It makes no sense rebuilding church edifices if people aren’t living in communities to attend the churches. With that in mind, the Bahamas National Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention has donated $10,000 to the Grand Bahama Baptist Convention to support its feeding program in the wake of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Dorian on the island two months ago. The latest donation comes one week after the National Convention made a donation to the Abaco Convention.
“We must help families at the same time we’re helping our churches to rebuild and to set up communities,” said Reverend Dr. Philip McPhee, first vice president of the National Convention. “It makes little [o]r no sense rebuilding churches if you don’t have people living [in communities] to attend the church.”
The monies donated by the Convention over the past two weeks were given to the National Convention by its partners, the Southern Baptists, out of the United States, with specification to be earmarked for feeding program purposes, according to McPhee.
“Even though it’s been months, there are still a whole lot of people in [Grand Bahama] who are actually hungry and without food and shelter. I was told there are still persons who are living in their cars and without proper accommodations. The Convention thought it would be in the right spirit to continue our support to those who are less fortunate at this time, that’s why our Convention decided to give $10,000 to the feeding program in Grand Bahama.”
During the presentation to Grand Bahama Convention representatives who flew into New Providence for the event, McPhee said the national body is in it for the short-term and not the long-term.
“Whenever we fall short, the Convention must step up to the plate and give financial support to those who are in dire need,” he said.
Reverend Dr. Elvis Burrows, who made the trek to the capital to meet with the national body in what was his first trip to Grand Bahama in two months, after riding out the storm, said having the president make a donation meant a lot to them, as it showed that their own “family” cares about them.
“We are so appreciative because we have been receiving help from all around the world – primarily from a lot of the NGOs (non-governmental agencies) that came to Grand Bahama, but it’s really nothing like when your own family reaches deep and makes a contribution and donation. It’s okay to get help from overseas and from strangers – and we thank God for them and we appreciate it – but it’s really a blessing when your own can see the value and the benefits that you have to offer and reach out to you. That’s humbling, and we really appreciate that so much, and we thank God for that.”
Burrows, who is vice president of the Christian Council in Grand Bahama and who represented their Convention, said the donation would go a long way to assist with their feeding program. He also felt burdened having left his community at a time when the need is so great.
“This is my first time off the island, because we’ve been so busy with feeding programs, counseling programs, trying to help people get back on their feet, rebuilding their homes, de-molding, [i]t’s just been so much, it was difficult to leave.”
November is normally Burrows’ vacation month and he opted not to take it with so many people in need of help.
“We’ve been called to lead and to shepherd and I just didn’t think it right to leave our parishioners to fend for themselves, so I had to hang around and do what I had to do.”
The pastor at Central Zion Baptist Church, Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama, said while a number of churches suffered tremendous damages to their physical structure, he was glad that the church was still strong and alive on the island, because the church wasn’t the building, but the people. He described them as people of hope, of faith. And while they may have gotten discouraged and disheartened in the aftermath of the storm, he said they’re human.
“One of the things I’ve been telling my people is ‘it will not be easy, it will not be quick, but we will get through this,’” often quoting to them the words of Robert H. Schuller: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”
Burrows said it has been tough in a lot of ways in the two months since the devastating storm, but he said since the storm, a lot of progress has also been made as people clean out their wrecked houses and start to rebuild.
“It’s a slow process, but the people seem to have a mind to work. They’re not lying down and playing dead. They are working and rebuilding and getting their lives back together. But I’ll be honest with you, it’s tough. It’s not easy. If you think about it, in addition to having to deal with a hurricane, people are dealing with losses in other areas of life – death and sickness and other areas that are there daily without a hurricane, and people still have to deal with those issues on top of this and that makes it even harder to deal with.”
Burrows’ church suffered some damage that could amount to thousands of dollars, but it’s something he does not like to talk about in the grand scheme of things.
“When I look at what so many of the other churches suffered, I chose not to even mention the damages I sustained, because when I put that in perspective, it’s not worth talking about even though it’s a couple of thousand dollars, probably. When I look at a friend of mine who lost his church, lost his sisters, lost nieces and nephews, a home – it just tore my heart apart. There is no comparison,” he said.
“We’re doing our best with a difficult situation, but the people have a mind to work. Grand Bahama will rise again. It may not be quick, it may not be easy, but it will happen. With God’s help we will rise again. We are knocked down, but not knocked out.”
Burrows boarded a flight almost immediately after the meeting to return to Grand Bahama to continue his work. But he was appreciative of the meeting with Smith and the donation to the Grand Bahama Baptist Convention.