Two years ago this week, we were hunkered down, preparing for the worst any hurricane could offer. Gratefully, a five degree shift left us largely inconvenienced and within a week or so, unscathed. That has not been the fortune of our friends to the east, particularly in the Bahamas. As I write this, North Carolina is somewhere between being pelted and hammered by Dorian’s second significant venture onto land. The next few hours will let us know how they fare and what the immediate needs may be.
I just came from a meeting and lunch with Florida CBF coordinator Ray Johnson. Under his charge are eight congregations, most all of them in the most heavily impacted areas. Updates kept coming in to Ray during our time, and the relief he felt having heard from the last of our pastors was touching. These are among his closest ministry friends and all are accounted for. These are leaders that we have hosted at FBC, sharing both resources and fellowship. One of those is John McIntosh, the bishop among CBF pastors in Grand Bahama. Here is what we are hearing on the ground: As you can tell from the news footage, it is bad. In some outlying areas, there is no electricity and no foreseeable plans to restore it. Whatever recovery happens there is will be measured in years, not weeks or months. There is an immediate need for humanitarian relief that will best be delivered by groups with resources and logistical infrastructure in place. People are just beginning to grasp the direness of the situation and the many implications for future rebuilding. And the answer to most of the questions being asked is “We just don’t know.” Time, no doubt, will provide a clearer picture of the situation and a prioritization of the need.
I have already been asked by many folks what we can do to help through FBC. First, as you no doubt have been doing, keep praying for these people. But let’s not stop there. The first rule of thumb in disaster situations is that money travels faster and makes more of a difference, especially in the early stages. To that end, we are encouraging our people to make gifts to FBC designated for disaster relief. We have connections and inroads to groups uniquely positioned to make the most difference right away. We will serve as a conduit to groups that we know are capable and committed to meeting the vast needs. In time, we will have a clearer picture of how we may participate in the recovery portion of what is now a refugee situation. At that point, we can marshall more in the way of physical and human resources to help them make a comeback. Today, however, we just need to get them the basics. Fortunately, we are aligned with people who can do that.
On a personal note, I am happy to report that the parents and immediate family of our own Telsie Campbell, a Freeport native, have been rescued and are safe. She is still waiting to hear from extended family in more remote areas. We join in praying for Telsie and her family, and will covenant together to meaningfully respond to the great need in her island home. Our relationship with people like Telsie and Pastor John make the need, which is both present and powerful, personal as well. In the days, months, and even years ahead, I know they will feel our love. I’m proud to pastor a people that I know will make that happen.