Florida Baptists Begin Response to Hurricane Damage in Bahamas

Florida Baptists are grieving after Hurricane Dorian hammered the Bahamas Sept. 1 with 180 miles per hour winds. The strongest hurricane recorded in history stalled for two days over the Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. Screen capture from Time

The utter destruction Hurricane Dorian wreaked on his homeland in the Bahamas is “too much to wrap my head around,” said Jacksonville, Fla., pastor Kenny Roberts.

“I have watched a lot of storms come and go,” he said. “But this is just complete devastation.”

The catastrophic storm hammered the island chain Sept. 1 with 180 mph winds, reportedly the strongest on record to hit the Bahamas. Then for two days, Dorian stalled over the Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, chewing homes, businesses and people’s lives into little pieces. At least 30 people have been killed but hundreds are still missing. Thousands have been left homeless.

Roberts, who was raised in Spanish Wells, said many friends and extended family live on these northern islands. While he has heard that some have survived, communication is challenging.

“The hardest part is feeling helpless and knowing it’s not just that people had damage to their homes,” said the pastor of MissionWay Community Church. “It’s that so many people have lost everything. Some say it’s unlivable.”

“Our hearts hurt,” said former Florida pastor Randy Crowe of New Smyrna Beach. For 12 years until his retirement in January, Crowe served as pastor of New Life Bible Church in Man-O-War Cay on Abaco Island, one of the hardest hit communities. He will fly back to the church on Sunday (Sept. 8), a week after the hurricane hit.

“We need to be there, to love on our people and just hug their necks,” he said choking back the tears.

Crowe reported that he talked to church members Cindy and Will Weatherford Tuesday night (Sept. 3) via satellite phone. “They said ‘Pastor Randy. It is devastated. Everything is demolished. We know you are coming.'”

According to media reports, Man-O-War Cay was so ravaged by the storm it took three days before outsiders could make their way to the island with 300 in population.

Though he has moved back to Florida, Crowe continues to return to the Bahamas with Island Outreach, a ministry he and his wife Paula established and led for more than 20 years.

When he flies the ministry’s 1976 Cherokee Six 300 back to the islands this weekend, they will take needed supplies.

The Florida Baptist Convention gave $10,000 to Island Outreach to provide immediate relief to the islands.

Tommy Green, Florida Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer, said the convention will also work with Baptist Global Response (BGR), the Southern Baptist relief organization, to assist the Bahamas recovery. Many Florida Baptist churches are also quickly responding to the humanitarian crisis caused by Dorian. See today’s related story on how BGR and other Southern Baptists are responding to hurricane damage.

Martin Vargas, pastor of Iglesias Real in Hollywood, Fla., said, “The Bahamas is only 90 miles away from me,” he noted. “It would be unforgiveable if I saw the needs of this country and didn’t respond.”

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Source: Baptist Press