, our partners in China were watching Dorian and they contacted us and said you’re building your building to your code – your code is 165 miles per hour, but Dorian was clocking 200 miles per hour, we think it’s prudent for you to future proof because it’s been proven that you can have a storm at that level in your country. What are you going to do?”
Moxey said they had a decision to make, but had to determine whether it would be based on safety or cost. He told BHC members that it would have been cheaper to leave the edifice as is and that the cost would increase if they decide to side with safety, but he said they did not know how much it would increase until they actually did the work to figure out how to make it a stronger building.
“We decided to make it stronger and so the building is rated to 200 miles per hour.”
Moxey said in 2020 they ended up with a new design completed, for a new cost of $25 million.
“Not only did the building itself balloon in its cost, but because of the weight of the building, the reaction to the foundation changed the cost of the foundation – a foundation that would have probably been around $1 million ended up being around $4 million, so everything exponentially increased which brings us to this mammoth building of $25 million.”
To finance the project, Moxey said BHC has invested more than $1 million, the bank will finance the project at 50 percent of the cost ($12 million) and that BHC will have to raise the remaining funds through private funding and that they will offer BHC members the first right of refusal in the investment opportunity. The minimum he said is $2.5 million.