October 20, 2016 | Nassau, The Bahamas | Libna Stevens/IAD
Food, water, portable stoves, blankets, and tarps are some of the items that Seventh-day Adventist leaders and the local Adventist Development and Relief Agency have been distributing to the hundreds affected by Hurricane Matthew earlier this month. Matthew knocked down power lines, trees and brought in flood waters affecting hundreds of homes and several churches in the North Bahamas region.
Church administrators flew into Grand Bahama Island, one the worst hit, to distribute water, generators, and chain saws.
Dr. Leonard Johnson, president of the church in the Atlantic Caribbean Union which covers The Bahamas, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos, flew on a small plane on Oct. 13, to not only distribute water but to offer encouragement to church members during the disruption caused by Matthew. Leaders toured the different churches in Freeport, the academy and North Bahamas Conference office.
“It was important to underscore to our members that their church leaders and ADRA leader cares and is concerned for them,” said Johnson. Johnson brought water for members of the Freeport Adventist Church as well as the Shiloh Adventist Church where he praised the work of church members under its women’s ministries department for feeding more than 300 people everyday for nearly a week, hours after the hurricane knocked down power lines and damaging homes. About 60 percent of the island is still without electricity.
“Many of the members had damage to their homes yet they concerned themselves for others,” said Johnson. “I was so touched and moved, at a loss for words at seeing how they manifested the love of Jesus to others with their dedication in reaching to others.”
Church leaders at the Shiloh Adventist Church prepared days before the hurricane hit to assist those in their surrounding communities as they have done after storms.
According to Johnson, six Adventist Churches in Freeport sustained damage but these are running services normally except for the Westend Adventist Church, in the western end of Grand Bahamas, which suffered major damage to its structure including interior damage to the church.
Leonardo Rahming, ADRA director for the Atlantic Caribbean region, said that supplies have been distributed to both church fields in the north and the south Bahamas to assist in the immediate needs of those affected. “ADRA with its volunteers have been on the ground, being instrumental in bringing immediate relief to vulnerable families with food packages, tarpaulin, blankets, portable stoves, and more,” said Rahming.
Insurance companies are estimating that it will cost upwards of 400 million dollars for the recovery process from the damages of Hurricane Matthew in The Bahamas alone, stated Rahming. “We had difficulty in trying to meet the needs of those affected last week,” he said. There are a number of cargo flights and boats that travel into the Bahamas from the United States and it is not difficult to get supplies, said Rahming, but there is still an urgent need to locate roofing materials, sleeping cots, cleaning supplies, baby supplies, clothing, water, mosquito repellent, flash lights and the like. Rahming is currently in Miami purchasing supplies materials to ship to The Bahamas to assist in the ADRA distribution.
On Sabbath, Oct. 15, church leaders flew into North Andros in South Bahamas to bring water, canned goods, and clothing for the dozens of church members at the Lowe Sound Adventist Church. The church had minimal flooding damage but worship on Sabbath featured many testimonies on God’s protection and goodness through the storm.
The hurricane brought significant devastation to the town of Lowe Sound, said Johnson.
“Seeing how buildings removed where they used to stand firm was something else,” said Johnson. “They experienced a sort of tsunami when Mathew came bringing 12 foot waves to the island. Members had to seek safety and many rescued from their attics because of its low areas.”
The church distributed goods to 70 members and visitors in church that day. Church leaders from the South Bahamas Conference have been visiting North Andros island four times since the hurricane bringing goods and offering assistance and spiritual support.
ADRA has provided generators, chain saws and materials to both conference regions to help in the recovery efforts, said Rahming. The island is hoping to have electricity restored before the end of November, he said.
Next week, Adventist Risk Management services will assess damage to churches and Adventist schools. Both academies operating in The Bahamas resumed classes this week, said Dr. Johnson. There is assistance now pouring in from the government and other organizations for those affected. “Both fields in The Bahamas are collecting canned goods and clothing from our churches and members in the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos have sent funds as well,” Johnson said. ADRA Inter-America has also sent in funds to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
For more information on the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Atlantic Caribbean Union, atcunion.org