Nearly a week after Hurricane Dorian destroyed homes, businesses, and infrastructure on Grand Bahama and Abaco islands in the Bahamas, Seventh-day Adventist leaders are slowly receiving word about the whereabouts of their members.
So far the church has confirmed one death among the membership in Grand Bahama. In Abaco, all members have been accounted for, church leaders said, but many are seriously injured and are in hospitals in Nassau.
“We know that 90 percent of the infrastructure in both islands have been destroyed and some evacuations have taken place during the past few days,” said Michael Smith, communication director for the church in the Atlantic Caribbean Union.
“Our pastoral families have come through the storm, and they are of good courage,” Smith said. The government has reported that 43 people have died as a result of Dorian, but they fear that number might increase as the days go by, he explained.
Church Members in Action
Church members in Grand Bahama engaged in immediate community service catering to the public, Smith said. Some 400 hot meals are being distributed every day.
“As evacuations from the affected islands have come through to Nassau every day, our members are in the forefront of ministry,” Smith said. On September 6, as a group of 400 persons evacuated from Abaco, members of the Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASi) chapter of the South Bahamas Conference joined with the team of buses to transport those persons to government facilities, Smith added.
Peter Kerr, president of the Adventist Church in the Atlantic Caribbean Union, which is composed of the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Turks and Caicos, flew into Grand Bahama today to examine the devastation and provide support to church members.
“We are unloading relief supplies, which we flew in on a chartered aircraft out of Nassau into Grand Bahama,” Kerr said.
Wilson Isnord, who pastors two churches in Marsh Harbour in Abaco, lost everything in his home. “My family and I prayed through the storm and praised God for His faithfulness. God is good,” Isnord said. He said the churches are flooded and the church’s bus was overturned.
Kerr reported that members met in homes on Saturday (Sabbath) for worship and later shared hot meals for those in the community.
Adventist School Affected
Cheryl Rolle, executive secretary of the church in the Atlantic Caribbean Union, reported today that the Grand Bahama Academy in Freeport was affected by flooding and the school could be running soon. She said most of the teachers’ and children’s family homes were destroyed or damaged.
“I have heard of harrowing experiences already, stories of survival. It’s amazing to hear the testimonies,” said Rolle, who flew in for strategy meetings. Rolle noted that school counselors have already met with members and the community at large in churches in Grand Bahama to provide guidance on how to cope with loss and displacement.
Some students from Freeport, Grand Bahama, have already transferred to the South Bahamas Academy in Nassau to resume their classes while recovery efforts take place back home.
As soon as Hurricane Dorian made its landing in northern Bahamas, Jose A. Rodríguez, president of the Adventist Church in Puerto Rico, moved quickly to collect funds to assist those affected in the Atlantic Caribbean territory.
“We have already sent some funds to assist church members affected by Dorian and will continue to send funds to assist all victims on the two islands,” Rodríguez said. The plan is to support a soup kitchen in Grand Bahama and Abaco indefinitely, he explained.
Smith encouraged top leaders to use the opportunity of tragedy and despair to get young people involved in helping others. He also thanked the church leadership of the Inter-American Division for prayers and financial support during the aftermath of the hurricane.
“It is going to take a while to bring about the recovery and restoration process,” he said.