It has now been four months since Hurricane Dorian  first made camp over the Bahamas.
As recovery efforts have continued, BGR disaster response teams have witnessed firsthand the incredible enduring faith of the Bahamian people. Especially in the wake of such devastating loss, these men and women have risen up as steadfast pillars of their communities.
One relief worker, Grace Kelly, sat down with us to describe the sights and sounds of the hardest hit regions on Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands:
“It looks like a bomb blew up the islands. The beauty of the beaches was such a contrast to the chaos surrounding them. For a lot of islanders, churches were the first places that people thought to run to, and surprisingly, some are still standing — if only the outer structures.”
Faith communities have continued to be beacons of hope since the storm’s initial touchdown, and pastors have been some of the most affected people. They are not only grieving their own families’ losses, but also the collective loss of their congregations.
One pastor who was helping our teams unload supplies said that at this point in the recovery journey, he is “just trying to find heaven in all this hell.” When asked how exactly he was doing that, the pastor responded that only the promises of God were enough to keep his family in tact as they grieved the destruction of their home and the deaths of their friends: “He left us here for a reason. We still have a purpose.”
Another pastor shared a similar sentiment after his near-death experience in which he struggled to stay afloat on a refrigerator for three days awaiting rescue: “The Lord must have something great in store for me to keep me alive. I’m just waiting to see what it is.”
Yet another minister who thought his family had survived the worst of the storm since it had passed was interrupted mid-sermon when a friend ran into the church yelling, “Pastor, your house is on fire!” The electrical wiring that was damaged in the storm had caught fire when some saltwater flooded in, and the house burned so quickly that all volunteers were able to do was scoop ash out by the handful. Friends and family who later approached the minister’s wife could only say, “Now we have truly lost everything.” Her stunning response was “No, we haven’t. We’ve still got our Jesus.”
It is extraordinary people like this who captured the hearts of our disaster response teams and who continue to remind us that even in the midst of calamity, the kingdom of heaven is here.
These survivors aren’t sugarcoating their pain. They aren’t denying the reality of all there is to lament. But they are finding sustenance in the drought and resting in an assuredness that there is a purpose for why they lived.
Make no mistake that this is an entire island family who is grieving. One local told Kelly that “everybody has been affected — no one was left unscathed.” The difference in this community is that they aren’t allowing themselves to fixate on the pain and trauma of the experience, but rather are choosing to focus on the fact that they have survived and that they have a duty to each other to support, encourage, and rebuild their community from the ground up, both physically and emotionally.
In her final comments about her time on the islands, Kelly told us, “Despite the tragedy, I will miss this place because I will miss these people. There is so much more to do, but the Lord’s peace can be that stronghold in the midst of the storm that nobody dreamed could happen.”