A relative of mine passed on an interesting message to me about post-hurricane relief. The message was about us having a big church building and not doing anything for hurricane survivors. I realized then that there is public perception and then there is truth. No matter what the truth is, public perception sometimes dominates the conversation, so at times, it is important to set apart perception and truth.
If there is one organization, or should I say organism, that functions during adversity, it is the church. If the church advertises what it is doing, some people say be quiet and just do what you do. If you don’t inform of what you are doing, people say you are doing nothing. Another individual pointed to what the “numbers” bosses were doing to help because of television footage they had seen, again questioning what the church is doing. From that moment, I realized it is important for people to know that if any organization shines in adversity, it is the church.
While there were some snippets of coverage on what the church was doing after the storm, for the most part its work went and goes unnoticed. Being close to many church leaders, I have a more intimate view of its work and realized that sometimes it is important for people to know what the church is doing both locally and internationally. The first group I had to mention was a group called Samaritan’s Purse. This group absolutely amazed me with their work. They flew into Grand Bahama on a Boeing 767 within days of the hurricane and set up a field hospital with 40 doctors in three days. You heard it right – three days. They brought in operating theaters, nurses, their own power, water and sewer system and replaced the devastated Rand Hospital, performing over 70 surgeries and seeing up to 3,000 patients since.
This group also went into the community and helped to put roofs on homes, served hot food and even flew in several groups of counsellors to counsel victims. There were many other church groups that flew into The Bahamas to help, but this one stood out to me because of the sheer enormity of their response. Many teams have not said a word – but have been on the ground from day one doing what both the Bible and Jesus say to do: “If you do it for the least of these, you have done it for me.”
Many internationally known and recognized ministries called and sent funds to various agencies totaling millions of dollars. I received so many calls from churches big and small all wanting to help. Some collected goods, others collected money, but many pitched in to assist. Several churches contacted me and are prepared to send groups of workers and counsellors to The Bahamas to help. It was heartwarming to feel the love and concern and to know that the church was acting as that beacon of light in a dark situation.
Closer to home, local churches began by serving as shelters before, during and after the storm. Unfortunately, several were destroyed during the storm, but those that remained housed the displaced and provided food and clothing for them. Many other churches collected offerings and held food and clothing drives to assist their fellow Bahamians. In our local church, teams of persons have volunteered to fly into Grand Bahama and Abaco to assist. We were fortunate enough to have the resources to set up two warehouses and distribution centers on New Providence and Grand Bahama, and host hundreds of evacuees and storm victims in both locations. I saw news reports of a local church working assiduously to assist, partnering with local major business houses. The Bahamas Feeding Network was also one that was on the ground almost immediately after the storm, providing hot meals for thousands of people.
The list is long of local and international church organizations stepping up to assist. There are countless stories of local churches quietly “trodding” into the storm zones and doing the work that we are commanded to do. Jesus said, “Let your light shine so that men may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.” The church locally and globally is quietly shining as it is mandated to. Contrary to some opinions in the marketplace, most churches do not have adequate resources and are not “rolling in the dough” as some assert. The few churches that are abusing their position have unfortunately hampered the work of the many responsible and viable church entities. It is important for people everywhere to know that the “real” church is shining in adversity, on the ground and in action, utilizing everything at their disposal to make a difference and help hurting Bahamians be restored. Maybe one day the true story will come to light about what the church is doing.
• 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.