This past week I had the opportunity to be on the ground in Freeport, Grand Bahama, and to experience firsthand the result of the devastating Hurricane Dorian. To say the least, it was heartbreaking. I could understand people feeling despair and a sense of hopelessness. If ever there was a time to feel like giving up, this would be it. Driving through communities devastated by storm surge with piles of furniture and appliances outside in the yard, realizing that people were still living in houses that had major mold issues because they had nowhere else to go, was challenging. Seeing businesses with all of their furniture and equipment in the road and piles of debris everywhere reiterated the unfathomable challenge that that community faces. Then leaving the business district and going into coastal areas and seeing expensive homes condemned because of storm surge over 10 to 20 feet, and hearing that many homeowners had no insurance, is devastating.
Returning to the capital a few days later and hosting hundreds of storm evacuees from Abaco, I got to hear firsthand stories of harrowing experiences – running from house to house during the storm to try to find safety; being in houses that collapsed; and having to use a mattress as a shield – magnified the horror and made Dorian a personal experience lifted from the television screen and into my personal space. This storm was an epic moment of adversity. There is no way to minimize the devastation and adversity this storm has caused The Bahamas. The road ahead is long and hard for survivors and for a country that was blindsided like never before. This is adversity.
I also began to realize that there are shining lights in adversity. There are people who rise with compassion for others and lift their spirits at a time when there is nothing left to lift. I had heard the name Samaritan’s Purse before and had cursory knowledge of what they do, but seeing them in action was indeed a revelation of how to shine in adversity. Jesus said, “If you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me,” and this is a central theme of this organization. They flew in and set up a hospital on Grand Bahama in two to three days, staffed with 40 doctors and medical personnel. I saw teams from many other organizations providing food, shelter, counseling and medical assistance. Bahamians stepped up to help their fellow Bahamians with money and essential items. I saw lights shine in the darkness of adversity.
Storms can bring out the best in us or the worst in us. I saw so many examples of the best coming out. International partners called and sent money. Many want to come to The Bahamas and work to repair homes and serve their brothers and sisters who are suffering. Situations are changing and lives are being impacted. Make no mistake, it will be a long, hard journey, but it is good to know that we have help and hope both inside and outside The Bahamas in that of the international community. We cannot determine when adversity will strike us, but we can be lights and shine when adversity arises.
I have no doubt that both Abaco and Grand Bahama will rebound and rebuild. It will take a massive effort and a long time for the process to be completed but I am thankful that there are people who have decided to shine in the midst of adversity. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine that men might see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.” Perhaps you and I can be among those lights that shine and give hope so the world can see what’s possible when you care and have compassion as we are commanded to.
Some people have decided to remain on the sidelines and criticize, complain and condemn. Others have stepped forward and provided the light to brighten the days of those who find it so hard to see anything bright. Please lend a hand and shine at this time; it was someone else today, it could be you tomorrow – sow a seed of hope and reap a harvest of joy for those affected and for your own future.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.