16th June 2020
Hurricane Dorian hovered over the northern Bahamas in September 2019 and destroyed the very fabric of life. Homes and their precious contents were lost in the storm—the remnants scattered in debris across the islands.
“You have to have a home—that’s the foundation of family,” said Robinson Weatherford, pastor of International Gospel Mission in Marsh Harbour, Abaco Island. “If you don’t have a home, there’s no way you can function—it’s the foundation of life.”
That’s one of the reasons he was pleased that his church became a solace in the storm for the Haitian refugee communities of the Mud and the Pidgeon Peas. Pastor Robinson established the church as an outreach to these communities in 1982 and had seen individuals come to Christ and go into full-time ministry as a result. But as Dorian threatened their settlements, Haitians fled into this sanctuary located just across the street.
But even this refuge was threatened by the storm. The rising seawater lifted the home next door and the concrete slab it sat on, causing them to float into the churchyard. A total of 27 cars also washed into that area. Inside the building, water rose several feet, reaching just above the base of the windows. Heavy winds and rains also damaged the roof.
After the storm, Samaritan’s Purse worked to repair the roof of International Gospel Mission as well as the windows, doors, and ceiling in the sanctuary.
“Thank the Lord Samaritan’s Purse has done so much to help us get back on our feet,” Pastor Robinson said.
The Sunday School building recently re-opened to provide food and spiritual nourishment to children and youth. Work continues to completely restore the main church building.
After Hurricane Dorian, what was left of homes in the Mud and the Pidgeon Peas was levelled, causing the residents to scatter. This leaves Pastor Robinson somewhat uncertain about the future of International Gospel Mission. He hopes to continue to use the facility in outreach because his heart remains burdened for the people of the Bahamas to come to saving faith.
“The Lord Jesus Christ is the biggest shelter yet for people who want to be secure after this life is gone,” he said.
As Hurricane Dorian hovered over Marsh Harbour, all Samday Dames could hear was the sound of her roof flying over her home. Originally from Trinidad, Samday has resided in the Abaco Islands for 30 years. She’d lived through a hurricane before, but as the water began to flood her home during Dorian, she said, “I was so scared.”
Because Samday has diabetes and was at a greater health risk during the hurricane, a representative of the Bahamian government picked her up and drove her to safety at a shelter where she waited out the storm with 200 other people. After staying there two days, she returned to her home to find it in shambles. The roof was gone and the sheetrock was soaked about halfway up the wall. Still, Samday said, “Thank God that I’m alive!”
Following Hurricane Matthew in 2016, her situation was much worse. “My house was flat down. All I found was the foundation,” she said.
Reflecting on the devastation of Hurricane Dorian just four years later, she said, “The Lord blessed me to let my house stand up.”
Today, Samday has a new metal roof and fresh drywall in her home that she shares with her son and granddaughter.
Equipping pastors to hire local contractors to repair houses across the northern Bahamas, Samaritan’s Purse has already restored 90 homes like Samday’s, with a total of 460 expected to be finished in the months ahead. This is in addition to more than 1,000 individual homes that have been fixed through tarping, drywall installation, and mold remediation as well as window, door, and roof repairs. Construction work continues amid the COVID-19 pandemic and teams are following local regulations as they rebuild.
”There is no better sermon than real, practical ministry.”
Because of his partnership with Samaritan Purse, Pastor Peter Watson was able to offer help to Samday and her family. He said, “It’s been a blessing being able to connect with hurting families, giving them hope and restoring [to] them a sort of normalcy…I enjoy preaching in the pulpit but there is no better sermon than real, practical ministry.”
“God, how am I going to get my roof fixed?” prayed Laurene Newbold of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. “You’re going to have to do it,” she told Him.
Although she has an injured back and foot and normally spends her days in a wheelchair, when Hurricane Dorian hit, Laurene fled on foot from her home that she shared with four other family members. Hanging onto her daughter as they passed through the rising water, she feared she would drown.
“I was very scared,” she said. “I cried for a couple of days.”
Laurene stayed at a shelter for a time before returning to and living in her home with a damaged roof. As she was surrounded by buckets that caught the leaks, Laurene prayed about what she should do. Afterward, she met Pastor Sidney McIntosh who offered her the help of Samaritan’s Purse.
Now she has a new metal roof and she gives all glory to God.
“I prayed and my prayers were answered, so that gave me the opportunity to trust Him more and know that He will take care of me no matter what.”
Pastor Sidney McIntosh’s church of 150 members has seen a handful of new families attend services since they began the partnership of repairing homes through Samaritan’s Purse. “It empowered the church and the community,” said Pastor Sidney. “Our church is not that big, but the impact [we are] able to have through Samaritan’s Purse is just unspeakable. We’ve been able to reach hundreds of folks. We were able repair many homes and touch many lives. Because of that, I’m very grateful.”
“Samaritan’s Purse empowered the church and the community.”