Chris Blackham, Head of Programmes and Projects is currently on the islands of Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean, coordinating the Samaritan's Purse response to the hurricane in the region. Working alongside our Church partners, blankets, food items, hygiene kits and heavy duty shelter kits are being distributed to families who have lost everything.
Blog 1: The Body of Christ – Hope Amongst Suffering
I arrived here on Turks & Caicos last Friday and as we approach the runway I could see the devastation Hurricane Irma has wrought on this paradise island. Around 80% of the buildings have been damaged in some way, from ripped-open rooves to total destruction. Thousands of people have been left homeless and now forced to seek shelter in churches, schools and government buildings.
We hit the ground running and brought three plane loads of relief supplies in immediately and plugged into the local church networks to find the most affected families. Yesterday we distributed plastic tarp, blankets and hygiene kits to nearly 1,000 families, through the hands of local Christians. It was incredible to see local churches coming together in unity with a passion for their neighbours in need, willing to put aside their own homes to provide critical assistance to families worse off than they.
Every family that came and received supplies from the church were prayed for by church volunteers all giving their time to demonstrate care and compassion for those in distress. They prayed for comfort, for healing, for peace, for protection, for restoration and for revelation. It was a special time not only of relief but of meaningful ministry. It is such a privilege to be a part of equipping and resourcing the local church to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus amidst suffering and pain.
We the church are the hope of the world, and what we’re seeing here in Turks & Caicos is that being fulfilled in some small way as churches here rise up as beacons of hope in their communities, bringing light in the darkness and peace in the storm.
Please pray for the people of Turks & Caicos, that the seeds sown into their lives by local church here would grow and bear much fruit in His Kingdom. Thank you for your support and God bless you.
Blog 2: The Calm Within the Storm
I’ve seen a lot of big planes in my time working in disaster zones all over the world, but it was something else to see the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8 aircraft touch down here in Turks & Caicos full of relief supplies between two hurricanes.
Irma hit last week and families are still reeling from her devastating effects. And Maria is now barreling her way through the Caribbean towards us with almost the same strength and destructive power. But in the middle of these storms, just like Jesus walking on the water, Samaritan’s Purse is bringing calm, peace and hope to families running scared. On the plane we brought in enough plastic tarps to give roofs to nearly 4,000 families, plus solar-powered flashlights to light up the darkness amidst the inevitable power cuts, and insect repellent to ward off the mosquitoes that are thriving amidst flooded communities.
We met with local church pastors from across the islands this morning and heard how they’re using this time of crisis to minister to those in need. When everything you have is taken away in an instant, you have a choice – to run towards God or to run away from Him. Churches across these islands are meeting the critical needs of those at this crossroads, helping them navigate their lives away from despair and hardness of heart, and towards the One that can heal, save and restore what was lost. So we’re helping churches position themselves as beacons of hope in their community and resourcing them with relief supplies to meet needs and create opportunities for demonstrating and sharing the good news of Jesus with families in need of some good news right now.
Please pray for these churches as they brace themselves for Hurricane Maria and as they get ready to be there for families as they face even more devastation over the coming days. Thank you for your support and thank you for helping strengthen the local church in Turks & Caicos to fulfill God’s mission as beacons of hope in their communities.
Blog 3: Beacon of Light
It’s 24 hours before Hurricane Maria is due to hit Turks & Caicos and we’re running hard to help families get ready for the onslaught. Today we’re distributing generators to churches providing shelter to families without homes. Thousands of people across the island whose homes were damaged just last week by Hurricane Irma are left with no choice but to seek refuge from the approaching Maria and churches are opening their doors to become places of safety, refuge and protection for those in need.
What better way to demonstrate the gospel than provide refuge for families in the midst of crisis? God asked Moses, “what’s in your hand?”; Elisha asked the widow, “what do you have in your house?”; Jesus asked the little boy, “what do you have with you?”. Today, He is asking his children, “what’s in your hand?” and He promises to multiply what we bring Him and turn it into something miraculous.
Churches here in Turks & Caicos are opening their doors – they’re bringing what they have – and we are multiplying that by providing them a generator to be the Light on a Hill. As they sacrificially give their buildings to house those in need, we are giving them power so that they can multiply their ministry to the vulnerable at this time.
The churches see this as a great opportunity to share and show the gospel to families in need, and to reassure people that the church truly is a Beacon of Light in the darkness. People will be drawn to these shelters and once they’re given refuge they will be blessed abundantly by the church – what a way to introduce people to Jesus in the middle of the storm…
Please pray for the people of Turks & Caicos, and for the church – that she would be everything a Light on the Hill is created to be as Hurricane Maria approaches. Thank you for your continued support – it’s making a massive difference not only to those that need it most, but to the church who are now able to make a lasting impact for the kingdom in the lives of their neighbours.
Blog 4: Blessed to be a Blessing
We spent the day yesterday training 40 pastors on how to be salt and light in their community, inspiring them with the opportunity of gospel proclamation through meeting the critical needs of their neighbours. We helped the pastors prioritise needs in their community and identify the most vulnerable households. We grouped them together into ‘teams’ of churches all ministering into the same community and we tasked them with agreeing a central distribution location and army of volunteers, trucks, security and storage. The pastors responded with vigour and worked together in unity to put everything in place for distributions later today.
At each of the five locations, church volunteers will be manning every stage of the distribution process. The church working together will be what people see; they will see local Christians helping them in their time of need. The platform for long-term ministry will be incredible as a result. Churches’ credibility will be elevated and they will be recognised among their communities as those who didn’t just talk, but those who acted and were there for them.
Every person that receives relief items is prayed for by local church members. These are opportunities for believers actively seeking to speak the words of Jesus into peoples’ lives, praying with love and compassion over people and situations, expecting God to answer in miraculous ways. This is what will impact people most – not just that the church gave them something they needed, but that they took the time to show them love and that they cared enough to stand with them before God in prayer.
This is what excites me the most about what we’re a part of here in Turks & Caicos. Equipping the local church to take back its rightful role at the centre of its community: a light on the hill; a refuge in times of trouble; a place where answers can be found; a people who care; the house of God.
If we can equip local churches to be the hands and feet of Jesus to their neighbours then we’ve achieved something great that will last far beyond our own presence here. After we have left, the church will remain embedded in communities representing the Hope of the World.
So far we’ve been able to distribute the following items: 1,266 plastic tarp, 2,920 blankets and 930 hygiene kits and 32 generators to shelters housing those whose homes were destroyed, and schools so that kids can get back into education while power remains down. Today we have a further 3,000 tarps, 2,500 solar flashlights and 1,500 insect repellents being distributed through five groups of local churches together.